Eight Treasures

 


Belle puttering about in the DDSTV tower... all of the Dolls around for once... or at least nearby... although you can't help checking on them... an itch at the back of your neck... like a foreboding of something terrible on the horizon... Sara seeming to feel it too when you check on her... looking worried... and glued to the monitors...

Blue Belle approaches Sara from behind... kneading her shoulders... "So anything suspicious happening... it worries me that all the iconic heroes of Empire City seem to have gone on vacation... just as the Imperial Confederacy of Nations is set to meet... keep the airship ready... and keep me informed..."

Sara nodding... relaxing for a moment as you knead shoulders... then leaning forward... blinking... "Wait a second... looks like something might be happening..." The screen reading various incoming missiles headed towards Empire City... Sara punching buttons... "According to the trajectory, they're coming down from space... meteors or other space debris maybe... but if they hit the streets, they'll cause chaos... we should be out there to help..."

Blue Belle leans over Sara's shoulder to get a closer look... "Get everyone into the airship now... try to deflect the missiles with heat-seeking torpedoes... Chicky and I will hit the streets in our vehicles... stay in touch... we can distribute the others as needed..." Belle and Sara already heading up in the elevator... Belle getting off at the basement garage... Sara heading on up...

The car in perfect condition... purring as you roar out onto the streets... seeing the meteors blazing overhead... perhaps defected by something passing through the Van Allen Belt... the airship already rising... taking out the larger ones... that could have reduced the city to a crater... but plenty of smaller ones careening down... one smashing down in the middle of the street... sending concrete flying... and cars skidding and crashing...

Blue Belle weaves through the mayhem... calling in structural damage to the police... Chicky picking up injured citizens and dropping them at the ER... the airship moving to fight fires once the barrage passes... the whole event certainly unnatural... Belle staring up at the sky in wonder for a moment before stopping to pull a man out of a tanker truck about to go up in flames...

The meteors having stopped... but you hear screams... and people pointing... looking up to see something massive in the sky overhead... bathed in a corona of fire... entering Earth's atmosphere... impossible to tell what it could be yet... but it's very big...

Blue Belle gulps... this could be the end of the earth if a comet is about to impact... thinking she should have perhaps changed into the Blue Blazes suit... but it is too late now... the airship spraying water at the fiery object as it falls... strangely not the sort of freefall one might expect... but a seemingly more controlled descent... some sort of craft perhaps...

Your eyes widening as the massive red craft lowers down from the upper atmosphere... the jet of water cooling it... two massive struts seeming to support the main bulk... another two huge projections above... not so much like wings... as arms... your eyes widening as you realize the descending thing is a massive humanoid clothed completely in hi-tech armor...

Blue Belle stares... as wide-eyed as everyone else on the street... even many of those fleeing stopping to stare in amazement... this thing... this person... this alien... appearing like some sort of Ultra-iron-man... Belle looks about... still no sign of Merci... or Captain Icon... speaking into her iCee... "Err... Sara... is it... I mean... is he... alive?"

Sara reporting back... "It's impossible to tell... all the readings seem to be going haywire... I might be able to try a probe using other means... but right now it just seems... alien..." The massive creature humanoid in shape... but any features masked by a blank faceplate... studded with pulsing and humming circuitry... the creature touching down in the main street... just meters away from you... tall as a skyscraper...

Blue Belle looks up from the street where the alien has landed... the airship hovering before the alien at a distance of several hundred yards... "Put me on speaker, Sara..." taking a deep breath... "Hello... this is Susan MacDuff of DDSTV... do you understand our language... Empire City wants to know... what is your reason for coming here?"

The massive being looking in the direction of the airship for a moment... slowly turning its massive head... though no eyes are visible... then lifting one hand... palm extending... slowly closing the fingers so that only the thumb sticks out... neither pointing up... nor down... simply remaining in that posture... as if having become a statue...

Blue Belle furrows her brow as she looks up from the chaos of the street... hesitating at the ominous gesture... "Welcome to earth... as we call it... Do you have a name? Where are you from? Do you come in peace?" rattling on like a nosy reporter even as her mind races... could this alien be responsible for the scarcity of any of Empire City's usual heroes?

The massive being simply standing there... Sara breaking in on the waveband... "I don't know what it's doing with its thumb... hitching a ride maybe... but I might try communicating with it mystically as well as scientifically..."

Blue Belle texts Sara even as she speaks... 'Sara, do whatever you can to make contact...' "Be assured we welcome you with open arms..." 'if you sense a multidimensional being then by all means contact it through one of your portals...' "But you've caused quite a commotion..."

The creature standing there... causing mass panic by its very presence... surely only a matter of time before the army is called in... suddenly you hear a creak as its head tilts... as if responding to Sara using her spells to tap on its mind... like a tiny mouse tapping on a massive door...

Blue Belle rambles on... "Empire City is in many ways this planet's capital city..." 'Callie... patch me thru to the ICON summit...' "I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay... say... where are you from?" getting word she's been patched through... 'ICONers... Susan MacDuff of DDSTV and the Danger Dolls here... do not panic... or attack... I fear we have nothing that will even phase him...'

The ICONers not reassured... until a stream of images begins to form in your mind... Sara being communicated to... despite the fact that she must be as a gnat to this massive being... the communication passing on to you as well... and the ICONers... as if the huge creature knows that you are all currently connected... and wants everyone to receive the same knowledge...

Blue Belle looks up in shock and awe... her babbling ceasing... as the same images appear in each mind connected... seemingly unrelated objects... seemingly imbued with mystical properties... a hint that they are connected to the alien entity... and by extension... the universe... Sara getting excited... "Yes yes... the eight treasures!"

Sara seeming to know what they are... treasures left on Earth millennia ago by this being... as a kind of cosmic test... the ICONers turning white... having met together to declare that man was at last an enlightened species... pure hyperbole on their part... but The Being seems to be taking them at their word... and demanding proof...

Blue Belle finds her voice... hoarse as it is... "So Sara... we need to gather the treasures... tell me you can locate them... and we'll get started right away..." Belle not really sure if she is talking to Sara... or the alien... or herself... Sara replying... "With a little research I think so... they're quite archetypal... but I'm afraid... we don't have much time..."

Sara translating the strange flood of images... a single rotation of planet earth... at which point either the treasures will be gathered and brought to the Being... or the thumb goes down... the massive judge having failed the human race... condemning it to oblivion so that something more enlightened might evolve over further millennia...

Blue Belle gasps as the connection fades... "Have Callie pick Chicky and me up immediately while you're researching, Sara... patch me back through to the ICONers... so I can tell them the Danger Dolls will collect the treasures and return with them by this time tomorrow... then have the team ready to discuss strategy in the conference room in ten minutes..." the descending ship dropping a zip-line...

Sara having everything ready when you ascend... the other Dolls already on their way... as you get ready for what might be their most vital mission yet... the future of the human race at stake...

Blue Belle nods to her team... "Sara has researched the locations of the eight treasures and assignments have been made... we are picking up Stacy Storm's yacht for me to use right now... and while Stacy couldn't join us... she did connect me to Domino Doll... who has agreed to help us... as well as... I hope... our former teammate... Carly..." Belle smiles... "You each have your mission before you... this is exactly the sort of situation I envisioned when I set out to build this team... I know you won't let me down... time is of the essence... Sara will drop us off one by one in a circuit of the globe... and pick us all up on the return... study your file... be ready... the world is counting on us!"

******

Serendipity wishes Domino Doll luck and lifts away from the African jungle... the wild world circuit almost complete... seven heroines left to find seven treasures... Sara steering her airship toward the Atlantic Ocean to hunt for the eighth... the Ocean Chime... a bell made of seashell... said to have sounded the fall of Atlantis... to have continued to peal its warning even as it sank beneath the waves... as does the submersible airship...

Your task seemingly impossible... as nobody has ever found the bell... of course, it's widely believed not to have existed... and certainly nobody would have tried to zone in on the frequency of its ring through four thousand fathoms of ocean water...

Serendipity has her recent vision now to give her hope... and her submersible to take her to the depths... slipstreaming through the water even faster and more efficiently than through air... sensitive listening devices on... as she approaches the Romanche Trench... having already changed into her Optisuit... now equipped with a breathing visor that takes oxygen out of water... just in case she needs to go diving...

The listening devices picking up a faint ring as you descend... your ears popping as the submersible matches pressure with the outside... and controls your descent to avoid giving you the bends... although you wouldn't be able to go all the way to the ocean floor without the protective dimensional displacement properties of the Optisuit... to stop you being crushed by the pressure...

OptiMiss following her vision and guiding the submersible airship toward the deepest point in this part of the ocean... then shutting off the engines... even holding her breath... chest swollen against the orange bodysuit... simply listening... for the even faintest pinging from the depths...

Something reaching your ears... very faint... not quite a pinging... but a low, soft sound... like a ringing chime... from far-off... quickly you use your onboard computers to pinpoint the source... not far away... just as the vision told you... any of the Dolls who hadn't experienced it might have searched the ocean for centuries without coming within a hundred miles...

OptiMiss moves to the airlock... beaming with excitement as it fills with water... and she slips into the darkness... flashlight in hand... the light illuminating little... only the occasional bizarre creature that happens through the beam... kicking her fins slowly... moving ever deeper toward the source of the sound... blinking as the pressure cracks her flashlight lens and leaves her in darkness...

The darkness at this ocean deep so total that you can barely see the lights of the ship... perhaps the airship spotlight... of course, using the airship spotlights might draw too much attention... and they might not withstand the pressure either... you wonder what your sometime teacher Baron Bizarre would do in this situation... take the risk or find another solution?

OptiMiss realizes she is more of a techno wizard than a mystic... and adjusts her visor readings so that she sees vibrations in the water... not only the movement of other creatures around her... but even the pinging she seeks... rising up like ripples in this virtual representation of swirling psychedelic currents... into which she swims...

Your eyes widening under the visor as you see something approaching... at first you mistake it for a large fish... but it seems humanoid... although the feet end in flipper rather than toes... and the hands are webbed... the two on-comers carrying spears... and massively muscled... presumably to avoid the crushing pressure... the psychedelic swirling colors only making the 'sight' stranger...

