War 9 Opening Post

The elderly woman had been staring at the console in front of her for
hours without speaking. Her young companion glanced at what seemed to be
a string of incomprehensible figures on the screen, wondering at her
mentor's concerned manner, and was startled when the woman suddenly
"I am concerned,"
"What is it?" The younger woman asked of her employer.
 "I don't know for sure, and that is what worries me." Aging fingers
tapped the keyboard; the figures on the screen shifted and formed
another indecipherable pattern.
The younger woman stood silently, her employer would fill her in when it
suited her and not before.
Finally the elderly woman sat back and crossed her hands over her lap.
"I fear MeriBeth, war is in the offing."
"What makes you think that?" her reply was hesitant, not wanting to
believe her employer but doubting her own judgement where such matters
were concerned.
"The GSS are upgrading their facilities, the Knights have formed an
intelligence group, the mercenaries have formed a new administration,
new members are being recruited by the factions...including the
"But this is not so unusual, the Knights have already admitted a false
start and the mercenaries have been advertising retirements in their
ranks for weeks..." her voice faded. The Woman seated before her knew
what she was talking about. She was after all, La Sinestra, the Watcher.
"Is there something else I should know about?"
The sigh seemed to echo about the room, heavy with foreboding.
"The general has been very active, too active...and" for a moment she
paused to draw a deep breath. "Aristotle has disappeared."
The younger woman hugged herself trying to control her shudders.
"Aristotle has disappeared before, that didn't start a war."
"That was because, on that occasion..." the old woman turned to her
adherent, the years etched themselves on her face with more
determination than ever seen before, "he let me know he was going."
"You mean..."
"I mean he has disappeared completely, no one knows where he is. This
goes against all the rules, his rules, and at such a time it does not
bode well..."
*       *       *       *       *

Lisa McDavid paced about the room
The list-mistress looked at the aging woman; she wanted to ask all the
questions again, just to find some inconsistency in the replies to give
her hope.
"You're sure he can't be found Ma'am?" She asked.
"Yes I am positive. He is my counterpart in the Vampyre community. We
have an...understanding. He would not leave without assigning a
replacement or informing me"
The list mistress hugged herself tightly. "This couldn't have come at a
worse time."
"And why is that?" the old woman stood with speed that belied her
advanced years.
"Natalie Lambert's safe was broken into, all her research into a cure
for Nick has gone...all her notes, her disks...everything. Even her
computer was emptied. She has nothing left... and she was so close."
"When did this happen?'
"Today, she called and asked if I had heard anything over the list."
The old woman tapped her silver-headed cane on the floor, a sharp
decisive sound. "I will contact my sources immediately, any information
I find I will hand on to you, but that is all I can do you understand. I
cannot interfere directly.
"I know Ma'am."  She paused afraid to ask, fearing the answer, yet
dreading not knowing more. " Do you think there will be war?"
There was a long sigh. "The information you have just given me would
possibly account for why the factions are mobilizing, though who is
responsible for the theft I can't say. But it looks, very much, like war
is brewing."
"Cant we just...?" Lisa began, but a raised hand stopped her.
"My dear, neither you nor I can stop this thing."
"But so many people will be involved."
The grey head nodded. "As it was and will be again."
"I suppose I should get back and sound the alarm ..."
"Of course. You need to make your preparations, get your affairs in
order." La Sinestra leaned heavily on her cane suddenly weary. "Good
luck, my dear."
MeriBeth opened the office door for Lisa who passed through the ancient
marble halls without noticing their splendor, so deep in thought was
she.  The young assistant closed the door behind her and let her
normally cheerful face express her true feelings.
"Ah so sad my dear?" her employer spoke holding out her hand in comfort.
MeriBeth took the withered fingers in her own and pressed them to her
"Oh Madam, she seems so weighed down."
"We all have our burdens MeriBeth, but I for one would not be a
list-Mistress at this time for anything."
"There are going to be some very annoyed people to deal with."
"I know. Some will openly rejoice at the prospect of war, while others
will condemn it most heatedly."
"How does she stand it?"
"Hope, young one, she always has hope."
They stood in scilence for a moment, then the old woman turned to the
younger one.
"My Dear, I have a job for you."
MeriBeth looked up expectantly. "A job?"
" I'm going to be busy looking for Natalie's information, so I want you
to search for Aristotle.   Use every skill at your disposal and learn a
few more. I have a feeling that there is more to this, that these two
incidents are related.  Make it your highest priority to find him."
*       *       *       *       *

Nicholas Knight stormed into the Raven, minutes before closing, Natalie
Lambert close on his heels.
"LaCroix!" He yelled at the top of his lungs. A vampire's vocal power
being considerable, the windows seemed to tremble in his wake.
Natalie hung onto his cool hand as if her life depended on it and she
was not convinced that it didn't.
Lucien LaCroix had felt his son long before his physical arrival. He
refused to hurry, but made his way from the cellars at a dignified pace
and moved to the bar, forcing the couple to follow him.
"Damn it LaCroix, just what the hell are you playing at?"
The head of the Toronto vampyre community took a long draft from his
drink, and finally faced his son.
"I had several games of chess earlier, which one are you referring to?"
"I refer to this!" Nick waved a piece of paper.
"LaCroix looked disdainfully at the missive Nick was holding. "A letter
from one of your *legions* of fans is hardly a concern of mine,
"No, a circular to the factions offering a reward for the return, to
you, of the missing information."
"Can I assume, by your attitude, that you don't approve? I had thought
you, of all people would desire its return, and the doctor would be of
similar mind?" he bowed his head to Natalie finally acknowledging her
"Of course I want the information returned, but I want it returned to
"And why should it not be?"
"I don't know, you tell me, and while you're at it you tell me who was
responsible for stealing it in the first place."
"Nicholas, I don't know as I approve of your tone...are you suggesting I
had something to do with the good doctors research going astray?"
"Why not, you're the only person besides myself who knew how close we
were to success, and you're the only one who could possibly know where
Natalie kept her results... and you can't deny you have a motive.
Motive, means, opportunity..."
LaCroix stood, towering over his protege. "I will not be spoken to in
this manner." he hissed his eyes going a dangerous shade of gold. "I
strongly suggest, Nicholas, you either produce proof of your
accusations, or apologize this instant."
"Nick. Please." Natalie caught his shoulder and tried to calm him.
"Apologize? For what? Wanting to find the information that will return
my mortality...that will free me from you?"
"For accusing me of its theft!"
"Prove to me you didn't take it!"
"And how am I to do that as I have no clue as to whom the thief might
Nick stood in rigid scilence for a moment, he could see the conversation
going in perpetual circles that might not stop with the rising of the
sun. Then he would be trapped here with LaCroix for the entire day and
he had no desire to do that at the moment.
"We want the information back LaCroix," he spoke evenly. "And we will
get it and if I find that you are involved in any way, I will personally
kill you."  And, grasping Natalie's hand firmly and visibly in his own,
he turned and left the Raven.
LaCroix made no move to stop him, there would be no point, tempers were
too volatile at the moment he took a long draft from is glass and
contemplated his choices.
After a few moments he slowly rose and, too swiftly for a mortal to see,
spun and threw the glass at the entrance. The hand cut crystal shattered
into a glittering cloud the sound bringing Miklos running.
His eyes on the tiny shards falling to the floor, Lucien LaCroix spoke
and his tone sent shivers down the bartender's spine. All his years with
LaCroix and his family had never quite hardened Miklos enough to
suppress such a reaction when the Master spoke thus.
"I want another circular sent out to the factions," LaCroix voice though
quiet, contained a millennium of spite. " Inform them that, as of this
night, the reward for the return of the missing information, by whatever
means necessary, is now a half a million dollars. Payable upon delivery
to me personally. There will also be a substantial reward for any
information leading to the apprehension of the perpetrator...also to be
delivered to me personally."
Miklos bowed respectfully to LaCroix and headed to the office to begin
his allotted task...

*       *       *       *       *

Natalie Lambert sat rigidly in the passenger's seat of the Cadillac, her
hands clasped in her lap.
"He can't do this," She spoke through tightly clenched teeth.
Nick reached across and took her hands in his.
"He won't get away with it, Nat, I promise."
"We were so close, Nick. So damn close."
Nicholas Knight pulled the Cadillac over to the kerb. He pulled Natalie
into his arms and held her close.
" I have resources as well you know," he spoke comfortingly despite his
anger. "I'll offer a reward for the information myself. LaCroix says he
is offering two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the information,
I'll double that. I'll even offer a reward for any information leading
us to who stole the cure in the first place."
Natalie Lambert wiped at her eyes. "A half a million dollars...are you
"Yes." Nick replied. " And I'll double it again if I have to. I want
that cure Nat and I don't care what it takes."

*       *       *       *       *
The first of two notices found circulating the Forever Knight community.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

A reward of $500,000 will be paid to whoever returns Doctor Lambert's
missing information to myself personally.
A substantial bonus will be added for information leading to the
apprehension of the perpetrator of this, most heinous of crimes.
Signed Lucien LaCroix
Head of the Toronto Vampyre community

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

The second notice found circulating the Forever Knight community.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

I, Nicholas de Brabant Knight, do offer the sum of $500,000 for the
return of Doctor Natalie Lambert's research disks and notes. There will
be an additional reward for information leading to the apprehension of
the person or persons responsible for the theft.
Signed N D Knight
Metro Homicide

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the signal to let loose the
dogs of war...
La Sinestra

Date:         Thu, 23 Apr 98 08:01:03 EDT
From:         Lisa McDavid 
Subject:      War: Not What the Doctor Ordered 1/1
To:           fkfic-l 

War: Not What the Doctor Ordered 1/1
by Lisa McDavid

"Wha --" asked McLisa, as usual a brilliant conversationalist when awakened
in the middle of the night. "I mean, hello?"

"Do you know anything about LaCroix's planning to steal my research?"
The voice failed to identify itself, but even half asleep McLisa recognized
Nat. The coroner was clearly on the warpath. "Stop that!"

"Stop what?" asked McLisa, sitting up and groping for her glasses. Like
many of the horrendously nearsighted, she heard better with her glasses

"Not you, Sydney. He was chewing on the phone cord. McLisa, my research
has disappeared. All of it, notes, disks, backups, the whole nine yards."

"Larry said that would be impossible. He doesn't make that kind
of mistake even when he's drunk." Larry Merlin, vampire computer expert
extraordinaire, had the dubious fortune of being McLisa's younger brother.
Her first three war involvements had come about through her honoring
a promise to their late mother to look after him.

"Yeah, it's probably impossible to erase the hard drive. The thing is,
my computers are gone -- both the one at the lab and the one at home."
Nat added, muffled and away from the receiver, "Sydney Lambert, you
come down off those drapes!"

McLisa gave up the struggle to retrieve her glasses from the kleenex
box in which they were kept at night to prevent the cats from knocking
them off the bedside table. "Ho, boy. I'm sorry, Nat; I don't know anything
about it. LaCroix'd never let on around me. He knows I'd go straight
to you. Wait a minute! I've got my copies of what I've sent you. Not
the articles, of course, or the xeroxes, but I do have the citations."

"Are you sure?" Nat asked. "When did you last see your pc?"

"Just before I went to bed. And the cats would have woken me up if
we'd had a burglar." McLisa stifled a yawn. "I'll FedEx you copies
as soon as they open."

Natalie's voice was grimly sceptical. "Humor me, ok? Log on,
and be sure the stuff's still there. Then call me back."

McLisa stumbled downstairs to the living room, attended by an
an honor guard of cats who thought she was going for a midnight snack.
She flopped into her chair, pushed the on button and waited for the
virus checker to finish. Then she opened the file which was falsely
labelled "Cats." The veterinary records for Tizzie, Mocha, Libby,
Lucius, Lowman and Lionel all came up normally.

With a sigh of relief, McLisa triple clicked the expand button. The
file remained the cats' medical histories. She muttered a word students
think librarians don't know and tried again. Nothing happened.

After an hour of coaching and recrimination with Larry in
Australia where he was doing something highly technical and illegal
about which McLisa emphatically did not want to know, the truth had
to be faced. McLisa's research had been stripped of the disguise
Larry had given it and erased beyond recovery. The disks were missing.

When Nat heard about it, she said the same word.


"Hello, Feliks," said McLisa, having glanced quickly at the caller
i.d. display. "Why do I get the feeling this isn't a coincidence?"

Feliks Twist laughed. "Probably because it isn't. I presume Dr. Lambert
has already rung you?"

"What is this? A conspiracy? No, strike that. Of course it's a conspiracy.
What I mean is, are you in this?"

"Perish forfend!" Feliks answered. "No, but she said she was going to
when they left and your line's been busy."

McLisa frowned at the receiver. "When they left?"

"Oh, yes. Nick and the doctor came rushing in here as if the devil in
person was after them, wanting me to see if I could do anything with
his laptop. Every time he tries to access a file, the screen fills with
an obnoxious plaid and a voice says, "but it's no' oatmeal."

"We have fired on Fort Sumter," muttered McLisa.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Nothing. Just a southern expression for 'this means war.' Why didn't
they ask Aristotle?"

"He's disappeared. I fear you're correct about war. I have to go the
the International Orchid Fanciers convention and I urgently need a house
sitter. Do I gather you're heading for Toronto?"

"Like the wolf on the fold," said McLisa.

"Good. You can use my car and I'll give you the password for one of
my atms. Please?

"I'd love to, but since when do you have to beg a mortal to house sit?"

Feliks came as close as a vampire ever does to gulping. "It's more like
a peace-keeping mission, actually, but the U.N. was all booked up. I've
aquired a dog, a Borzoi."

"What does Hermes think about that?" asked McLisa. Hermes, a huge,
opinionated, affectionate Siamese, had always had Feliks firmly under
his Sealpoint paw.

"Not much. The problem is, Boris was used to cats before because his
original owner showed Persians, and he wants to be friends with Hermes.
Close friends. Hermes wants to be distant strangers. Please,
will you come?"

"I'll come," McLisa said, and hung up before she lost control of her


Where to Begin?
By: MeriBeth Anthony
Date: Midnight (Toronto/Local Time); Friday, April 25, 1998

Hope, a slim thing on which to rest your future. I stood, lost in thought,
staring at nothing until I realized that Madam was speaking to me. To me, La
Sinestra would always be Madam, for she had years more experience in dealing
with the Community. I quickly turned my attention to what she was asking of 
        "I have a job for you. I'm going to be busy looking for Natalie's
information, so I want you to search for Aristotle. Use every skill you have
and learn a few more. I have a feeling that there is more to this, that
these two incidents are related. Make it your highest priority to find him."
        "Yes Ma'am," I smiled. It felt good to be doing something. "First 
first, set up an automated computer search. If Aristotle accesses any of his
personal accounts, that should trace him back. Possibly give me a lead or
two." I didn't know I was muttering aloud until I saw Madam's smile.
        "Sorry." I turned away and headed for my computer. That would take a 
bit to
do and give me time to determine how to contact some old friends. I settled
at the desk, dragging the keyboard dragging the keyboard in front of me and
began typing, my fingers knowing instinctively the basics of what I wanted,
allowing my mind to wander.  "Who do I know here? That won't be surprised at
what I'm asking," I muttered.  Snapping my fingers, I laughed softly.
        I grabbed a phone, dialing Cam's number from memory.  Cameron was 
source of most of my tech gadgets.  If I couldn't figure it out, he could.
It's easy to get Cam to agree to things, just promise him a set of the
"infamous brownies".  I suppose I should explain those, for the record so to
speak, the infamous brownies were a gift I had given Jana and Cam at their
wedding, an adaptation of the Hershey's Triple Chocolate Brownie recipe that
added a chocolate and mint liqueur icing to the basic brownies. I can't help
it if everyone gets plastered by the brownies. He agreed to fax over the
only strange thing that had happened lately and to keep an eye out in case
anything else weird happened.
        With that problem settled, I set to work on the program.  I needed 
it to
monitor the 'net, a series of accounts at local banks and the communications
lines to the offices.  That should cover the majority of the bases.  Somehow
I knew that though this would help, my best shot was looking for Aristotle
the old-fashioned way, on foot.
        With the silence in the room, broken only once by the fax machine, I
concentrated.  After a while, when my back protested my sitting so long, I
got up and wandered over to the fax machine to see what Cameron had sent me.
It took me a minute to realize that I was really seeing this.  It was a
flyer, from LaCroix, stating that he was offering a reward for the return of
Natalie's missing notes.  Madam had been right, it was only a matter of time
before we had a war going.  I hoped that Lisa was ready for it.
        Still standing over the fax machine, I grabbed a post-it (tm).  I 
wrote a
quick note to Madam, setting it on her desk where she couldn't miss it. Just
to be safe.  I knew I'd be at that program for a while.  I tended to forget
things when I got busy, even more so when I was tired, hence the note.
        Hours past as I labored over that program before I had it ready to 
go, so many that I was not surprised to see Madam returning to the office. I 
had no interruptions, aside from the fax machine. "I've been up all night?" 
asked, mildly surprised.  Programming was never my strong point, though
adapting an already released program for the job was. I knew that.  I rose
and stretched.  "I'll need to commandeer one of the phone lines, to keep
this running."
        "You should rest," Madam stated, as she went to her chair.
        "No, I'll be fine." I swayed where I stood, finally looking at the 
Madam was right, as always. Everything could wait until later. Evening would
be the time to truly start, when the most likely to search for clues.  With
that settled, I nodded to Madam, "You are right. I think I'll go lay down
before I fall down." That settled, I did the most important thing.  I
crashed for the day.


Title: Monologue #1 {Betrayal}
By: Joseph Cohen and Kimberly Anderson ... I mean The Nightcrawler!
Time: 2 a.m. EST Sunday Morning April 26th.
Place: C.E.R.K. AM490 -Radio Station

LaCroix entered the sound booth carrying his usual wineglass with him
and slid into the chair behind the octagonal table, frowning in thought.
Reclining away from the microphone for a moment, he studied his glass.
And finally, coming to a decision, he leaned forward pressing the "on
the air" button and began to speak.

"Good evening gentle listeners. Tonight, I would like to talk about
betrayal." Lacroix began.
 "What makes one betray their closest friends? Their family? Their
lovers?............ Could money be the answer?" He paused a moment to
let his audience ponder this statement.

"Perhaps," LaCroix continued, "The excitement or danger of doing
something wrong clouds their minds? Betrayal is the ultimate wrong....
lack of trust..... it creates chaos where there was none... So I say,
perhaps it could be both the danger and the wealth .... Ah, and let's
not forget power.. The power derived from the ability to take something
away from someone, as equaly prized by them as that which they have
denied you." Lacroix smirked.
He paused, casually taking a swallow from his glass and held it out
stairing distantly through the remaining liquid illuminated redly in the
weak light cast by the overheads.
"But..." He continued, "What of a person who has those things already,
what could he further hope to gain? ......... Or...." LaCroix continued
finding a new angle on his question, "is it She...?"

LaCroix looked down at the flickering lights on the control pannel and
"I see we have many callers tonight. However, I will not be taking any
calls from those who desire something of me, but only he or she who may
have that which *I* desire......" LaCroix paused as the lights winked
out one by one, and he smiled faintly. "Come along my child, you know
that I will eventually have what I want."
 After waiting another minute to see if the culprit would make his or
her self known, he casually flipped the off switch and rose; Taking his
glass with him, the Nightcrawler departed his booth.



Cousins: Oh, Dear... (1/1)
By Bonnie Rutledge
Starring: Cousin Bons and Cousin Jules
Time: Saturday, April 25th, 7ish pm
After 'A Call To Arms' and before 'Ring My Bell'

      Bons thought happily as she waited at the
checkout of Bugby's All-Night Shoe and Wax Emporium. The establishment was
open every night from dusk until dawn, and did a killing business in candles
and footwear.  Bons mused, 

     Her turn at the cash register came up, and Bons bounced greedily over
to the clerk, handing her soon-to-be purchase over with a happy smile. Her
expression was infectious, and the clerk smiled back. She then looked at the
soon-to-be sale and gave a concerned frown. "These don't look very
sensible," the clerk commented.

      "That's the point," Bonnie countered.

      "Wouldn't they be hard to walk in?"

      Bons nodded gleefully. "Yep, but they're just supposed to look kewl.
I'm not going to march on City Hall in them, or anything. I will strike an
Attitude and be admired instead."

     The clerk squinted at her as though she was speaking Swahili. "Yuh-huh.
Hey, when I'm not clerking, I'm an anthropology student at the U of TO. I
could do a killer thesis on you involving fetish shoes and the
deconstruction of womyn's intelligence through cultural narcissism."

     "You're saying these are stupid shoes?" Bonnie reached into the
brightly-patterned box and produced one of the offending chausseures. "I
see...You're looking at the black lace upper, and you're thinking that it's
a symbol of fragility. You scope the four-inch heels, and you believe that
I've bought into some sexual role that has oppressed female feet of the
Western hemisphere for centuries like foot-binding in the East. No,
no...don't shake your head. I know I'm right. Anthropologists are always
thinking about sex. I can see it in your eyes! Well, for your information,
that's not why I want these shoes. Their non-sensibility is charming. Sure,
they're visually pleasing. I'll take aesthetics over anesthesia any day.
They're also a feat of architecture that borders on defying the laws of
physics. Every step I manage to take in these heels without them falling
apart or toppling over and scraping my knees is a victory against anarchy.
By wearing these strappy, open-toes, I am challenging the ever-encroaching
forces of entropy in our universe. These non-sensible shoes rock the world,
sweetie...So ring me up, already!"

     The clerk blinked once, took the heel from Bonnie's hand as though it
was a sacred object and asked, "Will that be cash, check or charge?"


     Jules was in a great mood. She bobbed a bag of English Breakfast into a
mug of hot water on her desk with snappy movements, then paused to check her
watch. There were roughly an four and a half hours before Bonnie was due at
the station. They planned to lunch on peppers and fettucine at The Jeweled
Peach. Jules didn't marvel at the incongruity of having her midday meal
around midnight. Somewhere in the world, it *was* lunchtime, so bring on the

     She ducked a spoon into her tea and withdrew the bag, pressing it
slightly against the rim to squeeze out the excess liquid. Jules marveled at
how easily she had slipped into a night-as-day schedule since winning her
job at CERK almost two years before. 
she mused, a grin spreading across her face. 

     Jules tossed the tea bag into the trash, feeling almost good enough to
hum. Actually, she did feel happy enough to break into song, only she
couldn't carry a tune. Rather than inflict a toneless melody on the
unsuspecting, she decided to listen to someone more vocally gifted. She
walked over to the station speaker mounted on her office wall and cranked up
the volume.

     Jules noticed a piece of paper lying face down on the floor. She picked
up the flyer without looking at it, crumpling the litter and throwing it
toward the trashcan for two points. Jules then relaxed against the wall and
sighed as the sound of LaCroix's voice bathed her ears:

     "The Nightcrawler here...I'm talking to *you.* I am calling *you.* Are
you listening?"

     Jules nodded to herself, then broke into a snicker at her response. So
what if it smacked of indignity and bordered on the irreverent? The man's
voice had the power to make her knees weak and her toes curl. Jules wasn't
High Priestess of Nunkies Anonymous for nothing.

     Many people lived in awe of LaCroix. Jules didn't exactly fit that
description. She fluctuated between adoration and impatience, instead. She
loved listening to his shows. Working around him during the night to night
rigmarole of his broadcasts was a cause to thrill. It really was a job to
die for. Jules giggled some more as she settled behind her desk, added some
milk to her cup, then took a sip of tea. LaCroix could irritate, as well,
however...like his obsession with Nicholas. Jules didn't share the feeling,
so sometimes she had to fight the urge to shout, "Forget Nick! Yawn and let
him go! Let's run off to the Shrine and play some pool!"

     Of course, she didn't say such things aloud. One reason was that she
might die from shock if he actually agreed. Another good excuse was that she
had plenty of other things to vent about when she was in the mood...for
example, LaCroix's sudden fits of correspondence with *all* of his 'old
friends.' You try hunting down the address of a vampire your boss hasn't
spoken with since Napoleon was kicked out of Portugal, and see if *your* tea
mug doesn't go flying!

      Jules took another deep swallow of her tea, then turned her thoughts
back to the Nightcrawler's broadcast. It sounded as though he was quoting

     "It does not take much strength to lift a hair, it does not take sharp
eyes to see the sun and moon, it does not take sharp ears to hear a

     Jules shrugged. 

     "All of these things are obvious," LaCroix said over the airwaves,
causing Jules to grin and mentally pat herself on the back. "The signs are
there. Don't ignore them. Follow them. I order you, my children...My

     Jules sighed and drank some more tea.  She picked another page of litter from the carpet and, again,
absently trashed it without reading.


     Bons tucked her new shoes in the passenger's seat, fully intending to
stop by the all-night pet store and indulge in more mega-shopping before
heading to her lunch appointment with Jules. She really wanted to fetch toys
and goodies for the animals back at the Shrine, because she lived to spoil
the non-humans in her life. Charl had Marl, the Wonder Horse, along for her
holiday in Toronto, and Jules, as always, kept her dogs, Watson and Devo,
nearby, plus there were the cats. There were always cats. Tser had Cousin
Gwendolyn in town, as well as several more Cousinly critters.

     She noticed a folded flyer tucked underneath one of her windshield
wipers, got out of the car, crushed into a small ball, then tossed it to the
ground. Settling in her vehicle again, Bonnie turned the ignition of her
Lumina Eurosport (also lovingly called her 'vroom-vroom'), then pressed the
tape waiting in her stereo cassette player further into its slot until she
heard a slight click, indicating the auto play had begun. Bons waited for
the sounds of Puccini's 'Turandot' to flow through the car. She was
startled, but not displeased, to hear LaCroix's voice instead.

     "I require your presence at the station immediately. Cousin Tok and
Phantom will be joining us. Do *not* keep me waiting."

     Bonnie frowned at the cassette player. "But I wanted to go to the pet

     "No buts!" the tape blasted back at her.

     Bons nibbled her lower lip, put her vroom-vroom into drive, then
slammed her emerald-colored ruby slipper on the accelerator. "Fine! You want
me to come immediately, I'll come! You don't have to be so cryptic, though!"

     "You can unravel what this is about...the signs are obvious," Lacroix
said knowingly from the stereo.

     "Hmmm..." The cassette lapsed into silence as Bonnie sped down Queen
Street. Another folded piece of paper floated through the air and landed on
her windshield. She cursed and turned on the wiper fluid, disintegrating the
missive into a soggy mess that was easily brushed away.  Suddenly, the
cassette tape started to cough, sputter and sizzle. Noxious fumes and a
strange foam bubbled out of the slot. Bons let out a wail of dismay as she
slammed on her brakes and punched the 'eject' button. "Aaaahhhhh! You didn't
have to have to use a self-destructing message! Damn! My tape player!"

     Music from the radio, tuned into CERK of course, began to blare through
the car. A famous tenor was singing "Vincero! Vincero!{I will win! I will
win!}" with dramatic delivery.

     "You didn't have to steal my Puccini recording, either," Bons mumbled
as the traffic light turned green.

     Flying past the southern entrance of the Eaton Centre amid the swirl of
- hopefully - a final winter's snowfall, no one could know what momentous
events lay ahead that evening for the attractive redhead and her friends.
Being preoccupied with the recent sabotage of her stereo system, however,
the tiny figure nearly vroomed into the rear end of a well-polished Triumph
stopped just ahead of her at the intersection with Yonge Street. She
expertly maneuvered around the biker and, from the warmth of her car, rolled
down the passenger's side window and shouted disparaging remarks to the
slackerly-looking rider.

     "The signs are obvious...yeah, whatever," Bonnie muttered to herself as
she rolled up the window, then continued to ponder the mysterious message
LaCroix had left in her car. After a few minutes drive, she made a quick
right into CERK's parking area, then pulled up beside LaCroix's sleek, black
Jaguar. Bons wondered momentarily as she bailed from her own vroom-vroom,
non-sensible shoe purchase at her side, if it shouldn't almost be termed
'Jules' sleek, black Jaguar.' It seemed the High Priestess saw more miles in
the sedan than her Jeep. Jules probably even used the Jag more often than
its owner.

     Bonnie zipped through the station lobby, then took the stairs double-
time, at great threat to the stability of her ankles. One of her heels
punctured a notice about some reward-or-other littering the hall,  and she
absently plucked it from her shoe, crushed it, then kicked it aside.
Commands to hurry notwithstanding, Bons decided to poke her head inside
Jules' office, searching for a couple of those 'obvious signs.'

     Jules was sitting behind her desk, tea mug in hand, the slap happy grin
that she'd been wearing on her face the past few months clearly prominent.

     "Yo! Jules!"

     "Hmm?" Jules shook her head free of her blissful stupor, then set her
tea down on her ink blotter with a slightly audible thunk. "Oh. Bons, it's

     "Geez. Thanks for rejoicing at my arrival."

     "Whoopee!" Jules said sarcastically. "Aren't you a bit early for lunch?
Don't tell me Bugby's All Night Shoe And Wax Emporium was bereft of goodies?
You must be crushed!"

     "Mmm...No. I found some smashing non-sensibles. Wanna see?"

     Jules nodded, so Bonnie produced the brightly-colored shoe box from its
black plastic bag, then popped the lid for inspection. Jules heartily
approved. "Rrrowr. Gorgeous, but lethal."

     Bonnie frowned. "I didn't think of that. Can a shoe able to double as a
spear truly be non-sensible?"

     "Nah. You'd probably break something while bending over to unstrap one
for the kill."

     "Good." Bons paused to admire her new heels for a moment before packing
them away again. As she wrestled with the shopping bag, she noticed that the
opera broadcasting over the station's speakers had drowned to a close.
LaCroix's voice broke over the airwaves heavy with harsh command.

     "A wise general strives to feed off the enemy...Generals are the
assistants of the nation. When their assistance is complete, the country is
strong. I'm still waiting for *your* assistance...this tardiness is becoming
quite a nuisance."

     Bonnie gulped as Jules commented artlessly, "Ooh. It sounds as though
*someone's* in trouble. I wonder who the poor slob is?"

     "Uh, Jules...have you noticed anything out of ordinary about LaCroix
this evening?" Bons asked, her throat tightening nervously.

     "My dear, the man is *always* extraordinary!"

     Bons pursed her lips and tried another tack. "Uh-huh...so you don't
think it's significant that the Nightcrawler show is *hours* early, he's
quoting Sun-Tzu's 'Art Of War,' leaving exploding messages in people's cars,
and sounding generally vitriolic?"

     Jules gave a careless sigh. "Oh, is that what he's quoting? Sun-Tzu's
'Art Of War'...I just knew it wasn't Donne or Shakespeare."

     Bons' shoulders sank. "I have to go check on something. I may be back."
The redhead wandered mournfully out of Jules' office, her bag of new shoes
hanging limply at her side.

     Jules waved her friend away in distraction, then took another sip of
her tea. All at once, realization struck, and she coughed and sputtered on
the swallow. "Exploding messages??? *Generally* vitriolic??? She *may* be
back??? Oh, dear..." Jules jumped up from her desk and raced down the
station hall after Bonnie.

    Bonnie, meanwhile, had arrived at the Nightcrawler's sound booth.
LaCroix glared pointedly at her from inside. She broke into a feeble grin
and waved sheepishly at him through the glass. This, unfortunately, brought
her shopping bag prominently into view, and LaCroix's gaze narrowed upon her
new shoes with stern disapproval. "Ack." Bonnie coughed, immediately
shuffling the bag behind her back.

     He stared at her pointedly as he leaned over his microphone and began
to quote more Sun-Tzu. "Look upon your soldiers as you do infants, and they
willingly go into deep valleys with you; look upon your soldiers as beloved
children, and they will willingly die for you."

     At that, Bons indulged in another heartfelt, "Ack."

     "If you are so nice to them that you cannot employ them," LaCroix
continued, "so kind to them that you cannot command them, so casual with
them that you cannot establish order, they are like spoiled children,

    "Waah!" Bons wailed, then steeled her resolve and joined him inside the
booth. LaCroix cued up another musical selection, this time Beethoven's
'Eroica' symphony. "You wanted to see me?" Bonnie asked meekly once the
microphone was safely turned off.

     He stared critically at her shopping bag. "New shoes? Is that what made
you so tardy? I hope they're black. You may need them."

     Bonnie tried to refrain from panicking and said in a weak voice, "Yes,
well, I'm here now. What can I do...uh...sir?"

     His reply was cut off by Jules rushing into the room and announcing
breathlessly, "Whatever Bons did, I'm sure she's very sorry, and she's much
more entertaining alive!"

     LaCroix raised an eyebrow at this declaration. "*That* remains to be
seen. I was, however, not planning to dispose of Bonnie just yet. I have
need of her skills in another matter at the moment. It seems Doctor
Lambert's research to aide Nicholas in regaining his mortality has gone
astray. I intend to be the one who recovers this information. There is even
a substantial financial reward for those who find the research for me."
LaCroix picked up a flyer from the sidetable of his soundboard and handed it
to Bonnie. Jules read it curiously over her shoulder.

     Digesting the paper's contents, both women sighed in awe. "Ooooh..."

     "A reward large enough to keep you in shoes and English Breakfast for a
long time," LaCroix drawled, "and one you would have known about much
sooner, Bonnie, if you ever checked your mail or paid the slightest bit of
attention the the world around you."

     "You sent a copy of this to me? Why" Bonnie appeared perplexed.

     "I want you to be one of the heads of my Cousinly Cerebrus during this

     "Ahh!" Bonnie and Jules exclaimed in tandem.

     "Why me??? Why not pick on...I mean, why not choose Jules?" Bonnie
exclaimed alone.

     "I need Jules to assist Annie with organizing the chaos that typifies
Nunkies Anonymous in a war," LaCroix replied smoothly.

     "Well, that's an honor," Jules muttered, her earlier blissful mood
rapidly evaporating.

     "Why don't you go share that honor with the residents at the Shrine and
send the appropriate addicts this way?" LaCroix's tone allowed for no
argument. He picked up a set of keys from the console and tossed them in her
direction. "You may drive the Jaguar."

     "Thank you," Jules said coolly, then departed with a brief wave in
Bonnie's direction as she mouthed the phrase, 'I'll talk to you later.'

     When they were alone, Bonnie dared to speak again. "Uh...you mentioned
Tok and Bob were going to be here?"

     "I have already discussed matters with Phantom. *On time.*" LaCroix
picked up a card from his desk, holding it up for Bonnie to take with
nervous fingers. "Bob is coordinating with the GSS team. Cousin Tok
is...still unaccounted for."

     "So I'm not the only one who doesn't check their mail," Bons said

     LaCroix gave her a withering stare and began to spout commands. "I just
gave you the keycard to my private quarters. I want you to go there, locate
the Cousinly Rolodex, contact and make travel arrangements for all of my
legions immediately."

     "Ick," Bons said reflexively.

     "Do you have a problem with my plan?" LaCroix asked coldly.

     Bonnie shook her head in a rush. "No, no, no. That was a happy
'ick.' Your plan sounds great. It's just the way I wanted to spend the
evening - attached to a phone, making plane reservations. What's not to

     "Indeed. I thought that was what your answer would be, seeing how
you've wasted so much time already that the Cousins could have spent
searching for what I want," LaCroix replied icily. "Since the prospect is so
appealing, hadn't you better be on you way?"

     "Oh, yes!" Bonnie backed up, then collided with the glass partition.
"Uhm...I'll just be going, then...with my little bag of shoes..." She
smacked her shoulder against the doorway as she turned, then finally managed
to extricate herself from the sound booth in a flustered mess.

     Bonnie stumbled down the hall toward the private elevator, fanning
herself with a hand as she went. "Natalie's research missing? Oh, dear."
Suddenly, the redhead froze in shock. "Me? A Cousinly head? Oh, dear, dear,

Fin for now...

WAR:  NA: A High Priestess Has Gotta Do What a High Priestess Has Gotta Do
by Cousin Jules
Time:  7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 25, 1998
Where:  The Jag/TO

     Jules engaged in a fit of primal - and nearly silent - scream therapy 
as she fell over the Jag's steering wheel.   she thought to
herself.    Letting out a sigh, 
she turned the key in the ignition.  Odd how that sound always seemed to act 
like a kind of therapy for her.  She relaxed a bit, then looked over to the
passenger's seat.
     "Ack!" she cried out, realising for the first time that she had
accidentally left her 'Death to Birkenstocks!' bumper sticker - acquired on 
a recent jaunt with Bonnie to her favourite shoe store - in Uncle's car.
Hastily stuffing it into her quilted Chanel bag, she checked out the 
store of CD's that seemed to build everytime she or Lacroix took the car out
somewhere.   Flipping through the selections, she decided upon a Dire Straits album 
for the drive, to be followed by some favourite CCR tunes.  She couldn't 
help it:  she was primarily, after all, a child of the 60's, 70's and 80's.
     She pulled out of the CERK parking lot and zipped along the busy 
streets.  she thought.  She didn't envy her her duties: flipping through 
the Cousinly Rolodex, having to deal with Western Union and speciesist 
airline companies, and then there were the logistics to think about - how to 
organise a bunch of people known for raging individualism.  Then again, perhaps the
only time their fellow Cousins exercised 'esprit de corps' was when it was 
on the General's behalf.  Now that was something worth fighting for.   Yes,
Cousins could always be relied upon when it came to the Things That Really
     With only centimeters to spare, Jules came out of her musings just in
time to avoid running into a large, black Mercedes with heavily tinted 
windows which was stopped at a light, thus also avoiding a higher deductible for
Lacroix and possible termination of the permanent variety for herself.  The
light changed then, and the Mercedes sped away, but not before Jules had a
chance to notice the license plate:  NDNED-1.
     "Like we'd all know who 'N.D. Ned' is?  Please!" she said out loud to 
no one in particular.  What was the point in vanity plates if no one knew what
you were trying to say?  Oh, well.  Couldn't possibly matter, and she had 
more important things to attend to, starting with trying to figure out how to
announce yet another War to the myriad of romping addicts back at the 
Shrine, as well as handle the ensuing factional comments that would begin flying 
soon thereafter.  And then there were the security measures that would need to be
implemented, the supplies - especially tiramisu, tea and coffee - that had 
to be checked on and replenished, and the rallying of the Not-So-Vestal-
Jules sighed.
     It was going to be a long two weeks.


Frustration mounting...
By: MeriBeth Anthony
Time: Day 3 (April 28, 1998), Dusk

My makeshift office was a mess, papers scattered here and there and a street
map of Toronoto thumbtacked to the wall.  I ran my gaze over that map,
smiling as I moted the push pins.  Each pin as in a particular factions
color and had a number on it's top.  The number cooresponded to a list I was
keeping of who attacked whom and with what.  In some ways, that list was all
the kept my spirits up.

There was one attack on there, that if it really happened must have been
helarious.  I mean, glowing pink rats.  Really.  That must have taken some
doing. Of course, that was just rumored to have happened.  No one directly
involved was talking.

In wondered how long it would be before I had a clue or two.  It would be
real helpful if I could narrow down my search area - hunting all over
Toronto, especially by night, was tiring.  There were only so many places
that I could think of to search.  Maybe, I'd get lucky and someone out there
would discover something, evne a little thing, and bring it to my attention.


NA: Addicted to War (1/3)
By Bonnie Rutledge
Starring: A slew of addicts used by permission
Time: Saturday, April 25th, 8pm
After 'Oh, Dear'

     It was a typical night at the Shrine to Nunkies.  A couple dozen
addicts were in residence, running rampant and testing the effectiveness of
the soundproofed walls. There always seemed to be some members visiting
Toronto on vacation or business, and they took advantage of the Shrine's
accoutrements as though it was a private resort.

     It was a typical night at the Jeweled Peach. Monsieur Louis Cabon,
manager of the establishment, was trying earnestly to serve the needs of the
restaurant's *paying* customers, while he accommodated the Nunkies addicts.
It was a difficult balancing act. He would hover discreetly in the
background, watching with wringing hands as the diners sampled their
timbales and souffles. Then, all at once, there would be a muffled crash
from the direction of the private dining room. The clientele would pause
mid-bite, the murmur of polite conversation would deaden, and Louis would
break out in a cold sweat.

     He had the restaurant's reputation to uphold, but he also had a
pricking conscience that made him wonder if there wasn't an addict somewhere
in need of an ambulance...

     ...Or a straightjacket.

     Trying to appear unstressed, Louis slipped out of the customer's view,
then down the hall toward the private dining room. Easing the heavy mahogany
door open in a clandestine fashion, then he squinted at the sight of a pile
of broken porcelain littering the peach Aubousson carpet.

      "'M tryin' tha' agin!" Libby announced.

     "You're just going to break more plates," Sarah pointed out.

     "Aye kin always put 'em back togedder wi' sum duck tape." Libby paused
for a moment of respectful silence in honor of the sacred adhesive.

     "It would be better," Annie lectured, "if you would stop getting
distracted while you're trying to spin the plates. *That's* why they're
getting broken in the first place."

     "Roight. No distracshuns." The Ratpacker nodded solemnly and began to
balance a new piece of china atop a tall, thin rod. Spin, spin, spin...and
the plate was successfully whirling like a top. Libby quickly started
another dish-and-stick twirling just to the right atop the table. She turned
her attention back to the first plate, intending to give it a little gas to
keep spinning, but her gaze was suddenly transfixed by the sight of the
overhead lights dancing in a twinkling glow off of the shiny glaze of the
dinner plate. Libby froze, stars in her eyes, a happy grin spreading over
her face at the bright and pretty kaleidoscope.

     *Blam!* *Crash!* *tinkle-tinkle*

     Louis observed in horror as two more pieces of the Peach's fine china
met the gravitational kiss of death.

     "Oh, brother!" Annie sighed.

     Libby blinked as the pretty lights disappeared. Realizing that more
plates had gone bye-bye, she grinned sheepishly. "Oops."

     Monsieur Cabon finally made his presence known. He stormed into the
room, clutching his hair, and squealed, "What are you doing?!?!"

     "Breakin' stuff," Libby said, beaming proudly.

     "Not anymore, you aren't," Annie commanded. "Go back into the Shrine
and see if you can find something to do that won't raise a ruckus. You're
here to hide out from trouble, remember? You certainly don't need more. Look
- Louis is on the verge of a coronary because of your antics."

      "O-kay..." Libby picked up a pile of the dish fragments and, carrying
Ratsuko by the tail between her teeth, shuffled out of the private dining
room for more innocent fun, Ratpacker-style.

     "Why, oh why, would Mees Libby want play with zee plates?" Louis

     "Because we wouldn't let her juggle," Kate answered, as though this was
all the explanation necessary.

     "And she wanted to juggle...pourquoi?" Louis asked, his moustache
wiggling like a landed guppy.

     "Because Annie and Kate were trying to teach Sarah and me," Susan said.
Kate demonstrated by tossing a series of Official Nunkies Black Silk Hankies
into the air and whipping them in a flurry of fabric about her head. Annie
joined in, and, pretty soon, the two women were juggling in relay. "As you
can see," Susan continued, "they've got a pretty good handle on it. I'm
still struggling at the two scarf level."

     "And I can't juggle worth crap," Sarah announced with finality.
"Libby's almost as bad as me. We told her distinctly that bouncing a half-
chewed rat off one hand did not qualify as progress, so she decided to try
plate spinning, instead. You saw the results."

     "Mais, oui! Zee floor saw even more than moi!" Louis moaned. "I still
do not comprends why zee nice addict such as vous would need to know the
juggling in zee first place."

     Annie shrugged. "You know us, Louis. The art of juggling is a lot like
being NunkMommy - controlled anarchy at your fingertips. Besides...you could
think of it as a job skill."

     "Fun at office parties," Susan nodded.

     Suddenly, there came the sound of honking car horns from outside the
Shrine, followed by a muffled shriek and the development of a rousing
argument. "I'll pop ya one...right in the kisser!"

     Annie sighed, then set off across the Shrine toward the
Laboratory/Kitchen at a brisk pace. Louis followed her curiously as the
NunkMommy stepped out into the street.


     Chris looked out of the taxi window.  She hoped she could find the
Shrine. She cradled the thermos that carried her prize possession. The car
seemed to hit a bump and lurched to one side. The cab driver let out a curse
and slammed on his brakes, tossing Chris forward. The treasured thermos
almost slipped from her fingers and slammed into the front windshield, but
she caught the container by its narrow plastic handle.

     "Could you be a bit more careful please?" Chris asked archly.

     The cabbie snorted as he glanced over his shoulder. "It's not my fault,
babe. There's some kind of disturbance - something's blocking the road

     Christina mentally deducted the man's tip from his fare for calling her
'babe.' "I think I'll walk then. You can let me off here." She grabbed her
bags, paid the man a straight fee, and started walking along Queen in the
direction she hoped housed the Shrine to Nunkies. Chris noticed a discreet
brass placard to her left that proclaimed she was passing 'The Jeweled
Peach,' then continued walking past a large abandoned building that seemed
somewhat incongruous with the neighborhood.

     After this time, the reason for the traffic holdup became increasingly
apparent. There was a Volkswagen Beetle half-in, half-out, of an alleyway
just ahead. The back right tire was propped up on the curb, and what
appeared to be three gleaming gilded chariots were hitched in a row to the
bumper. The last chariot in the line had met with an unfortunate accident:
another taxicab was parked in the middle of it.

     There were two females in the Volkswagen that, upon more intimate
study, Christina realized had 'Lucius In Repose' detailed on the driver's
side and a white rose on the roof. The women hung out either window, shaking
their fists, their screeches overcoming the loud music blaring from the
Beetle's stereo, repeating 'Da-da-da' over and over.

     The taxi driver was also testing his vocal cords, obviously dismayed at
the sight of his crinkled front fender and hissing radiator. "Whatcha
*blankety-blank* broads wanna go put a stoo-pid  *blank-da-blankety-blank*
chariot in the middle of tha' *blank-blank-blanket-blank* road for?!?!?!?!"

     This dazzling array of vocabulary spurred the driver of the Volkswagen
into a frenzy. She slammed out of the car, revealing she was costumed in a
heavy chiffon mini-toga with a sky blue sash and beret, and yelled, "Ey! You
talkin' to me? I said, ey! You talking me?"

     The taxi driver looked her up and slowly and replied in a threatening
tone, "Yeah."

     The toga-ed female seemed nonplused, blinked steadily, then said, "Oh.
Just checking."

     "So what are you gonna do, little lady," the taxi driver growled as he
poked the pigtailed woman in the collarbone, "to make up for parking yer
*blankety-blank* chariot where I could hit it?"

     Indignation spread over the female's features, slowly overcoming any
caution that the man towered over her by more than a foot. "You think *I*
should pay *you*????" By this time, the Volkswagen's passenger had appeared
at her side, and she turned and declared hotly. "Kristine! This early
hominid thinks we should pay *him* for the damage he wrought upon our bee-
yoo-tee-ful new wheels!"

     The toga-ed woman named Kristine gasped. "Get out, KC! You're talkin'

     KC shook her head. "I kid you not! Mr. Greenjeans here thinks we should
hand over our hard-earned shekels."

     "Well, it ain't going to happen," Kristine replied. "You, Mr. Taxi Man,
are the one who failed to brake for an oncoming chariot. You owe us."

     "Why, you little *blanket-blank-blank-blankety-blank-blankers*!" the
taxi driver snarled.

     "Does your parole officer know you talk like that?" Kristine inquired

     KC bounced up and down, her feet shuffling with fancy footwork, while
doing a one-two with her fists. "Hold me back! Naw! Let me at 'em! I'll pop
ya one...right in the kisser! I'll rock 'em! I'll sock 'em! I'll robot 'em!"

     Annie and Louis arrived on the scene, Heather and Jayne following
behind at the titillating sound of a ruckus. "You can let him live,
Nixinator," Annie called. "I can handle this." She approached the taxi
driver, producing a copy of the Metro Toronto Traffic Code as if from thin
air. Annie had ridden passenger to too many addict drivers to be caught in
the city without a copy. "Louis! Write down this man's union number!
Heather! Note his license tag! Jayne! Glare at him as though he was a moldy

     "Aye-aye, NunkMommy!" her troops called as they eagerly wrote, noted
and glared.

     "Do you realize Mr....*Person*..." Annie began haughtily as she paced
back and forth, "that there is a statute within the city limits of Toronto
giving the right-of-way to any articles of anachronistic transportation such
as carriages, pogo sticks, Yugos, and *especially* Roman chariots? See?" She
expertly flicked open the traffic manual to the appropriate page. "I think
you had better cough up some insurance, buster!"

     The taxi driver gave a defeated shrug and dug through his pockets for
the appropriate policy card. Louis and the other addicts gave a round of
polite applause. Chris, now certain that she had come to the right place,
tucked her thermos under her arm and joined in the clapping.

     Annie turned in her direction, raising a Nunkies-like eyebrow. "Who are

     "I'm Christina. I signed up a while ago. I decided to make a

     The NunkMommy tapped her chin thoughtfully with a fingertip.
"Christina... Christina...Ah! I remember now! Wadsworth, isn't it?"

     Chris nodded.

     "Well, come inside the Shrine, and make yourself at home," Annie said,
then muttered in a lower voice, "Everyone does anyway."

     A woman, brightly adorned in plaid, approached Chris and shook her
hand. "I'm MacCousin Heather. I'll see you settled in the Shrine. Would you
like some of my family recipe cider?" She paused as she eyed the container
in Chris' hand. "But maybe you brought your own brew, eh?"

      "Oh, no!" Christina protested quickly. "I wouldn't drink this. You
see, it's a little project I've been working on. I thought I'd offer it to
the group to use." She proffered the thermos in the MacCousin's direction.

     "What is it?"  Heather regarded it suspiciously.

     "Whammy juice."


     "Well, this stuff has the effect of hypnotism. It distorts the memory
engrams. A teaspoon stirred in a two-liter will knock out four people. The
effect will last about five hours."

     "How exactly does it work?" Heather's curiosity was piqued.

     "It's simple. Give a person a whack of it, then, after five seconds,
you re-write their memory. You tell them who they are and what they are.
It's brilliant."

     "Och!" Heather exclaimed. "It sounds like a cross between a Roman
Candle and one of me Granny MacIntyre's secret family brews. You'd best be
careful with it! We'll find a safe spot in the Laboratory/Kitchen."

     As Heather ushered Christina inside, Annie finished with the taxi
driver and sent him on his way. She then turned to the Kissing Cousin, the
threat of dastardly punishments glowing in her eyes. "Susan Nix!...*What* do
you think you're doing with a collection of chariots in the middle of
downtown TO?!"

     KC, knowing when her mangoes were close to being mashed, fell to her
knees amidst piteous wails. "Oh, puuuhhh-lllleeease, NunkMommy! Please don't
give me grout duty! *Sniff!* All I wanted to do was earn my Legionnaire's
badge! Waaaahhhh!!!"

     Kristine, who also knew what side her popcorn was buttered on, agreed
in a pleading voice, though she refrained from the overacted groveling that
KC excelled at. "Yes, we're trying to earn a badge. It's a noble quest!"

     "Mercy! Mercy! *Sniff!* *Sniff!*" KC bawled dramatically, gracefully
pressing the back of one hand to her forehead, then pretended she was a
wounded doe in the headlights of a Mack truck.

      Louis fell for it. "Ladees! Ladees!" he fretted, waving his arms like
an emancipated turkey in a effort to play pacifier. "Mees KC! Mees Kristine!
What ees zees boohoo? Badges? What badges?"

     "Nunkies Scout badges, Louis," Annie announced. She appeared slightly
mollified to learn the addicts' hijinks were Nunkies-related. "The Scouts
were formed last fall. They sell tiramisu cookies and earn badges while
reflecting the code of the Nunkies Scouts: 'Optimize the Nunkiness.'"

     Monsieur Cabon looked dazed with this information. He was always the
last to learn everything. "Does eet work?"

     Annie shrugged. "Keeps these hoodlums off the streets."

     There was a pause. "Most of the time," Jayne added.

     "But, what can you ladees earn badges een?"

     "Oh, plenty of things," KC said happily, hopping tear-free to her feet
and holding up her Nunkies Scout sash. She pointed proudly to each appliqued
piece of artwork. "See? This is my badge for Drooling."

     "Almost everyone has one of those," Kristine explained. "It goes with
the territory, though there are a few drool-impaired people running around
the premises."

     "Yes," KC added as she pointed to another emblem. "That's why there's
also a badge for Glazed and Smoldering Looks."

     Louis peered at the piece of fabric that had one piercing blue eye on
it and blinked. After months of close contact, the addicts still had the
power to surprise him. "What's zee leetle dress badge for?"

     All four women hissed at him simultaneously, causing Louis to jump back
in alarm.

     "It's a *toga* badge," KC said hotly.

     "Zen what ees zees one?" Monsieur Cabon asked, pointing to a patch
emblazoned with a skull and crossbones. "Vampire Safety?"

     "No," Jayne replied. "Anti-Nunklear Device Awareness. Those things can
be dangerous, you know!"

     "And lusting after zee ancient vampire eesn't?" Louis shook his head in
bewilderment, shuffling his way back indoors.

     "Hmm..." Annie said. "I suppose you can park the chariots in the garage
beside the hot air balloon. But remember: absolutely no racing in the
Shrine!" Annie turned and entered the building.

     KC and Kristine gave each other a high-five at their success. Jayne
merely shook her head. "Do you two even *know* how to drive a chariot?"

    "Not a problem." KC skipped over to the Volkswagen and produced a stack
of colorful packages. "I have videos and an easy-to-follow pop-up book!
'Learn Charioteering the Roman Way!' Just six easy lessons!"

     Jayne inspected the titles. "Ah, Lesson Three: 'How to keep the bugs
out of your teeth.' Sign me up for that one, eh?"

End of Part One
Continued in Part Two

Starring: A slew of addicts used by permission
Time: Saturday, April 25th, 8pm
After 'Oh, Dear'
By Bonnie Rutledge
Haiku by Shele

     As Annie and Louis re-entered the Shrine, they were waylaid by a
literal posse of addicts. Sherry, Rose, Senara and Rosalie all had
purposeful glints in their eyes as they spotted the NunkMommy. Louis decided
to hang around and listen to what appeared to be an interesting development.

     "Annie," Sherry said in a business-like tone, "you're just the person
we're looking for."

     "Oh, dear..."

     Senara held up a sheaf of papers. "We've all given this a great deal of
thought, and we want to make a proposal to the University of Toronto for an
addition to their curriculum."

     "Oh, dear..."

      "Is Nunkies not educated?" Rosalie piped up. "Is he not gifted and
talented? Does he not have varied interests? Would he not be an asset to any

     "Well, except maybe the clergy," Sherry pointed out in a practical
voice, though the thought of ministering to LaCroix's needs was a potent
one. "Then again, he *is* a powerful, erudite speaker."

     Rosemary added her voice to the crowd. "Exactly. Nunkies is a man for
all seasons. A vampire of all trades. He can do anything!"

     "Except be a lifeguard," Sherry said, again being practical.

     "Well, he could be a *night* lifeguard," Senara argued.

     By this time, Annie had begun to tap her foot with impatience. "What
exactly is the point of all this rigmarole?"

     "Well, I have dabbled enough in higher education recently to understand
needs of students today," Rosalie explained. "I think, that to become a
truly well-rounded individual, the University of Toronto should establish a
degree that concentrates on LaCroix-associated subjects."

     "We want them to establish a B.S. in Nunkies," Rosemary announced.

     Monsieur Cabon covered his face with his hands. "Sacre Bleu!"

     "Wait!" Senara protested. "I thought we had agreed on a Masters in
Nunkies! I wanna master Nunkies!"

     Rose shook her head. "There's got to be an undergraduate degree in
there somewhere."

     "What sort of classes," Annie said after she managed to regain her
powers of speech, "would this...ahem...B.S. involve?"

     "Well, there's Astronomy and Classical Roman Studies, business courses
to help manage property, such as plantations," Sherry began.

     "Latin, French, the poetry of Donne and the works of Shakespeare and
Milton," Rosalie continued.

     "The philosophy of Death and dying, the study of volcanoes, " Senara
added, "folklore about Raven and Celtic legends..."

    "A few courses in Child Psychology wouldn't hurt," Sherry popped in for
good measure.

     "Classes in speech, radio communications, and a slew of history and
Endocrinology," Rosemary concluded.

     "Why Endocrinology?" Annie asked.

      Sherry shrugged. "Hormones were the closest we could come to 'hellish

     "Well, that's very interesting," Annie said in a weak voice. "I'm sure
that the board at the Uni. of TO will be astounded at the scope of your

     "We're counting on it," Senara said. "We just want your endorsement."

     Annie's hemming and hawing was interrupted by the sound of the door
gong coming from the Laboratory/Kitchen. "Someone's at the door! I'd better
go see!" The NunkMommy rushed away, Louis trailing curiously after her.


     Susan, Jade and Jan were already in the kitchen, huddled around the
door. Sukh was there also, her jacket indicating her recent arrival.

     Sukh appeared very stressed. "I couldn't stay away," she said

     "Just take deep breaths," Jade said sympathetically.

     "Let us take your coat," Susan added. "Do you want something to drink?
I think Heather's got some cider brewing on the stove"

     Sukh simply shook her head emphatically. "No, I'm okay....No, I'm not!
I couldn't stay away!" she wailed anew.

     Louis and the addicts surrounded Sukh, ushering her to a seat at the
Laboratory/Kitchen table. "Tell us what's wrong," Jade urged. "We might be
able to help."

     Sukh seemed to fight back a moment of indecision, then plunged ahead.
"It started during War Eight. Do you remember how I visited the Shrine for
the Kickstart the Knight campaign?" Susan and Jan nodded. "Well, I was
captivated by the place. I just can't seem to get the tapestries out of my
head! It's all I can think of, morning, noon and night!"

      "You have visited quite a few times since then," Jan agreed. "We can't
say we haven't noticed the warning signs that there's a problem."

     "Yes, Sukh," Susan said gently. "We've all suspected the truth for some
time now."

     "No!" Sukh shook her head in desperate protest. "There isn't any

     "We all know the excuses, Sukh: you're just tired, real life has been
hectic lately, and it's just a little fantasy, completely harmless," Jade
said firmly.

     "But these *are* all just excuses. We think you know the truth. You
just can't bring yourself to say it," Susan said. "Sukh...you need an

     Annie sat in the table's other chair, gently took Sukh's hand, and said
with deep understanding, "The time has come for you to admit that you're
addicted to Nunkies. It's the first step."

     "No...no, I can't...I..." Sukh covered her face with her other hand.
"It's true! I know! I am a Nunkies addict!" The entire congregation,
including Louis, breathed a sigh of relief at her declaration. Sukh patted
her chest and took several deep, calming breaths. "Oh! I think I do feel
better now. My obsession with Nunkies has weighed heavily on my heart for so
long! you just don't know! Well, maybe you do, but...I was a leader of the
Unnameds last year. It felt awful to be thinking so much of LaCroix.
LaCroix, LaCroix, and not a speck about That Other Guy!"

     "It'll be alright," Jan said. "We've all been there at some point or
another. We share your addiction. You can stay here and wallow in Nunkies
for as long as you need."

     "What would you like to do first? To see 'Nunkies in Repose'? To listen
to some sound files or use the Sauna?"

     "Everything!" Sukh insisted eagerly. "I want to see everything!"

     Jade wandered off to make a long-distance call home to her still-new
hubby, while the addicts made plans. They decided to stop by the Anterooms
and the Sacred Cold Shower first, so that Sukh could have a nice fit of
lustful gazing at the tapestries, then cool off. Monsieur Cabon could not
stop his florid blushing when Susan teasingly asked if he would like to come
along. He excused himself with flustered bravado, then decided to wander
back to the restaurant, where no one ever talked about 'getting naked.'

     As he minced through the main atrium, Louis detected the distinct
clicking sounds of someone playing pool in the Billiards room. His curiosity
surged, for recently, any mention of playing pool in the Shrine was followed
by snickers and dreamy sighs. Louis decided to investigate.

     Glennis and Beth were propped against the paneled walls playing
spectators while Jesse and 'Chele surveyed the black felt table with a
predatory air.

      "I still say," Glennis announced in a slightly critical tone, "that
you're too young to become a pool guru, Jesse."

     The teenager grinned, then ricocheted the seven into the corner pocket
with deadly accuracy. "Well, Jules won't let me borrow the Jag for a spin on
the town...what's a girl to do?"

     Jesse fluttered her eyelashes in mock innocence, driving Beth to a
groan. "I think that has something to do with you're too young for a
license. You know...normal teenage antics do not involve bar fights and
sharking Louisianans out of their beer money," she said.

     "Consider the company I keep," Jesse said succinctly. The other addicts
pondered some of the brew-ha-ha's certain members of the group had gotten up
to in the past in a moment of respectful silence.

     "Still," 'Chele said as she chalked her cue, "the things we're aware of
that you get up to are food for thought. I'm afraid to imagine what we
*don't* know about."

     "If I told you," Jesse snickered as she downed the two and the four in
rapid succession, "then I'd have to kill you...or at least do terrible
things to you involving Birkenstocks."

     "Ah...torture," Beth said smartly, "I can respect that."

     Glennis spotted Cabon peeping through the Billiards room door. "Don't
be a stranger, Louis. Join us."

     "You could even play," 'Chele added.

     Jesse gave a wicked grin at the prospect of fresh meat. "Yeah...Louis,
are you a betting man?"

    Cabon straightened in horror, waving his hands protectively in front of
his chest as though to ward off evil. He still had bad memories of losing
his pants during poker lessons from an addict. There would be no racking
balls for this French-Canadian. "Non, non...forget that you saw me,
ma'moiselles," he sputtered, then quickly closed the door as he ran away.

     "'Forget?' Who does he think he is...Nunkies?" 'Chele wondered aloud.

     Jesse bent over the pool table to take her winning shot, but at the
last instant, jerked her arms and fouled instead. "Ow!" She clutched at an
angry red mark on her ankle. "Something *scratched* me!"

     Chele gave a Cousinly smile as she observed her cat, Wasabi, slither
out from underneath the table. Ankle hit-and-runs were her specialty.
"Thanks, Kitty. I guess I'll be taking my turn now," she announced.

     "Hey! There's gotta be a foul there somewhere!" Jesse protested.

     "Sorry!" 'Chele drawled as she pocketed the thirteen. "British rules
only cover interference from homo sapiens."

     Jesse pouted and joined Glennis in leaning against the paneling, arms
crossed in front of her chest. "Hmmph. Speciesism sucks."


     Louis brushed the lint from his sleeves as he rushed past the Shrine
porticoes. As he neared the Library, he couldn't resist glancing inside.
Monsieur Cabon placed a finger over his lips as Kusine spotted him and
waved, then quietly took a seat on the observatory steps. The Library was a
maze of mahogany bookshelves and tables that promoted a soothing atmosphere
of privacy. Several of the addicted writers had assembled here to work on
their fanfic among the relative peace and quiet the thick walls provided.

     Sallie was taking advantage of the quiet to indulge in a little
dragonly napping. She had aggregated a pile of loonies and quarters on the
floor beneath the financial section of the library to use as her nest. The
only obstacle to her nap was Libby. The Ratpacker, being a voracious reader,
had wandered into the Library after her plate-spinning fiasco. Rather than
hunting down a copy of 'The Pursemonger of Fugu,' Libby was distracted by
the heaping mound of shiny, pretty coinage.

     It was her natural Ratpackerly instinct to pinch the lot. All the
little ratsies would dance and cheer at the sight of so many brightsies, not
that Libby was sharing. She reached out a greedy paw...

     But then she caught a whiff of something delicious in the air. Instead
of pilfering some treasure, Libby straightened her aviator cap as she
continued to sniff the tantalizing aroma.

     It was the smell of cheddar, sharp and tangy, incredibly alluring.
Libby's mouth began to water. For a diabetic unable to dabble in sugared
sweets, a chunk of Wisconsin's finest was like edible gold. Libby wanted it.
Her eyes followed her nostrils to just beside the pile of nice, shiney
coins. There were the cubes of cheese, lined up in a happy orange semi-
circle around the currency. Libby snatched hungrily at a piece.


     "Eeek!" Libby squeaked. Her fingers were caught in a wood and spring
contraption that pinched.

     Sallie gave a knowing chuckle, stretched slightly, then slithered into
a slightly more comfy napping position atop her horde. Not being a dullard
dragon, she had surrounded her treasure with rat traps.

     While Libby was busy trying to shake her snookered paw free, Shele
stood and cleared her throat. Monsieur Cabon perked with interest. 

      "Ahem...I have something to share," Shele said, waving her Sacred
Quill Pen at her audience of Kusine, Debbie, and Joni. "Here's my new

     "Can we guess what it's about?" Debbie asked facetiously as she paused
in composing her latest Fleurette fic.

     "Umm...radial tires?" Kusine teased, twirling a pen saucily between her

     Joni pushed the outline to her Moriah story aside. "Taco stands?"

     Shele gave a derisive snort and pretended to act huffy. "Do you want to
hear it or not, my uncultured pearls?"

     Joni tried to talk while laughing. "We want to hear it, Poet Laureate.
Thwap us with your lyrical prowess. "

    Another *Snap!* "Eek!" came from Libby's direction.

     "Sounds like someone's starting the poetry thwapping without you,"
Kusine observed.

     Shele rolled her eyes, then cleared her throat once more.

     "Teaching listeners
     The varied nature of love
     Dark voice of the night"

     The women exhaled a dreamy sigh in unison. "That was a wonderful Nunku,
Shele," Kusine said in a mellow voice. "I'm feeling a bit melty. What do you
think, Louis?" she added, bringing everyone's attention to the maitre-d'.

      "I am not obsessed with zees Nightcrawler person like zee
Ma'moiselles," Monsieur Cabon sniffed proudly.

     "Mmm-hmm..." Debbie said as she mischievously eyed the man's outfit.
"Gee, Louis, the cut of your suit sure looks familiar..."

     "Oh, my!" Kusine trilled in a falsetto. "Is that *Armani*?"

     "Cabon! Are trying to look like LaCroix?" Joni demanded.

     Louis preened for a moment, imagining that he had succeeded in causing
all of the Shrine residents to drool after him for a change. Then, Kusine
had an idea.

     "You know, if Louis really wants to look like LaCroix, he'll have to
shave his moustache."

     "Oooh! I'll get a razor!" Debbie agreed merrily and rose from her

     Cabon rushed for the Library door in horror, releasing a shriek as he
covered his hairy upper lip with both hands. All of the women seemed to be
stalking him, their eyes greedy with depilatory intent. "Back! Back! Away
from me, you lusty hoydens! No addict touches the Sacred Moustache!"

     Louis ran from the room, the addicts' laughter clipping at his heels.
He reached the private dining room, then exited through the hallway back
toward the restaurant. Relief had just begun to settle back in his nerves
when a hysterical outbreak reached his ears from the direction of the
Jeweled Peach's kitchen.

      "LOOK! A DINOSAUR!!!!"

NA: Addicted to War (3/3)
By Bonnie Rutledge
Starring: A slew of addicts used by permission
Time: Saturday, April 25th, 8pm
After 'Oh, Dear'

     At the dinosaur cry, there were more yelps and the scramble of feet
coupled with the sound of chairs and glassware being knocked over. Monsieur
Cabon fought back the urge to weep. 

     He entered the main dining room, projecting a brave demeanor while the
crowd threatened a riot over their bowls of vichychoisse. Louis raised his
hands in the air and tried to appear cheerfully commanding.

     "Ladees and Monsiers! Remain calm! Eet ees only zee nice iguana! She
only glares een zee scary way, see?"

     The diners did see, and they proceeded to trample each other on their
way out of the restaurant. Cabon shouted for them to stop, visions of unpaid
tabs dancing in his head, but it did no good. The restaurant's clientele and
a good number of the wait staff had vacated the building. Louis sat down
sadly in one of the vacated chairs. Cousine Moses, iguana by species and
velociraptor by reputation, climbed into the seat across the table, then
gave Louis a reptilian smile over a half-eaten plate full of 'Salmon en

     An array of nickers and hee-hawing came from the kitchen, then the lead
chef burst through the doors, an evil-looking chicken attached to his head.
Cousin Tser followed. "Rusty! Let him go! He's not going to cook you! He was
filleting fish!"

     Rusty descended to the floor, taking the chef's hat with her. The man
didn't protest, choosing to flee in terror instead. The evil chicken
proceeded to enthusiastically peck the starched white linen headdress into
wispy scraps.

      Cousin Gwendolyn, Tser's feline companion, pranced from the kitchen
with a piece of salmon steak clutched in her jaws. She didn't pause, but
made her way back to the Shrine, as the cat had done many times before.

     Louis shook his head and let out a mild sob. "Ma'amoiselle Tser! Not
another one of your unruly beasts!"

    The buzz-cutted addict gave Cabon a stern frown. "Now, Louis, don't be
so speciesist. They're all perfectly nice Cousinly Critters. Well...except
for Rusty...she's kind of an evil chicken."

     Cabon warily eyed the Rhode Island Red. Rusty was scratching ruthlessly
at her pile of shredded fabric, obviously relishing in the destruction.
"Vraiment!" Louis hooted.

     Charl was the last person to exit the kitchen. She had a lead in each
hand, one belonging to Marl, her Wonder Horse, the other to Lavalianna, Lava
for short, Tser's burro. "Sorry, Louis. They smelled oats, and we couldn't
hold them back."

     "Why do zey go crazy at zee smell of oats?" Cabon wondered. "I am sure
zey are tasty, but zeese animals are fanatics!"

     "I don't understand it either, Louis," Charl said as she shrugged her
shoulders. "It's nae' oatmeal! Here - take the reins. I've got some Clorox
Cleanup. I'll fix the mess in the kitchen. I'm not only an addict, I'm a
Die-hard; I have vast experience in messy mishaps."

     Charl disappeared into the kitchen, while Tser had a battle of wills
with Rusty over the last remnants of the chef's hat. Louis sat numbly at the
dinner table across from Cousine Moses while Lava and Marl began to chew on
his hair.

     Suddenly, the intercom system came to life, blasting Jules' voice
throughout the restaurant and Shrine. "ATTENTION ALL NA MEMBERS - THIS IS

      "Sounds important," Louis blustered.

      "Very," Tser agreed, finally seizing her evil chicken and tucking her
securely under one arm.

     Charl ran from the kitchen, a mop waving in one hand, an S.O.S. pad
brandished in the other. "Emergency? Emergency? I'm still scouring! This
place is a mess! What could be more important!?!?!?!"

      Louis gestured toward the private dining room and bowed. "Let us find
out, mes amis."


     The addicts chattered anxiously among themselves as they congregated in
the main room of the Shrine. Jules paced back and forth, appearing extremely
stressed. Annie approached her, pulled her aside, and the two women
whispered urgently for several minutes. The NunkMommy was overheard
eliciting a choked sound that suspiciously resembled, 'Ack!'

     Finally, Annie turned and announced in a clear, commanding voice,
"Quiet, everyone! Jules has some extremely important information to share
with you!"

     Jules cleared her throat, touched her hair, then began to explain to
the curious crowd. "It appears that Natalie's research to cure Nick has gone
missing." There were several startled exclamations among the addicts.
"LaCroix has taken up the gauntlet, organizing a search for the information.
He's contacted the faction leaders, who I expect are searching for some of
you even now. Furthermore, our dear Nunkies has offered a substantial
financial reward of half a million dollars to anyone who presents him with
the research or the culprit."

     "Why him?" Rosemary exclaimed. "Why not Nick or Natalie? They're the
ones the research should be returned to. LaCroix's intentions sound
suspicious to me. He's got a voice that can melt butter and my knees, but I
don't think he's exactly proven himself to be trustworthy where cures are
concerned in the past! Who's to say Nunkies doesn't destroy the information
once he gets his undead hands on it?! Who's to say he didn't take it in the
first place?!"

      "Come on, Rose," Joni protested. "Why should LaCroix stoop to mortal
methods to *steal* something?"

      "Yeah," Beth agreed. "LaCroix would just take what he wants, no

      "Beth and Joni are right," Glennis said. "There are scores of people
more likely to steal something than LaCroix."

     With those words, every pair of eyes turned to the Ratpacker. Libby
scratched her head at their stares, then turned around to see what really
interesting thing must be behind her to draw their attention. She noticed
that someone had left a perfectly nice, sparkly silverplate button on the
tile floor. She quickly scooped it up, deciding that it must have been left
there so she could take care of it. Smiling happily at her gleaming find,
Libby turned back around. She realized that everyone was still staring in
her direction, especially noting her new button with suspicion.

      If there was one thing Ratpackers knew, it was their numbers. Libby
put two and two together. "Yew cogita-noodle tha' wun o' tha' lil' ratsies
borrowed 'em?" She paused to consider the concept carefully, scratching her
head again. "R tha' papers bright n' shiney-pretty?" Libby asked greedily.
"R there paper clips??????"

     The suspecting stares intensified. Suddenly, Libby was struck by a
mental 2x4.  Visions of
imprisonment danced in her head. Scenes of another Ratpacker, much less
worthy than her, laying their paws on the reward money and going to Vegas
without her tormented Libby. Without another blink, Libby scurried from the
Shrine, raced to the Lab/Kitchen before anyone thought to grab her, then
leaped into one of the stainless steel cabinets that housed the Ratpacker

     Annie tapped her foot unhappily against the Shrine tiles at Libby's
disappearance. "So...was that a sign of guilt or greed?"

      "Guilt," voted half of the addicts.

     "Greed," declared the other half.

     "That still doesn't help our MacNunkies," Heather complained. "What can
we do?"

     "Console him in the sauna?" Jade suggested.

     "I'll tell you what I'm going to do," Rosemary announced stubbornly.
"I'm going to the Nick & Natpackers' theatre, and I'm going to make sure
they get the research back!"

     "Those sound like fighting words," Kusine said critically.

      "Yeah," Jesse added, "practically treason!"

      "Practically?" Glennis protested. "Ha! If you're not with us, you're
against us! If you leave, Rose, you'll be on the other side of the battle
lines - fair game."

      "So be it," Rosemary shrugged. "It's the way I feel." The Nick &
Natpacker squared her shoulders and walked proudly from the Shrine.

      After Rosemary's departure, Tser stepped forward. "Some of us should
go to CERK and assist the Cousins."

     Senara agreed. "That's what I'm going to do."

     "I'll join both of you," 'Chele said. "I'd like to be closer to the

     "Closer to Nunkies is more like it," Rosalie murmured knowingly under
her breath.

     "Well," Jules informed them, "you'll be interested to learn that Bons
is one of the Cousinly heads this time around."

     "Ahh!" Tser, 'Chele, and Senara exclaimed at once.

     Jules gave an understanding nod. "That's what I said."

     The addicts waved the Cousins off with wishes of success.

     "Is there anyone else?" Annie asked the group.

     Charl waved her hand, then walked around Marl and climbed into her
horse's saddle. "You know me. I hope you won't take it personally, but I
refuse to choose. I'll be hooking up with the Die-Hards." She gave a brief
salute and began to ride from the Shrine, but paused at the threshold to the
Peach's private dining room. "Oh, and I'm sorry I didn't finish cleaning the
restaurant's kitchen."

      "Don't worry, Charl," Jules assured her. "We'll get a fanfic fairy to
finish it."

      Sarah started easing her way toward the warehouse exit. "I'm totally
not into this Nick/Nunkies battle of wills. I'm heading for Vachon's church
- maybe I can get more relaxation there."

     "What?!?!" KC hooted. "You're joining up with the Greasy Spaniard? What
a nacho!"

     "I'll tell Tracy Sue you said so," Sarah promised.

      "You do that, sub-slacker!" KC was on the verge of a frenzy. "Flush
her wiffle bat for me while you're at it!"

      Annie grabbed the enthusiastic addict by the back of the collar. "Now,
now, Nix. No chasing people from the Shrine. You don't want me to revoke
your Nunkies Scout badge in Manners, now do you?"