OptiMiss gulps... worried that perhaps she is hallucinating... but her body readings are within limits... perhaps her visor's representation of her surroundings is misleading... but she trusts her equipment... no, impossible as it seems... she realizes has come face to face with the stuff of lore... mermen...

The two mermen stopping in front of you... both holding spears... scowling... instead of speaking, their eyes flash in a series of pulses... perhaps sound not carrying well at these depths... maybe your visor can duplicate their 'speech' if you can crack the code...

OptiMiss records and runs an analysis of their flashing eyes... her heart racing almost as fast as her mind... as she sees the results on the inside of her visor and tries to make some sort of educated guesses about color and length of pulse... mimicking what seems to be the greeting with a projection on her visor...

The mermen looking at each other... surprised that you're capable of parroting their challenge back at them... flashing at each other... one gesticulating towards you angrily... the other more placating... as you desperately try to work out whether they mean to attack or help you find the Chime...

OptiMiss cringes and shakes her head... a cloud of bubbles escaping her lips that lift her hair like seaweed as she thinks... gesturing with a gloved hand to herself... making a sweeping gesture to the darkness... then cupping her hand over her visor as she plays back the pinging of the Chime...

The mermen gasping at the sound of the chime... one of them instantly going on the attack... swimming towards you like a shark... attacking the same way... aiming to drive a hard fist into your belly in passing... as the other stands back... nonplussed at the strange situation...

OptiMiss is no match for her attacker in his element... and doubles up around the surprising hard punch from the merman... her suit fortunately provides her some protection... still bubbles exploding from her mouth... as a gloved hand fumbles to draw the stun baton from her gadget belt... and thrust it out into the passing swimmer...

The other merman flashing desperately... though whether at you or the other merman is hard to tell... the stun-baton doing its work... carrying a charge like an electric eel... the merman shocked hard... but still trying to attack... as if perceiving you as a terrible threat... you can only hope the ship's onboard computer can decode those flashes and give you the answer to the puzzle...

OptiMiss yelps out another explosion of bubbles... the baton struck from her hand... twisting frantically aside... barely avoiding a thrust of the spear... which catches her gadget belt and spins her around... flailing in the water as her visor reports a near match for the language... and she desperately displays an "I come in peace" approximation...

The merman moving to the attack... but restrained by his comrade... who seems to prefer jaw jaw to war war... or flash flash to bash bash... signaling to you... "If you come in peace, why do you seek the Ultimate Weapon?"

OptiMiss flashes back in more ways than one as the first merman's webbed hand rips the top of her bodysuit... the water very cold... her nipples getting very hard... even as her flashing visor approximates... "I know not Chime a weapon... but alien visitor requests it brought to him... or he will eradicate mankind..." shivering...

The snarling merman's eyes dropping to your chest... even as he flashes angrily... "But we are not mankind..." the other shaking his head... "Even if someone were to ring the terrible weapon whose sound shook Atlantis apart and sank us beneath the waves... it would not touch us here... either way the surface is ultimately doomed... perhaps you should take it... and the responsibility for it..."

OptiMiss blinking behind her visor... which betrays nothing about her thoughts... could the Ocean Chime really have been what destroyed Atlantis... could it really be the ultimate weapon... or are the mermen's legends as warped by time as mankind's... she shudders... her breasts unlike her visor displaying exactly how freezing cold she is... as she flashes... "Please... I have no choice but to try..."

The merman flashing... "All right... it's behind us... we've not dared to move it or touch it in all these centuries... and it still rings... for your sake, do not ring it again... or allow it to be rung..."

OptiMiss offers a wan smile as she swims forward... "I understand..." hands shaking... as well as everything else... dropping a bag over the shimmering shell sculpture... the touch extinguishing the pinging... lifting it away from its pedestal... attaching the drawstring to her belt... and after a quick nod... swimming away... her nipples throbbing... thinking she will never be warm again...

The mermen watching after you... the aggressive one still wanting to swim after you and strike you down... but seeming less threatening now that you know his motive was to protect the surface world from total destruction at the sound of this unearthly bell... not the first time something of such beauty has had the potential for destruction...

Serendipity waves one last time and disappears into her massive vessel... stripping out of her torn costume as soon as the frigid water is flushed from the airlock... her teeth chattering as towels off... still shivering as she carries the bell to tesseract safe... locking it away between dimensions... before setting course to begin picking up the others... hoping they are each as fortunate as she...

******

Domino Doll removes her cloak and tosses it over a shoulder... the humid jungle quickly becoming hot... Sara having told her the Black Pearl treasure she seeks would be in the possession of a tribe living along the river along which she hikes... their contact with the modern world practically non-existent... certainly they would never have seen anything like the blond in the diaphanous white dress now entering their territory...

Diaphanous white perhaps not the best choice for the jungle... but the white helps keep you cool... along with the shade of the trees... plenty of cover for an approaching animal... or for this tribe... known as the Keepers Of The Flame... you wonder how much of Sara's information is from the alien vision and how much from ancient descriptions... and what was left out of both...

Domino Doll takes a break to remove her nylon stockings... sitting on a log by the water... wondering if this particular mission was the best choice for her... but realizing it was simply what was left that the Dolls couldn't get to... breaking the heels of her shoes and leaving the stockings... she continues onward...

Sweat starting to build on your skin... and the feeling of eyes roaming... as if dozens of them are watching from the tree line... though you see nobody... your eyes widening as they return to the path ahead... and a huge python uncoiling from a tree... hissing... and slithering towards you...

Domino Doll stops in her tracks... flashing creamy thigh as she draws the gun from her garter holster... aiming in front of the slithering snake... firing a warning shot... her aim quite good... prepared to put the next bullet right between its eyes if the beast keeps coming...

The creature hissing... and going on its way... as you hear a rustle from the bushes... as if something larger is hiding there... something perhaps startled by the appearance of a gun... or who has never come across such a thing before...

Domino Doll wipes sweat from her brow... realizing the sound of the shot has probably been heard for miles... she swings the gun around to the sound of rustling bushes... the blue eyes behind the mask as steely as her gun's barrel... staring into the shadows... "Who goes there?"

The gun held steady in your hand... as the rustling continues... and then a small lion cub pads out of the bushes... looking at you for a moment and then darting off... as your shadow stretching in front of you is joined by another... a large, silent hunter who knows better than to rustle bushes... and is right behind you...

Domino Doll smiles at the cute little lion cub... notes the looming shadow converging with her own... and spins on makeshift flats... trying to obscure her movements with a flutter of cloak whipped from her shoulder... as her gun hand whips around... ready to fire if she gets the chance...

The big black man behind you carrying a long wooden pole... which he attempts to use to knock the dangerous object from your grasp... having deduced that without it you would be unable to create thunder... the man fully six foot six... skin black as night... apart from some red tribal markings... and a small circular scar in the centre of his chest... like he's been burned...

Domino Doll yelps as her hand is smacked... the blow sending her weapon flying... firing one time as it glances off a rock... and plops into the river beyond... looking upwards... biting her lip at the size of him... stumbling backwards... trying to swirl her cloak about her and retreat into the shadows while she still can...

The hunter does not smile... or speak... totally committed to his task... spinning the staff around... eyes glinting as he aims to sweep it at your ankles and bring you off your feet... so he can spin the staff once more and jam the end into your belly to pin you... a style of fighting unknown outside this area...

Domino Doll squeals as she falls out of the shadow of her swirling cloak... sprawling like a fallen angel... the diaphanous white fabric of her dress having soaked up enough sweat to hide little as it clings to her jiggling breasts... lurching as the pole is brought down into the pit of her stomach... driving the air out of her even as it pins her flailing form like a bug in a collection...

The big man keeping you pinned as two more like him step out of the bushes without rustling a single one... their markings different... but the designs evocative of flame... the central burn scar the same... perhaps from prolonged exposure to the pearl as part of a coming of age ritual... the two newcomers grabbing hold of you...

Domino Doll reaches for the pole that pins her... unable to push it aside before powerful hands grip her wrists and ankles... holding her as she screams... the first man lifting the pole and ripping away her dress... and panties... gagging her... using strips of the white dress to bind her... ankles... knees... wrists... elbows... to the pole... helpless as she is lifted... the leader donning her cloak as he leads them off...

The dark cloak looking surprisingly good on him... some sort of Hunter-Bearer relationship as the other two lift the pole... and the Hunter walks ahead... but you have no time for an anthropological study as your naked flesh jiggles helplessly... carried up the trail... and into a jungle clearing...

Domino Doll looks all around... the eyes behind the mask frantic... the eyes of her bearers hungry... licking their lips as they carry her... her squirming flesh creamy... glistening with sweat... the center of attention as it is carried into the clearing... overcome by a sense of dread as she feels the eyes upon her...

Your eyes sweeping the clearing as best you can... widening as the Bearers carry you around... and you see a large group of tribesmen and women in various social castes... all looking at you... and at a hardwood 'X' in the centre of the clearing... a pile of bracken at the bottom... and a charred skeleton still tied there from a previous ritual...

Domino Doll swallowing hard at the foreboding sight... the pearl forgotten... straining at her binds with all her might... succeeding in nothing more than demonstrating the lean quality of her flesh... several of the tribe nodding eagerly... as two women come forward and begin to brush her skin with some sort of mixture that causes it to tingle... before the men carry her to the X frame...

The skeleton taken away... as a female tribe member adorned with red and yellow paint carries a small earthenware jug... her hands covered with animal hide to protect them from the heat... as you are lashed to the X frame with vines... and the priestess tips the black pearl out onto the bracken... the tribe giving out a single roar of approval...

Domino Doll's eyes widen behind her mask as the treasure rolls into view... the black pearl glowing... her nostrils flaring at the smell of burning wood... already feeling the heat on the soles of her feet as the bracken begins to glow... the very thing she sought seemingly to become the instrument of her demise... shaking her head as the kindling ignites... tongues of flames lapping at her bare feet...