     "No Way! I'm getting all the badges, then I'M TAKING OVER THE WORLD!!!
MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!" KC's maniacal laughter died at Annie's glare, then she
gulped and said meekly, "Ooops. Excuse me. Sometimes my capacity for evil
overwhelms me."

     "Watch it," Annie warned before letting go of the addict. "Now, where
were we?" she asked the group.

     "I'm wondering..." Kate mused aloud. "What does Janette think of all
this? Is she torn? Decided? Upset? What is she wearing?"

     Kristine sighed. "It sounds like you want to go to the Raven."

     Kate nodded. "I'm thinking so. Want to come along? Maybe we'll

     Kristine shook her head. "Sorry, but I think I'll fit in here. Bring me
back a cocktail umbrella, if you can."

     "Will do," Kate promised.

      "Everyone wave Kate off to the Raven nicely," Jules ordered firmly.

      "Bye, Kate!" the addicts chorused. "We'll miss you!"

     "Send Janette our regards!" Annie called.

      KC nudged Annie in the side and whispered, "Err...why are we being so

      "Because we don't know whose side Janette is on yet," Annie whispered
back. "Besides, it doesn't hurt to be nice."

      KC watched as Susan waved too enthusiastically and accidentally socked
Jan in the jaw. "You're telling me," she commented as she observed Jan sway
dizzily and fall flat on her face, hitting Christina, Beth and Sherry on her
way down. "Oh, yeah...completely painless."

      Jules clapped her hands together once Jan regained consciousness to
redirect everyone's attention. "Is each person left committed to NA for the
war?" At the unanimous nod, Jules continued, "In that case, I dub thee Not-
So-Vestal-Virgins. If everyone goes up to the Wardrobe room, you'll find the
fanfic fairies have laid out breastplates for everyone!"

      While the addicts scampered up the stairs for a costume change, Annie
and Jules remained in the Shrine for a private conference.

      "Question," Annie began, "Where's Patt? The Third Cousin needs to be
in on this."

     "Umm...last time I saw Patt was almost a month ago," Jules said
thoughtfully. "I sent her windchime shopping."

     Annie nodded. "You'd better try to track her down. Meanwhile, I'm
thinking about a trip to the Bank of Felidia."

    "Annie!" Jules exclaimed. "The Bank of Felidia is in the Caymans! Why
would you go all that way?"

    "Because NA has been gathering interest in one bank or another for
centuries. I think we can afford to withdraw something from our current
account to add to Nunkies' reward. I don't think most of the addicts will be
after money - they're much more likely to want to earn LaCroix's
appreciation - but other people might be swayed by the dollar. Let's make
the pot as sweet as possible."

     "Good idea," Jules agreed.

      "I'll have to go in person to the bank to get a cashier's check,
though," Annie lamented.

      Jules wrinkled her nose. "That's terrible! Do you realize how much
time you'll waste flying there and back?"

      Annie nodded. "I know - the things we do for a tax free account. Wait
a sec..."


     "The Ratpacker tunnels...hasn't Libby said they lead everywhere?"

     "I think so."

      Annie smiled joyously. "Well, that's it! I can travel via tunnel, and
the fanfic fairies will zap me to and fro! I can go first thing when the
bank opens in the morning. It'll take an hour, tops!"

      "Excellent idea!" Jules congratulated.

     Unfortunately, the fanfic fairies were suffering from seasonal
allergies. These tiny story helpers were quite groggy and stuffy since the
pharmaceutical companies are horribly speciesist and don't see fit to
formulate sinus medications in fairy-fit dosages. They certainly weren't fit
to navigate any NunkMommy all the way to the Cayman Islands.

      But Annie didn't know that.

Fin for now...

There, But Not Back Again, Or How We Got To Toronto (01/02)
Time: Saturday, April 25th, 8ish, just after "Addicted to War"
Location: NA Shrine
Written by Kusine
Beta read by Glennis and Jesse, who were also used with their


Glennis watched the flood of addicts running through the hallways.
 It was to be war, then, was it?  She smiled.  War was good ... At
least fanfic wars.

"Shall we suit up, Not-So-Vestal-Virgins?" asked Glennis, eyeing
the two nearest addicts.

Jesse, the dark-haired, teenaged addict, was looking longingly at
the trampoline.  The other addict, Kusine, was grinning gleefully,
with a sparkle in her eye that Glennis had come to dread.


These three had driven together to Toronto for a pilgrimage to the
Nunkies Anonymous Shrine.  From discussion on the NA mail loop,
they had all discovered that they were all in need of a good look
at the real "Lucius In Repose", then, probably the Sacred Cold
Pond.  Even though they were from different parts of the United
States, they decided that a road trip would be the most fun way to
get to TO.

Coming from San Diego, California, Glennis had flown to Chicago,
where she had snagged Jesse, the dark-haired addict.  They had
then flown to Detroit (and, boy, were their arms tired! ), where Kusine, having driven up from Columbus,
Ohio, had then met them at the airport.

They had never met before in real life, so Glennis and Jesse had
no idea what Kusine looked like.  Glennis, however, had no trouble
finding Jesse in Chicago, since the overly-caffinated younger
addict had been making a ruckus about not wanting to check in her
porta-bust of Lucius (she eventually had to, but only after
threatening grievous bodily harm to if it was injured in any way).
Kusine, though, would be more difficult to spot.  All Ohio addict
had said was that she would be waiting outside of Baggage Claim in
her red Saturn.

As soon as they opened the doors leading out of the airport, the
two addicts were assaulted the honking of horns and the screams of
irate drivers.  The obvious object of their anger was a young
woman in the middle of the drive, standing on the roof of her car.
 Traffic had snarled around her, and a taxi was beginning to nose
at the bumper.

"Jesseeeeee!  Gleniiiiis!"  she yelled.  "I'm over heeeeeere!"

The two addicts looked at each other, cringing.

"We should probably get over there before she gets arrested,"
Glennis said.

"Yeah," Jesse agreed, but remained where she was. "But it could be
an interesting experiment: whether or not the NA bail fund could
be used if she weren't arrested in Toronto."

"She's got the car keys," Glennis pointed out.  "If she gets
arrested, we don't get to Toronto."

"Well, what are we waiting for?!" Jesse exclaimed in horror and
sprinted over to the disruptive addict.

Glennis followed at a more stately pace (she had not yet had as
much coffee as the other addict).  By the time she arrived at the
car, Kusine had gotten down from the roof and was hugging Jesse.

"Group hug!"  Glennis yelled, and threw her arms around the other

At this, the honking and yelling managed to increased in volume.
After a few defiant seconds, the addicts moved apart.

"We should probably get going," Kusine said, grinning, and popped
open the trunk of the car.

They stuffed their baggage in the already near-full trunk.  Jesse
and Glennis stared in amazement at the collection of objects
already stowed there.

"Kusine, you have a trombone in here," Jesse observed.

"And an inflatable date," Glennis added.

"I didn't want to leave anything useful behind," Kusine explained.
 "You never know what you'll need when you travel, and you guys
had to pack light since you were flying."

Glennis nudged the teenaged addict and pointed to a hoard of
Cadbury's chocolate poking out from behind a hockey stick and a
pile of books.  As Kusine got in the car, Glennis reached in and
grabbed a couple bars ("for the road," she told a smirking Jesse),
then slammed the trunk closed.  Jesse claimed "shotgun," then
hopped into the front passenger's seat.  After glaring at Jesse,
Glennis got in the back seat and stealthily opened one of her
chocolate bars.  The sounds from the other drivers ceased
immediately as Kusine drove off.


Glennis shook her head.  //Geez,// she thought, //No wonder Nick
always looks so distracted after a flashback.  Those things really
take over your brain.//  At this rate, they'd never get into their
uniforms!  Kusine and Jesse weren't going to move on their own;
they even looked like they might be about to wander off.  But it
just wouldn't do for them to be seen in Toronto during a war
without their uniforms.

Snagging her fellow addicts, Glennis dragged them to the Wardrobe
Room and began to untangle her NSVV uniform.  The other two
followed suit, helping each other with figuring out how the togas
and breastplates fit.


The first trouble had been at the border.  Jesse had snickered
when Kusine said that their intention in Canada was to admire the

"Admire Nunkies, yeah," Jesse said lasciviously.

"Nunkies?" the woman in the Border Control uniform asked

"Yeah, he's a Roman General...and oh-so-thudworthy," Jesse said,
her eyes glazing over with all the signs of an impending Nunklear

The Border Control woman looked at the glassy-eyed teenager
dubiously.  Kusine and Glennis smiled innocently (well, as
innocently as a Nunkies Anonymous member can), but that seemed
only to make her more suspicious.

"Pull over there and step out of the car," she instructed,
pointing over to the side of the road.  The addicts merely stared
at her in shock.  "Over there!  Yes, I mean you three!"

They spent the next hour watching the Saturn being emptied as the
officers looked for contraband.  The costoms agents seemed to take
great joy in playing catch with the addicts' belongings.  The only
consolation, the three Americans agreed, was the strip search by a
buff Canadian Mountie.  Conferring later, they found that they all
thought it was a shame that Patt had missed it, and they had all
closed their eyes and pretended it was LaCroix.
End Part 1

There, But Not Back Again, Or How We Got To Toronto (02/02)
Time: After Part 01
Place: NA Shrine
Written by Kusine
Beta read by Glennis and Jesse, who were also used with their

"Glennis ... Glennis ... HEY!  GLENNIS!"

Glennis jumped and smiled guiltily at the two toga-ed addicts.
Looking down, Glennis noticed that she was still in her street
clothes.  She had gotten her toga out, but she had never put it
on.  //Darn flashbacks!//

"You're not pulling a Nick on us, are you?" Jesse asked, looking
critically at the Californian.

"Yeah, that wasn't a Nunkies fantasy look," Kusine accused.

"I'm flashing back to our trip," Glennis said placatingly.  "It's
an important plot device!  How else is anyone going to know how we
got to Toronto?"

After a few moments, the other two addicts conceded that she had a
valid argument.  Glennis donned her toga, and Kusine puropsely
moved toward the door to the main part of the shrine with the
other two following.

"Wait!" Kusine exclaimed, and stopped so suddenly that her
compatriots collided with her.

"Oof!!  Kusine, you've got to stop doing that!" Glennis scolded.

"Had you finished, Glennis?" Kusine asked.  "I mean, we probably
shouldn't get into any devious, fun-filled war deeds before you
finish explaining how we got here."

"She's got a point," Jesse said.  "Why don't you go ahead and
flash back."

"OK," Glennis said, and stared off into space.


After they repacked the car, the addicts finally got on with their
drive through Ontario.  Jesse was the navigator, and she wanted to
take the back roads instead of the highway.

"It'll be more scenic," she insisted.  "Come on, what could happen?"

And with those famous last words, three hours later, the three
traveling companions found themselves stopped at a small tourist
trap called the Rusted Moose.  A large chunk of orange metal was
tentatively identified by the lost addicts as the rusted moose in
question.  It no longer bore any resemblance to any sort of
mammal, let alone a moose, but it was the only human-built
structure in evidence aside from the small wooden building in
front of them.  No other cars were in the gravel parking lot, but
the lights were on inside the cabin.

"I love these places!" Glennis said happily and jumped out of the
car.  "The stuff they sell in places like this is so tacky!  And,
besides, I bet they have a bathroom."

The Californian had been begging for a pit stop for the last
fifteen miles, and ran for the building.  The other two young
women followed her toward the building a bit more slowly, though
equally in need of the facilities.  Once inside, they stopped short.

The entire building, which was only about as big as a certain
buzz-cut vampire's broadcasting booth, was filled to the walls
with all kinds of ... stuff.  After a quick bathroom break, they
wandered around, entranced.

"Hey!  I found the pop cooler!" Jesse called out from behind a
deer trophy head.  "Caffeine time!"  The young addict proceeded to
dance in front of the cooler as she grabbed bottle after bottle.

Glennis could be heard giggling over the items for sale.  She held
up a three foot high pink stuffed bunny and waved it around in the

"I have to have this," Glennis said.  "I don't know why, but I
have to."

"I don't know," Jesse said, moving over next to the older addict,
her arms full of at least seven different types of caffeinated
beverage.  "It'll need a whole seat to itself."

"We have an extra.  I'll buckle her in.  She'll be fine," Glennis
declared.  "I'll call her ... Nunkette."

Happily smiling with their finds, Glennis and Jesse headed towards
Kusine, who was staring, transfixed, into a large cardboard box.
As they moved closer, they could see a demonic sparkle in the Ohio
addict's eyes.

"Frogs," Kusine muttered.  "I must have frogs ... lots and lots of

Edging slowly nearer, Glennis and Jesse saw what was making Kusine
act so strangely.  The box was full of realistic rubber frogs of
all shapes, sizes, and species.

Suddenly, Kusine's cracked a maniacal grin and giggled wildly.
Picking up the box, she darted to the front of the little store.

"How much?" she demanded of the flannel-clad shopkeeper.  Kusine
looked over at her fellow addicts.  "And the rabbit and drinks,

"Weeeell," the older man said slowly, "I suppose I could let you
have 'em for pretty cheap ... say ... twenty dollars."

"Whoo-hoo!  Pay the man, Glennis!"  Jesse yelled.

Glennis, official cash-carrier of the group, dug into her pockets,
and dropped a wrinkled Canadian note on the counter.  The three
addicts ran out the door before he changed his mind.

Kusine up-ended the box of frogs into the back seat, and Glennis
belted in her bunny.  While she waited, Jesse chugged a litre of
soda, then hopped (literally, due to the caffeine) in.  Grabbing
the map, she pointed dramatically down the road.

"Onward!" she declared.


Glennis focused her eyes once more on her companions.  They were
watching her carefully.

"Well," the Californian addict said, "After the Rusted Moose, we
got along pretty well.  I think I'll stop there."

"We did almost run down the nuns," Jesse pointed out.  The other
two addicts looked sternly at her.  "Oh, ok!  *I* almost ran down
the nuns.  But I appreciate the driving lesson!"

"And don't forget about the hitchhiker," Kusine said.

"Aw, he was only in the car for a few miles," Jesse said.  "He
barely counts."

"I think Kusine scared him when she asked if he thought lettuce
was sexy," admonished Glennis.  "No,  I think that's good enough.
We made it here yesterday in one piece, though it did take eight

"Come on, then," Jesse said, and pushed open the Wardrobe Room
door.  "Let the games begin!"

cerk@rocketmail.com -  NA Forever!
FK Fan Fic writing resources at:

Amanda Hardy
A Phoenix Rises, Sort of Like Cookie Dough Part 1/2
by Laurie Mercbard, Mildred Cady, Shelia Turner, Cousine Helene, Liz the

Time: Immediately following the WarMistress opening post

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Merc Central rose once more.

The finishing touches on the newly rebuilt and relocated Mercenary Guild
headquarters had been put in place last week, and those Guild officers who
lived out of town had been trickling in. A sixth merc sense somehow always
knew when potential for chocolate was in the air. And potential for
chocolate could only mean one thing ... the winds of war were blowing once

Laurie Mercbard, the Guild's recently elected Grand High Poobah, surveyed
her new custom digs, pleased with what she saw. She would never admit it,
but the Mercs had a lot to be grateful to the Ratpack for. The Pack's antics
last war, when they had *accidentally* (here, Laurie snorted. The RP,
individually or collectively, were one endless walking accident) collapsed
Old Merc Central into the ground, had landed the Guild in this built to
specifications high tech super secured HQ.

And the little sidejaunt Johnsie had taken to Vegas with Screed in tow,
right before time had returned to normal, had been profitable enough to pay
for it all. Although that subject was pretty much taboo around the Mercs,
given the legality of the entire escapade was suspect, let alone the less
than legal 'authorities' that needed to be avoided also. The dynamic duo had
of course pleaded innocence; how were they to know that many slots all
hitting jackpot at the same time would break that many neon lights?

Still, public appreciation of the Ratpack was an absolute no no. It was a
rule. Laurie was pretty sure it was even in the charter. And if it wasn't,
it soon would be.

She punched in a few numbers on her comm pad, and waited for Berg to pick

"Berg's Mortuary, you plug 'em, we plant 'em."

"Hey, Berg, has Betty arrived yet?"

"Betty? Who's she? One of the newbies?"

"Betty's my new tank. You know, the one I told you to order last week."

Berg sighed. The new Merc Daddy General, first of his line and determined to
put some real macho masculinity back into the Guild, had been over this with
the GHP for days. She could be extraordinarily thick when she chose to. It
was like a broken record, "I want a tank named Betty. I want a tank named

"Boss, I've already told you, you *cannot* have a tank."

"Why not? I'm the GHP. I always get what I want. It's in the charter."

"And *I'm* in charge of the armory. If I say no tank, no tank. Now leave me
alone. I've got places to go, people to see, weapons to assemble ... BUT NO

The GHP ignored her second in command's request for some peace and quiet. If
he wanted peace and quiet, he should have joined the Monastery Guild instead
of the Mercenary one.

"Fine. If I have to become a one man walking band, so be it. I'll order it

"Laurie, did I mention that a tank will blow wide open your obsessive
efforts to keep the location of HQ secret? Where did you plan on hiding it,
under a tarp in the backyard, parked behind the hot tub?" Yep, the GHP was a
definite candidate for Dense People Anonymous, but then, every GHP was; it
was almost a prerequisite for the job.

Laurie grimaced. She *hated* when people tried to get her in touch with
reality. Being right all the time could be a heavy burden, especially when
you were wrong. She moved on to a new topic.

"By the way, I've noticed a number of dazed and confused newbies wandering
around. Just *where* is our Newbie Wrangler?"

"Oh, you mean, Wooby? Well, to tell you the truth, Laur, she's been a bit
distracted recently, trying to find a baby sitter for the Merclettes. Last
time I saw her, she was sitting in a corner hugging her bat'telh and
muttering something about karmic retribution."

The GHP frowned. Merclettes? What the hell was a Merclette?  She had heard
that name before. A cold shiver worked its way up her spine. Why would that
make her uncomfortable?

"Fine, fine, whatever. But we've got to do something about those newbies.
I'm leaving you to sort it out. Find Wooby or get us a replacement. *Now*.."
She closed the channel and moved on to her next target.

* * *

Mildred checked her watch before knocking on the Merc leader's inner sanctum
door. She'd only been residing in the new HQ a few weeks, but had already
learned to steer clear of the new GHP until well past midday. Learning how
to stay on Laurie's good side had been easy; no calls before 2 pm, lots of
chocolate, coffee, and kahlua on hand, and a secure computer system, and she
was in good.

She'd come up to Toronto a few weeks earlier for a brief vacation, and not
wanting to create total paranoia among the factions - almost inevitable when
a Merc showed up in Toronto without warning - had steered clear of the
city's more interesting areas. On one of her last days, she'd run into the
new GHP, and a bit of fast negotiating had led to her position as Merc
Computer Genius and Webmistress. In return for her new responsibilities,
she'd gotten access to a nice chunk of the Guild funds, and been given carte
blanche to install a state of the art computer network for the new HQ. One
thing you could say about Laurie, she sure appreciated a good piece of hard
.... ware.

In less than a week, albeit a sleepless one, amply assisted by mega doses of
chocolate and caffeine, she'd wired the new building, set up the operating
systems, and installed the security checks. She'd spent another week testing
all the games, and insuring that her name was permanently installed in first
place on all the scoreboards.

Everything considered, she'd been able to settle in nicely, in relative
peace and quiet, and place her pictures - mostly of one cute guy with long
dark hair and green eyes and a woman with ice blue eyes and platinum hair -
in their proper place on the walls near her desk. Then she'd sent for the
remainder of her clothes and equipment, making sure her SCA (Society for
Creative Anachronism) garb was included. You never knew when a good 13th
century linen surcote would come in handy.

As Mildred entered the suite, Laurie nonchalantly tried to cover the
contents of her computer screen, immediately piquing the interest of the
Merc in front of her.

"Looking at the factory plans again?" the Guild's computer guru asked.

Laurie ignored the question. The new anatomically correct chocolate Nunkies
pops factory was her pride and joy and, most importantly, future source of
mega profits. The factory had been her first project upon taking over the
Guild leadership. She'd taken one look at the books -- the total rivaled the
DeBrabant Foundation at the moment - done a quick dance of glee, and then
spent a few fun filled months authorizing expenditures for, among other
items, the factory construction.

And even better, she was the only one in the whole of Toronto who knew the
location. That's right, *she* and she alone controlled the entire
hemisphere's supply of chocolate Nunkies pops. She hadn't felt a need to
share the details of this little endeavor with anyone, not even her second
in command. After all, she was the Grand High Poobah and considering the
abuse she had to take, she was certainly entitled to an endless supply of
Nunkies pops if she so desired it.

But the true value of controlling the pops supply went far beyond the
fulfillment of her own personal fantasies. Doled out sparingly, the candies
were incredibly useful in keeping recalcitrant Mercs in line, to say nothing
of stopping a rabid Nunkies Addict in her tracks, or bribing a Cousinly
leader for a bit of information. And Nunkies was just the beginning. The GHP
had major plans for the chocolate pops line.

However, since war was clearly on the horizon, as a precaution, she'd shut
down production for a while, first ensuring that a decent supply had been
laid in in various secret locations throughout the city. Too many people
nosing around during a war; she wasn't about to take any chances of the
location being discovered.

She turned to Mildred. "Ah, just the person I was looking for. Have the
daily codes been changed?"

"Yes, Laurie. Today's codes are right here." Mildred handed her a small
piece of paper. The GHP was particularly paranoid when it came to that pops
factory of hers. She'd watched Mildred very closely during the security
installation, and they'd run two days of tests before she'd approved the
system. Mildred watched as Laurie glanced at the paper, fully expecting her
to wad it up, pop it into her mouth and swallow it.

"I think we should run a full system check as soon as everyone's reported
in." Mildred had spent most of yesterday tracking down the handful of Mercs
who had not already arrived. The GHP was wasn't giving away much, but
clearly something was up.

"No problem," Laurie replied.

"I also want to set up that orientation I mentioned. I've missed the last
few wars, and want to meet the new Mercs. And with all these newbies, we
need to make them feel welcome and prepared."

"Yeah, right," Laurie thought to herself. "I arrive last war at Merc Central
a raw newbie, walk in the door, and get like three seconds of orientation
and a bill for rent *and* dues." Still, orientation wouldn't hurt,
especially since she'd make sure the first rule of Mercness was drummed into
their newbie little brains - the GHP owns you. You must obey. You must also
learn all the words to the Guild theme song. She nodded an okay at Mildred.

Mildred continued, "I also need to meet the Ratpackers. They weren't around
last time I was here. Are you sure those bits of wire and metallic junk will
keep them out of my wiring?" "You're asking me? Keeping those computers up
and running is *your* job. The Ratpack comes with the territory. Think of it
as a professional hazard."

Mildred nodded, inwardly groaning. When they'd negotiated her contract, the
GHP had neglected to mention such *minor* matters as a sudden infestation of
HQ by a bunch of Ratpackers, and their assorted companions. In other words,
she'd been suckered. Grudgingly acknowledging to herself that perhaps this
new GHP actually *did* have the right stuff, she wandered off in search of
fiberglass to reinforce her wiring.

* * *

Laurie looked up as a knock sounded on her office door, bracing herself for
trouble - she hadn=92t heard a peep out of the Ratpack all day, and that was 
a very bad sign indeed.  As it happened, a Ratpacker had indeed come calling,
but luckily this particular one had the advantage of being  clean and well-
groomed, with a relatively reasonable command of the English language. Not
only that, but she=92d used her excellent voice and wide knowledge of 
musical theatre to keep on the GHP's good side; she was always willing to test out
Laurie's latest filk, no questions asked.  At Laurie's "Enter", Helene 
poked her head in.

"Hiya, oh Great One!" (ya gotta admit, she has the gift!). "I've just
arrived from DC, ready to inventory all the Merc Central costumes. Shelly's
here too!" A short, furry body hurled itself from the doorway onto Laurie's
lap, scattering the papers on the desk."Sorry!" Helene cried, trying to drag
her dog back to the hall.

Laurie held her temper.  "It's fine, just get it out of here," she said.
"The costume room is downstairs, third door on the left. When we moved, the
moving men didn't bother to look at anything. I just had them dump it in

"Okay!" Helene replied brightly, despite her gloomy outfit of black dress,
black boots, black hair, and black lipstick. "C'mon, Shelly. Maybe we'll run
into Johnsie and he'll give you some more pizza!" At the mention of food,
Shelly bounded off down the corridor, dragging her mistress with her. Helene
just barely managed to shut the door to the Grand High Poobah's office.

Sure enough, the said door had a new shiny plaque - Helene paused to run her
fingers over it admiringly, - labeled: Costume Room: Cousine Helene.

"Look, Shell', its even got my name on the door."  Inserting a large brass
key into the lock, Helene slowly opened the door and. . .

A scream rent the stillness in Merc Central.  Shelia, Mildred, and Liz all
looked up from their respective tasks; luckily the noise did not pierce
theGHP's sound-proofed sanctum.  The other Mercs hurried to its source, and
found Helene standing horrified in the doorway of her new shop. Just as
Laurie had said, the moving men had dumped the entire costume stock of the
Mercenary Guild into this one room. There was a large pile in the centre of
the floor, higher than Helene's head! And sitting on top of it all, was a
little ratsie, eating a slice of pizza.


A Phoenix Rises, Sort of Like Cookie Dough Part 2/2
by Laurie Mercbard, Mildred Cady, Shelia Turner, Cousine Helene, Liz the
Lucky, Wooby, John Ewan, Mackie the Mole

Time: Immediately following the WarMistress opening post,  Sat 4/25 aft.

Shelia helped Helene straighten up for a few minutes, although she drew the
line at assisting with the ratsie eviction.  As she returned to her work,
the shrine's intercom buzzed.  She rolled her eyes."Oh, great!" the
MercPriestess muttered under her breath. "The Poohbah."

Luckily the Grand High Pain in the Butt couldn't hear her until Shelia
pressed the receive button. Searching for the intercom, she winced as she
accidently knocked over a few candles.

"Yes, oh great one. How may I serve you?" Shelia prayed for strength; she
knew what the GHP wanted. War was almost upon them and the candles weren't
ready; in fact, she'd only been able to complete one prototype, and some
rather critical details were missing.

Hearing Shelia's term of address, Laurie smiled; at least *some* newbies
were paying attention. By far the best way to advance in the Guild was to
suck up to the senior officers, starting with the GHP. She didn't hear
Erin's muffled comment in the background.

"You must be joking. Oh great one, indeed. What, you trying to score points
with the new GHP or something?"

Shelia shushed her friend, as she strained to hear the GHP's melodic ...
okay, piercing ... words.

"Shelia, get in here. We have to talk about the new line of candles. I've
let you guys spend way too much on new toys. I need a full progress report,
and I need it now." The intercom went dead.

Shelia groaned. When the GHP said now, she generally meant yesterday. Which
said something not only about the leader's exaggerated sense of mortal
abilities, but about her inability to hang on to a watch. The Priestess
glanced around the shrine until she spied a red box tucked under the alter.

Frowning, she grabbed it, knowing the GHP would not be happy with the paltry
contents. About the best she could hope for was that Laurie was in a good
mood ... which, from what she'd been told, happened about once a year and
then only under extreme circumstances ... and would display some of that
tolerance and understanding she was famed for among those who had absolutely
no grip on reality.

* * *
A few minutes later, Shelia wandered into the GHP's office, box in one hand
and a fistful of Belgian truffles in the other, clearly an attempt to stave
off the inevitable. She kept a tight grip on the box, as she dumped the
chocolates on the faction leader's desk.

Laurie looked impassively at the new recruit. Despite the lack of recent
recruitment efforts - everyone being too busy decorating their new digs -
somehow or other the Guild always seemed to replenish itself. They came out
of the woodwork, those secret Godiva ... Hersheys ... Bacci worshipers.

Although who knew what else this particular Merc worshiped. When requesting
permission to build the shrine, Shelia had mentioned her vast experience in
such matters as the Sacred High Priestess of the Holy Fang Boy, better known
as his Blonde Angstyness, insisting that her vows to her 'fanged one' would
in no way interfere with her Mercly duties.

Laurie had finally agreed, although she had implemented a firm "Don't Ask
the GHP; Don't Tell the GHP" policy in this area. She didn't want to know
what was being conjured up in there. Although come to think of it, she
wouldn't mind having a few well-chosen curses placed on a few carefully-
selected unsuspecting individuals.

Reaching for a truffle, she queried the Merc. "Let's see what you've done..."

Shelia didn't relinquish her grip on the box. "We've had a few setbacks, oh
great Poobah." She thought briefly of actually genuflecting before the GHP,
but dismissed the thought immediately. She wouldn't get on her knees for
just anyone, not even the Merc Guild tyrant.

"What *sort* of setbacks?"

The Priestess gingerly opened the box, forlornly eyeing the sole object
inside. "Well, we had an accident with the wax. Some Ratpackers got into

Shelia held her breath; that should hopefully do it. Blaming events on the
Ratpack worked like a charm around the GHP.

Laurie could feel the beginnings of the massive headache inevitably brought
on by mention of the Ratpack.

"And?" she asked tightly.

"And ... we've had some difficulty getting the proper specifications." She
pulled out the one finished prototype of Vachon. The supposedly anatomically
correct candle clearly had something in common with Mickey Mouse, and it
wasn't big ears. In fact, it wasn't big *anything*.

Laurie looked at the limpid mass of wax in Shelia's hand, and sighed. This
potential new product line of anatomically correct character candles
definitely needed to go back to the drawing board.

"Well, you're a Merc, figure it out," she finally said. "Kidnap someone.
Torture someone. Voodoo someone if you have to." Taking pity on the newbie
before her, the GHP reached into her desk and tossed a few of her prized
Nunkies pops at Shelia. "Bribe someone with these. Just - get - the -
information." She turned back to her computer screen, clearly dismissing the

At this, Shelia, clutching Vachon in one hand, and Nunkies in the other,
backed silently out of the office. She'd better make a call to the Dark Perk
leader; they were as probable as anyone to have the info she needed.
Although it was more than likely going to cost her ... dearly.

* * *
Wooby came out of her catatonia with a start. She held her breath for a
moment,  wondering what had drawn her away from that blissful vacuum she had
fallen into with the news that the Mighty Merclette minors (and they all
hate that name) were on their way to Toronto. Their Grandmother had decided
that the merclette children should be with their mother and the holiday
would be good for them.  Actually, Wooby figured the doctor had refused to
new her mother's Prozac prescription, as such high doses had well documented
side effects.

The Klingon Merc concentrated, straining her mercly senses for the
interruption , and honing her Klingon senses for a bit of stress relief;
whoever had dared to disturb her obviously had a death wish.  She noted a
scurrying sound from the kitchen cupboard serving as her backrest,
accompanied by tittering and muffled giggles.

She crouched back down and put her ear to the wooden door. "...an iffen we's
stay shtum, we shud jus abow't get t' 'ole lot in wun' 'it."

The voice belonged to John, the Ratpack faction leader. Wooby tightened her
grip on her bat'telh.

"Righ' yer are Johnssie." came a muffled reply from a voice she didn't
recognize."Iffen I stan's on Jen's shol'ders, an yuoz satn's on mine, we c'n
'it th' top shelf an grab th' bikkies an be off affor she knows wot

"Jus be sure t' grab th' custard creams fer th' newbies." That sounded
suspiciously like Ursula.

'Righ'then hon th' cownt hov free...wun, two, fr..." Wooby threw open the
cupboard door and snatched Johnsie out by the scruff of his neck.

The Ratpacker looked into the heavily ridges eyes of the Klingon and gulped.

"Well fancy meetin' you 'ere. We wuz jus' ummm....thinkin' abow' um..."  He
trailed off into silence.

His captor smiled, not a thing John would encourage, spun on her heels and
headed out of the kitchen,  dragging the helpless Ratpacker with her. "Uh...
lead on yer Klin'gonness, I iz righ' be'ind yez...Oh yes, tha's me..I allus
follow were yuz leads. Loy'al t' a fau.."


"Yes yr' Klin'gonness, righ'away. Shu' as tigh'as a..."

Wooby dragged her burden down two flights of stairs and stopped in front of
a door with a pentagram etched onto it.  Johnsie stared at the door with
something akin to terror, as the Klingon knocked loudly enough to be heard
over the music playing inside.

At the sound, the MercPriestess opened the door of the shrine, and the smell
of incense wafted out, accompanied by the vocals of Gavin singing at full
volume, "Nothing hurts like your mouth, your mouth..."

"Hi, Wooby, what=92s happening?"

The MercPriestess leaned against the door frame, idly playing with a jeweled
dagger she held in one hand. She pulled a universal remote out of her back
pocket, and pointed it over her shoulder, muting the volume of the music.

Wooby lifted the Rapacker into view.

"Found this plotting to raid the pantry again, and wondered if your shrine
had been consecrated recently?"

"Ummm," the Priestess looked thoughtful for a moment, then she sighed.
"Sorry, but the illustrious Grand High Pain in the Butt said no bodies, even
Ratpacker ones.  Something about anger management."

"Damn!" Wooby looked quite pi...disappointed.

"Oh deary me," John sounded almost sincere. " Wot a shame, all set t'
con'se'srate an' no shrine to do it on. Never min' your Kilg'onness, don'
take it person'al like, I'm shur a nice lil shrine'll pop up som..."

"SHUTTTUPPPP!" Wooby and Shelia yelled in unison.

Shelia looked at the now silent Ratpacker. "Pity, that," she said, looking
as disappointed as Wooby."But I heard Mildred was having rat type problems
with the computer room, perhaps she would settle for a bit of batting

"Thats a good idea. I'll go and see if she needs a hand." Dragging the
reluctant Johnsie behind her, Wooby headed for the computer lab.

* * *
"Battin' practice! 'ang on, wot 'appened to a nice friendly con'se'cration?"
Johnsie managed to squeak out.


Mildred was rummaging under one of the desks, cursing fluently, when Wooby
dragged the subdued Ratpacker into the lab.

"Hi Mildred," She called cheerfully. "What's up?"

"A rat pack, preferably by the neck." the computer genius replied as she
extracted herself from a bunch of wiring. Mildred was about to continue on
her short-term plans for the Pack when she spied John dangling from Wooby's


"Moi?" John gasped.

"Yes you." Waving several short lengths of shiny wire, Mildred advanced on 

"You," She growled. "Will go down into your burrows and retrieve every,
that's *every* piece of wire you rotten little rodents have taken from  here
and bring them back...immediately. Failure to do so will result in every
single one of those nice little games with Screed in them that I put on the
network for you 'packers to go *poof* - on EVERY computer in this _entire_
building. Do you understand?"

John saluted as well as he could from his dangling position.

"Yes your computerfixeruppership, righ' ha'way. Coun' on me yer can."

Mildred glared at John one more time and signaled Wooby to let him go.

Wooby did.  Johnsie dropped with a thud, and picked himself up of the floor
with as much dignity as he could manage - which wasn=92t saying much - and
scampered off.

"Damn, give them one little box of gadgets and they think your office is
Toyland or something." Mildred ran her hands over her aching head and
noticed the Klingon was looking intently at a picture of Keanu Reeves
flashing on one of the computer screens.

"Anything else, Wooby?  I've got tons of repairs to do. The GHP is bugging
me - again." Here, she let out a deep put upon sigh.

Leaning her bat'telh carefully against the computer desk to avoid scratches,
the Guild's chief thwacker smiled cheerfully.

"I think I know how to keep the Ratpack out of your wiring."

"Really? That sort of help would be priceless. What did you have in mind?"

"Well..." Wooby took another quick look at Keanu. "How are you at

"How many? And how old? And what can't happen to them?"

* * *
Mackie the Mole stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked up at the building
before her. From all the bragging she'd heard from the GHP, she would have
thought it would be more...well, mercly. She took a deep breath.

Ahhh! There it was! Faint but unmistakable, the tantalizing aroma of
chocolate! Yup! This was Merc Central alright! She turned up the collar of
her trench coat, made sure the scarf was covering her hair and chin, and re-
adjusted her mirrored shades.

"People will think I'm a vampire," she snorted to herself as she marched up
to the front door.

She didn't know the merc who challenged her at the door, and she wanted to
keep it that way. In her area of expertise, one didn't get ahead by being
well known in the Guild. She whispered the code word the GHP had given her,
and walked in. Scant minutes later she was standing outside Laurie's suite,
knocking on the door.

"I  TOLD YOU NOT TO BUG ME!" screeched the ever calm GHP as she yanked open
the door.

"Oh! It's you!" she exclaimed, as she saw the identity of her visitor. "What
are you doing here? Did anybody see you? Well, don't stand out there, fer
chrissakes! Get in here!" Laurie stuck her head out the door and peered
anxiously down both sides of the corridors.

"Reporting in. Of course not. I will if you move." Mackie replied evenly.
She had known Laurie Mercbard way too long to be perturbed by  her demeanor.
"Nice digs," she commented, as the GHP took one last paranoid look down the
hall before closing her door. "A bit hard to find, though."

"That's the whole point," Laurie mumbled. "We're very conscious of security
these days. We don't let just anyone know where HQ is. Not that you're just
*anyone*. I know who's side you're on - right?" It came out just a shade too
querulously, and Mackie smirked.

"Yes, Laurie," the merc spy reassured her old friend, "You do, even if no
one else does."

"Did your client sign the contract? You know we can't move forward on this
without one."

"Of course. Here's the Guild's copy." Mackie handed over the document, and
turned to go.

"Wait!" Laurie cried. "Don't you want to hear my NE--"

"Puh-leez!" Mackie cut her off. "Like I haven't heard them all ad infinitum

"Hey! I'm The GHP! You can't talk to me like that!"

Mackie gave Laurie a sharp look. "And who brought *you* across, missy!" she
sniped back at her friend. "Look, I gotta go." she said more gently. "I'm
going in real deep so *don't* try to contact me. And don't forget, the
client put in that clause about getting any reports *before* the Guild
does." Mackie smiled; her client was not only smart, but if the expected
results were obtained, extremely generous. "Although he didn't say how
*much* before." She smirked.