The tribe grinning... another sacrifice to the black pearl... bringer of fire... the priestess stepping back... even as the oil reacts to the heat... tingling more and more... a fiendish addition to your awful fate... as you desperately try to escape the vines... wondering if there's a way out of this... or if your demise will be followed by the world's...

Domino Doll’s screams muffled by her gag... sweat streaming down her face... and her body... as the light of the dancing flames plays across her curves... and bathes the clearing in light... curling her toes as they begin to burn... choking on the smoke... even as a shower of rain falls from a cloudless sky... the flames reduced to steam for the moment... the cooked vines loosening...

The crowd gasping... looking to the sky... as you reach down and grab hold of the pearl... popping it into the earthenware pot before it can burn your hands... the Hunter standing... looking around for his stave so he can bring you down again... the rest of the tribe only gaping... blasphemy of this sort never having occurred before... not knowing how to react to someone stealing their precious flame pearl...

Domino Doll tosses the gag of her panties aside after using it to protect her hands while putting the pearl in the pot... running for a dangling line as a shadow in the sky descends... the Hunter moving to block her escape... but even the Hunter blinded as the airship's spotlights come on... giving the heroine with only a mask the chance she needs to rip away her cloak... which swirls about her as the line lifts her into the night...

The tribespeople rioting... some trying to bring you down with spears... others wondering how they will do without fire... the Hunter making a vow that one day he will bring you back to pay for this crime... no matter what strange thunder-makers or flying houses you might have to help you...

Domino Doll handing the earthen pot with the pearl over to Sara... who sets the airship on a course east... before taking Domino Doll to the infirmary to treat her burns... "It was a smart idea to set that fire to show me where to find you..." Domino gasping... "I didn't set the fire... they were about to cook me for dinner!" Sara smiling and winking... "And nobody has to know but us."

******

Blue Belle gets started the moment the airship leaves her and the Minx on the waves off Australia... maneuvering past the old reef and laying anchor... changing into a metallic blue bikini... scuba gear... and dropping over the side into the warm water... the image of the particular coral called Rusty Elm that she now seeks fresh in her mind...

The corals having grown slowly over the millennia from a tiny spore originally left by The Being billions of years before... only a sample needed... which is a mercy... since while the coral hasn't spread far, it would be hard to bring every piece of it up to the boat... not to mention the damage that would be done to the ecosystem here in this rarely-explored cove...

Blue Belle kicks slowly through the water... her hair trailing back like the gadgets dangling from her belt... the reef lovely... and full of life... spotting the red color she seeks off a ways to her left... heading for it... enjoying the water and the sights... musing that she may have drawn the best assignment of the eight...

The red coral occupying only a small patch... obviously having fought very hard to sustain itself on what for it must be an alien world... with all the problems that coral has to face in a modern ocean... pollutants... higher acidity... perhaps the Being left it as a test to see if we would wipe it out through our environmental stupidity...

Blue Belle swims closer... in awe of the beauty of this alien coral... which has formed a rust-colored latticework... like an iron frame left to oxidize for eons... taking the knife from her ankle and carefully removing a tiny portion to her specimen bag... pulling the drawstring tight... deciding to take a moment to explore this beautiful place... before returning to the Minx...

Your eyes narrowing as you notice the fish nibbling on the coral... like no fish you've ever seen... strangely shaped... one specimen swimming past you with four eyes... another with several sets of fins... like a fish crossed with a caterpillar... the alien coral perhaps having caused mutations... maybe a good thing that it can't spread easily... despite the fascinating mutations it causes...

Blue Belle follows the caterpillar fish... fascinated... resolving to return and explore more... hopefully after the crisis has been averted... the odd fish swimming inside a honeycomb of holes... holes too small for Belle to follow... breaking off her pursuit... feeling at home in the water... as if she belongs here... almost as if this were her home water...

A prickling on the back of your neck... as you turn... eyes widening as you see how far the mutation has gone... a massive shark swimming towards you... teeth bared... and eight tentacles growing out of it... devouring the caterpillar fish whole... and then turning to you...

Blue Belle gasps... spewing bubbles into the water... with no time to raise the spear gun from her belt... twisting and spinning... swinging her air tank at the shark-like snout of the mutation... hoping a blow to the snout might discourage it like it might a shark...

The blow discouraging the sharktopus from trying to grab you in its gnashing jaws... but encouraging it to attack with its tentacles... eight tentacles whipping out and attempting to wrap around you... aiming to squeeze you into submission...

Blue Belle is caught in the forest of writhing tentacles... struggling as it drags her closer... reaching for her knife... getting the weapon in hand... but unable to cut any tentacles as the wrist holding the knife is pulled up past her head... as the suckering tendrils of muscle begin to squeeze the air out of her...

The tentacles squeezing... slithering over your flesh... the suckers not gripping as a real octopus would... but all the same... difficult to slip free... as the tentacles draw you close and closer to the gnashing teeth of the monster... various other mutant fish swimming around... swordjellyfish and electric anemone gathering to observe your fate...

Blue Belle strains in the grip of an ever-tightening dark fate... the terrible jaws inches from her flesh... when she cuts the only thing her knife can reach... her own air hose... sending an explosion of bubbles into the eyes of the monster... with the hope it might cause the grip to loosen so that she can slip away...

The creature blinded... tentacles loosening as it tries to bat the blast of bubbles away from its eyes... giving you a second to get clear... now without air as you attempt to get out of the monster's reach while you can...

Blue Belle drops her tank... trailing bubbles as it plunges into the depths... kicking for the surface... feeling the bag with the coral rubbing against her thigh... still tightly attached to her belt... swimming past the startled swordjellyfish... putting it between herself and the sharktopus... her hands reaching for the surface... powerful legs flutter kicking the fins behind her...

The shark reaching for the tank... then hurling it away... speeding up towards you through the water... but slowed by the swordjellyfish and their stinging tentacles and sword-noses... veering around them and allowing you precious seconds...

Blue Belle zips for the surface... her whole body coming up out of the water... jaws snapping at her fins... taking a huge bite out of one... as she hangs in air... and jackknifes back into the water like the very animal that now joins her... a dolphin... mimicking her jump... then offering her a fin... to speed her away from the pursuing jaws of death...

The dolphin speeding through the water so fast that you fear you might lose your hold... as you note a pair of tailfins... working in concert to give it greater speed in the water... even the dolphin affected by close proximity to this strange coral...

Blue Belle hugs the dolphin as it carries her away from the imminent danger... patting her friend as he leaves her at the yacht... water streaming from her bodacious body as she drags it up the ladder... the tiny metallic blue bikini wet and clingy... checking quickly to make sure she still has the Rusty Elm coral in the bag...

The small piece thankfully still there... hopefully large enough... as you're left wondering if the rest of the coral should be left to spawn further mutations... or removed... and if any of the other eight treasures have been responsible for evil consequences like the rampaging sharktopus...

Blue Belle puts the coral in the safe... strips... showers... wearing a towel as she moves to the bridge to contact the airship... to check on the others and let Sara know she is ready to be picked up... and discuss her environmental concerns to be addressed after they take care of the current crisis...

******

Cavegirl Carly rides on the back of her big cat Rex as they pad off through familiar jungle towards the volcano in the distance... where her old team techie Serendipity has told her she will find the Tao Flute... an ancient instrument carved from bone... part of a collection Blue Belle said they must find within one sun... to save the world...

Rex growling a greeting at the various animals on this side of the island... a paradise for the two of you... but the island big enough to hold many dangers... and apparently the Tao Flute has found its way to the most dangerous part... where you've spotted large and ferocious beasts... and occasionally the brutal lizard men... who are jealous of their territory and brook no intrusion...

Cavegirl Carly hugs her warm fuzzy companion and whispers in his ear as they reach the upland woods... "Move fast and quiet Rex... the lizard men have no more love of you and I than we do of them when they venture into our jungle..." her dirty blond ponytail whipping about as she scans their surroundings for any sign of trouble...

The big lizards basking in the sunshine... eyes closed... their relationship with the lizard men similar to you and Rex... acting as familiars... and occasionally sentries... although strange to see the almost dinosaur-size beasts snoozing at this hour... usually they're pressed to work by the lizard tribe...

Cavegirl Carly watches closely as her cat pads past these thunder lizards from an epoch older than his own... the island a crazy mix of prehistoric eras... seemingly divided into sections... like pieces of lost lands around the central volcano... the mountain toward which Rex hurries... his tiny rider in an animal skin bikini not slowing him down a bit...

The lizards not waking from their slumber... as you pad towards the volcano... finally catching your first sight of a pair of lizard men... the creatures padding through the jungle as if in a daze... or sleepwalking... one carrying a basket of exotic fruits gathered from the forest... the other wood for a fire... which the lizard people generally don't care for... preferring the natural heat of the suns rays...

Cavegirl Carly finds this odd and pats Rex to stay out of sight... "They're heading upslope... hang back and follow them... for all we know they might lead us to the cave Sara described... if not we'll keep on going..." the pace of the pair slowing... their feline forms slinking together as one through the upland pine forest... through a bed of orchids... following the lizard men on the sunny path...

Your eyes flicking back and forth... as you see the lizardmen sleepwalk their way up the slop... your ears catching the faint sound of music... notes played on a flute... the situation becoming more clear as you follow the entranced lizardmen...

Cavegirl Carly nibbles at her lip as she hears the music and realizes the lizardmen may be in possession of the treasure she seeks... lizardmen who have raided her jungle... and whom she has repelled violently... unlikely to be friendly to her now... "Be careful Rex... this stalking calls for stealth..."

Rex pads quieter... becoming as silent as a serpent... as the lizard men continue to walk up the path towards the cave... firelight burning inside... the music clearly audible now... a pair of lizard sentries on guard outside... Rex smelling them before you turn the corner around the mountain that would put you in their line of sight... growling a warning almost under his breath...

Cavegirl Carly nods almost imperceptibly... knowing what he senses without looking herself... her voice muffled in the fur by his ear... "Let's circle around... get up over the top of the cave... and I'll like see if I can get in from there..." several minutes later she peers down from over the cave mouth... leaning over to try to look inside...