The GHP grimaced; she knew what cover the MercMole was using. "Are you sure
you can take it? I mean, you'll be cut off from your own kind. Don't lose
yourself in the role," she admonished.

"Don't worry 'bout me!" Mackie MercMole scoffed as she slipped out the door.
"You know the Fates look out for me!"

"Yeah, but what if the Fates are out of town?" the GHP mused to the empty

* * *
Mackie pulled off her 'spy garb' as the cab she had hailed a few blocks from
Merc Central peeled away from the curb. She may have sounded cocksure to the
GHP, but in reality she was feeling sick with stage fright. But she knew she
could do this -- for what she was getting paid she'd do a whole lot more.
She took a calming breath and tucked her true self away in a corner of her
mind, slipping into her new persona as easily as a schizophrenic might.

"War might be hell", she thought to herself - whomever *that* might be, "but
I think I'm gonna have fun with this."

She smiled grimly. "Yes, it seems the game is afoot!".

* * *
Liz the Lucky went from room to room checking on the final details.

She still wasn't sure how she'd got there. All she'd done was call up the
new GHP one morning, asking if she still had a room at the new HQ. She
should have known better. Seen one GHP, seen them all. The Ratpackers
weren't far off, calling her the Grand High Pain in the Butt.

The next thing she knew, she was in Toronto, reporting for duty as the new
House Mommie. And worrying about things like cleaning up after a bunch of
scurrying, linguistically-challenged Screed worshipers.

The mess those Ratpackers made! No wonder the former House Mommie had quit
without a backward glance. Weren't rats supposed to be neat little animals?
You certainly couldn't tell that here.

"All right, who's been eating potato chips on the couch again?" she yelled
at the top of her lungs.

No answer, but there was a lot of scurrying.

"Figures," Liz snorted, as she grabbed the Dustbuster(TM) from where it was
hanging on her waist and cleaned up the mess. Where had they all *come* from
anyway? When she had joined the Guild, the only Ratpacker in sight had been
John. She'd missed one little war, and now they were everywhere, breeding
like wabbits.

Oh well, she *did* have a brand new spanking HQ to take care of, to say
nothing of a lucrative rental income, even with the GHP's inevitable cut
figured in. She didn't even want to think about what had happened to the old

Liz continued her inspection. Stopping outside the GHP's office, she
knocked, waited for an answer, and opened the door when she heard a grunt,
which she took to be permission to enter. Technically, the GHP's suite was
off limits, but after all, she *was* the House Mommie. Which meant she had
responsibility for *all* rooms in the house. And of course, her first order
of business upon arriving in Toronto had been to have a locksmith in to make
extra keys and pass cards for every single lock, key, and cranny of the new
HQ. Except for the GHP's suite, of course; the paranoid leader had installed
some sort of elaborate security system that changed on a daily, if not
hourly, basis. At the least, she'd be able to sell replacements to any Merc
or Ratpacker who happened to lose their key. Not that keys would keep out a
Ratpacker ... or for that matter, a Merc.

The GHP was deeply engrossed in her computer.

"Hi, Boss, whatcha doing?"

"Listen to this, what do you think? It's to There Is Nothing Like A Dame
from South Pacific."

Laurie broke into song.

    There is nothing like a vein
    Nothing in the world
    There is nothing you can feign
    That tastes anything like a vein.

Liz winced. She'd only heard the GHP sing once before, which was more than
enough to last a lifetime. A very *short* lifetime. She might be a talented
filkwriter, but Laurie couldn't carry a tune if her life depended on it.

She put on her best "I'm gonna be gracious about this" face, and nodded at
the GHP. "Sounds good to me."

The GHP turned her attention to the House Mommie. "What's up?" "Well, I've
picked up after the Ratpack - *again*", Liz replied, ignoring the GHP's
smirk, as thought of "sucker" floated through Laurie's brain. "Checked all
the rooms; we're in good shape for an influx. I just need to pick up a few
things for the party."

"What party?" The GHP stared suspiciously at the House Mommie.

Liz gulped. She should have known Jennifer would have conveniently forgotten
to mention the laboratory christening celebration that was about to start.
She was just framing a reply, wracking her brains for an acceptable lie,
when her thoughts were interrupted by crashing noises from outside the
Poobah's window, accompanied by high pitched giggles.

"Now *what?" Laurie punched in the access code, and the window rose
slightly. As she peered out, a pair of worn, stained, wet boxers/swimming
trunks with the "Forever Knight" logo stitched across the backside and a
barely legible "Screed" written on the washing instructions tag, hit her
squarely in the face, and attached itself to the rim of her glasses.

The GHP almost gagged. "Right," she said through clenched teeth. "Repeat
after me. Anger Management 101: No dead bodies, Ratpack or otherwise. No
dead bodies, Ratpack or otherwise. No dead bodies ..." She kept repeating
the mantra as she headed out to the yard, Screed's boxers still dangling
precariously from her specs, with Liz trailing a few feet behind.


by John Ewan, Libby Singleton, Liz the Lucky, Laurie Mercbard, Jennifer 

Time: Immediately following A PHOENIX RISES

The GHP, accompanied by the Merc House Mommie,  strode onto the Hot tub
platform, trailed by several Mercs.  Interaction between the Merc leader and
the Ratpack was always a free show. The Tub itself was in full operation, 
and happily ensconced within it were Screed, Johnsie and rats aboard a model of
the Titanic  which was about to crash into Berg, who was wearing a
Racal  blue environmental warfare suit.

"Hoh, the 'umanity!"

"Errnt! Wrong disaster, Johnsie!"

"WHAT... is going on here?" the GHP asked at full volume. She was impressed 
at how quickly all the rats got below deck, although Johnsie's CrazyStraw 
gave away his position under the water. Laurie placed her finger over the
opening and within moments Johnsie burst forth like Jaws  or Moby Dick.

"PWFAW!!"  he cried, as he gulped down air. Looking up into the baleful 
glare of the still irate GHP, Johnsie once again leaped to the wrong conclusion,
"'ey! Yer Poohbahness, ya come down ta celebrate wif us droogs?!? C'mon, 
jump on hin!"

"Whatever could there be to celebrate?" 'er Painfullness retorted, removing
the shorts from her glasses and tossing them back to 'imself who was hiding
behind the toy liner.

"Ya hain't 'eard yet?" Johnsie cried, "We gots the contracts frum the PTB
Network! They's signed and all we gots ta dew is put our John 'ancock on'em
and send'em back!" He reached down into the tub and pulled up a sodden
briefcase with a lot of soaked paper in it. "'ey, 'ow come I kin never git 
ink outta me clothes but it washes roight offen these papers?"

At this, the GHP, who had calmed down at the contract news, turned a variety
of colors normally not seen in humanity, and grabbed the Ratpack leader by 
his goatee, pulling him from the tub. "This deal was going to make us millions!
You've ruined the contracts!?!"  Her voice carried into Merc Central, 
bringing several more interested Mercs out into the yard.

"OH! OW! NO! LEGGO!" Johnsie cried in dismay and alarm. The GHP lowered her
arm so his feet touched the ground once again. "Me widget  wuz in there;
them papers iz jest bills Oi never got to." he shrugged, "They'll write 
agin, they allus dew."

Johnsie headed towards the building, shouting, "Folla me." but stopped
suddenly a few feet away from the door, took the widget, stuck it down 
between two of the lovely flagstones on the patio and pulled one up to reveal a dark
tunnel. "Hit's roight down in me safety spot. Oi'll be roight back."

The GHP frowned. "Hey!  This wasn t in the new plans. How did *that* get

The Ratpack leader grinned, touched the side of his nose, and disappeared 
into the much safer oblivion underground.  House Mommie Liz slowly began backing
away from the GHP, waiting for the inevitable explosion.

"Perhaps we could close it and set the barbecue on top?" Laurie asked.  Erin
snickered.  The GHP, being the know it all type, answered her own
question."Nah, he'd just come up somewhere else, he always does."

Which he suddenly did, with a sheaf of papers and a video tape cassette.
"'Er ya go! We kin watch this whiles we looks over the papers!  I ze gots 
the VCR all set up in the lab."

He headed into Merc Central, Ratpackers and Mercenaries alike trailing in 
his wake.

* * *
Jennifer, Guild Spymistress, Ratpacker, and Laboratory Maven, paced
frantically up and down her bright shiny new lab in the sub basement of the
bright shinny new Merc central.  Her Lab Warming party was about to start, 
and still no food.  Where *was* that House Mommie?

* * *
As Liz the Lucky followed the crowd into HQ, she had a sudden flash.
Crapola,  she said to herself, and rushed out of Merc Central. By the time
she got to the Happy Souvlaki, she was breathless.

"Food. Ratpack. Now," she panted to the person behind the counter.

"Let me guess. You're here to pick up the food for the Ratpackers," Bev 

Liz nodded.

"Right." The Friend of Don pulled out a pad and pencil. "You ordered a 
cracker tray with cheese dip molded into the shape of a rat, mildly garlic herb 
bread with real butter, Scottish meat balls, bubble and squeak, veggie trays, a
honey ham and pizza poppers. Right?"

"Whatever," Liz shrugged. Jennifer hadn't really told her the menu. She
figured she'd probably find out later cleaning up the place anyway.

"That'll be $200."

The Merc blinked. Money?  Jennifer had told her that was all taken care of.
Someone was gonna pay when she got back to HQ, and she didn t mean just in


by John Ewan, Libby Singleton, Jennifer Garcia, Laurie Mercbard, Maya, and
we're pretty sure others

Time: Immediately following A PHOENIX RISES

Jennifer kept taking slow steady breaths and muttering to herself. "I will
 not leave any corpses.  I will not leave any corpses.  I will not leave any
corpses. I will think lovely thoughts. I will think lovely thoughts. I will
think lovely thoughts."

Well, raindrops on roses just wasn=92t doing the trick.  Neither was whiskers on
kittens, although whiskers on ratsies might have been more helpful.  THE only
lovely thought Jennifer could come up with was"At least will have chocolate"
And chocolate there was.  On the main table there were white, milk, and dark
chocolate fondues gently warming under Bunsen burners. Beside them were trays
heavy with 15 different kinds of fruit, most of it imported, for dipping in
the chocolate

Large dispensing bottles on the side of the table held instant raspberry
limeade.  After intense experimentation, Jennifer had realized that taste
wise, raspberry limeade and chocolate were not exactly a match made in heaven.
However, she had also discovered a portentially useful side effect: mixing red
dye, chocolate and caffeine produced an effect rather like being on speed
without the nasty side effects.

In the center of all this shrine to sugar stood a full sized palm tree, made
of 6 different verities of imported chocolate that had palm fans made of Pixie

Jennifer looked at her watch and sighed.  Oh well, even without the food this
should be an interesting party; Ratpacker parties usually were.  She had just
one last thing to check.  She closed her eyes and reached out with her mind,
carefully testing the energy flows. So engrossed was she that she did not
notice the charging Klingon until a battle cry reached her ears.

"Hegh neh chav qoH!"  Which roughly translated into only a fool's achievement
is death.

A very large sharp Bat'telh, wielded by a shrieking Klingon,  headed towards
the Spymistress, who reacted instinctively, extending the almost perfect
titanium replica of a Minbari fighting pike that she had had commissioned
after the last war.  Wooby and Jennifer knocked each other around the lab for
a bit until Jennifer, not having Klingon stamina, called a forfeit. "You can't
forfeit," Wooby told her.

"Sure I can. And besides, if I die, there goes the party.  By the way, nice to
see you."

"You too." The Klingon Merc grinned.  Jennifer might be a Ratpacker, but she
was also the Spymistress, and as such, deserving of Wooby=92s tolerance.

"Did you bring the blood wine?"

"It should be here any moment."  On cue, Michele opened the lab door, and
rolled in a very large gurgling barrel.

"Is that it?"

"Yep." Wobby wandered over to the main refreshment table. "God, this is a lot
of chocolate.  But where's the rest of the food?"

Jennifer swallowed hard.  "It's on its way."  Good thing lying was second
nature to Mercs.

"Where's everybody else?"

Wooby sure had a way with questions.  At that very moment, Ursula and Maya
scurried in.

"I got word there was a party going on here," Ursula announced.  Her eyes lit
up as she saw the chocolate display.

"Sure is," Jennifer replied.  She added, needlessly, "Dive right in." Ursula
and Maya hadn't paused a beat, their faces were already covered in chocolate

* * *
One Hour Later ...

The party was beginning to turn ugly.  Chocolate could stave the savage beast
for just so long; the Ratpackers had noticed the lack of food, and were busy
laying blame at the illustrious Spymistress' feet.  There was talk of
lynching. Someone had even gone so far as to bring out a rope when Liz
arrived, saving the day.

"Thanks, Liz. I owe you for this."

"Yup," Liz agreed with a predatory smile. "That's not all you owe me for,
either. *Somebody*  forgot to arrange how she was going to pay for the food."

Oops.  Jennifer groaned. "I, um, er...."

"Don't worry, I took care of it," the brand new Unofficial Official Merc of
the FoDs cut in. "I agreed to work for the FoDs for the duration of the War.
But that does mean I'll need someone to take over my House Mommie duties while
I'm at the Happy Souvlaki. Don't forget to sweep under the cushions." Liz
handed over her DustBuster(TM) and went to join the party.

* * *
A Bit Later ...

The party was starting to get interesting, if not downright fascinating.  The
chocolate fondue pots, having been licked clean, were being used as helmets by
a group busy with grape warfare. Renali, having discovered the potency of
punch, dark chocolate, and blood wine, was now on the table doing a very
fascinating rendition of the Modern Major General.

In the corner by the snack table, standing as close as she could get without
actually sitting on it, Ursula, wearing her usual army jacket and a pair of
wire- rimmed mirrored sunglasses, was systematically stuffing her face, as
Maya, in her 'Got blood?' teeshirt looked on.  In between mouthfuls, Ursula
continued to torment one of the rats meant for Screed=92s dinner that had been
wandering in the lab.  She glanced around furtively, once; when she was sure
no one was watching, she produced a small flask of wine from the depths of her
jacket and poured a puddle on the table, which the rat immediately started
lapping up.  Maya tittered.  As two other Ratpackers headed toward the pair,
Ursula quickly stuffed her now-inebriated rat in the pocket of her black
jeans; Maya merely started to examine the dessert trays.

Michele, one of the newcomers, nodded at Ursula and queried, "What's with the
rat?", as Brianna joined Maya in her prodding of the snack table.

Ursula looked defensive. "Gettin' it drunk," she explained, reluctantly
producing the rat. "We're gonna in-tox-icate a bunch of 'em and try to feed
'em to Screedy."

"Eek!" yelped Brianna.

"Hic!" went the rat.

Michele grinned. "Sounds int'restin'."

"I dunno," Maya said, not looking up from the dessert tray.. "My father tried
to get me doggy drunk once. Well, 'e did it with non-alcy-holic beer, so it
din't work too good." With that pronouncement, she proceeded to stuff a slice
of cake in her mouth.

"What're we gonna do when we get 'im drunk?" Michele continued, then paused.
"Oh. Roight. Keep it PG. Well, anyway, we'll 'elp," she said brightly. "Won't
we?" she added, nudging Brianna. "'Ey, what's wrong?"

Brianna's face was dead white. Her freckles stood out like pen marks, and her
eyes were huge behind her glasses. "I- I don' like ratsies," she whimpered
finally. "I'm scared of 'em."

"You don' like ratsies?" Ursula echoed disbelievingly.

"I'm scared of 'em," Brianna repeated defiantly.

Michele removed her large, colorful sunglasses, staring at the redhead with
wide, bright green eyes. "You- a 'Packer- don' like ratsies."

"Scared of 'em," Brianna whined.

"'E won't hurtya!" Ursula insisted, dangling the rat in front of Brianna's
face, who squealed and jumped backwards, nearly tripping over Maya. Undaunted,
Maya looked up. "So she doesn't like 'em. You kin help me, then, Bri."

"What're you doin'?" Brianna asked hopefully.


Brianna shrugged philosophically and picked up a piece of cake, as Ursula and
Michele went off in search of more rats.

* * *
Jennifer, busy refilling the punch bowl, didn=92t notice the Ratpack leader and
the accompanying crowd until Berg walked up behind her and tapped her on the
shoulder.  The Spymistress was halfway through decking Berg when she
recognized the new Merc Daddy General (MDG) and grabbed him on his way to the

"Sorry 'bout that, Berg, but you really shouldn't sneak up on me."

"I'll remember that." His attention was suddenly caught by a flurry of
activity across the room.

"Who's *that?" he asked, pointing to a tallish woman with long blond hair,
long legs, skimpy clothing and Trill spots going all the way down.

"Oh that's just a friend of mine. She's a Merc at heart, so she begged me to
bring her up here and show her the ropes."

"Oooohhhh- kayyy." The look on the MDG's face was rather interesting. "And is
what she's up to either safe * or legal?" The MDG was a stickler for
legalities.  He stared in fascination as the pixie stick eating contest the
young woman was engaged in with Anna and LadySun continued.  Eating contests
were no problem, but when accompanied by constant swigs of instant punch, that
could spell trouble.

"Oh, no! I forgot to compensate for the effects of punch, alcohol, chocolate,
AND pixie sticks." The pair continued to stare as all three people began to
pore the contents of yard long sticks into their mouths. Time seemed to move
in slow motion, until Jennifer broke the spell, reaching for the phone in
hopes of reaching a place that pumped stomachs cheep and would offer the name
of a good detox clinic.  Maybe she should suggest to the GHP that the Guild
get a house doctor.


by John Ewan, Libby Singleton, Liz the Lucky, Laurie Mercbard and others
filk by Laurie Mercbard

Time: Immediately following A PHOENIX RISES

* * *
Johnsie entered the Lab and headed straight for the VCR, as a crowd followed
in his wake. No one was sure why he had this charismatic quality, perhaps it
was pheromones. He popped the tape in and hit Record, then frantically 
stopped it and hit Play. Well, it was obviously not for 'grace under pressure'.

 "Lizzen up," he shouted to the party at large, most of which ignored him, as
the tape began to play.

A garbled beginning, full of confusing images of strange buildings, none of
which was even close to Toronto, was followed by the Guild theme song.

Laurie smiled.  She quite liked the filk she d written to the tune of

    In a bind?
    In a bind, who will come to mind?
    Gonna need assistance, sooner more than later
    Gotta get a drop done?
    Need an alligator?

    Factions on the warpath ready to attack,
    Planning revenge, need a fast comeback,
    Minor setback, you just can t cope
    Too much to do and you re low on hope.

As the chorus swelled, several Ratpackers began to sing along.

    When you find you need a helping hand
    For a chocolate treat
    We'll make mincemeat
    Of somebody you want to grandstand.

    Every night more goodies we accrue
    A diversion s cheap
    Kidnapping s steep
    But we'll even write the thing for you.

    We know we belong to the Guild
    And the Guild we belong to is skilled!
    And when we say
    PAY! An we prefer it gourmet!
    We're really sayin'
    We are some fine Mercenaries!
    For the Merc Guild s The Way!

"They 'ad ta huse 'ollywood types for this demo tape, 'ugh lent hus The
Mansion fer Merc Central." Johnsie commented, as the tape continued playing.

"Is anyone going to wear any clothing in this show, Johnsie?" the GHP asked 
in that dangerously calm and quiet voice of hers which inevitably meant 

"Oh, that. The PTB Network insisted onna scantily-clad title sequence, they
sez it hattraks the roight demoh-graffik. Oi' loiked hit m'self."

"Oi...*I* saw you in almost every scene of it, Johnsie, so I guess you 
would." Laurie replied,  You might want to think about a diet. Let's see the
contracts... now."

Every Merc in sight pulled out a calculator and began going over the figures
in the contracts.

"And don't fergit the Action Figures! Everyone gets an action figure! 
Ratpack  action figurez git a small group o' ratsies  ta go with'em. the
"Talkin' Ratsies Wot Go Yea!"  are sold seperately, batteries not
included. the 'Ratsie Wot Kilt Screed'  plush toy iz expected to do 
well." Johnsie went on, as the assembled Mercs made more appreciative noises and 
the calculators kept buzzing."Q-Mart iz hinterested in the Screed  line o'
casual wear and Merc Central  line o' formal wear fer the

Everyone was awash in feelings of good will, love to all mankind, and 
millions in the bank, as they continued to view this ode to Merchood.  Suddenly, in 
the midst of a retrospect on former GHPs who had actually gotten out alive, the
screen momentarily went blank, followed by the piercing sounds of the
emergency warning signal.  A voice intoned,"We interrupt this very silly
program to bring you a special announcement that's much more important than
this drivel ..."

The GHP looked at the Ratpack leader. "Is this your idea of a joke?" Johnsie
just stared openmouthed at the television, pointing his finger at the screen
and for once, at a loss for words.

The tv sound was suddenly drowned out by a babble of excited voices, as 
Libby rushed into the room. She was shivering with either fear or excitement,
perhaps both. Her head twisted from side to side as she scanned the crowd.
Breaking into a grin upon spotting her target, she rushed to the Leader o' 
the Ratpackers, John. Before Libby could open her mouth, he grabbed her, shaking
her frantically.

"You'se gotta 'ide, Libratsie!" he cried. "They're evil beasties wit' all
sorts o' dia-bol-lee-cal powers wot could dew you dead in a..." John brought
his fingers together, trying to snap them. He tried again and again. 
Finally, he said quickly, "They could dew yew in!"

Suspicious of any frantic Ratpacker whether or not she could make sense of
their babble, the GHP moved to stand in front of the Ratpackers. "Wot... I
mean what did you do *this* time, Libby?"

"Nuttin', honey," Libby and John said in unison. "Nuttin' wot tew worry
about." They looked too innocent to be innocent.

Laurie didn t give an inch.  She simply stood there, hands on her hips,
tapping her right foot loudly.
"This could get interesting,"  Erin remarked.

"I'm waiting.... And I'm sure I can find the former Grand High Poobah's 
rolled up newspaper somewhere."

The mere mention of Dianne caused the pair of Ratpackers to turn green.

"I jest wrote a script," Libby finally said, moving behind John.

"It wuz a gud 'un!" Johnsie said eagerly.

"Yes,"  the GHP prompted. "A script for what?"

Libby stood on her tiptoes to peer over John's shoulders. He tried to move
behind her, but Libby clung on tightly, resulting in a weird waltz. "I got a
chance wot tew submit a script for a new For-ever-n-ever Knight movie!"

"That's great!" Laurie shouted, thinking of the Guild cut.

"Well, it weren't exactly great...." John said. "Them Powers Tha' Be dinna
like it."

"That's too bad," the GHP said.  So much for the Guild coffers.  And ..?
There had to be more to the story; with the Ratpack, there always was.

"They's after me!" Libby uttered. "Got me 'ome addy an' all tha'! I figgered
tha' after readin' tha' script, they'd never look fer me  ere in Toronto 
wit' the Nunkies Addict types, so I hid dere - but I dinna let them know about me

 And this script was about ...? Laurie queried, as a sinking feeling in her
stomach began to take root.

"It wuz a right tearful, 'appy luv story!" Libby explained. "Made all the 
lil' ratises cry wit' joy."

"_YOU_ wrote a love story about Nat and Nick?" Laurie asked.  The party had
come to a complete halt, as the Mercs and Ratpackers gathered around to 
watch the exchange.

"No way!" Libby exclaimed. "EEeeeeooooowww!" She pinched her nose so that 
the next sentence came out it a funny, squeaky ratsie voice. "I wrote wot woulda
been the best epy-sode ever - all about 'ow Screedy luvs 'is Natsie Ratsie!"

Total shocked silence descended.  The Ratpackers, sans Libby and John, 
headed for their tunnel entrances, as the Mercs angrily pushed forward, surrounding
Libby and John.

A choked gasp could be heard from the doorway."Screedy luvs 'is Natsie
Ratsie?" Shelia ran into the room, smoke wafting behind her from the bundle 
of lit sage in her hand. She waved the burning herb at Libby and John, "Wot.." 
- darn Screed-speak, it was infectious - "What blasphemy is this!!??
Natsie..drat..I mean Nat belongs to the 'fanged one'." The MercPriestess,
thinking of her precious Nick,  glared at the Ratpackers daring them to
contradict her.  The remaining Mercs started to close in.

Libby and John clung to each other, whimpering pathetically. "This iz _yewr_
fault, Libby!" John chattered between chattering teeth.
"Itz _yewr_ fault fer lettin' me dew it!" Libby whimpered back. "Yewr the
Leader-type, yewr suppose tew keep me from dewin' things...."  She raised 
her hand to her face, hiding behind the shrink wrapped packages of paper which 
she had been holding since she had come in.

The two packages caught the GHP s attention. Squinting, she managed to make
out a curious word on the flyers. "Back off, everyone!" she yelled. "I said
BACK OFF. I want to see this.  THEN you can raise Libby up the flag pole for
all I care...."  Libby s whimpering increased.

The Guild leader reached for one of the packages, ripped off the shrink 
wrap, and began looking over the enclosed flyers. As she read, her eyes turned 
into dollar signs (Canadian of course). "Listen up," she said, straining to be
heard above the continuing noise. Finally, she shut them all up by the 
simple expedient of shouting "Chocolate for all!"

Once more, quiet descended.  The GHP opened her mouth to break the big news,
when the voice of the television announcer from the still running tape, cut
through the sudden silence. "Right, now that I have your undivided 
attention, I am happy to announce .... IT'S WAR, FOLKS."

The Ratpackers stopped their retreat and started prattling excitedly. The
Mercs were cheering. Libby and Johnsie looked at each other in relief; somehow or 
other, they had gotten off the hook once again.  Mildred yelled something that 
sounded like "Battle-stations! Debriefing in the Computer lab!" and immediately took off
down the hallway.

"It's war!" the GHP repeated, glaring at the Ratpack co-leaders. "You guys 
are lucky; you re getting out of here with all your parts still intact. And this
should keep you Ratpackers in trouble - *thankfully elsewhere* - for a 


Big Trouble Down in the Bayou 1/3
Follows the breakout of War Activities
Time:  Dusk CST -- North Louisiana

Note: Mark is a fictional character


It had been an unusually hot winter in northern Louisiana.  The
promise of an abundant mosquito crop was a reality, and the
small sluggish ponds lining the riverbank already buzzed with
activity.   Their frenzy increased as the softness of dusk
replaced the heat of the sun.

"Ouch!" Patt slapped at the back of her neck, her face contorted
in a grimace worthy of a Hollywood monster mask maker.

"Whatsamatter?" a thin, dark-haired child of six looked up at
the large woman, his own face piqued in interest.

"Skeeter bit me," the woman replied with a sigh.

"At least it's gettin a bite," the child complained, returning his
eyes to the sinkhole he knelt above.  He held a small cane,
dangling a piece of bacon strung from fishing wire.
The boy dropped the raw meat further into the hole, brushing it
along the moist surface of the muck.  "Are you sure this is how
you do it?"

Patt shrugged.  "I told you before we came on this trip, Mark,
that my only experience with crawfish fishing is what some
co-workers told me.  They could easily have been pulling my

The boy's face quirked in concentration--at the woman's words
and his task.  "Why would anyone want to pull your leg?" he
said, his voice high in childish petulance.

"It's an adage, Mark, a saying," Patt began explaining, trying
to keep her voice free of the adult lecture tone which she could
fall into so easily.  "It means *fibbing* to someone, because they
think the outcome will be funny."

"That's stupid," the boy said, his eyes steady on the damp Louisiana
clay beneath his bait.

"Agreed," the woman said, kneeling down to join her
pseudo-grandson, "but some folk think it is an appropriate
form of humor to be inflicted on the gullible, present
company included."

"I wish you wouldn't talk so big," the child said as he shook the
cane furiously, allowing the bacon to dance gnat-like across the
liquid surface.  "It makes my head hurt."

Patt laughed, placing a hand on the child's shoulder and giving
it a quick squeeze.   "Want to know a secret, Mark?  It makes
my head hurt too."

The child suddenly screeched and flung himself backward, the
cane coming up over the boy and the woman.   Overhead, a
rather excited-appearing crustacean clacked its small claws and
shook its feelers in rage.  Then, it let go of the bacon and
plummeted downward.

Patt's shrieks joined Mark's as the crawdad fell into the
woman's permed hair.  She began beating at her scalp, clawing
through the tight strands in a frantic effort to dislodge her
unwelcome passenger.   Mark jumped up, backed up and
watched wide-eyed as Patt began shaking her head in the
fashion of a wet dog.   With a sudden mighty toss of her head,
Patt flung the crawfish from her.  Its tiny body impacted the
raised drainage-trench bank, then slithered down the side.  It
lay, stunned, for just a moment, then skittered away.

Patt turned toward Mark, who, once recovered from his
fright, had burst into gut-clinching laughter.  She frowned.
"That wasn't funny."

"Yes . . . yes *it* was," the child gasped, his eyes brushed with

"Hey! Don't laugh at me!" Patt protested hotly.

"But . . . you have *mud* in your hair," the child stated in
exultant explanation.

"And you have mud on your butt," Patt replied, brushing once
again at her hair.  "I can't believe that you're makin fun of me,
when I'm doing you a favor.  The only reason we're here is
because of  you wanting to catch fresh crawfish for your
Granny to eat."

The child sobered immediately.  "Granny's crawdad ran away,
didn't it?"

"Well, duhhhhh."  Patt arched her eyebrows at the boy, her
expression bland.  "If you hadn't been so busy laughing at me,
you could have caught it."

"So what do we do now?" the boy protested, crossing his arms
across his chest.

"Corner grocery store?" Patt suggested hopefully.

Mark shook his head, his expression stern.  "I want *fresh*

The woman sighed deeply and hoisted herself from the damp
ground, resigned to her fate.  Then, a thought struck.  She
turned to the child, her face hopeful.  "How about an Icee?"

Mark tilted his head.  "Are you trying to bribe me into not
going crawfish fishin?"

"Not really," Patt argued.  "We did go crawfish fishing -- we just
didn't catch anything.   That happens a lot when you fish,

The boy didn't answer, but he looked slightly less convinced of
his former position in the matter.  Patt pushed this small
advantage.  "You did your best to get your Granny
some fresh crawfish.  Now, I suggest we go get a big bag of
spicy boiled and a couple of grape Slushies.   Doesn't that
sound good?"

Mark hesitated a few seconds more, before throwing up his
hands in a dramatic gesture of capitulation.  "OH, okay.  Let's

"Now you're cooking with Crisco ," Patt replied
cheerfully.  She stooped and grabbed the metal pail handle,
then she stood up again, her eyes searching.  "Where'd
your fishing cane go?"

Mark pointed across the ditch bank.  "Over there.  It got

"Hmmmm." Patt followed the boy's finger, then gave him her
full attention.  "Here.  Hold the bucket and I'll go get the cane."

"Okay," Mark said compliantly, his face beaming with
impish amusement.

Careful of her tenuous grasp on balance, Patt slid slowly down
the trench bank, then clambered heavily up the opposite side.  Her shins
scraped the muddy edge, leaving a streak of grime on her black jeans,
which mirrored the crusted muck still clinging at her hairline.

"I'm sure glad the other NA's aren't around," the mature
woman muttered aloud, puffing as she reached the plateau.
"Rutledge would have a field day with my present
appearance, and I'd have to suffer Jules' sniffing indignation.
Bad enough that I have to contend with my Mother's
complaints about me getting my shoes dirty."

The cane's location was easily found.  It rested near a thicket of
rather wicked looking brambles.  One end of the rod appeared
embedded in the heavy brush.  Patt reached down, took hold of
the cane and lifted.

The end hidden in the bushes held fast.

"Damn," Patt grumbled.  She gave the cane a hefty shake-n-tug.
The action yielded no gain, and Patt exhaled in frustration.  She
looked at the sticker bushes, sighed heavily, then pushed her
hand carefully inside the growth.

A cold hand closed around her prodding fingers.  The mature
woman yelped in fright, pulling back.  Her captor held fast.

A series of frightening images sped through the woman's mind
as a second hand joined the first, clutching her wrist with a
crushing grip.  Patt fought her first instinct to scream for
Mark to "RUN," remembering that her truck was parked
more than a mile down the levee, well away from civilization.

The clasped hands tugged at Patt's arm, pulling her toward the
dark edge of the outgrowth.   She shuddered and pulled back
with all her strength, her teeth clenched with the effort.  The
assailant only tightened his/her grip.  Patt gasped in pain.

Patt gave in, allowing herself to be pulled to the ground.  From
this vantage, she could more easily peer into the shadows.  Two
cold yellow eyes stared back at her.

Vampire eyes.

Big Trouble Down in the Bayou  2/3
Follows Part 1
Time:  Early Evening  CST -- North Louisiana

Note: Mark is a fictional character


The feral eyes which held Patt's, though sunk into a
cadaverously thin face, glowed hotly.

"Faldercarb," Patt swore, her voice low and hoarse.  This was
not good.

Though she knew many of his kind, Patt did not recognize this
vampire.  Of course, the darkness and Louisiana clay which
coated his face made for difficulty in identification.  The
vampire shifted, releasing the woman's fingers.  With a muted
rate of his kind's speed, he snaked his arm toward the woman,
clasping the back of her neck with his free hand.  He began
pulling Patt toward him.

"ACK," Patt cried, recovering her senses slightly as her
imminent death loomed closer.

The vampire made no verbal response to the woman's protest.
He simply continued to draw her closer, parched lips parted,
exposing his spear-like canines.  To Patt, the teeth looked even
longer than normal, possibly due to the vampire's emaciated

Forgetting the scratch potential of the surrounding brambles,
Patt raised her own free hand and swung it wide, bringing a
round house punch which impacted on the vampire's right
cheek and eye socket.  For just a moment, the creature looked
surprised, then the cracked lips spread in a
wide grin.

"Yes," he nodded slowly.  "Fight.  It makes the blood run

The vampire was verbal!!!  Patt suddenly felt a small flicker of
hope, as she was more adept at figurative battle, than physical.

"I know what you are!" the Third Cousin announced blatantly.
"And, killing me like this would not be to your advantage.  I'd
be much more useful alive."

The creature tilted his head, the cold eyes flickering in slight
amusement.  "Doubtful, but I'll listen to your argument,"he
replied. " I am a civilized sort, you see."

"Yes, I can see that," Patt nodded in agreement.  "And, from
what I can tell, you've been out of 'civilization' for sometime."

This brought a frown to the vampire's countenance.  "I have
had some recent setbacks, yes," the creature agreed, then his
frown deepened to a scowl.  "I was forced to retreat
underground by one of my own kind."

"Bummer," Patt responded.

"Yes," the vampire fell into flashback sequence, his eyes
glazing.  "Staked and left for dead by one of my own.  He was
so taken with attending to the needs of his mortal lady-friend,
that he failed to notice the pulse of life within me when he
*disposed* of my body."

"That wasn't very nice," Patt said.  The hand which cupped her
neck had relaxed somewhat.   She wiggled her captured hand
slightly, but the vampire's grip was still firm.

"I still find it staggering to think that he would *stake* me!"
The vampire's voice was incredulous as he remembered the
incident.  "Then he dropped me into a lake.  I had never swam
as a mortal, so I sank to the bottom immediately."

The vampire's features grew cold.  "The only thing which made
me stir from my watery grave was the thought of revenge--that
and carp blood.  I finally managed to pull myself to shore, only
to find others of my kin waiting for me.  I was ostracized for
*misbehavior* and *advised* to leave the city."

Patt was beginning to feel uneasy.  Certain elements of this
story were sounding eerily familiar.

"I was folded into a wooden crate and shipped by common
carrier to a township called Minden," the vampire spat.  "I
arrived during the daylight, and when the box was pried open,
the sunlight which filtered through the warehouse windows hit
me, burning my flesh and my spirit.  I killed the handyman, but
it took all of my strength to do so.  I stumbled into a large
stack of boxes, and awoke, days later, buried under a rubble of

"Uh, huh," Patt said.

"I soon found that my new locality was insufficient for my
needs," the vampire rasped.  "The major part of the populace
was elderly, and the residents usually retired to their homes
well before the sun was set.  I decided that I needed a more
urban environment and chose to relocate to the nearest larger

"Shreveport," Patt filled in.

The vampire nodded.  "Not exactly what I was used to, mind
you, but it offered more possibilities than its elderly sister to
the east.  My problem was that I never made it to the city's

"Oh," Patt said softly.

"I tried to fly, but my ordeal had taken too much toll on my
strength.  I fell bodily from the sky, right into the path of a light
blue pickup truck-- a Ford," the vampire said disdainfully.
"The three young men inside the vehicle must have thought I
was game, for they exited the cab brandishing hunting rifles.
They took aim and fired.  I was forced to flee into the woods."

"Oh, my."

"The sun was close to rising, before the mortals left me in
peace," the vampire continued.   "Once I regain my strength, I
will hunt them down and they will pay for their abominable
actions toward me.  But, at the time, I found myself forced to
take refuge in a drainage ditch, with intentions to leave at
nightfall.  Then, the rains came."

"And we did have some rain, didn't we?" Patt nodded

The vampire returned the nod.  "Torrential is the mild idiom,"
he said.  "The ditch filled up quickly, washing me out into the
gray daylight's wrath.  Though the sun was not present,
neither was the soothing night.  What little remained of my
vitality was lost, and I found myself fading into the muddy
water which carried me.  Finally, I was washed close to the
shore, and my body became entangled in this prickly
outgrowth.  My strength was totally gone now, leaving a mere
husk of my true self.  I could not rise.  The rains continued, but
finally showed sign of ceasing, allowing the toxic sun to show
its face.  With my fingernails, I dug myself into the soil as
deeply as possible.  And, here I've laid, for innumerable days,
waiting . . ."

"Waiting?"  Patt's dark brown eyes grew wide.

"For you, dear nourishment," the vampire spread his insanely
thin lips once more, the canine tips gleaming.


The vampire's fingers tightened once again across the back of
the addict's neck, his thumb pressing the flesh beneath Patt's
ear.    From her peripheral vision, the woman watched as the
creature loomed closer, his mouth twisted and ready to strike.


The vampire paused, eyes glittering.

"Killing me is not a good idea!"

"Pray tell . . . why not?" the vampire's manner suddenly clued
Patt to something which clicked in her brain like a light switch.
This particular night denizen was as starved for companionship
as he was for blood.  Probably a recent convert to his particular

"Because . . ." Patt shut her eyes, trying to sort the images which
flashed within her head.   "Because, taking my blood would
only be a momentary relief to your pain.  Probably wouldn't
be enough to give you your strength back and would cause you
a bellyache in the bargain.  Let me live, and I'll help you get out
of  this hole, get back to civilization and all the blood you

"And why would you be willing to help me?"

"For plot purposes," Patt said hopefully.

The vampire cocked his head, his eyes unconvinced.

"Miss Patt??"

Both mortal woman and vampire froze as  the child's voice
reached them.

"Mark--GET BACK!" Patt shouted.

"Ahhh, dessert," the vampire grinned crookedly, his attention
focused on the thrashing sound approaching them.   The
vampire moved slightly, as if preparing to move to meet it.

"You *really* don't want to *go* there!" Patt said, her voice
stern.  Uncaring now for her own safety, she reached up and
grasped the vampire's ear, giving it a sharp twist.

The creature turned blood-rimmed eyes on the woman and
snarled into her face.  "I appreciate your desire to protect your
young, but you are now dead."  The vampire struck, its teeth
grazing the addict's throat.

"And so are *you*!" Patt countered, raising her shoulders and
effectively shortening the length of her neck.  "You are fooling
around with the property of Lucien LaCroix if you bite me,

The muddy young vampire immediately pulled back, the red
eyes now glowing soft amber.  "What did you say?" he said,
voice strangely soft.

Patt straightened.  "I . . . I . . . I kind of belong to an elder
vampire who currently resides in Toronto, Canada," she

"Indeed," the vampire said.  He leaned forward, examining the
woman's unmarked throat and then her wrists.  Then, the
vampire sniffed Patt carefully.  "I sense no evidence of his
possession of you."

"You mean like in entree du jour?" Patt laughed shakily.
 "No . . . our relationship isn't like that.   I'm one of his *mortal*
followers . . . I've pledged him my loyalty and, in return, he
uses me at will.  I run errands, run interference, run for cover,

"Interesting, but what does this have to do with me?"

"Well, your pausing at the mention of his name tells me you
already know the answer to that."   Patt arched a knowing
eyebrow at her assailant.  "LaCroix is old and powerful enough
to not likely put up with your messing with one of his addicts.
And, I get the feeling that you're smart enough not to want to
test the theory."

"Touche," the young vampire replied, his eyes now turning to a
dark brown.  Traces of brown beard and mustache were now
visible through the grime which clung to his face.

"Ack!" Patt said softly, for now she recognized the creature
which still held her tight.  "Spark."


Big Trouble Down in the Bayou 3/3
Follows Part 2
Time:  Later in the evening  -- North Louisiana
By:  Patt Elmore

Note: Mark is a fictional character

"Ack," Patt repeated as she stared into the now
human-appearing eyes of a mud-encrusted Spark.

The vampire's brown eyes closed to slits, his deep voice
lowering slightly.  "You know my name?  How?"

"Errrr, lucky guess," Patt tittered nervously.

"Try again," Spark suggested.  Then, he pursed his lips
thoughtfully.  "Toronto."

"That could be it," Patt agreed, nodding quickly.  "We probably
met at a toga party or something."

"LaCroix . . ." the vampire said, rolling the name around in his
mouth, ignoring the woman in his grasp.

Patt, exhibiting one of her few brilliant moments, said nothing.

"Knight . . ." Spark said.

"But swiftly becoming day," Patt interjected.  "What say I keep
my part of this bargain and get you to civilization while we still
have some night light left?"

"I don't remember agreeing to this *bargain,*" Spark replied
coldly.  "But, I do remember Knight.  Nicholas B. Knight.
Vampire crusader for mortal rights."

"Never heard of the fellow," Patt lied innocently.

Spark glared at the Third Cousin.  "Why do I doubt that

Patt shrugged.

"Could it be . . . your professed association with LaCroix, and
his known kinship with the errant Knight?"

Patt grinned in response.  "Caught me," she admitted.  "You're
good.  Starvation didn't mess up your memory, did it?"

"On the contrary," Spark replied, "I believe it has sharpened it.
And, I believe I remember now that my *relocation* from
Toronto was under the auspices of your mentor."

 Patt didn't not like the direction this conversation was
going.  No indeed.

"So, it seems you were right," Spark said, pulling the two of
them to a standing position, unmindful of the briars which
gouged into their skin.  Patt winced, but Spark ignored her.
"Your true value to me may be more than a simple repast.  Yet,
my physical needs are dire; they require immediate attention--if
not from you, an alternate source."

As if on cue, stage left, a childish voice rang out, his tone
tentative.  "Miss Patt?"

Noticing the gleam in Spark's eye, Patt corrected him quickly.
"Touch a hair on that child's head and I'll kill you."

"Indeed . . ." Spark smiled thinly, his eyes glinting.  "You and
what army?"

"Mon General's, Mr. Sparky," Patt retorted, brushing the dirt
from her torso.  As she did, Spark grabbed one of her upper
arms, wrenching it as he drew her close.

"Don't dismiss me due to my incapacitated appearance,
woman," the vampire's voice was low with threat.

"And don't dismiss me due to my mortalness [sic]," Patt
announced, her own voice tense.   "If you think the Canadian
contingent made your life miserable when you tried to take a
nip out of Nat, you ain't seen nothin yet.  You haven't seen
ninety-plus ticked off Nunkies Anonymous members on the
warpath.  You haven't seen our High Priestess in spiked heels,
have you?  It's scary!" Patt shuddered.  "If I don't check in
pretty soon, they *will* come looking for me."

"Why would anyone come looking for *you*?" Spark asked.

"Because . . . I'm, kind of, errr . . . AWOL," Patt said, her voice

"I see," Spark was in control again, and knew it.  He looked as if
he was enjoying the Third Cousin's discomfort.  "Pray tell,
woman, where should you be at this moment?"

"In Toronto, at the Shrine, cleaning grout, I suppose," Patt
replied, dejectedly.  "I'm kind of in hot water because of Vachon
whammying the HP and the Scribe."

"Vachon?" Spark said, confused.

"After your time," Patt explained.  "Screed, Urs and Tracy, too.
The newest vamps and mortal FK characters."

Spark hhrrumphed.

"Hey better not let their factions hear you *hhrrumphing,* " Patt

Spark's eyes narrowed.  "Factions?"

"Factions.  You know, fans who follow and support the exploits
of the FK characters.   Like Nick has his Knighties--light,
medium and dark.  LaCroix has the Cousins--and subfactions
such as the Convent, the General's Secret Service, les Chevaliers
de la Croix and, the one I call home, Nunkies Anonymous."

"Anonymous?" Spark thought for a minute, then threw back his
head in a chilling laugh.  "Because he does not *claim* you, I

"Hardly," Patt said, her voice miffed.  "Just try messing with
one of us NA's and see what happens."

"Perhaps I'll accept your challenge later," Spark was still
chuckling.  "But, right now I am more interested in knowing of
my faction."

"Your . . . faction?" Patt said, confused and suddenly leery.

"Yes . . . my faction.  You said that each FK character had their
followers.  I wish to know of mine.  They could perhaps prove
useful in my plan for revenge."

"Errr, Spark . . ." Patt began, but stopped when she noted his
sudden acute interest.


"Errr . . . I don't think you have a faction."

"I see," Spark said, his gaunt face clouded.  "Why not?"

"Errr . . . because you only showed up in one episode and
weren't very nice in it?" Patt suggested.

"Yet, I suspect that the mortal woman who tried to seduce me,
then hedged on our bargain, has a faction, correct?"

"Natalie?  Yeah, ummmm, sure.  She has a faction.  A couple of

"And, the characters that followed me . . . Vachon, Urs, Tracy
and Screed.  They have factions?"

Patt nodded.

"And," Spark stepped forward, catching the Third Cousin's eyes,
timing his words to her heartbeat.  "Anyone else?"

Patt, eyes glazing, nodded.  "Sure.  Schanke.  Janette.  All the
Captains. Nick's Caddy."

"A car?" Spark drew back with a hiss, eyes blazing.  "An
automobile rates a faction, but I do NOT?"

Patt shook her head, trying to clear the confusion.  "It's not my
fault nobody likes you."

"I don't give a rat's tail about being liked," Spark spat.  "I will
not allow myself to be treated as a lower vampiric life form."

"Careful, you're treading on Ratpacker territory there," Patt
said, tapping her ears as if to clear them of water.

"I *will* have a faction!" Spark announced.

Patt stopped her tapping and stood very still, aware that Spark
was staring at her.

"And . . ." he began, his voice calm.

"No," Patt whispered, bidding him to stop.  But, he didn't.

" . . . *you* will be my faction leader.  At least, until I can find
someone more appropriate."

"I can't be your faction leader, Spark," Patt protested.  I'm a one
vampire woman and LaCroix is my vamp."

"Then, your usefulness to me is ended," Spark said calmly.
"Time for din din."

"MISS PATT!!!"  Mark's voice wailed from the darkness.
Spark looked in the child's direction and smiled.

"Okay, okay . . . I'll sublet my allegiance to you for the time
being," Patt capitulated.   "Just remember, this loyalty thing
works both ways.  You don't hurt anyone important to me."

"Agreed," Spark replied, "unless they get in my way."  The
vampire looked skyward, squinting at the sky.   "Now that
we're in agreement, I suggest we retreat to your fair metropolis.
How do you suggest we travel?"

"I have a truck parked about a mile down the levee," Patt
replied.  "I'll go get Mark, and you follow us at a discreet
distance.  Then, hop in the camper on back, and I'll drive us all
into town.  We'll drop Mark off and then take care of your
*needs.*  Okay?"

"That sounds reasonable, though I resent being carried like
cargo," Spark said.

"It's either that, or risk getting caught by the rising sun, sitting
in the cab, *and* being pestered by a six-year-old."

"The sun, I would risk, but the patterings of a
kindergartner . . ." Spark shuddered so vigourously that his
thin frame shook, exposing the bones beneath his skin.    Patt
turned to move away, and he grasped her arm and squeezed it
hard.  "Just remember, though, that your loyalty is to me.  If
you betray me, you'll be sorry."

"I already am," Patt muttered to herself as she moved toward
the creek bank.  "I already am."


Care and Maintenance of Your Average Coercive Vampire
By Patt Elmore
Time:  Late Saturday; after Big Trouble in the Bayou 3/3
Place:  Northern Louisiana


The ride back to Shreveport was basically uneventful.  Mark
quickly located a local soft rock station and hummed loudly
during the thirty minute drive back into town.  Patt, fingers
clinched tightly on the steering wheel, continued to risk glances
into her rear view mirror, checking for signs of her unwanted
passenger.  Spark laid low.

"Miss Patt?" Mark's tone caught the woman's attention.

"Yep, kiddo?"

"What about our Slushies?"  The child quirked an eyebrow, his
dark eyes narrowing.

Patt braked the truck hard, just barely making the Circle K
drive entrance.  A tailgating Bronco driver laid angrily on his
horn as his vehicle veered to pass the Chevrolet.

Spark's head popped up in back, his nose pressed against the
camper window, eyes blazing at the Ford's driver.  The young
man, now parallel with Patt's truck, caught sight of the
vampire's visage, paled noticeably, then steered quickly into
the far lane, just missing three teens in a Toyota.

The teens gestured angrily at the Bronco and gave chase, road
rage flooding their veins.  Spark smiled broadly, then slipped
back down into the truck bed.

Minutes later, Mark was happily slushing grape liquid, an
impervious purple stain soon gracing the rim of his mouth.  He
was taking the last swallow as Patt pulled into her friend's

"All out for Granny's," Patt announced, giving a silent 'thank
you' that she'd gotten her pseudo-grandson home safe.

With a final loud draw from his straw, Mark prepared to hop
out of the truck cab, then paused.  He turned, eyes cold.

"We forgot the crawfish," he announced.

Patt gulped, then nodded.  "Yup, we did.  Sorry.  We'll go get
some later, okay?"

Mark didn't budge.  "We have to get some now."

"Later," Patt suggested.

"NOW."  The child's voice was firm, leaving no room for

Patt sighed.  "Okay, 'LaCroix Junior,' -- a promise is a promise.  Hop
in and we'll go to Brookshires for a bagful.  That satisfy you?"

The child looked doubtful for a moment, then sighed
dramatically.  "I suppose . . . but I'm not happy."

Crawfish bought, Patt returned to Sylvia's driveway to find her
friend waiting for them outside.

"I saw you drive up before," the tall woman said as she walked
up and helped her grandson out of the truck.   "Where'd you

"To get you these!!" Mark announced happily, hoisting the
steaming bag as high as his short arms could lift.

Sylvia smiled in delight, then winked at Patt.  "Why, Mark.
How special of you!  Thank you very much.  Those look very
good."  The child, bag across his shoulder and dangling down
his back, proudly carried his *catch* into the house.

"Want to come in for a bite?" Sylvia asked, turning to Patt.
Underneath her, Patt felt the truck rock slightly.

"Errrr . . . some other time, Sylvia," Patt said, quickly shutting
the truck door and reaching for the ignition key.  "I have some
errands to run right now."

"Okay," Sylvia smiled, her wholesome face light in her
innocence of the situation.  "Come back soon and remember
that you're always welcome."

<'Sheesh,>  Patt thought as she pulled back onto the street.    The mature addict knew that
her best bet was to get Sparky out of town, and as soon as

Trouble was . . . where to take him?  New Orleans came to
mind, but taking another vampire down there seemed like
overkill.  Patt smiled slightly as she thought of taking him
across the state line and dropping his carcass in Carthage.

So intent was the woman on trying to formulate a plan to
dispense with her guest, that she didn't notice the windows
connecting the cab and the camper shell sliding open until too

Spark's very gaunt figure slid through the narrow opening.  He
seated his skeletal frame beside the corpulent woman and
smiled.  Patt almost ran up on the curb, barely missing a fast
moving tom cat.

"Gee, gobberish!" Patt exclaimed, regaining her control of the
steering mechanism.  "Don't *DO* things like that."

"As my faction leader, you should become acquainted with my
quirks," Spark replied smoothly.

"You don't have a faction, remember?" Patt growled.  "And,
quirks is one thing, Sparky.  Major auto accidents are another.
You may be able to fly from the scene, but I'll be a gooey spot in
the road."

"I assure you, Ms. Elmore," the vampire grinned cheekily, "that
I will make good use of your remains before they soak into the

"How comforting," Patt muttered.  "Now, speaking of your
dietary desires, where do you want me to drop you off?"

"I beg your pardon?" Spark said, dark eyes darkening further.

"What's you location of preference," Patt replied, consciously
keeping her eyes straight ahead.  "Hospital?  Blood bank?
Plasma Center?"

Spark's silence was unnerving.  Patt glanced over and noticed
that the vampire was musing in silence.  Finally he spoke, his
voice low and steady.

"If I am to recover from my current physical ill being, I believe
I will require *warm* sustenance."

Against her will, the Third Cousin blanched.

"You mean . . . you want me to help you *kill* someone?" Patt

"Your aid in the actual death will be unnecessary," Spark
replied coldly.  "You simply need to find a discreet location
where a human host can be secured, then wait for me."

"Wait for you?" Patt repeated slowly.

"My initial feeding will not completely satisfy my body's
needs," Spark replied.  "I will continue to need your assistance
in securing others . . ."

Patt slammed on the brakes, pulling the truck to a jolting stop.

"Get out," she commanded.

Spark smiled.  Patt felt her hair follicles expand in warning, but
she persisted in her demand.  "Get out of my truck."

"I don't think so," Spark said, his lips expanding into a fearsome

"If I remember right, it was your blatent disregard for rules
which got you ousted from the Toronto community in the first
place," Patt said hotly.  "If you're foolish enough to start your
random killing spree again, then fine, but you'll have to do it
without me.  I will not be party to murder.  I brought you to
town and that's enough.  Get out and go do your dirty business
by yourself.  Get lost!"

"3118 Markell Drive," Spark said slowly.

Patt froze as she recognized Sylvia's address.

"Now, where would be an appropriate place for us to *shop*?"
Spark smiled.


Patt was very unhappy being in this part of Shreveport.  The
dark backstreets of downtown were where most bodies were
found, as well as where most drive-by shootings took place.  To
make matters worse, her passenger had vetoed the use of air
conditioning, so she'd been forced to roll down her window
half way.

Spark scanned the streets greedily.  Patt assumed he was
listening for heartbeats, trolling for victims as she drove along.

"Turn left," the vampire commanded.  Patt reluctantly moved
the steering wheel in the direction indicated.  Spark's nostril's
flared and he sneered in triumph.  "There."

The hooker was young.  Young enough to be Patt's daughter.
The mature woman opened her mouth to protest, but Spark
was already out of the truck, moving quickly through the
shadows.  Once close to the girl, he darted from the darkness
and snared her.  The vampire curled one arm around the
prostitute's waist while he cupped the back of her neck with his

Spark struck like a piranha, tearing at the flesh of her throat.
Blood spurted from the wound, covering his face and torn

Patt looked away, shutting her eyes tightly in horror.  In only
moments, she sensed he was back, standing outside the driver
side window.  The mature addict opened her eyes and stared at
the brown-red droplets still clinging to his leering visage.

"What's all this?" Spark mocked the woman's shocked
expression.  "Such a reaction from one who professes to follow
the most ruthless of my kind known to be living in this
hemisphere?  My dear woman, do you not know to what you
have pledged your undying devotion and allegiance?"  Spark
leaned closer, pressing his face fully against Patt's half open
window, further distorting his already terrifying features.
"This is what you love!"

Spark snarled, fangs exposed, eyes blazing crimson and fire.
He darted his tongue out, hissing and snapping at the glass
between them.  Patt pulled back, terrified.

"Nunkies Anonymous indeed," Spark snorted.

At the mention of "Nunkies" Patt stiffened.   she thought.    Patt realized she was falling into Spark's
trap, allowing him to manipulate her.    Uncle would not be
pleased--Spark was right about that, anyway.

"Are you finished feeding?" Patt made herself ask calmly.

Spark stood back, amused.  "For the time being," he answered

"Then, get in the truck and let's get you to shelter before daylight.
That is," she gave the vampire a pointed look, "unless you don't
*fear* the sunlight."

Spark's eyes narrowed, but he said nothing.  He came around the
truck swiftly, getting into the passenger side.  Patt shifted into
drive and pulled the pickup from the curb.

They drove in silence, until Spark reached over and flipped on
the radio.  The local 60's/70's/80's rock station blared to life and he
grinned in delight.  "My era!" he exclaimed.

At that moment, Patt noticed a single headlight in her side
mirror.  The motorcycle was coming up fast, preparing to pass
her on the right, not allowing her time to move her vehicle

Spark watched the cycle approach, intrigued.  "Meals on
wheels," he murmured.

Before Patt could shout for him to stop, Spark swung open the
passenger door and skillfully deflected the cycle toward the
curb.  He caught the rider in midair and pulled the screeching
teen into the cab.

"Keep you eyes on the road," Spark growled as he bit into the
cyclist's neck.

Patt kept her eyes on the road.


Cousins: Ring My Bell
By Bonnie Rutledge
Starring: Cousinly Leader Bons, Cousin NightHawk, Trakal, Nish, Cousin 
Perky, NuitCoeur, and LaCroix
Time: 8pm + a few hours, Saturday April 25th
After 'Oh, Dear' and before "The Desertion'

     Bons trudged mournfully down the hallway, the bag containing her new 
non-sensible shoes clunking against her knees as she walked.  she whined in her head as her lower lip stuck out in a 

     She jabbed truculently at the elevator button. When it arrived, Bonnie 
stepped inside and swiped the card LaCroix had given her through the 
computer id. The General had made the modification  after the last war, 
vowing to never be locked out of his private apartment again. The Cousinly 
Leaders had reprogrammed the system in that instance because of the 
multitude of Uncles roaming the station during the rift in the space-time 
continuum. Unfortunately, they didn't have the opportunity to change the 
settings back after the rift closed, and the General had returned to the 
station, only to set off his own alarm system. It had been an infuriating 
moment for the General, so he had installed a fail-safe. The card allowed 
the user access to all of CERK, including LaCroix's penthouse.
 Bonnie thought. 

     Bonnie exited the elevator absently as the door opened to the 
penthouse. A handful of steps across the dark carpet, though, and she froze. 
"Oh, my…" she breathed, her voice on the cusp of a dazed hiccup. "Oh, my, 
my…" It had finally hit her.

     She was in Lacroix's room.

     Years of curiosity denied flooded her thoughts all at once. 

     The redhead's fiendishly gleeful face fell, and she looked suspiciously 
up at the ceiling.  Bonnie 
began to pace across the floor in frustration.  She paused 
abruptly in her walking and stomped her foot. 

     Bonnie took off across the room at a sprint. With a flying leap, she 
bounded on top of the bed, landing on her knees. With one solid bounce, she 
hopped to her feet.

     *Bounce!* *Bounce!* *Bounce!*

     "Woohoo!" Bonnie cried with the pure, childish joy of bouncing on 
LaCroix's bed without permission.

     *Bounce!* *Bounce!* SNIP! Thunka-thunka-thunk! 

     At an inopportune moment upon contact with the bed surface, the heel of 
one of Bonnie's non-sensible shoes punctured the satin duvet. Her shoe 
snagged, and she was caught off balance, tumbling to the floor with one foot 
left bare. "Oof!"

     Bons crawled to her knees, straightening her skirt in a pathetic 
attempt to maintain dignity. Slowly, she peered over the edge of the 
mattress, her eyes taking in the damage.

     "Oops," Bonnie said as she extracted her non-sensible shoe from where 
it staked the bed. She'd done it. She'd well and truly vandalized LaCroix's 
stuff.  she lectured herself, eyeing the 
hole the size of a quarter in the middle of the formerly unblemished 

     Bons limped away in horror.  She hopped up and 
down like an epileptic flamingo for several seconds while she crammed her 
shoe back on her foot. She then frantically scanned her surroundings for a 

      "Time for some decorative pillows," she mused. She piled them on, 
grabbing cushions from every nook and cranny she could find them until the 
bed's surface resembled a bubbling pot.

       Then Bonnie turned away, straightened her shoulders, and marched with 
a good measure of solemnity toward LaCroix's desk.

     "I never touched anything but the Cousinly Rolodex! Honest!" she 
practiced saying for good measure.

      she thought. 


     Cousin NightHawk was hunched over an exam paper. She couldn't have told 
you the subject anymore. She'd had so many exams in the past week and a half 
that she spit information out on instinct. No emotion. No panic. Jen 
studied, tested, then studied some more. Sleep wasn't an option, simply a 
dim fairytale belonging to the past - long before she became a sophomore at 
Texas A&M.

     This was her last test in the latest wave, however, a night exam, and 
the darkness beckoned her from the classroom widow. Tonight she would sleep, 
perchance to dream. She was giddy with the prospect. One more essay…one more 
essay, and she was free!

     NightHawk scribbled furiously on her paper, the end of exam hell 
minutes away, her soft bed beckoning her home. She heard the sound of the 
classroom door opening, which was strange. It was much too late for 
stragglers to come in on the test. She glanced up from her paper for a quick 
peek at the front of the room.

      Jen gave a startled blink, saw the Dean bend his 
head in conversation with her professor, then tried to refocus her attention 
on her test. Two more sentences to go…

     Succumbing to another peek, Nighthawk noticed this time that the Dean 
had an open portable phone in his hand.  She gave 
a small shrug of her shoulders and turned back to her exam once more. Last 

     "Miss Connally?" the professor called.

     NightHawk looked up, startled. "Huh?"

     The professor crooked a finger. "Come here. Bring your exam."

      NightHawk's thoughts raced as she rose from her chair. 

     She brushed her long brown hair away from her shoulders, grabbed her 
stuff, then walked defiantly to the front of the room.

     "Are you almost finished with your exam?" the professor asked 

     Jen handed over her paper. "I'm done."

     The professor appeared relieved. "Good. The Dean has a phone call for 

     NightHawk looked at the head of the university in surprise. The man 
appeared somewhat distraught and very, very nervous.

     "Please take the call, Miss Connally," he urged. "It's very important 
that you do. You can keep the phone - anything - just tell her that I 
cooperated. Please!"

     "O-kay," Jen said in a humoring tone as she took the portable. "Mind if 
I step outside?"

      "No! No! Please go!" Both men shooed her away.

     NightHawk was shaking her head as she closed the door behind her. 
"Hello?" she said into the receiver.

     "This is Cousin Bons."

     "Since when is the Aggie Dean my personal secretary?" Jen asked 

     "Since I found something interesting about him in LaCroix's files, and 
I really, really needed to contact you."

      "Oh, really?"

      "Really," Bons stated. "This is a call to war. The General wants you 
in Toronto pronto. Your travel arrangements are all in order. The Dean will 
handle things on the school end. Kewl?"

     "Kewl," NightHawk sighed. 


     Nish was painting when the phone rang. Her descent into Cousindom had 
brought her a new appreciation for drawing cows, and Nish could draw cows. 
Really Kewl Cows.

     This particular masterpiece was destined to be a gift for Cousin Cherri 
- who knew cows better? Surely Cherri would appreciate her artistic talents 
the most!

     An operator was on the other end of the line. "I have a call from 
Canada for Nishmet Malof."

     "That's me," Nish said, darkening another spot on the Really Kewl Cows.

      Another voice came on the line. "This is Cousin Bons. This is a call 
to War. LaCroix wants you to report to Toronto immediately."

     Nish dropped her paintbrush. Her Dalmatian, Ficha, immediately started 
to sniff at it, but Nish brushed her away. "You're joking."

     "No, I wouldn't kid about something like this. Have a gazillion Cousins 
p.o.'ed at me? I don't think so. This is not a drill; it's the real thing. 
There's tickets at the airport under you name. A money wire should be 
arriving momentarily to cover your cab fare and other expenses."

     Nish started at the knock on her front door. Opening it, she found a 
delivery boy. He held out a clipboard and an envelope. "Sign here, please."

     Nish did, closed the door, then inspected the contents of the envelope. 
There were several hundred dollars in Mexican and Canadian bills. "I think 
the money just got here."

     "Good," Bons said. "Now catch that plane!"

     "But what about my law classes?" Nish protested.

     "I've already taken care of it. No problem."

     "I've got to do something with my dog!" Nish insisted.

     "Bring her along. Trust me - CERK practically becomes a zoo during 

     "Alright, then. I'll get packing." Nish pondered tossing a couple 
'General Hospital' tapes in her luggage in case she had withdrawal.

     "Oh, one more thing…" Bons said.


     "Since you're in Tijuana, can you pick up a case of tequila and bring 
it along? With some of these FK fans, that might come in handy."

     "Can do." Nish had a sudden thought. "Hey! I just finished a painting 
of Really Kewl Cows. Should I bring that?"

     "Oooo….yeah! Show it to Cherri!"


     NuitCoeur propped back her first-class seat, adjusted her pillow, and 
tried to get in a little nap. This plan was foiled, however, by a flight 
attendant tapping her on the shoulder. "Excuse me, Miss?" NuitCoeur glanced 
up sleepily. The attendant was holding out a phone. "You have a call, Miss."

     NuitCoeur sobered, straightening abruptly in her seat. She was 
thousands of feet in the air. How could anyone know where she was? "Are you 
certain you have the right person?" she asked impatiently. The attendant 
nodded, so she took the phone. "Hello?"

     "Where are you?"

     "Umm…somewhere over New York? Who is this?" NuitCoeur demanded.

     "This is your faction leader speaking, at least one of them. Cousin 
Bons. LaCroix wants you to come to Toronto immediately."

     "Well, that's convenient - I'm on a plane to Toronto," NuitCoeur 
informed her.

     "Ah…I just had your flight number, not your destination," Bons said. 
"So how come you're already on your way here, when you're supposed to be in 

     "I was cutting classes, saw a bit in the Dallas paper about the new 
software Dark Dimensions is releasing and how they were planning a party, so 
I thought I'd drop in."

     "You know, NuitCoeur, when most people cut classes, they got to the 
mall, not another country."

     "So I'm not most people," NuitCoeur countered.

     The woman on the other end of the line sighed. "Fine. I still have a 
couple dozen people to call. Just report to CERK as soon as possible, or 
Uncle will be displeased." The line clicked, and there was a dial tone. 
NuitCoeur handed the phone back to the flight attendant, shaking her head as 
she settled back down to her nap.  she 
thought with awe. 

     NuitCoeur dreamed of goth parties instead.


     Cousin Perky was acting as a bouncer. The bar's name was The Bronze, 
and a couple patrons were acting unruly. Boot, boot…out they went.

     Of course, this wasn't a real bar. It was a virtual one on WBS. Cousin 
Perky wasn't guarding a door, but sitting at her computer in her home. There 
were certain atmospheric touches, however. For one, the sounds of Tool's 
'Aenema' CD played loudly in the background. Furthermore, Cousin Perky was 
built like a bouncer. She was six feet tall with a healthy amount of muscle 
due to constant labor. After all, she lived on a pig farm. Farm work tends 
to make a Cousin buff.

     Suddenly, she felt too impatient to sit at the monitor any longer. 
 Cousin Perky booted everyone off 
and went in search of something to do that would keep her from bouncing off 
the walls in boredom. 

     The phone rang.


       The person on the other end of the line sounded slightly hoarse. 
"Cousin Perky?"


     "This is Cousin Bons. There's war breaking out here, and LaCroix wants 
you to report for duty lickety-split."

     "Here? You mean Toronto?" Cousin Perky sat down again. "How am I 
supposed to get there?"

     "I have plane tickets and travel money waiting at the airport."

     "Wow…Hey! Cousin Tser went to Toronto last week! Did she know this was 

      "Nope. She just brought the Cousinly Critters here for playtime. It's 
simply a coincidence," Bons assured her.

       Cousin Perky rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Do you need any more 
critters? You know I have access - I live on a farm. If you want a couple 
dozen pigs, consider it done."

      There was a pause. "Hmm. Noooo…I think after the goat experience last 
war, a herd of pigs won't go over well."

     "What about a cow?" Perky suggested. "Can you use a cow?"

     "Act-ually," Bons said, "we kind of already have one. Cousin Cherri 
used to be a cow."

     Perky's mouth dropped open. "*Used* to be?"

     "She got better."

     "Ah," Perky tried to sound as though that answer made logical sense. 
"Well, in that case, is there anything I can do?"

      "You manipulate photographs don't you?"

      "I most certainly do!"

      "Well…" Bonnie suggested. "I have an idea for a photo spread a few of 
the Cousins might enjoy. Yep, yep…Shele and Jules will love it!"

     Cousin Perky bounced in her chair. "Let me at it!"


     Trakal crossed her sneakered feet as she lounged in front of the 
television, then gave a dreamy sigh. 

     She rewound the video, listened to the theme song, then made another 
sound of lustful contentment as she heard her favorite character's voice 

     Trakal sat up, then brushed her dark brown hair out of her eyes so she 
could get a full gander at her hero.


     Trakal was now watching 'Tenchi Muyo In Love' for the thirty-forth 
consecutive time. She was going for the world record. Forty-two more airings 
and she would be on the books. Trakal had all the supplies she needed: a 
stack of pizza boxes, a cooler full of sodas, tissue, her remote, and her 
own representative from Guinness. Luckily, she was allowed bathroom access 
during rewinds.

     The phone next to the kitchen door rang. Trakal didn't look up from 
Operative A's face. She was supposed to be watching anime, not talking on 
the phone. The representative from Guinness, however, picked up the 
receiver, just in case it was one of her superiors on the line.

     "Hello?…She can't come to the phone right now, can I take a 
message?…No, she really can't come to the phone…Yes, Miss. I'm sure it *is* 
very important, but Trakal is in the midst of a project that mark her in the 
annals of history for all time!…You want to know what she's doing?…Why, yes! 
She's watching 'Tenchi Muyo In Love' consecutively seventy-six times…Miss, 
there's no need to scream…You want me to what?…Repeat your instructions to 
her? Hmm. I suppose there's no regukation against that as long as she keeps 
her eyes on the TV…"

     Trakal grabbed a piece of pizza and sighed at Operative A once more. 
Nothing was remotely as important as 'Tenchi Muyo in Love' except -

     "She says she's Cousin Bonnie, calling for someone named Lacroix," the 
Guinness representative said.

     Trakal dropped her pizza.

     "She says there's a war breaking out in Toronto, she has a plane ticket 
waiting for you at the airport, and if you're not on it, you're going to 
wish you had a world record in watching 'Vampire Hunter D.' Does that make 
any sense?"

     "Oh, yes. Yes, it does." Trakal brushed off her jeans as she stood, 
then stopped the videotape. "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be able to make 
the world record. Tell Bonnie I'm on the way."

     The representative frowned and said sourly into the phone, "She's on 
her way…What?" The rep cradled the receiver on her shoulder. "Trakal, bring 
your 'Tenchi' video. Bonnie says there's a Knightie leader who likes that 
kind of stuff."

     "Hmm…" Trakal mused as the Guinness rep hung up the phone. "You wanna 
free trip to Toronto? Maybe I can try again there!"


     Bonnie plopped into the squooshy rec room chair with a heavy sigh. It 
had been a lengthy task, but she had done her best to contact everyone in 
the Cousinly Rolodex. It was out of her hands and up to the airlines now.

     A large bowl of cappuccino beckoned her from the coffee table. She 
lifted it reverently, savoring the sweet aroma of the foam, lingering over 
the first robust, buttery taste of the Sulawesi brew. It was a perfect quiet 
moment with nothing, nothing to do but vegetate.

     A shadow fell over her chair. Bons looked up to see LaCroix glowering 
down at her. For once, she wasn't happy to see him. "What is it now?" she 
sighed in a tone of voice that, if she'd been thinking with her brain rather 
than her addiction to caffeine, she would have known was asking for a 
punctured neck.

     "You have to find Tok." This was an order, not a suggestion.

     Bonnie frowned. "But when I passed her room, I saw a couple of her cats 
and her stuff."

     "But not *her.*" LaCroix handed her a business card, complete with 
address. "Dark Dimensions unveiled a new software product today, and they 
are throwing a party. Tok may be there with her friends. She must learn of 
this research outrage immediately. *Don't* return without her."

     "Yes, sir."

     LaCroix turned and was gone. Bonnie looked sadly down at her cappuccino 
and waved. "Bye-bye, coffee."

     As Bons slid behind the wheel of her vroom-vroom, she realized with 
dismay that she had left her bag of new non-sensible shoes in the penthouse, 
next to LaCroix's desk. She turned the car's ignition, then noticed there 
was something in her skirt pocket jabbing her leg. Bonnie slipped it free, 
her face brightening as she discovered the all-access security card. 

     But first, there was the Dark Dimensions party.

Fin for now…

by John Ewan, Lisa McDavid

Saturday, April 25, 6 PM

"'ell!" cried the RatPacker as he waved the doggie chew toy, "Oi thot ya
wanted ta 'ire me fer a job, not feed me ta a *monster*!"  The large Borzoi
was crouched before Johnsie, its wagging tail held high as its eyes
followed the knotted rawhide.

"But Boris looks to be okay with you." McLisa replied.

Johnsie held up a scratched hand, "Oi meant th' lil beastie.  M'thinks hit
dunt loik me scent or sumthin'."

McLisa petted the siamese who eyed Johnsie and Boris with equal degrees of
loathing.  "I do want to hire you.  I need to get into CERK, tonight."

Johnsie shrugged, "No problem.  They kidnap folks alla time, drag'em in fer

McLisa's eyes went wide, "I don't *want* to be tortured!  I just want to
get in and out..."

The RP Leader dropped the chew toy, to Boris's delight, and gave the woman
such a look.  "Yew wanna get out?  oh, probably without bein' seen, I
guess?"  To her nod he shook his head, ponytail flopping about.  "Oh, man,
that'll be tough.  Oi've only hever bin thrown out afore."  He pondered for
a moment, looking not at all like Rodin's 'Thinker' and said, "Shur, we kin
dew it!  Gimme an 'our, Oi'll fink o' sumthin'"

McLisa said, "I want rats."

"O' course ya want rats, why helse wud ya called moi?"

"Pink rats."

"Pink rats?"

"That glow in the dark."

"Wot dew *WOT*?!?"

McLisa holds up a vial, "Have them drink this, it'll do the trick.  There's
enough for 5,000 rats there."

Johnsie's brows shot up, as he took the vial, "Wow, this moight be fun
after all.  Seeya at CERK inna 'our."


McLisa followed the line of faintly glowing pink rats around the corner of
the dreaded monolith that was CERK.  CERK.  Second to none as a place of
dire deeds and bastion of those who chuckle evilly, second only to swiss
cheese for the number of holes that could be found in its defenses by the
truely demented.

"Johnsie?"  McLisa whispered to the RatPacker at the bottom of the ladder.
"Johnsie, why are you glowing pink?  The *rats* were supposed to glow pink!"

"They dew!"  He replied, "But Oi cud honly getchya five hunnert rats so
they wuz stuff left over and Oi tasted it!  Wuzzn't bad."

He began climbing the ladder, along with the last of the rats.  McLisa
shook her head, but followed anyway.  The roof was an undulating pink glow.
 Johnsie stood by an open air conditioning vent with climbing gear marked
with partially obliterated Be##.  He raised his hand, gestured as he
pointed fingers.  One...Two... The RPer stared at his hand with a frown,
then suddenly nodded with a smile, Three!  The rats moved in a perversely
lovely neon wave into the airshaft, followed by Johnsie and somewhat
relunctantly by McLisa.

At the first juncture down, Johnsie slid to the side and had McLisa pause.
"Listen fer screams, many dramatic sitcheeashuns is preceded by screamin'."

The sound of much yelling, getting louder and louder, came through the
various vents.  Screams suddenly rent the air.  "Cuzzins never screams 'til
ratsies funs over theys feet.  They 'ates 'avin' ratsies fun over theys
feet."  Johnsie whispered, semi-sagely.