The sentries several paces ahead... staring forward... a lack of strategy no lizardman would show... if he were not being controlled by another... your eyes widening as you see the truth... a man in ragged clothes and beard playing the flute... lounging on a cushion of fur... exotic meats and fruits piled about him... the fire continually fed... as he uses the mystic flute to pacify the lizard tribe and steal their minds... like a man charming a deadly snake...

Cavegirl Carly hangs there upside down... her ponytail dangling like a plumb bob... blinking as the odd behavior of the lizardmen is explained... the firewood and fruit... the sentries... none of it their doing... all of it done to please the man on the cushion... the man she finds herself agreeing must be obeyed... until Rex drags her back by the bikini bottoms and boxes her ears...

The flute insidious... working on the lizard brain... the effect on you less than on the lizardmen... but still needing to be consciously blocked out... you almost feel sorry for the enslaved lizard creatures... their society may be brutal, but it doesn't deserve to be destroyed so some outsider can lounge in luxury at their expense...

Cavegirl Carly whispers to Rex... "Wait here, boy... I'm going to steal that flute and teach that guy a lesson! Wait down below and be ready to run when the time comes..." grinning even as her huge companion grumbles... padding off as she leans back over the cave mouth... and uses her acrobatic skill to swing inside... claws extending to cling to the stalactites...

The flute echoing in your head as you concentrate on resisting it... the lizard people not seeing your approach... and neither does the man playing the flute... until a chunk of stalactite drops from the roof to clatter against the floor... the man's eyes widening as stops playing a moment... "An intruder! Grab her!" The lizards turning towards you...

Cavegirl Carly drops down as her plan of stealth goes awry... landing easily on her feet and rushing for the man with the flute... the lizardmen faster than her short legs... gaining on her... one cutting her off... cartwheeling into a flip over him... desperately trying to reach the man with the flute before she is caught...

The lizardmen slow and sluggish... reaching to grab hold of you... surging to surround you... the man playing desperately... not allowing his panic to stop him playing the notes that keep the lizardmen in his power...

Cavegirl Carly nearly succeeds... only a few feet away from tackling the man... when she is herself tackled by an angry mob of lizards... dragging her down by her bikini... clawing frantically as her bikini is ripped away... the lizardmen seemingly numb to her slashing wounds...

The man breathing a sigh of relief... "Secure her with her own bikini... then set her here... a woman is the one thing I'm missing in my little paradise..."

Cavegirl Carly yelps and struggles as the lizardmen rough her up a bit while hogtying her wrists and knees together with her bottoms... and her ankles and elbows with her top... her head is wrenched back as her ponytail is tied back as well... her stout little body arched back... "Don't touch me! Let me go!" eyes looking for the man... "Who are you anyway?"

The bearded man grinning... playing another little riff on the bone flute to keep the lizardmen docile... "Just a castaway washed up on the beach... after the DEA happened to sink my boat... I thought I was going to drown... luckily I made it to this cave... and found this flute... and there are man-size snakes to charm... I used to work in a circus before I took up smuggling..."

Cavegirl Carly straining against the animal skin bindings... her eyes narrowing... "Well you won't get away with this... this is like my island... and that flute is..." wide eyes blinking... "My but it makes nice music... I'll do whatever you want... please play some more... master..."

The bearded man grinning... and playing... "That's more like it... nobody resists the flute for long..." Chuckling as his hand grips and squeezes willing flesh... the unzips... looking at you as if debating whether to simply use you while bound...

Cavegirl Carly watches him unzip with great big eyes... licking her lips... her naked body seemingly writhing in anticipation more than struggling to escape... grinding her loins against the rug on which she lies... her nipples visibly tightening as they inch forward... "Master... must be obeyed..."

The bearded man smirking... gripping your hair... and forcing himself between your lips... pushing into your throat... slowly taking your mouth as he plays an occasional tune with the other hand... "Mmmm... yep... I can see this little holiday stretching on for some time... untie her, boys..."

Cavegirl Carly must suck obediently... hollowing out her cheeks... triple tonguing the man's flute... playing him for all she's worth... as the lizardmen follow orders and untie her... grinning as she is freed... and she grabs the man's boner... claws extending... "Give me the flute... or I'll rip it off!"

The man yelping as your claws sink in... dropping the flute... the lizard men blinking as it clatters on the ground... still dazed... unmoving... as you pick up the flute yourself...

Cavegirl Carly stands up with the flute in hand... deciding to try playing a few notes... grinning to the lizardmen... "He tried to enslave you..." nodding to the bearded man... "Enslave him..." playing a few more notes... "Until I return..." taking a few steps toward the cave mouth experimentally...

The lizardmen snapping awake at your untutored notes... looking at you... fully aware... hissing furiously at you... then pointing to the cave exit... as two of them grab the man... dragging him to a fate far worse than enslavement... the lizardman's meaning clear... you are to take the flute away from their side of the island... and neither of you are to return...

Cavegirl Carly nods to the lizardmen... completely naked as she walks to the cave mouth... calls to her companion... and flipping onto his back as he appears... grinning and waving as she rides off... yelling at the lizardmen... "Your welcome..." traveling through the night to be ready and waiting when the airship returns...

******

Dragon Doll has mixed emotions about returning to Vietnam... the home of her grandmother... Mistress Mekong... but it was obvious that she was the best choice to approach the master of the temple that Sara says holds the Mekong Horn... which although it can be blown to make a loud screeching noise... is rumored to be the actual horn of an ancient dragon... and so she finds herself just outside Ho Chi Minh City...

A trail into the hills leading towards an ancient temple... where allegedly the Mekong Horn can be found... the temple impossible to spot from the city... hidden amongst trees... an ancient old man sitting cross-legged outside...

Dragon Doll slips through the trees... flowing from shadow to shadow... seeing nothing extraordinary about the old man... but senses a calm beyond any she has ever known... she decides to approach the man directly... red silk fluttering as she steps forth... in wooden sandals... her silks belted by a white sash... long dark hair flowing loose over what appears to be a katana strapped to her back...

The old man nodding... holding chopsticks in one hand... thick noodle soup in the other... "Ah, a visitor... the first I've had in many a year... and a relative of Mistress Mekong by the look of you... granddaughter or grand-niece, perhaps..." he chuckles... "She was a student of mine... but I see from your stance there's little you could learn from an old man like me..."

Dragon Doll looks down and realizes one leg is exposed to the hip... her red silk falling away to either side of the muscular thigh... nodding politely... hoping the heat rising to her cheeks as a result of being compared to her grandmother doesn't show... "She did what she had to do... I come to you prepared to do the same... I seek the Mekong Horn..."

The old man nodding again... slurping noodles... "Obviously, I cannot let you have it... in the wrong hands, the Mekong Horn is a very dangerous weapon... one trained in the art can summon sounds which can destroy anything... the terrible warlord Tang Ho, whose crimes and evil echo through the centuries, possessed it once... whole cities were raised and armies destroyed... I could not allow it to happen again..."

Dragon Doll bows politely... "I know the legends... but I must have the horn..." wondering if she should tell him of the alien... "I am Omitsu Saga... Dragon of the Snake clan... and recently head of the Yakuza... despite what you may have heard about me... I do not seek this treasure for myself... but as a dragon I must admit it fascinates me..."

The old man nodding... "A dragon... very nice for you... it must be pleasant to be able to call upon such power to crush your enemies whenever you please... I am but a simple and foolish old man and could never stand in a dragon's way... but all the same, you cannot have the horn... it takes more than power to possess it... and more than curiosity... to allow it to pass into your hands for either reason would be to risk creating another Tang Ho..."

Dragon Doll narrows her eyes of dragon fire at the old man... is he baiting her... should she just kill him and search the temple... but then what if she could not find the horn... should she torture him for the location... that's what her Master Shinji would be doing... "You tempt fate old man... what if I told you I need that horn to save the world?"

The old man smiles... finishing his noodles and putting the bowl aside... "If you were honorable and told the truth, I would have no option but to allow you the horn... but if you were dishonorable and trying to trap me in a lie, I must keep it... the question is now one of your honor... are you honorable, or power-hungry?"

Dragon Doll cannot withhold the smirk that comes to her lips... "Are you sure those two things are completely incompatible..." her expression sobering... "But I assure you that I tell the truth... a being from beyond has come to Empire City... and demanded to see the 'Eight Treasures' of which the Horn is one... or he will destroy the human race..."

The old man nodding... "An unlikely tale... most probably a lie... and so I must see you off my property..." he smiles... hopping up and assuming a fighting stance... "Of course, if you are lying, and power-hungry, you will simply use your dragon to destroy me... but as I said, I am merely a foolish old man..."

Dragon Doll nods and ties back her jet black hair into a ponytail with a strand of silk... eyeing the old man... dragon image flashing across her shoulder as she reaches for the katana on her back... "Foolish you are... but killing you would put me no closer to my goal since I know not where the horn is hidden..." leaning her katana against a tree and stepping out of her sandals... "Is there no way for me to prove my honor to you?"

The old man smiles... "Swear not to use your sword or your dragon in this battle... if you can defeat me without using them, I will know you are honorable and your story is true... if not..." He leaves the sentence unfinished... assuming a battle stance and waiting for your attack...

Dragon Doll bows politely... her eyes never leaving the old man's... "Hai... agreed..." the curl of her lips and tone of her voice making it clear she expects to win... "I'll try not to hurt you..." grinning... "Too much..." clenching her fists as she lunges forward... silk flaring as her powerful legs begin to kick Muay Thai style...

The old man narrowing his eyes... blocking each kick... seemingly without effort... using his palm to deflect the kicks before they reach him... moving as quick as lightning... showing that you may have underestimated his powers... "Will you indeed?"

Dragon Doll purses her lips... punching her closed fists at his chest... arms and shoulders bulging... her body powerful enough... even without the dragon... to break boards or bricks or bones... "Taunting me will only make me angry, old man!"

The old man smiling... almost a smirk... "How like Tang Ho you are..." taking the first punch in the chest... staggering him... blocking the second... before lashing out with a pair of roundhouse kicks... the first designed to lift you off your feet... the second to send you flying through the air...

Dragon Doll grins as her first punch lands... grimacing as a second is blocked... grunting as the countering kick lifts her off the ground... her body folding forward around the amazingly powerful kick as it lifts her off the ground... flailing as she is sent flying... red silk fluttering... her flight halted by a tree... one sleeve of her robe tearing away as she tumbles to the ground... reaching for her sword... before shaking her head...

The old man smirking... almost sneering... "Reaching for a weapon... tut tut..." Running forward... then leaping... flipping over... aiming to land on you from above... his thin legs churning in a series of five brutal downward kicks... like a human jackhammer...

Dragon Doll rolls to her back... eyes wide as she sees him descending... red silk falling away from powerful limbs as she attempts to parry... blocking... with bare feet... one... two... open palms... three... four... lurching as the fifth kick drives her down into the ground... her body lurching with a loud crunch...

The old man hopping gracefully and nimbly to one side... giving you a moment to recover... or a moment to focus himself into the coming kick... before spinning to deliver it... aiming a downward foot into your prone belly... targeting your lower ribs...

Dragon Doll gulps for air... unable to draw the breath she so desperately needs... the descending foot driving through the white sash belt all the way to the ground... empty red silk fluttering around it... as the bodybuilder rolls away and up to her feet... clutching at her midsection... exposed chest heaving... dragon tattoo traveling from arm to back to thigh... pulsating... before disappearing behind pained eyes...

The old man watching the traveling tattoo carefully... stepping back for a moment as though giving you a chance to use it... then spinning into a dancing series of kicks that whip around like helicopter blades... aiming to lifting you off your feet once again... and then slam you into the side of the temple... his eyes still watching for any sign that you might be about to break your earlier promise...

Dragon Doll lifts her arms to block the kicks... staggering back from the first two strikes... ponytail swishing the air... then sent spinning head over heels... her body spinning end over end into the stone of the temple... crumpling to the ground... shaking her head as she gets to hands and knees... flame raging in her eyes... erupting from her mouth... quickly squelched... either by pride or honor...

The old man raising an eyebrow... "Was that a flame I saw? Come come, don't be shy... Tang Ho would never have shown a foe mercy..." He steps forward... aiming a swift double-kick with one foot... aiming for belly and breasts... and hard enough to crack the stone behind... if not more of your ribs...

Dragon Doll looks up with tortured eyes... and a firmly set jaw... struggling with her own raging demons as well as the old man... whose kicks bruise her bouncing breasts as they lift her up... and pin her to the stone wall... the rapid-fire blows snapping several more of her ribs... blinking... a raging dragon trying to leap from her shoulder... disappearing as her arms drop to her sides...

The old man eyeing you closely... drawing back his fast... the heel aiming to strike between your eyes... in a killing blow... as he waits for a long moment... cold grey eyes boring into yours...

Dragon Doll stares back... shaking... the expression defiant... as the dragon comes and goes all over her sweat-covered flesh... her pride not letting her succumb to the temptation to release the dragon... even with the fate of the world hanging in the balance... unblinking as she waits for the blow to come... eyes narrowing...

The old man nodding... turning... and strolling into the temple... returning a few moments later with the Mekong Horn... "Here... I believe you... and so the horn is now yours, for good or ill... I abdicate my responsibility for it... and transfer the weight onto you... feel free to use your dragon to heal... the bout is over..." He bows... presenting the horn to you...

Dragon Doll bows back... wincing in pain... her usual smirk slowly replaced by a more genuine smile... "Tanks... not only for the horn... but for teaching me how to master my own demons... Master..." taking the Horn and limping over to her silks... pulling them back on... wrapping the horn in the white sash... tossing it over her shoulder...

The old man bowing... "Not at all... it was a pleasure to meet someone with such restraint in dire circumstances... now, please hurry... and save our world..." He smiles... "Oh, and no need to be so formal... in future, call me Tang Ho..."

******

Lavender Lass slips off her shoes as she enters her Uncle Yugi's house and tip toes up the stairs... hoping to sneak up on him... passing from shadow to shadow... wincing as a strategically placed weak board creaks... giving her away... grinning and waving as he spins... looking none too happy... "Hai, I'm here... and ready to pick up the Chi Edge you said you'd have waiting for me..."

Your eyes widening as you see your Uncle is sporting a nasty looking black eye... and a broken hand... as well as several other bruises and contusions... his personal guard either bandaged or missing... "Kei... I had the Chi Edge here when I called... but they must have been monitoring my phone transmission... they stormed in here and took it... my best men tried to stop them... and now they're in the hospital... or dead...”

Lavender Lass stares blankly for a moment... blood draining from her face... the fate of the world depending on her successfully procuring this fabled bronze knife... her mouth twitches... "The honor of our clan has been attacked... but I shall restore it... who was it... who took the Chi Edge? They have Lavender Lass to deal with now!"

Your Uncle shaking his head... "They called themselves the Brotherhood Of Blood And Bronze... they've sought the blade for years... my agents told me the location of their temple before they were killed... but you can't go alone... give me a few hours to find more men to assist you..."

Lavender Lass sighs and shakes her head... "Tanks, Uncle Yugi... but there is no time to waste... I have to have the edge and be ready to go when the airship returns... we're on a tight schedule... don't worry... I'm getting better all the time... really..." forcing a grin... her chest pushing out against lavender silk as she clenches her fists... "And I want to avenge this attack on our house!"

Uncle Yugi looking worried... but putting on a brave face for your sake... and showing you to the armory... where you can pick and choose from all the weapons of the clan... before setting out on your mission to the Brotherhood Temple...

Lavender Lass looks around the armory... muscles rippling under the flowing silk... toying with her braids... trying to decide... "I suppose a katana would be traditional... but I'm really better with a mace or someting I tink..." taking a nasty-looking mace on the end of a chain... whipping it around and accidentally destroying a couple of antique tables... "Hai! Now I'm dangerous!"

Your Uncle wincing at the destruction of the antiques... "Ah... very dangerous..." Watching as you leave... heading across the city... to the massive skyscraper that hides the temple of the Brotherhood on its topmost floor... difficult to scale from the outside... but not impossible...

Lavender Lass eyes the skyscraper... wrapping the mace around the golden sash that frames her waist... beginning to climb... figuring she doesn't have time to fight through thirty-two levels of brothers to get to the stolen artifact... all her training coming in handy... climbing the outside of the building very much like climbing a rock wall... as long as none of the gargoyles come to life...

The gargoyles providing excellent handholds... your training helping you spot security cameras on the outside of the building... sweeping back and forth in arcs... forcing you to shift back and forth around the corner of the building to avoid being caught in the glare... challenging... but again, not impossible...

Lavender Lass gets a nice workout... lavender silk fluttering in the wind... away from flexing muscles shiny with sweat... weaving in and out of the purview of the security cameras... finally crawling over the mouth of one big head... standing in the lower jaw... peering over head to see what awaits her on the rooftop... searching for access to the temple floor below... the likely location of the stolen blade...

A large skylight the best bet... although there's also an air vent that might be less dangerous... but also less direct... and who knows if the air duct will even take you to the temple level...

Lavender Lass grins... having no intention of sneaking in after what happened to her Uncle... unwrapping the mace from her waist as she hops to the roof... swinging it in a huge arc as she marches forward... the weapon making a whirring noise... until she drops to a knee and brings it down into the skylight... shattered glass raining down... followed by a girl in fluttering lavender...

Your eyes widening as you land on a corpse... some girl snatched from the streets... and chained to an altar... as your eyes make out the surrounding Brothers in their red robes... eleven of them... with their leader making a devil's dozen... gripping the handle of the Chi Edge... that seems to glow... as if feeding him chi from the spilled blood...

Lavender Lass straddles the corpse... lavender settling over bulging thighs as she lands... the whirring mace swinging around and around... then snapping out the closest of the Brothers... like a cannonball yoyo...

The mace crushing the man's head before he has time to blink... the others leaping forward... the leader standing back for the moment... out of range... trusting the remaining ten to bring you down...

Lavender Lass flips off the altar... still spinning the vicious weapon... round and round... daring the others to step within range... and be pulverized... like the wooden beam that gets in the way... the altar collapsing behind her... her eyes following the leader with the blade... as she stalks slowing forward through his men... her hips sway in an opposing rhythm to that of the swinging mace...

The mace taking out one... two... three... sending them flying... unconscious or worse... but you gave them plenty of warning... the leader snarls... eyes glowing with stolen chi... as a couple of his men choose the better part of valor and run for it... rather than risk shattered skulls...

Lavender Lass lunges and snaps the mace out at one of the remaining four men... only her terrific fitness and technique allowing her to handle the heavy weapon... yanking it back past her head as another tries to take advantage from behind... her own brown eyes focused on the glowing eyes of the Big Brother... as if challenging him...

The last two stepping back... looking to the Big Brother himself... "Master... if you lent us some of your chi..." The cult leader snarling... "Such power is for me alone... and I will only add to it when the bronze blade bathes in her blood..." Leaping forward... slashing with the Chi Edge...

Lavender Lass steps forward to engage... swinging around her powerful weapon... jaw dropping as the bronze blades severs the chain and the mace goes flying... taking out a section of wall... which can he heard hitting the street thirty-two floors below a few seconds later... along with screams... and horns honking...

The Big Brother grinning... as his henchmen try to rush you from the sides now your weapon is missing... aiming to secure your arms so their leader can deal the death blow... for you and perhaps Earth...

Lavender Lass has lost her weapon but not her ability... her hands grab the ribbons from her hair... chestnut buns spilling down as the ribbons flick outward... the wooden-knobbed ends aimed to thump each of the two attackers on the forehead... her eyes narrowing at the Big Brother... "The Chi Edge was entrusted to my clan... you are but a thief!"