>From a vent near where they cowered a door slammed open.  No sound was
made, no word spoken but the powerful rage could be felt as it passed by
and headed downstairs.

Johnsie nodded, "Weez in!"  and slid backwards to a vent, kicked it out and
dropped from view.  As McLisa slid down to the floor, she saw the RatPacker
with a few finely furred wriggling rats, juggling them much the same way he
had the chew toy with Boris.  As he dropped them, Fred the Eagle swooped
from the bust of The General smoothly and caught his meal.  Johnsie then
moved to help McLisa lift the bust, and she reached into the recess below.
A pair of cats appeared from the shadows, their eyes golden inthe darkness.

"It's empty!"

There was the scittering of paws around the room, getting closer.

"Good, let's go!"

Furry things ran over Johnsie's feet, hissing and snarling.

"But... the notes should be here!"  McLisa stepped back to think and with a
squeal, went down in a tumble over some mobile dindin!

Johnsie shoved the bust back in place, then rushed to the fallen employer,
who was on the floor, gazing into the eyes of the cat who's supper she had
trod on.

"H'R yew okay?"  Johnsie asked, putting his hand gently on her shoulder.

He quickly drew his hand back, a matching scratch on it as on the other.
McLisa looked into his pinkly glowing eyes and hissed.

"Oh, boy."  Johnsie backed up towards the wall, and as McLisa shifted into
pounce position he scrambled up into the vent and only lost a sneaker to
his new predator.

"Iffen Oi gets ta the rope Oi'm okay."  he got to the rope, something was
scrambling into the vent after him, something the size of a woman.

"Iffen Oi gets down the ladder Oi'm okay."  He scrambled up the rope, got
down the ladder and heard the hiss as the ladder rattled.

"Iffen Oi 'ad a dog, oi'd be okay."  and he thought of a dog, a big dog
that was friendly ta cats... and he took off running.

"Iffen Oi dunt look back, Oi won't know iffen she gainin'!"

so he never, ever looked back... so he never, ever knew what hit him.

John the Ratpacker/Merc "Leader o' the Pack!"***CREW-member***
....as Sara Orel so Merc-antilely put it,"...but I do want bribes.
That is all that I want to discuss.  Bribes.  Bribes.  Bribes."


Sleeping With Vampenemy
By Patt Elmore
Time:  Early, early Sunday, after Care and Maintenance of Your Average
Coercive Vampire and Addicted to War 3/3
Place:  Northern Louisiana


Patt felt as beaten as a catahoula hound dog panting under a
front porch on a humid summer day in south Louisiana.

And, unlike the above mentioned canine, her worries showed
no sign of abating with a setting sun.

A slightly less emaciated Spark sat in her passenger seat,
alternately smacking his lips and humming "Born to be Wild."

"Where do you want me to drop you?" Patt finally asked,
noting his glance to the east.

"Drop me?" Spark said thoughtfully, then be smiled a broad
evil smile.   "Your friend Sylvia's might be a nice place to
squander the day, don't you think?"

The Third Cousin sighed heavily, and Spark broke into a loud
laugh.  "I didn't think you'd agree with me, my dear," he
acknowledged with the superior  smirk which Patt was quickly
growing to hate.   "Therefore, I suggest you find me safe and
suitable shelter for the day."

"Local mausoleum?" Patt muttered under her breath.

Spark looked appalled.  "Too Goth for my tastes," he noted.
"Try again."

"How does La Quinta  sound," Patt replied.

"Too many windows," Spark said, shaking his head.  "And, the
maids tend to be intrusive."

"Want to spend the day in one of the casinos?" Patt asked
hopefully, thinking Spark just might get lucky and hook up
with some rich woman who would take him back to Dallas
with her.

"That *is* an intriguing idea," Spark nodded, but then quickly
shook his head.  "Alas, the timing is not good, as I need rest to
recover and," he looked down at his tattered, gore-splattered
garments, "I'm not exactly dressed for such an occasion."

"No . . . you're not,"  Patt agreed begrudgingly.   "So, we're
back to my original question--where do you suggest I take

Spark smiled broadly again, and Patt thumped her head against
the steering wheel in defeat.

"Relax," Spark said in smug triumph, "your little friends are
safe . . . for now.  I was thinking more of a place convenient for
both of us . . . yours."

"My what?"  The Third Cousin looked at the vampire with

"Your place," Spark said reasonably.

Patt slammed on the brake pedal hard.  The truck slid to a stop,
tires smoking and smelling of protesting rubber.

"NO WAY IN HE . . ."  Patt's voice was vehement and loud.

"No way in what?"  Spark's voice was soft and even more

"No way that I'm taking you to *MY* home," Patt said hoarsely,
her voice now low.  "No way you are coming into *my* house."

"Well," Spark said, sitting back and crossing his arms across his
chest.  "I can always find shelter at Sylvia's . . ."

Ten minutes later, Patt pulled the pickup into the driveway of
her modest home.  Spark looked around, amused as he noted
the location.  "Weren't we here just a short while ago.  That *is*
the lovely Sylvia's home next door to yours, is it not?"

"Just get out of the truck," Patt replied, opening the driver side
door.  Then, she swallowed hard.  "And come in."

"How can I refuse such a charming invitation," Spark hissed
happily, sliding out the passenger side.

Patt met him at the front of the truck, taking his arm by instinct
rather than good sense.  "Listen, Sparky, my mother lives with
me.  She's elderly, half-blind and has an attitude that won't quit.
 She will not take kindly to my bringing home a stranger to
spend the night, especially one of the male variety.  She already
thinks I'm strange, and bringing a dirty, blood-soaked, smelly
guy like you home is not going to impress her."

"Smelly?" Spark feigned hurt.

Patt shook her head in defeat.  "Just give it a rest for a minute,
okay?  All I'm asking is that you let me go in first, by myself,
and make sure the coast is clear.  I'll sneak you into the spare
bedroom, tuck you away and you'll have the whole day to
snooze, undisturbed.  You already have an invitation into my
home, so if I come up short on my part of the bargain, you can
barge on in at will.  Just do me this favor, okay?  I don't want
any more grief with my Mom than I have to have."

Spark smiled, almost gently.  "Parents can be trying, can't they.
I remember mine.  Nice folks.  Tasty, too."

Patt sighed again, then trudged toward her carport entry door.
As she did, the porch light clicked on.  A small woman,
perhaps four feet ten inches in height, poked a graying head
between the curtains.

Patt spun quickly, bent on warning the vampire to hide.  To her
surprise, Spark had vanished.

Breathing a small prayer of thanks, Patt continued toward the
side entrance, watching as the door swung open.

"About time you got your butt home," the elderly woman
remarked, opening the door further so that Patt could just
squeeze inside.  Macular degeneration had altered the woman's
depth perception, and Elizabeth Elmore had a hard time
judging just how much room to allow for her ample daughter.
Patt brushed against her mother, who squinted and began
clucking in disapproval regarding her child's appearance.

"Where the dickens have you been?"  Liz asked, trailing Patt as
the younger woman walked across the room.  "I saw you drop
Mark off over two hours ago.  Have you been out who . . ."

"MOM!" Patt turned in surprised protest.

"Just asking," Liz said, walking past Patt to the sink and picking
up a water glass.  "I thought you might have got lucky out in
those woods."

Patt mournfully shook her head.  "The only thing I got
out in the woods was increased grief."  The Third Cousin leaned
over and planted a quick kiss on the elderly woman's cool
cheek. "Good night, Mom."

"Good night," Liz said, water glass to her lips.  She watched
Patt as the woman turned to go down the hall.  "Aren't you
going to check your computer mail?"

"Not tonight, Mom," Patt replied.  "I'm just too tired."

The older Elmore raised a skeptical eyebrow.   "You feeling

Patt managed a weak smile.  "Yea . . . just tired."  The mature
addict turned to go down the hall again.

"You got a phone call . . . from Canada," Liz announced.  Patt
stopped short and turned around, waiting.  "From someone
named . . . Rutabaga?"

Patt closed her eyes, wincing.  "Rutledge?"

"That sounds right," Liz confirmed, sitting her glass down on
the counter with a loud clink.   The elderly woman reached
over to the pad where she wrote messages and ripped off the
top sheet of paper, handing it to Patt.  "Said you need to
call her right away.  Very important.  Must be something to do
with that vampire stuff you're into."

"Yea, Mom," Patt capitulated.  "It has to be about those
vampires.  I'll use the phone in the bedroom.  Thanks."

"Hmmmffff," Liz replied, walking to the door and flicking off
the kitchen light, intent on following her daughter down the
hall.  "You'd better leave those vampire's alone or someday, one
of them is going to bite you."

"You're probably right, Mom," Patt agreed, pushing her
bedroom door open.  She glanced into the room, expecting to
find her dogs, Fred and Barney, curled up on the bed asleep.
What she had not expected to see was a lounging Spark.  Patt's
eyes flew open wide and she quickly slammed the bedroom
door behind her, almost rearranging her maternal parent's
facial structure.

"Well, goodnight then," Liz huffed from behind the closed
door.  Then there was silence.

"What are you doing in *here*?" Patt whispered to Spark, her
anger rising.

"Getting to know your pets," Spark said amiably, reaching out
to give Barney, the Chihuahua/Poodle-mix a friendly pat on
the rump.  He leaned closer to Barney and cooed, "Tu quieres un

"Leave my pups alone," Patt threatened.

"My, my," Spark sat back, blinking innocently.  "Such hostility
when I was just being friendly."

"The spare room is next door," Patt informed the vampire.
"Make yourself at home."

"Tsk, tsk . . . Patricia," Spark tsk tsked.  "Such rudeness to your
guest, what with my being quite comfortable where I am.  This
is the most restful bed in the house, isn't it?  Why don't you just
ignore me and go about your tasks."  He narrowed his eyes
meaningfully.  "Don't you have someone you're supposed to

"Eavesdropper," Patt complained, but she knew he was right.
She could ignore Jules' calls,--since the High Priestess was in a
rather mellow state at the moment--but if her red-haired
running pal had called, it must be important.  Resigned, Patt sat
down on the side of the bed and reached for the telephone.

Three rings and she was connected to Toronto.

"Hello?" a strange voice answered the number that the Scribe
had left her.

"Yea . . . this is Patt.  Let me talk to Bonnie, please."

"She's in conference," the clipped female voice responded.

"I'm returning her call," Patt replied.

"I'm sorry," the voice turned cold and haughty, "but Cousinly
War Leader Rutledge is too busy to take any calls at this time."

"War Leader Rut . . . " Patt's voice became inaudible as the
word's sunk in.   Then she repeated the phrase, volume
increasing.  "War Leader Rutledge?   "WHAT DO YOU

"If you're going to shout, then I'm hanging up," the person on
the other end of the line said.   Then, after a pause, she
continued.  "In fact, I'm going to hang up anyway."


Patt sat there for a moment, flabbergasted.  Then, despite not
having returned the last five calls from the High Priestess, Patt
quickly punched in Jules' cell phone number.

"Hello," the High Priestess answered, sounding preoccupied.

"Jules?  This is Patt.  What's going on?"

"WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU, ELMORE?!" Patt quickly held
the phone away from her, surprised at the ferocity in the
Priestess' voice.

"Errrr . . .  Shreveport," Patt replied, carefully returning the
receiver to her ear.  "Errrr . . . remember--you sent my on an

"That was four weeks ago, dear twit," Jules replied.

"Yea, but it didn't turn out to be such an easy mission, Jules,"
Patt protested hedgily.  "Home Depot doesn't carry that
particular item, so I had to seek someone to make it special
order.  I remembered a welder in Bossier City, so I figured I'd
just come down here and . . ."



"Shut up and listen."

"Yesum."  Patt shut up and listened.

"A War has been declared.  Get yourself to Toronto
immediately, or I will be displeased."


"You're driving, aren't you?  Caren needs transportation, so go
by and pick her up.  Between the two of you, you should be
able to drive non-stop and be here by tomorrow."

"Oh.  Jules?"


"Errr . . . what's this about Rutledge being a Cousinly War

Jules chuckled.  "Nifty, isn't it?  Uncle has appointed our own
little daisy as one of his Cerebrus heads.  What a coup for
Nunkies Anonymous."

"Yea . . . I suppose," Patt grumbled.  "But why'd he chose
Rutledge?  Why not you?"

There was a pause at the other end, then a giggle.  "How should
I know, Patt?  Maybe he has *other* plans for me."  Then the
copper-haired woman's voice grew serious again.  "But, the
important thing is that LaCroix has made his assignments and
needs all our cooperation and aid.   Twenty-four hours, Elmore,
and I want you standing in the Shrine.   Capishe?"

"Yea, yea, yea," Patt replied, hanging up the receiver.  She
sighed heavily and started to fall back into the comfort of her

She stopped in mid-drop, though, when a silky male voice
cooed into her ear.

"What's a War?"


NunkMommy to the Caymans
by Annie Raper
After Addicted to War 3/3

Time: 8:00 a.m., Sunday, April 26

[ "...and now dearest Annie, I must take my leave,"  Lacroix murmured softly
into the NunkMommy's ear, and then kissed her gently on the cheek.  "Parting
is such sweet sorrow, my dear, but ''il the morrow....."  and he was gone,
leaving Annie all warm and tingly and cozy under the covers.]

The door to the NunkMommy's room swung open, a worried High Priestess 
in the doorway.

"So there you are, Annie!" Jules exclaimed.  Quickly she marched over to the
bed, red hair swinging, and yanked the covers away from Annie.  "Daylight's
burning and you have business to attend to.  Quit dreaming about Nunkies and
get into motion, Raper."

Annie leveled a gaze at the High Priestess that would have been withering if
she'd been able to open her eyes.  "Feh," she croaked.  "Coffee?"

Jules placed a cup and saucer on the bedstand, next to the Nunkies alarm 
clock and a framed snapshot of Annie and Lacroix from "Better Than Chocolate".  
"How about some English Breakfast instead?" Jules asked as she sat on the edge of
the bed.

Annie nodded, picked up the cup and brought it to her lips.  "It's caffiene 
-- that's all that counts." She took a long draught from the cup, enjoying the
warmth, and slowly becoming alert to her surroundings.  "Jules?  How did you
know I was dreaming about Lacroix?"

Jules gave Annie a knowing smile.  "Who else would produce that contented 
look on your face?   Besides, it was hanging over the bed....scroll up and you'll
see it."

Annie mentally scrolled up and sure enough, there was the last remnant of 
her dream.  "Hmmm," she mused.  "Good thing it was over."  She set the cup back 
on it's saucer, and said, "Okay, Jules, I'm ready to go to the bank."  She got
out of bed and walked to the door.  She was stopped by a discreet  cough 
from the red-headed Priestess.  She turned and faced Jules.  "What is it?"

"Dear, you look lovely in your peignoir, but perhaps something else would be
more appropriate for the bank?"

Annie looked down at her attire, pinked slightly, and headed for the 
Wardrobe Room.  "I need more caffiene.  Another war, and I'll be as addicted to the
stuff as Bonnie is."


Annie breezed into the Kitchen/Laboratory of the Shrine, all crisp and 
springy in a sleeveless, fuschia linen column dress and her up in a twist.  Jules 
was at the counter, preparing another cup of tea for herself.  "I'm ready to go.
Do I look Cayman-ish enough?"

Jules looked up from her tea.  "That was quick," she said giving Annie a
glance over to make sure everything was in place.

"Fanfic faeries," Annie replied.

"And isn't your hair, er, lighter?" Jules queried.


"And aren't you, um, a little darker than you were ten minutes ago?" Jules

"Faeries with sunless tanning spray.  Gotta look like I belong.  Tastefully,
of course.  When in Rome ...."  Annie looked around the Kitchen/Lab.  "Where
is everyone?"

"Taking care of NSVV training," Jules responded.  "Everything is in place.
Are you ready to go?"

Annie looked warily at the tunnel entrance, gulped, and nodded.  "I'm ready.
It won't take a moment. I'm hoping that, at any rate."  She walked to the
tunnel, stepped in.  "Wish me luck, Jules!"

Jules gave Annie a slight hug. "Luck," she said with a grin.  "Now, off with

Annie disappeared, and Jules returned to her Earl Grey.  "Moh!! Mi volmoft
forgoth!" came from the tunnel, followed by Annie.

"Jules!! I almost forgot!" Annie pulled a peice of paper out of her
pocketbook.  "Get this to the newspaper or the radio station to announce our
reward for the return of Natalie's research while I'm gone." She handed the
paper to Jules.

[ ..... For Immediate Release
        Contact: Annie Raper or Jules Stafford
                     The Jeweled Peach

April 26, 1998 ... In the desire to aid the return of Dr. Natalie Lambert's
stolen research, Nunkies Anonymous is offering an addition $500,000 reward 
to the person or persons returning said research.  For more information, 
contact Annie Raper, Founder of Nunkies Anonymous, or Jules Stafford, High Priestess
to the Shrine of Nunkies, at the Jeweled Peach.....]

Jules eyed the release for any necessary corrections.  "Looks good, Annie.
I'll take care of it."  The High Priestess re-folded the paper and placed it
on the counter.

"Great! Now, I'm off! See ya shortly!" Annie waved and disappeared once more
into the tunnel.

Annie was not prepared for what lay in store......

Continued in "Winding Her Way Through The Tunnel O'Doom"

Rats In His Belfry (1/2)
Part One: Triple Threat
By Bonnie Rutledge
Starring: The Cousinly Cerberus and Cousin Cherri
Time: Nearing Dawn,  Sunday Morn, April 26th
After 'Never Underestimate the Ingenuity of a Fool'

     It was dark and Bons was being sneaky. She'd given NuitCoeur a ride 
home from the Dark Dimensions party, then left the Cousin to unpack her 
luggage. She'd completely avoided the sound booth. LaCroix was still 
broadcasting, pausing in his hostile speeches intermittently to inspect his 
legions as they arrived. Bonnie then slinked past the War Room, where Bob 
was fiddling with security. 
    She pretended to be invisible as she dipped into the private elevator 
and zipped the keycard-that-she-really-should-have-returned-to-LaCroix-by-
now through the code pad. She was not here. She was not slipping back to the 
General's penthouse without permission to fetch her new non-sensible shoes. 

     She fell to her knees and closed her eyes as the lift door opened, 
wishing that the lights were still off and no hidden cameras would pick her 
up as she crawled across the floor. She edged forward, eyes still squeezed 
shut, thinking not-getting-caught thoughts. The elevator door closed.

     She felt furry things swarming over her hands and lower legs.
!!!!!!!!!!" Bons screamed.

     "AAAA!!!" she added for good measure.
     Bonnie reared back, slipped on her non-sensible soles, and landed hard 
on her rear, squashing something warm and wriggly upon impact so that it 
squeaked. Her eyes popped open in shock. The entire floor seemed to be 
pulsing in a faint glow of pink.

     Bons felt her adrenaline surge as small, live pink things continued to 
dart over her in the unlit room. She forced herself to take slow, calming 
breaths through her nose for a minute, then gingerly climbed to her feet, 
smacking at anything pink attached to her body. One step at a time, she made 
her way toward the wall so that she could hit the light switch.

    The room illuminated, and Bonnie whirled around to discover what had 
been crawling over her.

    "Oh, rats!"

    Pink rats. Pink, glowing rats. Plump ones. Skinny ones. Baby ones. 
Bonnie picked up a pair and checked under their tails. Yep. Male and female 

    And there were hundreds of them.

    Now that she could see the creatures, the fact that they were rats 
didn't bother her. After all, she was a vet tech - she'd nursed the little 
buggers before. Not pink ones, but still rats.

   No, it had been the not knowing, the dark and the mystery that had 
bothered her earlier. Now what bothered her was the fact that they were 
squeaking and crawling over LaCroix's carpet, LaCroix's bed, and 

     He couldn't see this. Being pretty and useful could not save you from 

     Bonnie heard a flapping sound and glanced in the direction of LaCroix's 
bust. Fred the War Eagle had his wings spread to full span, obviously 
displeased at the change in light. "Tough, Freddy," she snapped. The bird 
sprang into motion, sweeping into motion so his wings buzzed her head just 
to prove a point before he swooped down to intercept a spot of prey.

     Bons let out a deep breath and decided to ignore the bird. She had a 
bad track record with birds. Birds made her think of pigeons, and she didn't 
begin to want to think of pigeons. Pigeons freaked her out. Instead, she 
tip-toed through the rodents towards the phone.

     As soon as her call began ringing, she started to chant, "Tok! Tok! 
Tok! Tok!"


      "It's Bons. Oh, Tok - you've got to come up to the penthouse right 

      "What are you doing in the penthouse?" Tok demanded. " Are you 
*supposed* to be in the penthouse?"

      "Never mind that! We have a situation. A bad situation. Is your 
palmprint still programmed into the elevator from War 8?"

      "Yes. I'll grab Bob and we'll be there in a minute."

     "Wait! Tok?…We need insurance. Can you draft a few Cousins to keep tabs 
on LaCroix?"

     "Oh, no," Tok groaned. "It's that bad?"


     "Okay. I'll get Cherri to head this up. She has experience in 
distracting and annoying Lacroix, yet has managed to survive thus far. We 
couldn't ask for better expertise or more enthusiasm. She can pick out a few 
more Cousins to help her."

    "Great! I'll see you in a few."

     Hanging up the phone, Bonnie remembered the reason why she had come 
upstairs in the first place. Her shoes! 

     She raced to the study, careless of any rodent bodies she stepped on or 
kicked aside. Bonnie caught sight of the familiar black bag beside the desk, 
covered in glowing pink bodies. She snatched her shoes off the floor, 
swatting away any rats that stubbornly clung on. The formerly pristine bag 
slipped free of the shoebox, gnawed into lacy fragments. The box had also 
been chewed, with dime-sized holes punctuating the cardboard. Bonnie flipped 
the lid open and sighed in ecstatic relief. The shoes were intact. 
Beautiful, black and non-sensible.

     Bons hugged them to her chest as she left the study. Gradually, her 
steps slowed. Her vision drifted in the direction of the bed. Furry, pink 
mammals wriggled atop the pillow covered mattress. Bonnie heard sounds of 
the elevator stopping at her floor and sprang into action, running over to 
the bed, grabbing decorative pillows, and tossing them back where they had 
originally come from as fast as she could.

     By the time Tok and Bob stepped out of the elevator, Bonnie was shaking 
her head tsking over the condition of the bed, i.e. the quarter-sized hole 
that she had punch in the duvet earlier with her heel while bouncing on it.

    Tok swallowed a gasp. "Rats! Oh, my God! They're pink! Rats aren't pink 
- that's just wrong! LaCroix cannot see this. If he sees this, we are dead. 
I have not survived two wars to die now. The third time's supposed to be the 
charm," she insisted.

    Bons shook her head. "Worst case scenario, and your vamp kitties will 
save you. Bob and I will be the one who die."

    Bob simply frowned at the pink, scurrying things. "Apparently there are 
holes in the security. Really *small* holes."

    "What should we do to get rid of the rats?" Bonnie asked.

    "I see Fred is making himself useful," Tok noted. "I'll bring Duncan, 
Willow and any other Cousinly kitties upstairs to join him."

     "My cats are still at the Shrine. Maybe Jules could bring them over," 
Bonnie said.

     "Lurch could help also," Bob suggested. "I'm sure their are suitable 
cages in the Dungeon that we could use for trapping."

     "Okay," Tok summarized, "we catch as many of these things as possible 
and get them out of here while Cherri and her commandos will prevent LaCroix 
from coming upstairs, despite the fact that the sun rises in an hour. We do 
all this, going up and downstairs with countless bundles of neon animals as 
we completely escape Lacroix's notice…oh, yes…that will happen," she said 

    "Still, we have to try," Bob insisted.

    "And quickly!" Bons seized her opportunity and pointed to the hole in 
the bed covers. "These rats are causing serious damage!" she said 

     All three Cousinly heads were turned by a sound coming from the wall. 
They exchanged worried glances. 

     "Oh, I hope they aren't in the air ducts…" Bob said, his voice filled 
with dread.

     Meanwhile, Bonnie had picked up a rat and was examining it closely. 
"Hey! These rats have glowing pink fleas!"

End of Part One
Continued in Part Two

Rats In His Belfry (2/2)
Part One: One Big Circus and a Pink Flea in the Ear
By Bonnie Rutledge
Starring: The Cousinly Cerberus, Miranda with her sidekick Michelle, Cousin 
Cherri, NuitCoeur, Kim, Tser, Cousin Bean, Trakal and lots of Critters
Time: Sunday, April 26th
After 'Never Underestimate the Ingenuity of a Fool' and 'Dark Coffee, Pink 

     "Are you ready to go back in there?" Bonnie asked.

     Tok nodded. "We have to. I have this feeling that we're running out of 

     Both women looked down at their arms, littered with tiny flea bites 
from the rat infestation. They all glowed pink.

     "I feel radioactive," Tok sighed, punching the lift doors open and 
lifting two cages inside.

     Bonnie dragged another cage behind while she held a glowing flask, 
trash bags and a pair or tweezers in the other. "How many do you think we 
have left?"

     "A couple hundred, at least. Bob's spiders are making a big impact, 

     "Talk about impact…" Bonnie sighed. The elevator opened onto the 

     Have you seen 'Titanic'? We're laying bets that you have. You know that 
scene where all those icy bodies just kind of litter the ocean, Swarming, 
then grow still and strangely pale with an unnatural glow, a few shapes 
bobbing intermittently in the water? Think that, only pink and ratty.

     Oh, yeah, and add a dozen giant felines plucking the still-wriggling 
bodies out of the ocean by their necks and smacking them around. Add a dog 
named Watson, snapping them up with quick jaws. Add an evil chicken, pecking 
anything that moves. Add an eagle, doing what comes naturally and earning a 
pinkish beak to prove it.

     Add one large robot, picking bodies up and dropping them into large 
cages, a close approximation for a lifeboat in this scenario. Add a bunch of 
mechanical spiders, doing things you'd rather not think about to those 
trying to survive.

     "You know, there was probably a more humane way to deal with this," Tok 
observed as she tried to discern live rodents from the dead ones and place 
them in the waiting cages while they still had a chance. She saw her cat 
Duncan dragging a rat along the floor by the nape, then toss it into the 
air, swiping at the still-wriggling form. The rat made a break for it, 
escaping Duncan's black paws for the moment. Tok plucked the rodent from the 
floor and dropped it into the cage.

     Bonnie was busy collecting the dead bodies, checking them for pink 
fleas, then throwing them in a trash bag. "Probably, but then, Cousins 
aren't known for their humanity."

     What began as a startling discovery had become more unpleasant with 
each passing moment. Most of the cats preyed upon the rodents relentlessly. 
Only two had proven to be exceptions: Bons' tortoiseshell, Vivian, seemed to 
like rats. She stretched on her back in an alluring posture, purring 
contentedly as the rodents crawled over her belly, tickling her long fur. 
Emily was also somewhat of a washout. She was scared of the rats until they 
were dead…*then* she'd smack them around. After a while, this became useful, 
though. Emily would pick up any dead rodents she wandered across and drag 
them to Bonnie as a trophy, letting out a proud, "Mrrah!" as she dropped 
them on her person's feet. Bons would say 'thank you' and continue on.

     'Chele's cat Wasabi had deadly claws. She would lay in wait, then 
thwap-thwap-thwap! leave a bloodied and dazed rat at her mercy. Tser's 
Cousin Gwendolyn was more lady-like. She seemed to pad daintily through the 
pink swarm then - boom! - she would pounce. Bons' Eastway, Sabu and Mariah 
seemed to compose a black trio of doom, and Willow would wind around Tok's 
feet making inquisitive noises before dashing off in a petite gray streak on 
the hunt.

     Other than the carnage, the most unpleasant development was the sheer 
damage the rats were doing. Confine any significant amount of rodents for a 
time, and they will acquire an odor. There were rat dropping everywhere and 
a growing smell of urine. Bons and Tok didn't talk about it, but reality had 
kicked in. They may be able to grab every rat before they completely 
infiltrated belowstairs if they were exceptionally lucky, but there was no 
amount of steam cleaning that would erase this stench without replacing 
everything. A vampire would pick up on it for sure.

     No, they didn't talk about it, but they knew. Tok and Bonnie continued 
their rat collection anyway, silently wondering how Bob was faring in the 
air ducts.


     Bob cursed as he slid through the air ducts on his rappelling 
equipment, rats crawling merrily past him toward the lower levels of CERK. 
 Bob thought as he adjusted his rigging, 
then dropped down to the next floor.
     The rats seemed to be everywhere, and there was every indication 
several should be communing with the Cousins by now. Bob moved to a 
horizontal shaft and edged toward a vent that opened in the sound booth 
ceiling. Prying it ajar, Bob looked carefully below, checking for signs of 
LaCroix before moving the vent significantly. 

     The room was empty of vampires…for now.

     Bob set the cover aside and dropped to the floor. Glancing around, he 
saw two glowing pink rats darting around the booth floor, sniffing curiously 
at the tape rack. Bob withdrew a cage from his backpack and placed both 
creatures inside. He then wired his lookout post. "Ace."

    "One second…okay, I'm clear."

    "Where's the General?"

     "Right now, Cherri has him distracted in the War room. She's got him 
telling Miranda and NuitCoeur all about Vietnam and his plantations. You 
know how he likes to rant about that."

     "Good. That should cover an hour…any sign of the rats in your area?"

     "Not yet. The coast is -" There came a sudden cry of 'Aaaaah!' in the 
background. "- not so clear."

     "Oh, no…contain the General!" Bob ordered.

     "Will do," Ace replied.

     Bob gave the sound booth one last lookover, then decided to follow the 


      LaCroix broke off in his diatribe concerning napalm and frowned. "I 
hear Cousins screaming." 

     Kim entered the room, adjusting an item on her GSS uniform as she 
walked and answered, "No cause for alarm, sir. Several of the Cousins are 
merely visualizing Nick as a mortal if he lays his hands on that research. 
That's cause for screaming, don't you think?"

     A dark eyebrow twitched. "Indeed."

     Cherri clenched her hands around the edge of the table. "That's a 
terrible thought. I feel a fit of screaming coming on right now. Eek! Eek!"

     NuitCoeur joined in the play. "Aaahhh! Aaa-aaa-aaaah!"

     Then Miranda actually saw one. She'd been told about the rats when 
drafted for distraction-duty, but seeing is believing. Miranda was afraid of 
real rats. "AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!"

     "Good scream, Miranda!" Cherri congratulated.

     "But…But…It's a r -"

     Miranda's sidekick Michelle cut her off. "A really good thing if you 
keep screaming. Aaah! Aaah!" She crossed the room behind LaCroix and picked 
the pink rodent up by the tail, then tossed it out the doorway, out of 
Miranda's sight.

     Kim smirked in the doorway until she heard someone running down the 
hall. "Oh my God! Did you see the sign?!?!" Trakal yelped.

     LaCroix started to rise from his War Room chair. "What is she babbling 

     "I don't know," Kim said honestly, closelining Trakal as she tried to 
run into the room, then pulling her just outside for some interrogation.

     "I know!" Cherri improvised, grabbing LaCroix's coattails and hanging 
on to hold him back. LaCroix gave in and descended into his chair once more. 
"Trakal's late! She just found out about the theft and saw you're reward in 
a flyer!" Kim pushed a dazed-looking Trakal back into the room. "You're 
late, aren't you, Trakal?"

     Trakal blinked. "Yeah, I'm late. That's all that's happened."

     LaCroix eyed her stonily. "You were here hours ago. What aren't you 
telling me?"

     "Eeek!" Cherri gurgled.

     LaCroix rose from his chair. Cherri grabbed on to his coattails again, 
but this time LaCroix didn't care. He addressed Kim. "Ace, where are the 
Cousinly Cerberus? I haven't seen them for hours. That seems suspicious, to 
say the least."

     "Uh, Bob's near the sound booth," she confessed.

     LaCroix stalked out of the room, dragging Cherri along behind him. 
NuitCoeur, Miranda, Michelle, and Kim followed close behind, while Trakal 
decided it was safer to stay where she was.

    Cousin Bean ran screaming down the hall. 

    LaCroix grabbed the Cousin by the throat and demanded, "What is it?"

    "Pink!" Bean shrieked, then, being easily startled, especially by master 
vampires holding her up by the neck, the Cousin fainted. LaCroix dropped her 
body to the floor and moved along. Cherri grunted as she was pulled over 
Bean's head.

    They found Cousinly Leader Bob just outside the sound booth. "We've been 
attacked, haven't we?" LaCroix accused. Bob motioned toward the doorway. The 
vampire approached his desk, reached behind to pry Cherri's fingers from his 
jacket, then took his chair. Tok and Bons rushed into the room, Bob having 
called them as he witnessed the General on the warpath. LaCroix steepled his 
fingers and surveyed the three heads. "Explain."

     "I think everyone's just having a mild fit of war hysteria. That's all, 
sir," Tok said with an amazing degree of calm. "War is about screaming and 
yelling and running around."

     "Really?" LaCroix challenged. "I thought it was about carnage, crushing 
the spirit of your foes and triumph."

     Bonnie nodded. "Yeah, that sounds good, too." 

     Tok nudged Bob with an elbow. "I think what Cousin Tok is trying to say 
is we have many new faction members this war. They are simply…overwhelmed 
with excitement to be Cousins."

     "Phantom," LaCroix chastised, "my legions are not in the business of 
being giddy."

     "Some of us are," Bons pointed out. "Some of us are very 
giddy…downright spastic."

     Bob noticed that Bonnie's attention was centered upon the air duct 
opening in the ceiling. As Tok continued to debate Cousinly demeanors with 
the General, Phantom watched as a cat's head popped into view. It was 
Duncan, one of Tok's cats, and he had something in his jaws. Bob suppressed 
a groan. The cat had followed the sound of its human's voice as it echoed 
through the air ducts between the penthouse and the sound booth, intent on 
bringing Tok a present.

    The feline let its new pink toy dangle above then tossed it in the air. 
Duncan swiped his paw, catching the glowing body on the tip of one claw. The 
creature's fur didn't hold, however, and dropped from the cat's grasp.

    The dead pink rat landed on LaCroix's head.

    There was silence. The Cousinly Leaders cringed inwardly at the ancient 
vampire's expression. He wasn't surprised. He wasn't furious, simply 
perfectly still and unreadable. 

     "Mrrrowr!" Duncan called from above, wanting Tok to make some 
acknowledgment of his gift.

     LaCroix slowly extracted the pink corpse from his head. He dangled it 
between thumb and index finger with distaste. "As I was saying…We've been 
attacked, haven't we?"

     "Yes, sir," the Cousinly heads nodded.


     "Sometime between midnight and dawn," Bons admitted.


     "Through the air ducts of the station," Bob explained.


     They gulped. Tok found her voice first. "Your penthouse."

     LaCroix's eyes flashed. "How many more of these creatures are there?" 
he asked, tossing the pink body aside.

     "Almost all of the animals have been removed from your rooms," Tok 

    "There's probably a hundred left running around belowstairs, though," 
Bob said grimly.

     LaCroix stood. "I will inspect my quarters…alone."

     "You might not want to do that," Bonnie said quickly. LaCroix gave her 
a look that demanded explanation. "It took a while to kill all those rats. 
They were…messy. I mean, they desecrated your stuff!" LaCroix continued to 
stare at her, aggravating her tendency for giddiness. "They peed on the 
Cousinly Rolodex!"

     The vampire turned and walked out.

     The Cousinly leaders stood shell-shocked in his wake.

     "We're still alive," Bob breathed.

     "Is that a good sign?" Bons asked Tok.

     Tok nodded, then climbed onto the General's chair to retrieve Duncan. 
"I think so. Of course, he hasn't actually seen the damage yet. Death 
warrants could change."

     Cousin Tser ran into the room, happily cuddling a pink rat. "Bons! Look 
what I found! Can I keep him?!"

    Bonnie sighed. "Yeah, Tser…you can keep him."


    They waited patiently until LaCroix returned. "It seems I will need 
alternate lodgings until the damage is repaired," he stated.

     Tok looked at Bons. Bons looked at Bob. Bob looked at Tok and shrugged. 
The General seemed unusually calm, considering the circumstances. "I'm going 
out on a limb here - are you angry with us or what?" Bons questioned.

     "You and your crew of Cousins managed to deceive me for over twelve 
hours beneath my very own roof. That is a phenomenal accomplishment. I am 
pleased at you level of deviousness and organization considering the extreme 
circumstances. HOWEVER…" LaCroix's tone of voice became decidedly less 
pleasant. "You will never again dare to deceive me again when such an attack 
happens. Save your lies for the other factions. If I ever find you hiding 
such damage from me again, there will be no mercy."

     "Ahem." Kim spoke up from just outside the doorway. "In that case, I 
suppose this would be a good time to mention that we just discovered that 
the call sign letters now read 'PERK' instead of 'CERK.'"

Fin for now…

Dressed to Kill
By Patt Elmore
Time:  Early Sunday to late evening, after Sleeping With Vampenemy
Place:  Northern Louisiana and Toronto

Patt moaned.  Whether is was a moan of pain or ecstacy, only
the mature addict knew for sure, and she wasn't talking.

She was sleeping.

After unsuccessfully trying to verbally explain the concept of
War to Spark, Patt had handed the vampire a copy of the War
training posts prepared by Susan, Laurie and Bonnie.
Engrossed, Spark read the documents while Patt busied herself
packing stuff for her trip back to Toronto.  At times the
vampire would chuckle, at other times he would hiss, but he
continued reading the transcript with rapt interest.

He was still reading when Patt completed her packing.

"You about through with that?  I need to be heading for
Canada.  I can drop you at an appropriate urban environment
along the way, okay?  How does Little Rock sound?  I
understand the city is becoming known for action."

Spark responded by waving a dismissive hand in the Third
Cousin's direction.

"Okay . . . " Patt mulled over the remembered route.  "We could
go through Paducah.  I understand they already have a cult
started which you could usurp . . ."

Spark growled low in his throat.

"Okay . . . that leaves several Ohio cities and Buffalo, New
York, if you want to remain on this side of the border.  You
really don't want to risk going through customs, do you?"

Spark shifted his sitting position, effectively turning his back on
Patt's prattlings.

Sighing, Patt sat down on the bed and kicked off her
comfortable house slippers.  She reached for her tennis shoes,
liking those for driving, and stopped at the sight of Fred, curled
up in oblivious sleep and snoring peacefully.  Patt smiled in
soft jealousy.

 she thought, drooping closer to the comfort
of her pillow.  

"Are you planning to sleep all day?"  The raspy voice of Liz
Elmore broke through Patt's REM ramblings.  The mature
addict sat bolt upright, eyes searching for her radio clock.
Three o'clock.  P.M.!!

"ACK!!" Patt rolled her body, planning to get out of bed on the
opposite side, but stopped short at the sight of Spark resting

"You're in my bed," Patt informed the semi-dozing vampire.

"You should be flattered," Spark replied, a slow smile spreading
over his drousy features.  "You now have something in
common with the charming Dr. Lambert.   You've both shared a
coverlet with the most desirable me."

"And where is Nick when you need him?" Patt replied in a
scathing tone.   "Now you know why I'm a Cousin.  Why'd you
let me sleep so long?  You know I'm supposed to be in Toronto
in," Patt glanced at the clock again and moaned, "ten hours.

"No need to panic, my dear," Spark stretched and yawned.  "We
can't be on our way until nightfall anyway.  I'll make sure we
arrive in the Great White North in time for your War."

Patt paused.  "*We* arrive?  I thought you were heading for
Chicago or something?"

Spark smiled.  "You assumed wrong.  After reading the War
notes you so generously provided, I wouldn't miss this for the

 Patt looked pained.

"But, perhaps you *should* arise.  You have errands to run."

Patt's pained expression turned to one of distrust.  "What do
you  mean . . . errands?"

"As you may have noted, although my physical appearance has
improved since feeding, my clothing still bears the evidence of
my time in the swamp lands.  To put it in a vernacular that you
can understand, I am in need of new threads."


"And . . . you are going shopping," Spark noted happily.
"Hmmmm, let's see.  I'll need some shirts--silk would be
adequate.  They should be black, or dark red if Serrafino .
16 1/2  neck with a 32/33 inch sleeve should do.   Make my
jacket a 36 long--I like lots of moving around room, you
know.  Perhaps one of Zegna's  cotton corduroy creations.
They have just a touch of cashmere, making the texture
absolutely sinful."   Spark grinned in delight.  "Trousers?  I'm
still not up to full weight, so a 30 waist should be sufficient,
with a 36 inseam.  I prefer wool crepe, Cesarani 
is nice, with 4 pletes and a relaxed fit--can't restrict the
endowments, can we?"  The vampire smiled cheekily.

"Spark," Patt said slowly.  "Just where and how do you expect
me to find that clothing you want?  This is Shreveport,
Louisiana, in case you forgot.   This isn't exactly the garment
district of the world."

"Location should not restrict one from displaying style," Spark
replied firmly.    "But, if the aforementioned cannot be found, I
can do with Gigli  or Ferre  jeans.  Just don't get any
Prada  --too military for my tastes."

"How do you feel about Wrangler from Wal-Mart Super
Center?"  Patt said, trying to keep the sarcasm from her voice.

"Wal . . . Mart," Spark said thoughtfully, then he brightened.
"Well, I suppose I can forgo Italian for English just this once.
He has shown in Milan, though, hasn't he?"

"Yea, sure," Patt nodded, grabbing her wallet and suddenly
glad she was leaving.  "By way of Benton, Arkansas, no less.  I
guess you need socks, shoes . . ."

"Boots," Spark corrected.

" . . . boots and underwear," Patt said.  Then she asked, her tone
uncomfortable.  "Boxers or briefs?"

"Neither," Spark grinned wickedly.

"Oh."  Patt turned to leave, but stopped and looked back at the
vampire.   "Listen, Sparky . . . I'll go get your clothes, but if you
hurt my mother or my dogs . . ."

Spark sat up, attentive.  "You'll what?"

"I'll be back," Patt sighed again, then left.


Purchases charged to the platinum card and stuffed in happy
face plastic sacks, Patt hovered near the pay phone bank,
waiting for one of the three patrons present to relinquish
custody of a receiver.  One mini-skirted pre-teen finally
capitulated and, popping gum gustily, hung up the handle
and turned, glaring at the mature woman.

Patt ignored the girl and retrieved the phone.  She quickly
connected with the operator, gave her the calling card number
and the number being called, and waited.  Jules answered.

"This is Patt.  I'm still in Shreveport.  Ran into some
problems . . ."

"Spare me one of your long-winded explanations," Jules said,
cutting off Patt quickly.  "Just get here as soon as you can.  This
situation could get nasty.  There's money involved."

Patt perked up.  "Money?" she repeated.

"Yes," Jules replied.  "Half-a-million dollars for the return of
Natalie's research papers . . . the reward being offered by both
the General and Nick--separately.   LaCroix is being quite
insistent that we find the papers first, if you understand my

"Yeah, yeah I do . . ." Patt looked around thoughtfully,
wondering how the weather in Tahiti was this time of year.
Still . . . half-a-million dollars would pay off her platinum card
balance where Bonnie and Dirk had . . .

"Don't forget to go pick up Caren," Jules broke into Patt's baser
thoughts of greed.  "I'm sure she's tired of sitting on the curb
outside her house, waiting for you."

"Ack!!" Patt exclaimed, and hung up the phone swiftly.  
Patt thought again, imagining Jules' expression as the phone
had gone dead.

The Third Cousin sprinted for her truck.  She climbed into the
cab and noted the time on the quartz face--5 p.m.  Caren was
going to be pissed.

Patt made the fifteen mile drive across town in two minutes.
She found Caren sitting outside on her suitcase, tapping her
foot and glaring at a group of pre-schoolers that had gathered
to watch her.

"Hi," Patt called as she drove up.

"Just turn around and drive away." Caren replied huffily.

"Uhh uhh," Patt shook her head.  "Jules gave me instructions to
bring you and bring you I will."

Caren cocked an eye at her co-worker.  "You got me into this
NA mess in the first place.  I innocently couriered some work
papers for you to Toronto, and you basically kidnapped me.  I
do have a *life* you know, and declaring a War in the middle of
Paul's baseball season is definitely not reason for me deserting
my family."

"How about half-a-million dollars?" Patt said easily.  "That's the
reward for successful completion of this assignment."

Caren stood up, tossed her suitcase into the back of the truck
and climbed in beside Patt.  "Let's go," the slim brunette said,
nodding forward.

"We have to go pick up another passenger," Patt said, wrinkling
her nose.

"Oh, do I know them?" Caren asked, hazel-green eyes wide
with interest.

"Have you seen the second season yet?"  Patt side-glanced
toward her friend.

"No," Caren admitted, "it came on during Paul's basketball

"Then, I guess it's safe to say you've never met him."  Patt said
as she pulled the truck into her driveway, just as the sun was
sitting.  "Wait here and I'll go get him."

"You're not inviting me in?" Caren seemed surprised at Patt's
lack of hospitality.

"I'll just be a minute and we really need to be getting on the
road," Patt replied, not looking back.  She didn't really want
Caren to see the fear that might be on her face, wondering what
type of carnage she might find within her home.

As Patt entered through the carport door into the kitchen, soft
laughter greeted her.  Slowly, she looked inside and was
astounded to find Spark and Liz, sitting at the table and
appearing deep in conversation.  Spark had showered and was
clothed only in one of the Third Cousin's fluffy bathtowels.  His
beard and mustache were trimmed and his hair was hanging in
silky layers down his back.  He saw Patt and smiled in greeting.
"You have my clothing?"

"Yea . . . yea."  Patt, eyes on the knotted towel, extended the
white plastic, which Spark accepted.

The vampire examined the contents with interest.   "You did
mention the Wranglers, but *what* is this?"  He poked a piece
of white cotton with his forefinger.

"Best I could do with the funds available," Patt replied.  "The
sales clerk assured me that it was all the rage on the runway."

"I see," Spark pulled the tee-shirt from the bag and shook it out
fully.  A caricature of a large yellow bird was emblazoned on
the front, it's soulful eyes and pouting beak predominent.   The
words, "I tot I saw a puddy cat" were printed underneath the

"You forgot these!" Caren called from the door, causing all eyes
to turn toward the young woman.  She caught sight of Spark
and held the boot box toward him, smiling shyly.  "Durangos,"
she said, face beaming.

"And, if you approve, I'm sure they're of excellent taste," Spark
caught Caren's hand as he accepted the box, lifting her slender
fingers to his lips.   "I assume that you are one of my *fans*?"

"I could be," Caren nodded, then grinned again.

"Not." Patt stepped between the vampire and her friend.   Patt
turned and gave Caren a withering look.

Caren's eyes flew wide in surprise.  "Oh, sorry . . . didn't know
you wanted dibs."

"There are no DIBS involved here!"  Patt caught Caren's arm
and moved her friend toward the back door.  "This is simply a
case of transportation and possible deportation.  Now, let's get
going before I have to deal with Jules and affrontation."  The
Third Cousin gave a backwards glance toward her mother,
prayed that the elder Elmore was okay and grinned.  "Bye,

"Bye . . . and you be careful."

Spark emerged a short time later, dressed in his fresh clothing
and actually looking quite nice.  Unbidden, Patt's heart did a
small flutter and she heard an audible, appreciative whistle
emit from Caren's direction.  This was going to be a
lllloooonnnnggggg trip.

"Not necessarily," Spark said as the three of them settled into
the truck cab.   "We can't risk getting caught in the daylight, so I
suggest that we speed things up a bit, shall we?"

"How do you presume that we do that?" Patt tilted her head
and addressed the vampire.  Caren, snuggled between the two
on the bench seat, batted her eye lashes innocently.

"This is fanfic, correct?" Spark asked.

Patt and Caren nodded.

"Close your eyes."

Patt and Caren complied.

"Open your eyes."

The women obeyed.  They found themselves in fast moving
traffic, a sign directly ahead announcing the Toronto city limits.

"Damn," Patt breathed in admiration.  "I could get used to this."

"If you remain in my *faction,* such pleasures could be yours,"
Spark smiled appreciatively at the Third Cousin's compliment.

"You don't have a faction, Spark," Patt reminded him,
shoulder's slumping again as she took the exit which would
take her to Yonge Street.

"Why not?" Caren asked, blinking.

"Because he wasn't resurrected before April 10th," Patt noted,
turning on Queen Street.  "And, even if he had been, I doubt
that there would have been any takers."

"I can't imagine why," Caren said, turning and giving Spark a
sparkling smile.

"You haven't seen the second season," Patt reminded her friend,
pulling the truck to a stop in front of the Jeweled Peach.
"Sparky," she leaned forward and looked past her friend to the
vampire.  "I appreciate the interstate driving help, but this is
where we part ways.  Caren and I are about to enter the Shrine
to Nunkies . . . and you can't come in."


WAR:  NA:  If It's Dark, It Must Be Toronto
by Patt Elmore and Cousin Jules
Time:  Sunday p.m., sometime after NA: Dressed to Kill
Place:  The Jeweled Peach/The Shrine to Nunkies

     The High Priestess glared at the Third Cousin, checked her wristwatch,
then returned her gaze to the object of her less than affectionate 
at the moment.

     "Gee, Patt.  What took you so long?  Mutant crawfish obstructing the
highway out of Louisiana again?  Or was there another 'blue light special' 
at KMart you couldn't tear yourself away from?"

     "Hey, I got here as fast as I could, your Priestessness.  What do you
think I am?  A vampire?" Patt responded.  

     "Oh, that reminds me.  Thanks for returning my calls so...quickly," 
Jules answered as she spun on her heel, leaving the Louisianan to grab the door 
for herself.  "Just because you insist on subjecting yourself to a life in a
cultural backwater, to the tune of zydeco music," she continued as she spoke
over her shoulder,  "doesn't mean you can't find a phone, you know."

     "Listen, Jules," Patt began as she caught up with the Priestess who
appeared to be making her way to the Shrine, "some of us have *real* lives.
Just because your little world revolves around the General, CERK and 
Toronto, that doesn't mean I don't have better things to do once in awhile."  There.
She'd finally gotten in her two cents.

     Jules stopped and turned abruptly, nearly causing Patt to collide with

     "I'll be sure and pass that on to Nunkies," she said casually.  "I'm 
sure he'll be..inspired by your continued devotion."  Jules turned once more and
headed for the dias in the Shrine.

     A cold sweat began to cover the palms of the Third Cousin's hands.
 she sighed inwardly.

    "Aw, come on, Julsey," Patt begged as she trailed after her.  "You
wouldn't really tattle on me, right?" she asked.  "I mean, I would never let
him know you call him 'Nunkies' like the other Addicts when he's not 
around," she added, grinning nervously.  She thought she noticed a giggle beginning 
to form on Jules' lips.  She'd heard that Jules had been doing quite a bit of
giggling of late, and it was beginning to frighten her.  Jules just didn't
seem the type to giggle.

     "Why ever not?" the High Priestess asked, seeming to carefully examine
her high heels for scuff marks, then looking up, added, "I call him that 
when he *is* around."   Then Jules lowered her voice, a smirk quite evident on 
her face, and Patt thought she hear the HP mutter under her breath, "Heck, 
that's nothing compared to 'SnuggumWuggums.'"

      Patt continued to think.   

Jules turned again, quickly pivoting in as graceful a step as any ballerina.
As the HP progressed further into the Shrine, Patt could swear she heard 
Jules start humming.

 Patt thought, running her fingers through her 
permed hair.     Patt shook her head to clear the fantastical 
thoughts which swirled there.

Okay, she could see the attraction that Jules felt for the big guy -- heck,
you didn't belong in NA if you didn't get a little high checking out LC's
solid torso and firm thighs.    Patt thought of those broad shoulders,
straight and confident, the arched neck and strong back muscles which 
rippled as he walked.  Patt sighed dreamily.

Then, as so often happened in her mind, *he* turned to face her.  LaCroix
would fix those stark blue eyes on the mature, wayward addict, holding her 
in the cold stare which he had perfected to artwork.  He'd raise an arm as 
though to beckon her, only to produce a hand holding a beer bottle, its broken 
glass edges sharp as razors.

 Patt nodded to herself.

Something touched her back and Patt swung around, hands flailing to cover 
her face.  Caren shrieked, jumped back and stood there staring at the Third

"What is *wrong* with you?!  You scared the snot out of me!"  Caren looked
like she was hyper-ventilating.  "You just hopped out of the truck, followed
Jules in here and slammed three doors in my face as you went!  What is your

The Third Cousin reached out, grasped her fellow Louisianan's shoulders
and gave them a quick shake.  "Caren! Mi Compadre.  I am in some deep
doo doo which might really get slippery if I'm not mucho careful.  You've
got to promise me something!"

Caren's eyes narrowed noticeably.

"It is nothing harmful to anyone, fattening or a threat to the pocketbook,"
Patt assured her friend.  "It's simply . . . withholding information to
protect the non-innocent."

"Oh," Caren sighed in relief.  "Normal Cousinly behavior.  What do you

"Just don't tell anyone we had another passenger on this trip?"

Caren's eyes narrowed again.  "Why?"

"Because . . . harboring another vampire type might not please Uncle.  You
know how . . . territorial he can be."  Patt grinned hopefully.

Caren mulled this over.  "Will I get in trouble for this?" she asked

"No way," Patt promised, her fingers crossed tightly behind her back.
"You're as innocent as a lamb."

"A sacrificial variety, I suspect."  Caren knew Patt very well and nodded
to the hidden hand.  "I'll keep mum for the time being, Elmore, but at the
first hint that my carcass is about to slide into the goop with your own, 
I'm turning state's evidence."

"Province," Patt corrected, turning toward the Shrine.  "Now, let's go in
and find out what this is all about."

Feeling only slightly more confident, Patt followed Jules into the Shrine.
The Priestess had ensconsed herself on one of the red velvet lounges and was
busy examining a box of Godiva Chocolates with obvious lust.   She looked up
at Patt as the Third Cousin approached.

"Thinking of the General gave me the munchies," Jules said, eyes
twinkling.  "This one just seems to be screaming, 'Morde Me'."  Jules 
giggled again, scaring Patt further.

"What the heck does that mean?" Patt asked, confused.

"Maybe if you would show up for Latin class, you'd know," Jules replied

"Aren't you afraid of all those calories?" Caren, always health
conscious, counted at least seven discarded foil wrappers on the floor.

"Not really," Jules smirked again.  "I'm sure Nunkies will see to it that
I get sufficient exercise so as to burn off any unwanted fat."

"Ahhhhhhhhh," Patt and Caren said in unison.

"Ahhhhhhhhh," Jules sighed with contentment, falling back into the sofa's
pillows and wriggling with delight.

"Where is everyone?" Patt asked, looking around the deserted Shrine.  "I
thought we were at War?"

"Preliminary stuff," Jules commented, her eyes closed.  "They're around.
Trying on breastplates, checking nooks and crannies for interlopers,
generally being decadent.  Let them play while they can.  We'll have to
insist on strict discipline soon enough."

"We having an informational meeting anytime soon?" Caren asked.

"Had one already . . . while you two were out on your *excursion,*" Jules

"Well, Jules, how about filling us in on developments so far?" Patt

"I usually don't do 're-posts,' but I'll make an exception this time," the
Priestess said as she set the box of chocolates aside and took on her
business-as-usual demeanor.  "Actually, there's not much to tell in addition
to what I told you on the phone.  Natalie's research has been stolen.  Nick
thinks Lacroix is responsible.  Lacroix says he isn't.  Both Nick and 
Nunkies have offered a half million dollars each for the return of the research.  
Both have offered additional rewards - though they haven't yet explained what 
those are - to the person who provides information leading to the capture of the

"Any clues?" Caren asked.  "Any idea who really is responsible?"

"'Fraid not," said Jules, "and suspicions, as might be expected, are flying.
Personally, I think Nunkies has better things to do than steal Nat's 
research, but I wouldn't mind if he had.  He's got to have a little fun with Nick once
in awhile, after all."

"Problem with that, Julsey, is that it's just launched us and lord knows how
much of Toronto into a War," Patt quipped.

"*If* he did it, Patt," Jules countered.

"Yeah, I know.  Well, I'm not about to make any pronouncements," said Patt.
"I'm too tired."

"Me, too," Caren added.  "Anywhere we can crash for a bit?"

"Your rooms have already been tidied up by the fanfic fairies.  I think you
know the way," said Jules as she settled back on the comfortable lounge and
started to eye the chocolates once again.

"All too well," the slightly-road-weary Patt said under her breath.  "All 
too well."


WAR:  NA: Coffee, Tea and True Confessions (1/2)
by Patt Elmore and Cousin Jules
Time:  12:30 a.m., Monday, April 27, after NA: If It's Dark, It Must Be
Place: The Shrine/A Coffee Shop, somewhere in TO

Shortly after she finished taking care of a few War preparations at the
Shrine, Jules began searching for Patt.   She was unable to locate the mature
addict anywhere within the columned walls, much to her dismay.  The
High Priestess did, however, find Caren, Patt's fellow Louisianan, and
was able to ascertain from Caren's information (she was showering at the
time and trying to talk through steam) that Patt had left the premises.

Giving Kusine instructions to keep watch over things, Jules set out to
find Patt.  From Caren's information, and her own intimate knowledge of
the Third Cousin's normal activities, Jules began searching local
taverns.  Quite a few catcalls and whistles later, Jules was passing in
front of the plate glass window of a local bistro, and stopped short.
There, much to her surprise, was the mature addict, sitting alone in the
back of the establishment, drinking *coffee*.

Jules nodded to the waiter as she entered the cafe, then made her way
back to Patt's table.  The older woman acknowledged Jules' presence with
an eye flicker and continued to sip the dark liquid in her cup.

"What's good here?" Jules said, shrugging off her coat and hanging it on
the seat back.  She slipped into the wire framed chair and settled primly
on the stuffed, round leather seat.

"Wouldn't know," Patt replied between a swallow.  "This is the first time
I've been here."

"So, what are you drinking?" Jules persisted, noting the blend smelled
faintly exotic.

"Something called Andes Jasmine Mocha," Patt replied.  "One thing's for
sure -- it ain't decaf.  This stuff is wiring me to the hilt."

"Yet, you sit here, by yourself, unmoving," Jules noted.  The waiter
arrived and Jules ordered a cappucino.  The attendant gone,
Jules turned to her friend.  "Why are you brooding?"

"I'm not brooding," Patt said, but her averted eyes betrayed her.

"Yes, you are," Jules chided, then her voice grew grave.  "And, it is
important that you stop it immediately.  You need to set an example for
the newer members of Nunkies Anonymous.  With Annie away in the Caymans
and Bonnie so busy trying to maintain a rein on the entire Cousinly
collective, your position within the immediate NA is intensified.  The
newbies will be looking to the *older* members for direction, and that
means you."

"Yippety do dahhh," Patt muttered, blowing at the melted whipped topping
floating on her drink.

Jules sat back as the waiter returned with her drink.  "My, my.  LaCroix 
would be proud of such eloquence."

Patt sat silent.  Jules took a sip of her coffee, searching through her
mind for the right button to push to move the Third Cousin into a more
receptive mood.  She decided commiseration might be the most
effective avenue.

Jules sighed.

Patt looked up.  "What's the matter with you that you should be sighing?"
the Third Cousin scoffed.  "According to what I've heard, you have the 
world, and Nunkies, by the tail.  Calling him 'snuggum wuggums' to his face, indeed."

Jules suppressed a quick smirk, bent on not rousing the mature addict's
jealousy again.

"Perhaps in the past, yes," Jules nodded, acting forelorn, "but lately, it
seems that Nunkies is too busy even to attend to me.  The snatching of Natalie's notes
has caused him much distress, you know."

"Yeah. . . unless he took the papers himself and is just putting on a
show," Patt suggested for the second time unless than two days.  Jules felt
her neck redden in provocation, but she fought back the impulse to snap at 
the Third Cousin, even though it took all her will.

"Do you really think he's behind this theft?" Jules asked innocently, still
trying to check her anger.

"No," Patt conceded after a minute.  "I have the feeling that the papers
have been pilfered by someone we haven't even thought of yet."

"Who?"  Jules loved hearing everyone's theories, and she hadn't heard
Patt's yet.

Patt cleared her voice.  " A screenwriter."

Jules' eyes widened.  "What?!"

"Yup," Patt nodded, smug now that she had the High Priestess' full
attention.  "With all the rumblings on the list of what we would and
would not like in a movie version of our story, I think some enterprising
writer-type stole Natalie's research in an effort to ascertain if a
certain plot was possible."

"Ahhhhhh," Jules sat back, taking in Patt's statement.

"The problem becomes," Patt continued, "what storyline is being thought
of?  Destroy the research so Nick has to remain vampiric, or find the
cure so that he and Nat can be together *forever*?   You have to know
that premise before you can figure out which faction said writer resides
within, thereby narrowing your search."

"I see . . ." Jules said thoughtfully.  "An interesting theory."

"Feel free to pass it along to Bontifica, if you'd like," Patt said,
taking a hearty sip of her mocha.

The tone in the other woman's voice caused Jules to examine her friend
more closely.  "Why don't you just tell Bonnie yourself, Patt?"

"Bons does not appear *available* to me anymore," Patt replied grimly.
"Or, at least that's what her *secretary* told me when I tried to call
her earlier."

"I could see where such a rebuff could be hurtful," Jules said quietly.

"My feelings aren't hurt," Patt lied.  "It is kind of provoking, though,
that she seems to have forgotten that she didn't obtain her Cerebrus
stature all alone, but that she reached her pinnacle of power by standing
on the shoulders of her sisters in NA."

"Power has changed her somewhat," Jules pretended to agree.  "She
doesn't seem to be the same old Bonnie who came wandering into the Shrine
18 months ago, non-sensible shoes in hand for fear of marring the
Sacred tiles with her scuffing heals."  Jules smiled nostalgically.  "I
can remember when Annie and I got her first e-mail, asking about
membership in NA.  Complete Nunkies devotion was just the first
part of her becoming an addict.  She always wanted more.  Bonnie wanted
to *prove* her devotion to LaCroix.  Thus, she applied for the position
of Scribe."

"I always wondered about that . . ." Patt leaned forward, raptly
interested.   The High Priestess needed but little encouragement.

"And, because she wanted to maintain the web site in her hometown
while she finished her education, it entailed a trip to Charlotte to
investigate her merits."

"Oh, I bet that was fun," Patt grinned.

"Actually, it was.  But, remember, much of it involved observing her
without her knowledge," Jules smiled sneakily.


WAR:  NA: Coffee, Tea and True Confessions (2/2)
by Patt Elmore and Cousin Jules
Time:  1:00 a.m., Monday, April 27
Place: A Coffee Shop, somewhere in TO

Patt waited as the High Priestess took a long sip from her coffee.

"As you know, Bonnie has always been a *hand's-on* type of gal," Jules
said with a smile.   "When Annie and I first arrived in Charlotte, it was an
announced visit.  Bonnie met us at the Dilworth Diner and took us directly 
to the Autobell Car Wash so that we could get the road grime off the Jag.  She even
helped apply the paste wax, just to make sure it was done correctly."

"Lacroix lets you take the Jag out of town?" Patt queried.

"I always compensate him for the use," Jules said, trying hard not to lead
Patt to false conclusions.  Patt still looked at Jules with an expression 
that screamed, 'Rub it in, why don't ya??!'  "Hey, hey, hey!" Jules spoke up.  
"Do you have any idea how much gas that car can guzzle??? And do you know how 
hard it is to find replacement tires for something like that in the wilds of 
North Carolina???"

Patt seemed to calm down at that.  "OK, OK.  Back to Bons.  Seems she was a
long way away from being carried around in a gilded carriage," she snorted.

"Don't be snide, or I won't continue this story," Jules said sternly.

Patt hushed immediately.

"Bons fluttered around like an excited little bird during our stay in
Charlotte," Jules continued.  "She was proud to show us the delights of
her community--the symphony, the museums, the architecture.  We were
impressed by her knowledge and quickly agreed that she had the
intelligence and talent to maintain the written history of NA."

"But?" Patt had heard the slight hesitation in Jules' voice.

"There was this incident at Price's Chicken Coop with Lacroix," Jules
said, apparently mulling over a memory that was somewhat disturbing.

"And????" Patt asked in anticipation.

"I'll save it for another time," Jules replied with an evil grin, purposely
leaving Patt hanging.  "Actually, we had a lot of fun during the remainder 
of our stay.  We spent most of the second afternoon running up and down 
Morehead Street, trying on shoes at Off Broadway and Fleet Feet.  We actually
considered forming a 'Non-Sensible Shoes' faction, but even we had to admit 
we couldn't see how it tied in with FK."

Patt couldn't resist chuckling herself.  Jules then continued.

"Seeing that Bons seemed to have a genuine addiction, it was now time to
observe whether she could maintain it on her own," Jules said.  "Annie and 
I bid her 'adieu' with a promise that we would contact her soon regarding our

"Time for the covert operation, right?" Patt asked.

Jules nodded.  "Annie and I pretended to leave Charlotte, but turned
around and took up a position where we could observe Bonnie, just to make 
sure she was truly devoted."

"How'd you manage that?" Patt asked thoughtfully.   "Bons isn't exactly

"No, but she was, shall we say, preoccupied."  Jules' expression was
absolutely wicked.

Intrigued, Patt waited until she just couldn't contain herself.  "Well?"
the Third Cousin demanded.

"You have to remember that Nunkies Anonymous was an extremely small
organization in those days, maybe four of us," Jules explained.  "We were a
highly secret group, based on the Order of Felidia."

"Yes, I know," Patt said.

"We weren't even sure that Lacroix knew of our existence as a group
until this past August." Jules shuddered as she thought back on the 
General's temporary 'illness.'   "He always seems to know privately,
though, when someone holds a secret passion for him.  And, he's not above
using said ardor to his advantage.  I don't know if he followed Annie and
me, or if he just felt Bonnie across the miles, but, no matter what the
reason, he decided to pay our Scribe a *personal* visit."

"Ahhhh, the good old days," Patt sighed, then her tone became mournful.
"Just another example where she beat me out again.  Lacroix never paid *me*
a personal visit--never even sent me a note of welcome."

"So sure?" Jules smiled secretly.  "If you asked Bons today, she wouldn't
remember Nunkies visiting her in Charlotte.  After the initial meeting,
Lacroix always *helped* his fanatics forget their personal time
together--just so that the ladies could return to their mundane lives and
survive his periods of absence  Of course, some addicts, though they
couldn't remember the exact events of Nunkies' visit, still had a vague
feeling of non-fulfillment from then on.  The best situations resulted in
the increased channeling of energy into serving the Nunkies Anonymous
cause.  The worst cases ended up in chronic depression.  Luckily, Bons
was one of the former."

Patt let out a low whistle as she processed this information.

"From afar, Annie and I observed Bonnie's actions.  She maintained her
style and grace, choosing to eat her supper at La Bibliotheque, rather
than grab a sandwich-to-go at a convenience store.  We knew Nunkies was
present when she *won* a weekend at Voci Spa during a local radio call-
in show.  She emerged from Voci looking as radiant as a ruby--scrubbed,
scented, coifed and forever the Bonnie we would all learn to know and

Jules sighed and allowed a touch of jealousy into her voice.  "Lacroix
must have been pleased, for Annie and I found ourselves tailing Bonnie to
Sharkey's Bar and Billiards on Friday night and then, later, to
Vanlandingham Estate.  She didn't emerge from the bed and breakfast 
until the following Monday morning, looking rather worn, but quite pleased.
Annie and I immediately sent word via messenger for her to meet us for
coffee.  We rendezvoused at a little place called The On-Ramp where we
all enjoyed Bob-achinos and Bon's demonstrated her computer skills.  We
signed her up on the spot and, as the cliche goes, the rest is

"An era that is dead and gone."  Patt slipped into remorse again.

"Bonnie earned her place at Lacroix's side," Jules said evenly.

Patt nodded.  "I know, I know.  But, I still miss the old Bons that
wasn't too good to share a cup of coffee with a pal at a little dive like
this.  Now, she has a *secretary* running interference for her and
serving her espresso in fine bone china.  I want *my* Bons.  I want my
glazed eye, drool-cup-toting and not above engaging in a good
old-fashioned food fight addict.  I'm not sure I like this new Bons . . .
barking out orders like she's Lacroix himself."

The two women looked at each other, imagining the petite red-head, bent
over the CERK microphone, arching an eyebrow at them.  Jules and Patt

Then Jules' face softened.  "You have to understand, Patt, that Bons has a 
lot on her shoulders.  I mean, being chosen as one of the three Cousinly leaders
for a War is not exactly the picnic people seem to think it is," she 
reminded the Third Cousin.  "Are you so worried about losing the Bons we know?"

Patt was stoic for a moment, but then began nodding slowly.

"The War won't last forever, Patt," Jules reminded the mature addict.
"Bonnie will be back with us before you know it."

"But, will it be *our* Bonnie, Jules?"  Patt asked quietly.  "Or some evil

The High Priestess shrugged.  "There are no guarantees in life, ma
Pattite, but Bons isn't like most people - fickle, thoughtless, never 
thinking for one moment that they could possibly make a - gasp - faux pas.  Oh, and
even more outstanding for this day and age..."

"Yes?" Patt asked hopefully.

"She can spell, too," Jules said, then glanced at her wrist watch.  "My
goodness . . . it's nearly 3:00 a.m.  I've enjoyed our little private chat,
but I really have to get back to the Shrine and make sure the others are
armored and ready for guard duty.  And then there are the preparations for
tonight's Cousins meeting at CERK."

"Busy, busy," Patt noted wryly.

"Yes, I am," Jules admonished playfully.  "And I could
use your help if you can shake your pity party mood.  You know, before you
continue your tirade about Bons not holding up her friendship
obligations, I'd like you to think about something.  I have yet to see a
set of windchimes."

Patt opened her mouth in surprise and protest, but Jules raised a
quieting hand.

"Just collect yourself and come back to the Shrine as soon as you can,"
Jules said.  "There's a lot to do."


Love Strikes with a Bite
By Patt Elmore
Time:  After 3 a.m. until dawn, Monday, April 27 ; follows Coffee, Tea
and True Confessions (2/2)
Place: A Coffee Shop, somewhere in TO


Patt felt much better as she watched Jules walk out of the coffee

At least for a minute.

"You seem to have gotten back into the good graces of your
High Priestess," Spark's masculine voice murmured into her

Patt jumped, upsetting her chair and nearly turning over the
small round table still littered with styrofoam containers and
empty creamer shells.

"My, my, but we *are* a nervous type." Spark caught and
leveled the table, all the time watching the shaking addict.  He
quickly seated himself and indicated that Patt should join him
at the table.  "You really must learn to control your fears,
channel them productively, if you ever hope to retain your
position of leadership within my organization."

"You *have* no organization," Patt replied, sitting down more
because her knees were wobbly than because she looked
forward to the vampire's company.  "I thought you had split."

"Only temporarily," Spark replied, sitting back and surveying
the restaurant.  "I had to secure suitable quarters and enjoy a
few additional dining experiences."

Patt noted that Spark did, indeed, look much better than he had
previously.  He had filled out now to his normal weight and
appeared quite robust and rested.  Patt shivered involuntarily.

"Also, I had the pleasure of observing, unseen, some of the
activities of my *friends,*" Spark almost spat the last word.

Patt noticed that her hands were trembling, so she placed them
primly in her lap and smiled.  "Oh?" she inquired politely.

Spark nodded.   "It appears that my *friends* have lost an
article which they are desperately seeking."  Then he leaned
closer to Patt, his eyes and teeth glinting in the candlelight.
"And, as such, it appears that procuring those documents
before my *friends* do is a necessary part of my
plans for revenge, wouldn't you think?"

"Whatever," Patt replied nervously.

"I've also been noting the activities of a faction which portends
to have allegiance  to the couple," Spark continued, lacing his
fingers together in thought.  "I feel they and their movements warrant
further investigation."

"Sounds like a good way to occupy your time," Patt nodded in
absent agreement.

Spark smiled brilliantly.  "I'm glad you agree, my dear."

Patt alerted immediately, wondering what she'd agreed to.

"Which reminds me . . . I have a gift for you."  As if by magic,
Spark reached behind his chair and produced a discreetly
wrapped package.  He placed it on the table and pushed it
across the top to within Patt's reach.

Patt eyed the parcel with trepidation.  She glanced at Spark,
then back at the package.

"Aren't you going to open it?" the vampire inquired with just a
hint of amusement in his voice.

The Third Cousin continued to stare at the bundle as if it were

"Open it," Spark commanded.

Patt reached out and gingerly, but carefully, grasped the
package.  Under the vampire's watchful eye, she tore open the
parcel, cautiously pushing the wrapping aside.  Nestled within
the folds of tissue paper was what appeared to be an article of

"Well?" Spark smiled, as Patt continued to eye the material
without touching it.  "Aren't you pleased?"

"Errr, sure," Patt replied, giving the dark-haired creature a
quick grin.  "It's lovely."

"Then, by all means, go put it on."

Patt lifted the article of clothing and unfolded it for better
viewing.  It was a black cotton tee-shirt.   The Third Cousin
turned the shirt around.   Emblazoned across the front, in silver
glittered lettering, was the word:  "Sparkler."

"Oh . . . my . . ." Patt whispered softly.

"I knew you'd be pleased.."  Spark sat back, obviously delighted
with himself.  "I chose a saleswomen close to your size and she
assured me that it would conform exactly to the statuesque
folds of your figure.  She was quite accommodating."

Patt's eyes were glued to the twinkling wording.

"Well," Spark drawled.  "Aren't you going to try it on?"

"Huhh?" Patt looked at Spark, eyes dazed.

The Third Cousin's hesitation prompted the vampire to lean

It was at that moment that the entrance of the bistro opened
and a group of women entered noisily.  They appeared
somewhat haggard, but in relatively good spirits.  Patt
immediately recognized several of them and quickly slid back
against the wall as close as she could.

"Dark Perks," the Nunkies addict muttered.

Noticing Patt's reaction, Spark turned to observe the women.
His eyes darted from one to the next, until he stopped abruptly
on one of the ladies.

"Who is *that* woman?" the dark-haired vampire said slowly.

Patt leaned forward just enough for a better view.  "Which
one?" she said, squinting.

"Isn't it obvious?" Spark gave Patt a scathing look before
returning his attention to where the DP's had sat down.  "The
exquisite blonde creature who is obviously the superior of the

Patt looked again.  As she did, heads parted sufficiently for her
to catch sight of the one who Spark had to be speaking of.

"Tracy Vetter?" Patt's mouth popped open in surprise.  "You
talking about the forever cheerful one with the short hair and
pinched nose?"

"Exceptional, isn't she?" Spark's face fairly glowed in his
rapture at viewing the young police officer.

Patt glanced back at the table occupied by the DP's.  A loud
spurt of giggling filled the air.  Tracy appeared to be choking,
cinnamon droplets clinging to her nostrils where she'd snorted
her expresso.

"From this day forward," Spark announced softly, "the destinies
of Ms. Vetter and I are unbreakably entwined.   I know, as
surely as I know my heart beats only once every ten minutes,
that the lovely Tracy Vetter will be my consort through

The vampire glanced through the window toward the street,
seeing the first sign of rose glowing above the buildings.

"Alas, the day has no mercy for one in love." Spark's voice
seeped of melancholy.  Then his mood abruptly changed and
he turned slitted eyes on the Third Cousin.  "As my faction
leader, I order you to gather everything you can find on Ms.
Vetter.   I  want to know every nuance of her being . . . her
loves, her distastes, her caprices . . ."

"I am *not* your faction leader, because you don't *have* a
faction!" Patt insisted.

Spark gave the Third Cousin a threatening look.

"Well . . .  she's perky," Patt offered helpfully.  She shook her
head, having a hard time assimilating that Spark had a lust
thing going for the commissioner's daughter.