The ribbons stunning the two attackers... who crumple to the floor... leaving only the thief and murderer who leads this ignoble cult... "Your clan were allowing the power of the Chi Edge to be wasted in a museum... I put it to use... and now you'll find my heightened chi more than a match for you..." His eyes glowing with added power...

Lavender Lass flings out her ribbons like a couple of sets of bolas... one aimed at his legs... the other at his arms... thinking perhaps she can render him helpless with restraint... rather than challenge the power of his amplified chi... "No way!"

The ribbons wrapping around the big man's arms and ankles... evidently he's so confident in his power that he attacks without considering other options apart from direct brute force... a trait you may be able to use against him... your eyes widening as he flexes... eyes glowing... then snaps the ribbons... grinning... and resuming his charge...

Lavender Lass gulps and cartwheels away from his charge... the knife carving away a piece of lavender silk as it trails from between her upturned legs... coming back to her feet with only a half a skirt... the wind from the hole in the wall behind her flapping the remaining half about... as her furtive eyes search for a way to turn the tables...

The big man smirking... pointing the knife outwards... then charging forward... "Evidently you have a great deal of Chi... once my blade has absorbed it, I should be able to return to your weak-kneed clan and obliterate them once and for all..."

Lavender Lass uses the toe of a flat to slide a loose brick from the damaged wall into his path as she sidesteps... coming out of what remains of her lavender costume... narrowly avoiding Big Brother and his blade as he stumbles forward... plunging through the now empty silk...

The blade cutting into the silk... then snagging... a jerk of the silk freeing it from his sweaty grip... leaving him sailing through space alone... out of the window... to a thirty-two story drop...

Lavender Lass gives a flick to the lavender belt cord... bringing the Chi Edge to her hand... her naked chest swelling with pride... knowing the honor of her clan has been restored... using it to cut down a curtain... which she fashions into a makeshift glide chute... leaping out of the skyscraper and gliding away toward her Uncle's home... riding the wind in all her naked glory... bronze blade clamped between her teeth...

******

USAngel looks down on the city after the Parthenon... Athens... the scene of her first Olympics... where she failed to medal individually... but the team took gold... Belle asking her to do the same sort of work for the Danger Doll team... wearing the USAngel costume... not unlike her old Olympic costume... her task to pick up an artifact called the Silver Seraph...

A fairly simple task, supposedly... the Silver Seraph hidden in an ancient temple near the coast... Sara having received a vision of its location... in a chamber underneath the bust of Zeus in one of the alcoves... simply a matter of going there and taking it... then waiting to be picked up... the temple so secluded that it isn't even guarded...

USAngel walks down from the hill... and makes her way toward the rugged coast... hopping deftly from rock to rock... checking the GPS indicator on her staff... entering a chamber nearly hidden by the spray of crashing waves... flipping over an Athena... and looking all around for an alcove... and more importantly... a bust of Athena’s father...

The temple littered with various alcoves... all filled with worn statue heads... fortunately the markings under each one still legible... Zeus easy to pick out... the head of the statue heavy in your grip as you check to make sure that you're not being watched by some Greek policeman... the feeling of being spied on very strong...

USAngel makes a show of pulling her wavy blond hair back and tying it back in a ponytail... using this act as an excuse to look all around... but she sees no one... so once again she places her gloves on the bust and lifts it up to look beneath... Sara having told her that is where the silver winged charm could be found...

A small chamber hollowed out underneath the bust... but nothing inside... your heart in your mouth at the sight... surely this can't be right... suddenly a throwing star embeds itself in the bust in your hands... and you turn to see three people in ninja-like garb... eyes narrowed...

USAngel yelps as the throwing star strikes the stone bust in her hands... dropping it surprise... the head of Zeus cracking open as it hits the floor... Callie's gloved hand snatching up her staff... her shimmering tights accentuating the flex of her thighs as she settles into her stance... facing the three hooded adversaries...

The ninjas trying to outflank you... keeping their eyes on yours... you notice they're all female... ninja femmes... even as they creep around... the middle of trying to keep you occupied with talk... "The Sisterhood of the Seraph will not allow any to disturb that which has lain undisturbed these past centuries..."

USAngel backs away... her head on a swivel... as her backside bumps into the wall of the chamber... gulping... "Listen... I'm USAngel... I'm a heroine... I need that seraph to appease a being who has come from beyond... to challenge the ICON summit in Empire City..."

The ninjas not listening... or not caring... two moving in from the sides... even as the third continues trying to keep you talking... "The Sisterhood exists to prevent such a second coming... from beyond or anywhere else... our goal is for humanity to be destroyed by its own filth... the Silver Seraph might have reversed that course... it must not be uncovered from its new hiding place..."

USAngel gasps... "You actually WANT humanity to be destroyed?" blinking... shaking her head... twirling her staff defensively... "Well I can't let that happen... I WILL find that artifact... if I have to beat it's location out of you!" trying to sound more confident than she feels...

The chief Sister smirking under her hood... as the other two rush in from the sides... one attacking high with a flying kick... the other low... aiming to sweep your legs... "It is our desire... the end of humanity and the birth of something else... without gods or worship... something more abhorrent to us than anything else..."

USAngel ducks under the flying kick... falling over the sweep... tucking a shoulder... rolling away with her staff in hand... toward the chief Sister... coming up swinging... striking out with her staff... "Well I can't let that happen... "

The chief Sister leaping back out of the range of the swing... finding her back up against a large statue of Orpheus holding an amphora of wine... springing forward... and lashing out into a series of kicks... aimed at head, chest and belly... aiming to drive you back into the waiting arms of her sisters...

USAngel blocks one kick with her staff... grunting as the next drives her back... and the third doubles her over... bent over gasping as she stumbles backwards... trying to catch not only her balance... but her breath as well... before she nearly falls on her plump rump...

One of the junior Sisters aiming a kick to that rump... as the other aims for the small of your back... aiming to drive you forward... the Sisters evidently wanting to play ping pong with you... driving you back and forth into each others attacks until you drop...

USAngel yelps... then lurches... straightening up as she is knocked forward... this fight for real... not some sparring match with her stunt people... bringing her staff up as she stumbles forward... activating the taser function as she thrusts it at the leader of the attackers...

The Head Sister not expecting that... jolting as the taser makes contact... and sends her crashing back against the statue of the mythical hero who challenged the gods... the amphora in his hands wobbling... even as the two behind press their attack... attempting to grab hold of you and wrench the staff from your grip...

USAngel finally catches her balance over the fallen Sister... pirouettes on her blue footies... ponytail swishing... swinging her staff at the other two attackers... as they close in... the back end of the staff striking the amphora from the statue's hands as it swings behind her...

The amphora tumbling through the air... and shattering on the ground... something silver concealed within... glinting in the sunlight... the Sisters evidently couldn't stand using a god for a hiding place... and swapped Orpheus' lute for the wobbly amphora... a last-minute ploy that might have kept you from the charm had they been better fighters...

USAngel whacks one Sister into the other with her staff... even as her eye is distracted by the glint of silver from the shattering vase... could it be the charm... stepping back... kneeling to pick it up... a winged angel made of silver... sheer luck having revealed its location to her...

The two remaining Sisters picking themselves up... and making one final attack while you're distracted... one charging to try and tackle you... as the other attempts to go high and aim a roundhouse kick to your skull...

USAngel nods to herself as her glove closes about the Silver Seraph... rising to make a run for it when she is hit from behind... her arms flying back... her back bowing as she is tackled about the waist... her head snapping one way into the kick... then snapping violently the other way on impact... her body going limp as it is tackled to the ground...

The Sisters rolling you over... smirking as they attempt to secure you... grabbing hold of your costume and tearing it... to use as binding... "Tie her to the bust of Zeus... they and the charm can vanish beneath the waves together..."

USAngel groans as her eyelids flutter open... slowly realizing she has been bound hand and foot by strips of her costume... leaving her only her sheer tights... gloves and footies... her ponytail tied to the cracked stone bust of Zeus... her eyes furtive as she becomes more alert... trying to locate her staff... and the charm... even as spray from the crashing waves splashes over her...

The sisters smirking... taking the silver charm and slipping it down the front of your tights to nestle against your folds... the reason apparent instantly... as the mystic charm throbs constantly and insistently... your staff jammed into the sand as a tide-mark... the Sisters laughing... "The tide will come just over the top of that staff... and then we'll use your skull as the charm's new hiding spot... in the meantime... enjoy it..."

USAngel squirms about as the next wave breaks over her... leaving her soaked as it retreats... only to come again... crashing over her writhing form on the rocks... each successive wave leaving her submerged a little longer than the last... the throbbing of the charm combined with the action of the waves coming and going making it very hard for Callie to think straight...

The Sisterhood watching a little while... then going back to tend to their fallen leader... leaving you half-submerged... crashing waves outside and in as you struggle and squirm... facing an awful fate... although at least now you know exactly where the charm is hidden...

USAngel continues to struggle desperately each time she becomes visible... until there finally comes a crashing wave from which her face does not reemerge... swinging her feet around in the buoyancy of the water... reaching for her staff... breaking it down in sections... using the blade from the middle section to cut her ponytail... gulping air and water as her face pops the surface...

The blade from the staff managing to cut your bonds as well... leaving you free to make a run for it... and return to the rendezvous point... one of the other Dolls perhaps more able to deal with the threat of the Sisterhood... some would say you've done a lot just staying alive... not to mention helping to save the world...

USAngel still shivers even after removing the Silver Seraph from her tights... cold and wet and tired... hiding in the shadows of the Parthenon as she waits for the airship to return in the morning... and pick up her and this vibrating treasure with it's own cult...

******

Chickfighter takes a taxi to the Louvre after being dropped off by the airship... noting the circus is in town... Belle having already called ahead and arranged for the Jade Knot to take back to Empire City... unfortunately by the time Chicky arrives the artifact is already gone... taken by an acrobatic thief... Chicky looks at the surveillance footage... familiar looking... a circus performer perhaps...

Mouse having flipped through the lasers to snatch the Knot without tripping any of the alarms while the museum was temporarily closed in readiness for your visit... the staff not knowing anything was wrong until five minutes ago... Mouse having had a fifteen minute head start... all the time in the world in a city like Paris... but you may still be able to catch her... she'll likely be headed to the airport... and with the traffic thick and the closest Metro station closed for repairs, she might not have got too far in that direction...

Chickfighter looks at the footage again and nods to the curator... "Thanks... I need to get after her... but I suspect she's in the circus..." and without further comment she is off to catch a thief... long dark coat trailing back from her regular pink costume as she runs through the streets... in the direction of the circus arena...

You hope your hunch is the right one as you head in the opposite direction from the airport... towards a circus that's set up on a large expanse of Parisian park... the worry changing to triumph as you spot a familiar figure scurrying into a trailer... like a mouse returning to its hole...

Chickfighter blinks as she recognizes the tiny blond from Vicious Valerie's party... the circus star and secret thief known as Mouse... quickly stalking the trailer... creeping along the side... black footies padding almost silently... trying the door handle... hoping to surprise the thief...

The whole trailer shaking with a terrific crash as you open the door... two people having jumped in from behind... dressed as french mimes... coming in through the windows and attacking Mouse with what looks like nothing at all... mimed baseball bats...

Chickfighter gapes as the little blond is sent flying by a blow from an apparently invisible weapon... the Jade Knot falling from the circus girl's hand as she is hit again... Chicky leaping into the fray... doing a splits kick at the two mimes attacking Mouse... intending to scoop up the oddly shaped green artifact as she lands next to groaning Mouse...

The thief shaking her head as the two mimes are sent careening into the sides of the cramped trailer... looking up at you and gulping as she realizes who you are... just as another pair of mimes appear at the window... and a third at the door of the trailer... the little dwelling evidently surrounded...

Chickfighter snatches up the Jade Knot... her bowl cut flaring as she looks from one mime to another... looking down at the half-dressed girl in red panties and a sleeveless cut-off yellow shirt... "Can you fight?" the circus girl nodding with a grin... each girl suddenly up and flying feet first at a mime framed in a window...

The mimes hit hard in the face by the kicks... sending them tumbling backwards... invisible weapons flying... as the one at the door steams in... big and brutal... white gloves waggling as if swirling a pair of invisible nunchuks as he heads towards the two of you...

Chickfighter tosses the Jade Knot to Mouse... "Hold this while I take him out..." the girl in pink flinging off her coat... blinding the mime... then kicking him back through the door... grinning as she turns... "Now let's get out of... where in the hell..." Mouse apparently having already exited through the window... but which one... Chicky dashes to one to peer out...

No sign of Mouse... she must have fled through the other... but you can see more mimes... two running towards you... two running around to where she must be... all four of them holding their arms as if carrying imaginary samurai swords... their eyes staring straight ahead... faces set in exaggerated expressions of rage...

Chickfighter gulps and leaps out to engage... ducking under the first swinging arm... treating the suggestion of an invisible blade as real... grabbing the arm and thrusting the wrist at the other mime as he charges... to see if their weapons work against each other... even as she hears Mouse squealing from the other side of the trailer...

The mime's eyes popping... as he clutches his belly... dying from an invisible would... even as you take care of the other mime and go and investigate Mouse... who's having less luck... your own eyes widening as you see her yellow top ripped away to dangle at the point of an invisible sword...

Chickfighter not only snaps the wrist of the mime she holds... but takes the sword from his hand as her elbow knocks him out... noting as she leaps over the trailer that Mouse has lost her shirt... but still holds the knot of green jade over her bare chest... "You might live longer if you work with me, Mouse..."

Mouse aiming a high kick at the chin of one attacker... then another... sending both reeling back... sticking her tongue out at you as she hugs the knot closer to her bouncing chest... even as you hear a loud whistle from behind you... a larger mime... resplendent in a gold crown rather than a beret... presumably the leader of this silent but violent band...

Chickfighter spins... invisible sword still in hand... still not quite sure what to make of these mimes... or their invisible weapons... but pretty sure she can't trust Mouse... glancing over her shoulder... "Mouse... I have to get that Jade to Empire City... please... cooperate..." settling into a stance as she faces off with the figure with the crown...

The Master Mime staring back... hands flashing... his skill at mime so great that he can make you understand as easily as speaking... miming that the jade knot is currently in its harmless configuration... but when the ancient puzzle is solved properly... it becomes a deadly weapon with the power to destroy whole countries... a power the Master Mime wants for himself...

Chickfighter blinks and then shakes her head... pointing the invisible sword at the Master Mime... "You aren't getting your hands on that... knot... on my watch!" lunging and thrusting with the sword she trusts to be in her hand...

One of the two lieutenants stepping to swing his own sword to clash silently against yours... as the Master Mime expertly suggests a cling net in the air... handing it to the other lieutenant... who takes off after Mouse...

Chickfighter parries invisible swords... yelping as her costume is sliced open on a shoulder while looking around for Mouse... refocusing on her opponent quickly... while Mouse runs... but her short legs not fast enough to escape the net... the girl in red panties dropping to the ground in an invisible net... rolling over and over...

The swordfighter continuing to parry and thrust... the invisible blades deadlier by far than real ones... all you can do is go by feel... as this bizarre threat turns deadly... the Master Mime 'miming himself' a blade of his own... and moving towards the struggling Mouse... preparing to finish her and take his prize...

Chickfighter gulps and takes a chance... leaping into a flip over her opponent... thrusting downward while upside down... intending to land on her feet and rush to Mouse's defense... the bound Mouse rolling away... under the trailer... taking the Jade Knot with her...

Your opponent collapsing in a heap... as you dash towards where the Master Mime is cursing... and seems to be miming himself something long and tubular... which he sets invisibly on a shoulder... an invisible bazooka... to blow up the whole trailer along with Mouse... leaving the knot to be plundered...

Chickfighter sees the other lieutenant goes under the trailer after Mouse... blinking as she sees the Master Mime preparing to blow up his own man to stop the escape... cartwheeling forward into a flip... driving this sword of the Mime's own creation down at his back... desperately trying to stop him before he fires his invisible weapon...

The sword invisibly penetrating... leaving the Master Mime scrabbling at the invisible wound in his back... then dropping forwards... as if dead... the lieutenant dragging Mouse out from under the trailer... holding the knot in his other hand... blinking in exaggerated surprise as he sees that you've dispatched his leader...

Chickfighter winces as she sees the struggling Mouse dragged forth by the hair... frowning to see the jade puzzle in his hands... pointing her sword at him... which looks rather odd... "Your leader was about to blow you up you know... give me the Jade Knot and I'll let you go..."

The lieutenant snarling... miming something distinctly uncomplimentary... and then charging you... dropping the net and drawing an invisible sword... striped shirt heaving with rage...

Chickfighter is caught completely by surprise by this enraged charge... her focus on the treasure she seeks... tripping over something lying next to the Master Mime as she tries to sidestep... falling on her ass... the mime with the jade running past... as if to make his escape... as she lifts up the weapon over which she tripped... and sends an invisible RPG a the escaping figure...

The mime looking back... adopting an exaggerated look of shock... and weaving this way and that... before suddenly hurling himself up in the air... and tumbling to the ground again... untouched... but seemingly dead all the same... the knot rolling from limp fingers... and into your clutches at last...

Chickfighter snatches up the Jade Knot... examining it... wondering about what the Master claimed... that when solved it could become a deadly weapon... then looking around for Mouse... but the tiny blonde is nowhere to be seen... Chicky sighs and goes to the trailer to collect her coat... before heading for the airport to await the airship...

The police radioing you on the way with a report on the captives... the mimes not dead... but all in comas... as if 'playing dead'... which leaves you wondering if their deadly performance might start up again sometime... and if Master Mime will be gunning for you with his half-imagined weapons...

******

Blue Belle addresses her team as well as Carly and Domino Doll... all gathered in the airship conference room... "Congratulations... you did it... we managed to collect all eight treasures... Sara has been researching... it seems all of the treasures is capable of great evil... and since we can't be sure of the visitor's motives... I'll deliver them as Blue Blazes..."

Blue Blazes smiles as she removes her cloak to reveal she has already changed costumes... "Sara will drop each of you off all around the city to be in position should anything go wrong... she's placing comlinks in your ears now... she will stay in the airship ready to use the EMP bomb if we get desperate... hopefully all this precaution is unneeded... but you can never be to careful..."

The army keeping a tight rein on the city as you head towards the Being's landing site... the massive red-armored creature still standing impassively... waiting to deliver judgment... as you swoop in closer with the various relics stored carefully in a tru-steel box...

Blue Blazes carries the box effortlessly before her... holding the tru-steel box with one gloved hand... kicking her thigh boots as she swims forward through the blue sky... much to the relief of the ICONers... with only minutes left until the deadline... Chicky dropped to defend the summit... the others all around the city... the airship floating in the distance... as Blazes approaches with a smile...

The Being turning a massive head... not towards you... but at the box... which opens of its own accord... the treasures floating out... one by one... each seemingly examined in turn before melting into hanging balls of shimmering, different-colored liquid... reduced to raw power... as mental pictures of the evils each have been put through flash through your mind... your link with the being still strong...

Blue Blazes treads air and watches the transformation as well as the images in her mind... also recalling the stories of each of her team as to how each item was obtained... wondering what it all means to the being... did the being trick her into assembling this power for him... or was he indeed evaluating the stories of each object... and if so what would be the verdict...

The Being's thumb twitching downwards... before more images flash through the link... your comradeship with the dolphins... Chicky's willingness to save the life of a thief... Yumi's commitment to her honor... Sara's attempt to make peace in the face of aggression... the Being seeing the virtues the Dolls demonstrated... the thumb leveling...

Blue Blazes swallows hard as the thumb twitches... unable to keep from thinking that the fate of humankind hangs in the balance... like it was a movie being reviewed... her senses all very much on edge... ready to dive into action to fight for her race in need be... despite evidence that the effort would be futile... "We assembled the treasures as you requested..."