"That's a start," Spark said brightly, rising to leave.  He reached
out and grasped Patt's jaw, gently stroking her chin with his
thumb.  "Wear the shirt in good health, my dear."  Then, his
hold sharpened and he pinched the woman's face until she
winced in pain, "Or, don't wear it and suffer *non*-health.  The
choice is yours.  I will find you this evening to receive what
facts you have gathered concerning the fair Vetter."  Then,
Spark was gone.

"But," Patt called mournfully after the vanished vampire, "that
might entail hiring a mercenary!   Do you have any idea how
much mercs cost during a War?"

It was about that time that Patt saw several heads at the DP
table turn to look in her direction.    Patt smiled weakly at the
women, wiggled her fingers in a wave and stood up quickly.
The Third Cousin tossed some cash on the table and hit the exit
before the Dark Perks could move toward her.  Glad she participated
in dog agility, Patt sprinted the seven blocks back to the
Jeweled Peach and practically fell into the safety of the Shrine
to Nunkies.

The Third Cousin wandered into the gilded parlor and sank
down into one of the cushioned seats, replaying in her mind the
events of the morning.  She didn't notice the woman's
approach.   Abruptly, Patt found herself staring up into the pale
face of an outraged Caren.

"I know," the Louisiana woman said, staring down at Patt.  "I
just finished watching second season.  I know about Spark."

Patt was up in a instant, palm pressed against Caren's mouth.
The older woman looked around furtively, hoping no one had
been witness to Caren's declaration.  Satisfied they were alone,
Patt grasped Caren's arm and pushed her toward the hall
which led to the ante rooms.

"Let me go," Caren insisted as Patt pushed her into one of the
tiny cubicles where private Nunkies worship was practiced.  "I
am *furious* with you."

"And you have a right to be," Patt agreed as she shut the door
and turned to face her friend.   "But, it's not like I *wanted* to
bring him here.  I was coerced.  He threatened to kill Sylvia
and Mark.  And, there's no telling what he had in mind for
my mother.  She was *SMILING* when I left, for heck's sake!"

This statement quieted Caren.  "Still," she said, only slightly less
piqued, "you should have told me the truth so that I could be
aware of what I was a party to.  And, you should have told
Bonnie, Jules and Annie."

"Why?" Patt insisted.  "This doesn't have anything to do with
NA.  This is a Nick and Nat thing . . . and maybe a Dark Perk thing,
now," Patt finished, pursing her lips defiantly.

"And, it's definitely a *vampire* thing," Caren contended
adamantly.   "You must tell LaCroix immediately."

"No way," Patt said, shaking her head negatively.  "LaCroix
would eat me alive and then perform acupuncture on me with
toothpicks just for the enjoyment.  Romans have a long history
of killing the messenger of bad news, you know.  If Spark
becomes a problem, Uncle will deal with him.  In the
meanwhile, ignorance is bliss."

"And, if he finds out that you're responsible for bringing him
here . . . and that I was along for the ride?" Caren was

"It's our secret, Cae," Patt smiled, putting a friendly arm around
the other woman's shoulders.   "There's no way he can find out
we're culpable, unless one of us tips the drool cup."

"Uhhhh." Caren made a face at such a vivid visual image.

"Now, come on.  I have a little project that I can use your help
with . . ."


An Addict's First War (or How do I Explain This?) 01/01
Written by:  Fleurette
Starring:  Debbie (Fleurette), Sherry and Cousin Jules
Time line: closely following the events of "Addicted to War 3/3"
Beta-ed by Cousin Jules
All real people used with permission

   "I feel like Xena, Warrior Princess," muttered Debbie as she exited
the Wardrobe room wearing her brand-new NSVV uniform.  The outfit
consisted of a mini-toga and silver breastplate.  For some people, being
thusly clad would be flattering, but the 5'2" Addict was certain she
looked ridiculous.  She even *felt* ridiculous.

    a voice from the back of her mind told

   "There'll be plenty of time for that," Debbie uttered aloud,
completely unaware of the looks she was receiving from the other Addicts
in the Shrine.  "I'll call Stephen and tell him that I'm going to be
late.  That's all there is to it.  I'll call and--"

   The young Addict stopped suddenly, an expression of horror on her
face.  This caused the already puzzled Addicts to stare at her in open
wonder and concern.  Sherry took one hesitant step towards her fellow
Addict, but paused as Debbie began to speak again.
   "Oh, no!  What *am* I going to do?  What am I going to say to him?"
Stunned, she sank to her knees to the floor, ironically enough, at the
base of one of the many be-pedestalled Busts of Nunkies which decked the
   Fearing Debbie had been struck by some sudden illness, Sherry rushed
off to find the High Priestess.

   The High Priestess of Nunkies Anonymous found her friend where the
others had left her-- kneeling before a marble bust of Nunkies.

   "Deb?" she asked softly as she knelt beside the fallen Addict.
"Planning on sacrificing yourself to Nunkies?"  Jules asked as Debbie
turned her tear-stained face in the direction of her voice.  This earned
the High Priestess a smile and a small giggle.  "That's better," she
chuckled in return.  "Besides, whatever it was couldn't really have been
worth crying at Nunkies feet over, now could it?"

   "Oh, Jules!  I guess it wasn't so bad as all that.  It's just that I
felt so helplesss."
   "Whatever for, Deb?  What's the matter?"
   "You see, it's like this..."  Debbie began to explain that she really
hadn't planned on being in Toronto for so long.  The War had, although
inadvertantly, interferred with the plans she and her husband had made
earlier that month.
   "Do you want to leave?  You can, you know?  No one is holding you
here," Jules reminded her.
   "No.  I'm committed to being here and helping out where I can, Jules.
It's just that I don't know how to tell my husband.  I *have* to call
him tonight.  I *should* do it right away, but how can I posssibly
explain a *War* to him?  Especially when it's my first one?"

   The young Addict turned pleading eyes to her High Priestess.  Jules
pondered the dilemma for a while before giving an answer.
   "Listen to me, Debbie," she said.  "Call Stephen, and here's what you
say to him."  Jules pretended to put a receiver to her ear and acted out
a telephone conversation.  " 'Honey, I know you expected me home sooner
but something's come up.  Did I ever tell you about my Uncle Lucien?
No?  Well, it seems he's not feeling very well.  What's that?  Oh, he's
had a falling out with his son, and I just couldn't leave him like this.
He's very distressed, and it just breaks my heart.  What?  YOu don't
mind?  Oh, thank for understanding, Stephen!  Yes, yes!  I'll be home as
soon as I can get things sorted out here.  Love you, too!' "  Jules next
pretended to hang up the phone, then looked at Debbie for her critique.

   "Oooo!"  cried Debbie.  "I think that just might work!  Thanks,

   The young Addict gave her High Priestess a quick hug of gratitude and
rushed off to find a phone.


Vwarloop:poetic justice.
By:Tracy Sue

Time: Directly after the most sensious of the salted meats.
Place: The happy slouvaki

        KC Susan washed down the last of her Pastrami sandwich with a large
gulp of Yoo Hoo.  She signaled her waiter  as he passed.  

        "Ah, my good man.  I've taken libation, and am ready for my bill."
        "The bill is already payed," The waiter said.  "I was told to give
you this." He placed a sheet of paper facedown on the table.  

        KC eyed the sheet warily.  Who could have payed for her sandwich?
The only person who knew she was here was Tracy Sue.  She eyed the
chocolate drink uneasily.  It was unlikely that the vaquera would have
slipped poison into the drink, but KC wouldn't put it passed her to slip a
laxitive in there.  

        Carefully, she picked up the page. She turned the sheet over, and
saw that it was a xerox of an autographed picture of LaCroix. 

        "Nunkies!" she squeeked.  She was on the verge of nunklier meltdown
when she saw that the xerox had been defaced.  Literally.  In place of
LaCroix's regal face, was the message: "If you want the real thing, meet me
outside. Instantly, all thoughts of attacks were forgotten in the face of a
full blown need like she had never experienced. 

        "Must . . . get . . . Nunkies!" she got up, and walked zombie-like
toward the door.  "Bring me the red page!" she channeled the villan from
Myst. Out the door and into an alley.  She would have been easy pickings
for a mugger. The four vaqueras who were waiting took her down like
shooting fish in a barrel.

Time: Later
Place: The Evil pink bathroom of the church.

        "Wash wash here! Dye Dye there! And a couple of La La La's!" Tracy
Sue knew that she sounded rather insane, even to her own faction members,
but she couldn't help it.  Revenge was gooooood! "That's how we make you
slackerly in the merry ole land of Vaqs!"
        "Owie!" KC susan moaned from underneath her hair as Tracy Sue
checked her timer.  "Five more minutes! That color should be setting in
real good."  She turned to admire herself in the mirror.  KC's Nunkie scout
toga looked so much better on her than on the Addict.  Rather like a
xena-esque chifon number.  Behind her, the evil pink of the bathroom
radiated down on the addict, subduing her and leaving her completely at
Tracy Sue's mercy.  In place of the toga, Javiette had stuffed the addict
into tight leathers just like their own.  A little Krazy glue on the
zippers ensured that she wouldn't be getting out of them untill after the
war, either. The black dye was just the cherry on the bannana split.
        "At least dye my eyebrows to match!" KC moaned again.
        "Hush!" Tracy Sue said.  "You're a captive.  Captives don't speak
lest we leave them in here!"  

        Marilyn poked her head into the doorway.  "Boss, the rest of the
setup is ready." She passed Tracy Sue the merit sash.  The vaqmommy
examined Marilyn's handwork.  She had carefully stitched a new badge in

        At that moment the timer went off. "Whoops!  Time to rinse!"  Tracy
Sue sat the sash aside. 

Time: Nearly sunrise
Place: The CN Tower

        If anyone had been awake at this ungodly hour, they might have
wondered what five women were doing on the roof of the CN tower.  If they
had looked closer, they might have noticed that one of the women was
wearing a chifon toga. 

        This might not have meant much, but if they looked still closer,
they would have seen that the fifth woman, a short, former-blonde was being
hung upside down off the tower, and that the chifon-clad woman was whapping
her like a piniata with a wiffle bat.  This would have undoubtedly made
anyone noticing things to start looking for that first cup of coffee.
        "Go ahead!  Hit me!"KC Susan proclaimed.  "I can take it! I'm a
survivor! Like Cher."
        "This dosen't look like it's doing any good," Javiette said.
        "Besides, the sun's coming up." Jo Anne agreed.
        "Think we should call it a wrap?" Tracy Sue asked.  The three
vaqueras nodded in agreement.  =

        "KC, you've been a good sport." Tracy Sue patted the addict on the
        "Oh? Like I had a choice in the matter?" KC replied sullenly.
        "Anyway, I'm going to return these to you." Tracy Sue placed KC's
sash, beret and spear in a pile.  "we even gave you a new merit badge for
being such a good sport." She held the sash up so that KC could see that it
was for most slackerly addict.
        KC's only response was to glare at her.
        "Oh, come on!  Be a sport," Tracy Sue chided.
        KC glared some more.
        "OK, here."  she pinned the autographed picture of LaCroix to KC's
shirt.  "I've even brought you some company."  She stepped back and waved
to Jo Anne.
        At her signal, Jo Anne opened the door to the roof.  A clear voice
announced it's presence with a single, bell like note.  A feminine figure
in a blue dress stepped uncertainly onto the roof.  The three vaqueras
momentarily held a deer in the headlights look as the woman studied them
intently.  Finally, the woman looked at Tracy Sue.
        "We've been expecting you," Tracy's smile was tight.  As the woman
stepped toward the Vaqmommy, the three vaqueras fled down the steps behind
her, and shut the door afterward.  KC took the woman's arm, and led her to
the addict. 

        "KC is a friend of Lucien's." she said gently to the woman.  The
woman peered into KC's face.  To the addict's horror, the woman looked just
like the heroine from Titanic.
        "Are you sure?" The woman looked at Tracy Sue uncertainly.  
        "Of course!  See? she even has his picture next to her heart." The
vaquera smiled at the woman. KC tried frantically to hide her picture from
the girl.
        "Okay," The woman seemed happy.
        "KC, I'd like to introduce you to Mary Sue.  She wants to talk
about soothing men who've lost their true loves." Tracy Sue said with an
evil grin.
        As Tracy backed down the stairs, KC began to curse in french. 
"I'll get you!  You SLACKER!"
        Revenge was good, and occasionally, it was damn fun!

Tracy Sue
War 9 Vaqmommy


Time:  Daybreak after KC's unjust attack by evil Vaq forces

Place : top of the CN tower

        KC glared at Mary Sue for a moment, then an idea came to her.  A
hideous idea.  A Cousinly idea.  A Grinchy grin spread across her young
features as she mulled it over.  Turnabout WAS fair play, after all.  If
attack was the sincerest form of affection, Ms. Tracy Sue Morris was about
to receive the hug of her life.

She smile benevolently at the other woman, then spoke in a honeyed voice,
"Of course I'd like to discuss your idea...but I can't very well do it
upside down, can I?  All the blood rushing to my head clouds my thinking.
So you think you could be a dear and untie me?"

The other woman look unsure.  "Can I do that?  Tracy Sue said.."

KC gave a patronizing chuckle.  "Well, never mind what she says."  She
whispered conspiratorially.  "She worships that Greasy Spaniard."  Mary
Sue shivered in revulsion.

"I know, I know.." KC purred, fully in charm mode.  "She's a misguided
child."  Mary Sue soon went to work untying her, making sure the Addict
was right side up when she was finally free.  Shrugging loose of her
bonds, she then wrapped an arm and told Mary Sue she was a good girl.  She
walked off the roof of the tower and toward the Visitor's Center.

"Now, before we get down to business, I sure could use a snack," KC said,
leading her to a coffee shop in the promenade.  "I'll find us a table, and
you go order us some muffins and some tea, okay?"

Mary Sue gave a delighted smile to the addict, and nodded.  "I'll be back
faster than you can say 'Dan Rather is a turnip,'" she said.

"Of course you will, darlin'.  Now, scoot!"  KC made the appropriate hand
gestures, sweeping the perky yet annoying woman away.  Mary Sue reminded
her quite a bit like Tracy Vetter.  What a horrifying thought.

As soon as the would-be writer was at the counter of the shop, KC took off
for the elevators faster than a pubescent groupie chasing Hanson.  As she
tumbled into the elevator, she pressed the button frantically.  The doors
glided shut and KC was a bit dissappointed they didn't make that neat Star
Trek noise.  She shrugged as the lift made its descent, humming along with
the Muzak version of "Seasons in the Sun" playing over the loudspeakers.
As the lift doors slithered open, she stepped out into the rhododactylous
light and gave a satisfied stretch.

"Dan Rather is a turnip," she muttered to herself, throwing her head back
and giving and evil laugh that would have made Bela Lugosi proud.

end of Part 1


Time:  Early morning after KC's attack

Place sidewalk in front of the CN tower

KC's evil laugh was interrupted by the sound of a low, gutteral voice.

"I Don't see what's so funny, leathergirl.  Now gimme your wallet!"

KC looked over to see a greasy youth, not unlike Vachon, waving a
switchblade at her.  Her mind raced to figure a way out of this mess, all
ending with a blade in her gut.  She had an epiphany.

"You're too late, buckaroo.  That well's been plundered.  I am bereft of
funds.  Out of deneiro.  Moolah imparied."

"Huh?" the oily man said, confusion glazing his eyes over even more than
the booze had.  He looked even more like Vachon.

"I mean I don't have any cash on me, you hairy freak!"  She reeled a bit
from the Jim Beam on his breath.  She waved a pale hand in front of her
face, which did nothing to improve the goon's mood.

"Well then," an apelike sneer spread across the goon's face.  "I'll just
have to take it out of your hide!"

KC for once thought fast and dodged as he lunged toward her.  Fortunately,
the booze took its toll on his coordination and he tripped over his own
feet and tumbled to the sidewalk, knocking himself unconscious.  KC stood
over the immobile from in bewilderment, then shook her head.

"Rookie."  she said to herself.  "He'd never last an attack from the
Ratpack or the NA's."  She started to walk off, then got an idea.  She
grabbed the switchblade lying by the mugger's hand and stuffed it into a
leather pocket.  'A gal can't be too careful in Toronto' she thought to
herself as she headed toward the Shrine.

Time:  Late morning
Place: NA headquarters

"But I don't see how you're gonna get Tracy Sue to come to the NA Shrine!"
Heather the MacCousin protested.  "This is enemy turf!  Can't you just let
this one go?"

KC worked at her leather getup, using the switchblade to cut away to
material as The Cousin in Plaid (CIP) laid out a fresh toga for her.
Lady Jayne stood by, arms crossed, ready to toss the Slacker clothes into
the Shrine incinerator.  Sukh was helpfully brushing the Addicts now-sable
locks back into pigtails.

KC cut away the top and grabbed the toga, putting it over herself
modestly.  Even though she was with women, KC ahd grown up in a
family of boys and wasn't used to being unclothed in front of anyone, even
a member of the same sex. She put the top on quickly and set to work on
cutting off the pants. She looked up from her work to respond to the
MacCousin's protests.

"The day I let that woman have her way is the day I join the
Yoko Ono Fan Club!" KC spat.  Heather shrugged.

"Okay, okay..  We can understand that," Jayne acquiesed. " You two have
quite a rivarly going. But y'all are friends.  It's the sickest thing I've
ever seen!"

"Yeah," said KC, finally divesting herself of the tasteless leather pants
and donning her Nunkies Scout sash.  "Ain't it great?"

Heather laughed and handed the other Addict her spear.  She then pointed
to where the noxious "Slacker Badge" on her sash used to be before KC
ripped out the seams.  It did leave a mark, though.  "Looks like you're
going to have to earn another badge to cover that seam mark, my V-8
loving compadre," the CIP said.

KC looked down at the badge crater.  "You're right...does NA give out
badges for Revenge?" she asked.

"I dunno," the Sukh put in, finishing the other womans smart coiff,  "But
if there is, I wanna get ten for helping you out!'

KC smiled at the three Nunkies Addicts.  "I DO appreciate what y'all are
doing for me.  But think of it this way..ever time one of us is attacked,
the rest of us are atacked vicariously.  Besides, this beats the bloody
heck out of Pinewood Derby."

Jayne giggled and grabbed the pile of discarded leather, heading for the
incinerator.  "With all this leather the Vaqs have, you'd think ol' Bricky
had been on a bender."

Sukh turned to the besmirched Addict.  "Well, kemosabe?  What's the

KC thought for a moment, truly stupmed.  She hadn't thought this far.  Her
main concern was getting out of those awful threads and getting to the
safety of the Shrine.  However, as she replayed the trek to the Nunkies
haves in her twisted little mind, she remebered something she had been too
indignant to register.

"EUREKA!" KC shouted, her high-pitched call echoing off the walls.

"You don't smell so good yourself," Heather retorted, recalling a witty
comeback from her childhood.

KC gave the CIP a withering look, then led her out of the Shrine and
towards the entrance of the Jeweled Peach.

"I saw some people who just might get that depraved lunatic's attention,"
she explained to the women.  "I just hope they're still there."

End o' part two

Time:  mid-morning after KC's attack

Place: Sidewalk outside of the Jeweled Peach

KC skidded to a halt with Sukh and the CIP in tow, and pointed to a pair
of men sitting on the curb, munching bagels and having some sort of
debate.  The three women edged closer to the men, shamelessly listening in
on their rhetoric.

"Dill is good spice!  I will not have it maligned!" The tall, thin man
with wide brown eyes said emphatically to his muscular, bearded companion.

Sukh rubbed her eyes, not believing what she saw.  This was a pointless
act, because no amount of eye rubbing can improve vision.  "Did I have the
brown acid or something? Those guys look just like Joxer and Ares from
"Xena: Warrior Princess"!  Quel coincidence!"

KC nodded and grinned,  "Yep, plot devices sure are a hoot, aren't they?"
Without waiting for a reply, she walked boldy in on their conversation.
She cut them both off with a wave of her hand.

"You don't know me," she began.  "But I'm about to offer you the chance of
a lifetime.  How would you like to make a ton of dough and be swooned over
my a ton o' gals, to boot!"

The two men looked at her for a moment, utterly speechless.  Finally the
bearded one spoke.  Unfortunately, his statement wasn't particularly
scintillating or original.

"Are you on drugs?" he asked.

"I assure you, I am most certainly not," KC said, not surprised at the
question.  She seemed to get asked it a lot.  "If you would be willing to
do a little re-enactment for my...erm...historical society, I'd make it
well worth your while."

As KC went into her sales pitch, Heather watched from the restaurant's
awning.  What in the name of Bob did KC think she was doing?  She goes up
to a couple of strange men, offers them money for their services, and
invites them into the Peach!  What would Annie say?  The CIP decided to
stand well away from the Odd Addict when the NunkMommy found out about

Jayne then approached Heather and Sukh at the awning, pulling on a corner
of the CIP's toga playfully to get her attention

"I burned the Vaqclothes, but when I came back to the Shrine, y'all had
headed for Anywhere Else, Canada."  She jerked her head toward the
chattering bepigtailed woman.  "Is she picking up sailors again?"

Sukh  shook her head.  "KC's up to something, but I don't know what.
I'm afraid to watch, yet I cannot turn away.  The woman is a walking train

"Either that or 'Manos: the Hands of Fate'" Jayne replied.  Before Heather
could inquire about that hopelessly archane reference, KC wrapped up her
speil and waited for a reply.  The two men looked at each other, then at
KC, got into a huddle with the thin man casting speculative looks at KC,
and broke the huddle, turning to the addict with both men's arms crossed.

"But why us?" the thin man asked.

"Let's just say you fill all the requirements I need to lure the right
audience," KC said, giving small villainess chuckle.  "By the by, what's
your name, Chuckles?"

The thin, rather attractive man shrugged.  "Bill," he replied, offering
his hand, which the Addict took and shook heartily.

"Ted," the bearded man added for himself, shaking her hand as well.

"Well, Bill and Ted," she gave them her most charming grin and leading
them toward the two observing Addicts, let me introduce you to a group of
friends of mine who will be helping set up this...re-enactment."  She made
the proper introductions, then led them into the reatauraunt.  As they
entered the foyer, the bearded man turned to KC.

"I just have one question," he said, leaning close.

"What's that?" said KC, backing away and trying to preserve her personal
space.  Plus his breath smelled like cream cheese.

"Why doesn't your hair match your eyebrows?"

KC's face turned beet red, and all hell broke loose.

End o' part Three

Time:  Early Afternoon the day after KC's attack

Place:  The main dining area of the Jeweled Peach

Jayne put the finishing touches on the white roses adorning the
makeshift stage in the corner of the restaurant, then stepped back and
admired her work.  Sure, it wasn't Broadway, but at least there was no
chance of "Cats" ever being performed at the Peach.  The stage was small,
but sturdily built to withstand the rigors of ancient Roman life.  Or at
least a reasonable facsimile thereof.  She wandered over to the
entrance of the restauraunt, where a trail of Nunkies' Scout Cookies
Thin Mints led from the door to the stage, a surefire lure for the
misguided VaqMommy. The addict turned and headed to the kitchen of the
Peach, where Heather was kneeling before Dave, busily at work.  The hem of
his toga was unhistorically long.

"Ow! Watch it!  Haven't you ever done this before?" The bearded, bemuscled
man grimaced as a poorly placed pin (how's that for alliteration) sunk
into his thigh.

"Well if you'd hold still for 1/500 of a second, you'd have a lot less
holes in you." the MacCousin, not to be confused with the MacNugget,
protested, yanking the man's toga so that he would stop wriggling like a
freshly caught trout.

On the other side of the squabbling pair, KC was hooking Bill into
what appeared to be a leather getup of some sort.  She pushed the painful
memory of her unfortunate encasement in the treated cow hide to the back
of her mind as the thin man struggled with the chest plate of the
gladiator's outfit.  She helped him clip it on as Jayne moved to stand in
front of the the sewing society and admired their handiwork.

"Well slap me upside my head and call me a carouche!" Jayne exclaimed.
KC paused in her buckling and raised an incongruously blonde eyebrow.

"As your grandpappy used to say?" she inquired.

"Nope...with him it was always communists this and communists that." the
taller cousin explained.  The shorter woman shook her now Bible black

Sukh looked up from her work fashioning the gladiator's sword and spear.

"Mine was always after the government.  Claimed the CIA had implanted a
tracking device in his pacemaker," she chuckled. The two men looked at
each other for a moment in panic, wondering what kind of crowd they had
fallen into.

KC fastened the last buckle of Jox...Bill's gladiator costume and patted
him on his leathery back.  "There.  And looking like an extra from
'Spartacus,'" she teased.  The tall man was not amused.

"How much did you say we're getting for this?" he asked for the ten
thousandth time that day.  "For what we're subjecting ourselves to, it had
better be copious."

"Don't worry," the CIP assured him.  "For what you're getting you should
be willing to do the Hustle naked in the middle of downtown Lebanon."
She finished hemming Ted's toga and stood, groaning as her joints
complained at the sudden movement.  'That's the last time I waste an hour
kneeling in front of a man doing something I don't want to,' she thought.

KC herded the two men into the dining area and told them to stay put.  She
then turned to Sukh.  "You've posted the flyers announcing the
re-enactment?" she asked.  The more mature woman nodded.

"I've hit those Vaqs with flyers almost everywhere in town.  There's no
way Tracy Sue's gonna miss it."

"Next we'll start hitting 'em with baseball bats," the CIP quipped.

Jayne chuckled.  "Well, whiffle bats, anyway.."  The trio of women headed
for the dining room, where the wonders of the theater awaited them.

Time:  A short while later
Place:  A few blocks away from the Jeweled Peach.

"I'm the god...I'M THE GOD!!!" Tracy Sue cackled like a lunatic while
wandering down the street.  She paid no mind to the people who looked at
her like she had hamsters coming out of her nostrils.

She chortled at her own brilliance.  Gads, but she was a genius!  The
revenge she had extracted on the Kissing Cousin had impressed even her.
But for her own example, she'd never thought one person could have so much
brains.  That Addict had gotten exactly what was coming to her.  KC had
called Vachon the GS words one too many times.  So what if KC was just
ribbing the Vaqmommy.  Who cares if she knew it was all in jest.  The
point was, she wanted to hurt, and KC happened to be there.

Her sadistically gleefull reverie was interrupted when she ran right into
a lamppost.

"D'oh!  I was having a flashback and hurt myself!  I'm turning
into...into...Nick!  AUUGGGHHH!!"

She took a deep breath to calm herself.  She was certainly NOT turning
into Nick.  To do that, she'd also have to be whining a lot and scratching
herself.  She looked up at the lamppost, slinging her dirtiest of looks,
even though it did seem silly, glowering at an inanimate object.  It was
then that she noticed a peach-colored flyer taped to the offending
obstacle. The peach color turned the young woman's fancy lightly to
thoughts of KC.  She read the poster, and a large, goofy, lust-crazed grin
spread on her features as she read the flyer:





That did it.  The promise of an Ares look-alike was tempting enough, but
the promise of Thin Mints was too good to pass up.  She didn't care that
it was at the Peach and the place would be crawling with NA's.  She was
tough!  She was the VaqMommy! She was a survivor, like Cher!  Good Lord,
she was picking up KC's bad habits...

She spun on her heel and made a Vaqline for the realm of the Toga

Time:  15 minutes later
Place: The dining room of the Peach

"And so I say to you, Marcus Unanimous, that you will fight for the
amusement of my clients!" Dave bellowed on the small stage in the Jeweled
Peach.  The two men stood in full Roman regalia, reciting a script just
barely memorized that KC had hastily typed up.  The dialogue wasn't
Shakespeare, but the addict reflected that Tracy Sue probably would notice
due to her total rapture upon seeing Dave, added to the fact that this was
the same woman who thought "Manos: the Hands of Fate" was fine cinema.

Sukh nudged KC as the two women watched the demonstration.  There were a
smattering of other addicts watching the performance, but they were more
enraptured in the Roman garb than in any of the action taking place.
"You said Tracy couldn't resist the lure of this performance and the Thin
Mints" she said.  "So far, she'd s doing a damn fine job of resisting.
Where the bloody heck is she?"

"Don't worry," the former golden-haired child replied. "If you promise
Thin Mints, they will come." she said in her best whispery Ray Liotta

"I don't think Kevin Costner ever heard that one," Heather remarked from
the other side of KC.

KC was about to come up with a witty reposte when the doors of the Peach
opened, and a hunched over VaqMommy entered, picking up the trail of Thin
Mints that led to the stage.

"Thin Mints gooood," Tracy Sue stated boldly.  The three addicts went into
hiding as Jayne approached the Vaquera who was now covered with unsightly
cookie crumbs.

"You're just in time for the best part," she said, bustling the Vaq to a
table.  "They're about to do a demonstration of real gladiatorial

"Kewl!" Tracy Sue breathed, and hopped into her seat, happily munching her
cookies and watching the two men pretend to beat the tobacco juice out of
each other as the fight music from the original Star Trek series was piped
through the Muzak system.

She was really getting into it when she felt a figure come up behind her.
Thinking it was a waiter or that pesky French dude the Addicts seemed to
like so much, she turned around to place an order of a Zombie Beachcomber.
That was her mistake.

The last thing she saw was a chloroformed rag careening towards her nose.

Then everything went as black as KC's hair.

End o' part Four...

Time: Late afternoon the day after KC's attack
Place:  The sewers leading to the RP Headquarters

"Master of the House, keeper of the zoo!" Sukh sang heartily as she,
Heather, Jayne, a triumphant KC herded a bound Tracy Sue down the dank and
smelly tunnels.  Tracy Sue wore an expression of supreme chagrin, and
occasionally struggled from her satin bonds.  It did no good, as Heather
had used the knowledge she attained from earning her Nunkies badge in
bondage well.  The Vaqmommy was even more chagrined by the fact that the
NA toga she had so wrongfully stolen like a common thief had been replaced
by a kinky, low-cut French maid's outfit.  She was smartly accesorized by
a pair of disco roller skates, which made it easier for the addicts to
wheel her through the slush.  But Tracy Sue's fashion crisis didn't end
there.  Perched on her little Vaquera melon was a sniffy chapeau
consisting of a pair of mouse ears on a beanie-like cap.  That would have
been enough of an outrage, but there was more, oh so much more.  To make
sure Tracy Sue realized the extent of the insult she had bestowed on her
Addict Friend, the Kissing Cousin had affixed the headgear to her with
Super Ultra Crazy Wacky Nutty Loony Bonkers and Just Plain Insane Glue,
KC's adhesive of choice.  The same had been done to the roller skates.

"Would you stop singing that Godawful song?" KC protested.  "It's the most
annoying tune I've ever heard!"

Sukh shrugged.  "What do you wanna sing?"

Jayne considered a moment, then began softly singing, "Where is my John
Wayne, where is my prairie son?"

"AAAAIIEEEEE!" Tracy Sue's cry of torment echoed of the circular walls.
"I hate that song!  It's so..co-dependent!"

The addicts looked at each other a moment, then all began singing un
unison.  "Where have all the coyboys GOOOOOOOONE?  Yippee-kiy,


"Oh, come on, Tracy Sue!" Heather teased.  "Just a little TOHTCHA!" she
said, in a grand display of ACTING!

"What?" Tracy Sue said, confzzled.



Some trudged, some rolled along the tunnels, all the while KC was
chuckling evilly.  Tracy Sue angled a look at her.

"You're really enjoying this, are't you?" she asked darkly.

"Weeelll," KC thought it over..for a half second, then bellowed, "YESSSS!"

"Yeah, well, enjoy your saditic little jollies now, Peach Breath, because
soon, I'll get out of these bonds, and I'll get back to the Church..."

"Yeah, yeah.." KC waved her hands dismissively.  For right now, you're
Lonny Glued into that outfit, roller skates and all.  And soon, you'll be
the property of the RPers, and I..WILL RULE THE WORLD!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA
AHAHAHAA!  I'm a naughty girl!"  KC wallowed in her evil.

"Um..KC? Sukh prodded, cutting KC off mid-howl.


"I shouldn't point this out, but you already went through that routine.
In the Shrine, remember?" Sukh pointed out gently, knowing how hurt the
other addict could be by an unkind word.


They arrived at the entrance to the RP headquarters to find it was
gurarded by a toll booth.  A sign read "You must pay a toll to get
through.  How much?  Whaddya got?"

"Golly Gosh Darn it to Heck!" Heather exclaimed.  I should have
remembered!  The RP headquarers got damaged in the last war!  It's in the
old Merc Central now!"

"Such language, young lady!" Jayne admonished.

"We'll have to go topside and bang on the window." Heather continued.

So thus the four Addicts and a Vaquera found the nearest manhole and
scurried to the top like...well..rats, and walked up to the window,
slightly rattling from a very loud and long version of "Inna Godda Da

"Methinks this tune doth sound familiar.." Tracy Sue mused.

"Buttoneth your lipth..er..lip, young wastrel!" KC admonioshed.  She then
looked up at the atrocious abuse of the English language on a sign over
the door which read, "Come in Heer!"

Not one to just rudely barge in another faction's domicile (she left that
to the RPs), she loudly  but politely knocked on the dingy glass.  Soon
the barrage of sound halted, and a the window opened, revealing a man with
blue eyes and long, brown hair, accented with a goatee.  He seemed to be
glowing pink for some unknown reason and the addicts, always the
well-mannered brood, thought it unseemly to ask why.

"Nobody gets to see the carouche, no way, no how!" he exclaimed.

"But we have a gift for you!" Heather protested, holding up a bag a
something wriggly.

John Ewan eyed the bag suspiciously.  "This 'ere ain't one o' dem Allen
Funt-type thingies, is they?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.

Jayne crossed her breastplate-covered heart.  "Cross our hearts and hope
to wear sensible shoes," she said.

KC pulled the struggling Vaqmommy to the front, holding her by the chin
with one hand and by the wrists with the other.

"See what we have brought you!" she said in her best P.T. Barnum voice.
"Behold the mighty Vaqmommy, in all her glory!  Brought in chains to this
place!  Where is her strenght now?  Where is her wit?  I have come to you
to offer her services to you in indentured servitude, so that she may sand
the painful corns of your carouche's feet."

At the mention of his name, the vamp himself, poked his head next to
Johnsie's in the door.  "Did 'at 'ere Nunkies-type say wot Aye theenk she
sed?" he crowed.  He rubbed his bald head in delight.  "Well slap me on
me 'appy sacs and wake me Baby Jane!  Oy been needin' someone to take
care o' me doogs foor a whoyle neow.  O're a roight malenky droog, you is,
Kay See!"

KC nodded and smiled, not understanding a word.  "If you'll let us inside,
we can dispense with these tributes," she said.

John and Screed looked at each other a moment.  "Huh"" they both asked in

"Let us the hell in so we can unload the goodies." Jayne clarified.

"Ah...woy didn't yew say so?"  They opened the window fully and let the
addicts in.  The fivesome stepped in, and looked around, jaws agape.
There were strings everywhere, attatched to tin cans with marbles in them,
apparently some sort of security system.  They stepped carefully and soon
they were in ze parlor, while some Ratpackers where watching the TV Fox
special, "When Garages Collapse".

"I shoulda know then RPers would be wathcing something like that," Tracy
Sue muttered.  KC jabbed her with an elbow.

"No one told you to talk," she said.

When they arrived at a table, Heather dumped out the content of the bag.
Nine lab rats scampered out before being coralled by the CIP.  Poe
approached the table, gathering them in her arms. Screed had other ideas.
He bolted toward the vermin, his eyes golden.  The thin teenager artfully
dodged away.

"Not now, Screedy!" she admonished  "We'll save these for a special
occasion!  These are purebred rats!"

"The best the UA labs can offer," KC added.

Screed whined, "But Oy wont the lil' squeekers now!"

John intervened.  "Just think how loverly it'll be when 'ou're 'ungry some
rainy day and 'ou'll have them lil' tastsees to snack on," he said.

Screed's eyes returned to their normal green color. "Oh spoil all moy fun,
woy dontcha.."

John eyed KC warily.  "You give 'ou're word that these 'ere squeekers are
malenky?  'Ey don't 'ave no nasty buggy-bug?"

KC gave Ewan a wounded look.  "Johnsie, you cut me to the quick!  Would I
really hurt my very own sub-faction?"

John sneered.  "Iffen youse really woz an RP-type, you would.."

KC looked smug.  "Well, just be glad I'm an honorbable Addict."  The
Vaquera gave a snort of dissent.  KC glared at her.

"One more thing before we go," Jayne spoke up.  "We set up some
entertainment for you before the sanding begins."  Screed grinned and held
up and electric sander.  Jayne continued.  "Tracy Sue will do a little
number for us, so y'all sit back and enjoy the show."

Sukh walked over to the RPs sound system, and slipped a CD out of her
pocket and into the player.  Soon the beat of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will
Survive" thrummed out of the speakers.  They all sat, KC next to an RPer
named Anna.  The RPer leaned over to KC and asked, "What is she gonna do?
Pull do a striptease?"

"Good Lord, I'm not that cruel," KC said.  "Just watch."

Another RPer named Brianna leaned on the other side of her.  "You know,
far be it from me to point this out, but this is a little to mean.  Can't
you have her sing something more..perky?"

KC glared the RPer into silence.

Tracy Sue waited for the cue beat, the belted out as loud as she could. "I
will survive! I will survive.."  She wiggled around on the dance floor,
doing several keen disco roller moves, even doing the splits.  She rolled
and sang, all the while moving to the disco beat in a French maid outfit
and mouse ears and a constant glare at KC.  The addcits looked at each
other in satisfation as Screed offered the Vaqmommy a dollar bill to roll
in his direction.

"Think we've seen enough?" Jayne asked KC over the music. KC nodded and
the four women got up and discreetly edged out of the RP headquarters.
The last KC saw of her Vaqfriend, she was spinning on the floor, singing
her little Vaqmommy heart out.

KC chuckled as she and her companions made for the Shrine.  Revenge was a
dish best served to a disco bet.  Though she was afraid the RPers were
beginning to influence her a bit too much.

"We don't need no education.." she sang softly to herself..

The End!


    Source: geocities.com/televisioncity/5077

               ( geocities.com/televisioncity)