The Being glancing at you... as if glancing at a buzzing fly... even as the globes conjoin into one sphere... acting like a crystal ball... displaying images of all humanity's evils and virtues... flashing by at a dizzying pace... only the mystical and cosmic power of the eight treasures could have formed together to produce such a tool... to display all human history in moments... and the massive Being still seemingly undecided...

Blue Blazes becomes more and more concerned as she watches... shaking back her flaming hair... clenching her gloved fists... outrage beginning to build inside her... the sort she gets when covering a story of an injustice... her voice taking on an edge... "What sort of a being thinks it has the duty or right to stand in judgment of an entire race..."

The Being looking at you... dispassionately... almost amused at your question... your passion adding another miniscule tick in the plus column... the Being lost in vast thoughts for a moment... before beaming a message directly into your mind... "Since you have chosen to represent your species... you will represent your species..." The sphere opening up... revealing boiling matter... like a cauldron... or a portal to somewhere else...

Blue Blazes narrows her brown eyes at the seething cauldron... unsure what to make of its witches brew... her own heart as heavy as it has ever been... as the weight of responsibility she already feels is increased a hundredfold by the Being's designation of her as a representative of humanity... "Be assured I will do what must be done!"

The cauldron bubbling further... seemingly filled with molten gold... a shape rising out of it... looking a little like all the Dolls put together... a female fighter whose eyes and hands crackle with cosmic energy... the Being returning to his state of watching... as this Doomsday Doll hovers... looking at you with cruel eyes...

Blue Blazes looks from this newly formed fighter to the Being... "What is the meaning of this... have you chosen... is this to be the form of our destroyer? We will not surrender without a fight... not with the whole of our race at stake..." Blaze's eyes furtive behind the mask as they take stock of the apparent threat...

The Being no longer even gracing you with a look... simply standing there... like a roman caesar watching a gladiatorial match... as the golden-skinned DoomsDoll flies closer... "You'd do better to give up now... I have been created as the final test of your puny species... a test to destruction..." Snarling as she aims her palms towards you... unleashing a red bolt of energy straight at you...

Blue Blazes throws up her palms instinctively... the blue gloves seeming to glow as they deflect the blast... into a building that erupts into flames... Sara's voice in Belle's ear as the airship moves to fight the fire... "She called herself a test... I don't think a decision has been made yet... but it appears you have no option but to fight..."

The DoomsDoll relishing the battle... perhaps not the first time she's been called into existence as the destroyer of worlds... flying straight towards you like a bullet... aiming to grab you and fly you down into the ground with the force of a dropping bomb...

Blue Blazes catches one of the golden wrists even as one of hers is grasped... the pair wrestling as they plummet... blue and gold... and an explosion of red hair upon impact with the pavement... concrete flying everywhere as a crater is formed around the pair... a geyser of water erupting a second later... as a blue fist attempts to put this golden girl in orbit...

The punch connecting... knocking the gold-skinned girl off you... sending her tumbling back... the conflict brought down to earth... as you face off... the suit already taxed beyond all limits... but it must hold out just a little longer... so you can hand this Doomsday Doll her golden head...

Blue Blazes shakes her head and wipes her lip... blood unexpectedly streaked across the back of the glove... Blazes realizing her white leotard is torn in two places... this foe she faces seemingly as powerful as a blue sun... a piece of which she now forms between her hands... flinging the ball of plasma at this Doll of Doom...

The golden doll attempts to catch the plasma ball... only to have it go off in her hands... the shockwave sending her flying back... to smash into a nearby building... the dust settling for a moment before she roars out of a plume of flames... snarling... looking shaken... aiming to slam into you again...

Blue Blazes streaks forth to meet her foe head-on... pushing another boiling ball of blue plasma before her... drawing this energy from an actual blue sun through her suit's dimensional displacement technology... feeling the heat herself like never before... but ignoring the pain in hopes of winning the day...

The two forces meeting head on... in a terrific explosion that shatters windows for miles... but doesn't seem to do more than knock the otherworldly destroyer for a loop... knocking the wind out of her for a moment...

Blue Blazes careens away from the collision... spinning end over end through the air... boots and gloves flailing as she tries to regain control of her flight... but failing to do so in time to keep from crashing through the front windshield of an abandoned city bus... coming to rest bent over a seat in the back... her upturned rear twitching as she groans...

The Doomsday Doll coming to her senses... smirking at the sight of you draped over the back seat of the bus... climbing aboard... eyes crackling... though with less energy before... as if the battle has drained her... "Too bad you're not being judged on aesthetics... I can't think of another species that would look so nice from this angle..."

Blue Blazes struggles to get up... wondering how many ribs might be broken... trying to hide her pain... as she gets to her feet... trying to draw on her power... blue bolts dancing over her gloves... "You can't take much more of this... and I really don't want to hurt you..."

The eyes of the gold-skinned woman flaring as she scowls... "Unfortunate... I want to hurt you... my purpose is to test weak species like yours... and you will fail..." She smirks... "But you could survive... if you begged for mercy... I might spare you..." She aims a brutal, cosmic-powered punch at your broken ribs before you can answer...

Blue Blazes is doubled in half by the force of the blow... and sent flying ass-first through the back of the bus... again flailing as she crashes into the pumps of the filling station... setting off an explosion... smoke billowing into a little mushroom cloud... even as a shuddering form crawls out of the inferno... her hair and leotard literally on fire as she staggers to her feet defiantly...

The DoomsDoll relatively unscathed... as she steps forward... cruel glowing eyes boring into you... "This is your last chance... ask to be spared and I will spare you... continue this fruitless defiance... and you will die with the rest of your species..." drawing back a crackling fist...

Blue Blazes shakes her head and clenches her fists... only to be knocked out of the charred ashes of her leotard by the blow... crashing through a billboard for antacid which reads "put out the flames" even as it goes up in them... the airship putting water on all the fires... as a schoolgirl in lavender catches and lays down Blazes... tears in her eyes as she rises up to defend her...

The DoomsDoll snarling... striding towards Kei... eyes flaring... "You're a fool... your leader couldn't beat me with the height of technology... and you're going to try..." Aiming to swat Kei aside with the back of her hand...

Kei ducking under the backhand and whipping up her yoyo at the golden forehead... where it bounces off... as does the girl from a second backhand... lavender skirt fluttering as her body comes to rest embedded in the windshield of a parked car... even as a Jungle girl with claws and a masked woman with guns join the fray...

The Doomsday Doll snarling... trying to brush off the new attackers like a swarm of horseflies... the bullets stinging like hornets... her weakness showing as the claws score the golden skin... leaving little grooves that heal slowly... even as Carly and Domino Doll are sent flying by enraged, swatting hands...

Even as these attackers sprawl into the shadows... the shadows come to life... red silk rustling as woman with a katana rushes forth from one direction... as a woman in white cartwheels in from the other... wielding her staff like a kendo stick... aiming to strike from above...

The DoomsDoll outraged... "What is this... don't you realize you're all just wasting your time..." The sentence cut off by a blow from a kendo stick... the golden woman retaliating with a merciless blast of force that would send a bus flying... crying out in pain as the katana pierces metal... and she lashes in that direction... "Why do you fight when you don't have a chance?"

USAngel's staff snapped in two and her body sent flying... driven head-first through a metal awning... wedged there... arms pinned at her sides... still struggling as blood pours out... the katana left in the metal... the red silk empty when struck... dragonfire burning in the eyes of the naked woman... joined by a girl in pink... who explains... "Because we do not give up on each other!"

DoomsDoll snarling... lashing out with more blasts of force... seemingly aiming to kill as she blasts the pink costume off Chickfighter... sending her flying... then turns to face Yumi... drawing on the last reserves of her cosmic energy to aim a brutal punch... as fast as a comet... into the ribs of the naked dragon...

Chickfighter's words having barely escaped her lips when she is torn from her costume in such a violent manner as to have joints bent in all sorts of unnatural directions as she comes to rest... the dark-haired woman turned into a cannonball... which passes through the hull of the approaching airship as Sara readies the EMP bomb... only to see ordinary citizens joining in Belle's defense...

The DoomsDoll venting energy now... horrified and enraged as even ordinary people come to Belle's aid... suddenly her eyes turn to the sky in terror... "No... I don't understand... why...!?" The Being's hand having turned... silently... slowly... with each new combatant who joined the fray on Belle's behalf... until the thumb points up into the sky... signaling that humanity is indeed worthy of its place in the universe...

Sara sighing in relief... bringing the airship down low... lowering the freight elevator... finding Yumi between two vacuum spheres... giving her a shot to calm her down... "I need you to help me get the others into the infirmary... I think we managed to convince it... or they did..." smiling as she sweeps a hand at the growing crowd standing between Belle and DoomsDoll...

The various Dolls suddenly starting to glow... healing before Sara's startled eyes... even as DoomsDoll is lifted up... screaming in anger and frustration as the sphere absorbs her once again... and the Being broadcasts into the minds of all the Dolls... "Humanity is now ready for the next stage... and over the millenia to come, it will need defending..." The sphere breaking into eight once again...

BlueBlazes gets to her feet as do the other seven... all looking up expectantly as the message plays in their minds... some eyes wide... some blinking... some crying... some curious... all attentive... simply amazed to be healed... waiting expectantly to see what grace comes next...

The colored spheres shrinking... and coagulating into shaped crystals... shaped like miniature versions of the eight treasures... each holding a hidden power... that will be unlocked in each Doll's hour of greatest need... the Being having assigned the Dolls as defenders of the newly-worthy human species... through the same higher authority by which he judged Earth in the first place... the great arm finally lowering as the massive cosmic presence begins to rise...

Each of the Dolls accepting their crystal... Kei beaming with pride... Belle sighing with the weight of the responsibility... Yumi wondering what the crystal will allow her dragon to do... Carly thinking about Rex... Domino Doll nodding... Sara smiling... Callie saluting... Chicky giggling... mankind saved for another day...

The Being rising out of the stratosphere... looking for other worlds to judge... as the Dolls are left with their new status... humanity left to carry on much as it did the day before... perhaps with a new understanding of how fragile the difference between life and death can be... and what makes them worthy of living...

(August 2009)