belongs to Saban. He's welcome to him; I don't want him. At all. Honest! I'm
just borrowing him because I have friends who are completely nuts about him and
are trying to corrupt me. My apologies to everybody; sometimes, I get tired of
protesting.L This is what happens if you're driving all day down Interstate 75
through Georgia and Florida in a series of summer rainstorms with a bored Muse.
Now excuse me when I'm returning to my prayers ... (starts genuflecting,
chanting rhythmically) I'm not a Yostie, I'm not a Yostie. I've never been a
Yostie, nor will I ever be a Yostie. FoxKids preserve me from a Fate Worse Than
Attack of the Yosties 3: Billy's Revenge
By: Dagmar Buse
It was a dark and stormy night.
The young scientist (he was also mad, naturally, but not that way. The other way) sat in his lab, hunched over his computer, glasses pushed up on his forehead into artfully tousled hair. The only light in the room was the bluish glow from his monitor screen, giving his face a ghastly – excuse me: ghostly – hue. Suddenly, he slammed both hands on the table next to the keyboard.
"I've got it! By Jove, I've got it!"
He jumped up from his desk and broke into song: "The rain – in Spain – falls mostly in the pla-ain! The rain in Spain ...ahem *cough*." Blushing, even though there was no one there to hear or see him, he slunk back to his chair and began to type furiously. Symbols and letters chased each other across the monitor in rapid succession while the computer chirped, beeped and whirred happily to itself. Then, with a gentle five-tone signal (the deep notes from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind), it announced that a first match had been found.
"M ... where are you, M ... what? Bishop, California? She's this close?!? Argh!"
The green-eyed genius took off his glasses, rubbed the lenses carefully clean and put them away in his desk drawer. They messed up his hairdo terribly, but since image was everything ... His contact lenses were doing a much better job to correct his vision; besides, the color enhancement went lots better with his carefully highlighted blond hair. Briefly, he took a look into the mirror next to his desk. "Next time, I'm having them custom-made with a blue wolf's head over the pupil," he muttered to himself. "I'll look soooo cool ... betcha I'll qualify for PHAS attention then! – Okay, next one. M has been found, now on to P."
The high-speed computer took somewhat longer to locate 'P', but was successful at last.
"England. Hmm ... England??? Dammit ... that's an eight-hour time difference! This'll require careful planning. But how appropriate for what I have in mind ... let's find R." He typed in the search parameters again. Naturally, he was successful. "This is almost too easy," he grinned maliciously, the evil expression coming to his face much more easily than he'd ever thought (*Guess researching that Cynthia's stories is finally paying off!*) as his trusty custom-enhanced PC told him it had matched all items.
"Phoenix, Arizona. Ooookaayyyyyy ..... she's going to be the most problematic, being military and all. Better start with her, so she can't warn the others. Who knows what they'd do to me if they found me out before I'm ready!" The young man shuddered, memories of the last merciless attack by his three tormentors still vivid in his mind. Ever since, he'd had violent reactions to frogs ... pictures, sounds, even hearing the mere word spoken – it was much worse than his fish phobia had ever been. Whimpering, he sank to the floor, huddling under his desk until he could control himself again through an hour's chanting of a healing mantra: Frogs are harmless. I eat their legs. I dissect them for science. I do not fear frogs. I am their master. Frogs are harmless ...
Even prosecuting the Azure Elite Sisterhood hadn't helped much; if anything, the trial the new Initiates had set up had made matters worse. Dagmar as a witness for the prosecution had been deeply disturbing to one of his oldest friends, and meeting the Evil Pagemistress hadn't exactly inspired confidence in any of the Rangers, either. Although, privately Billy wondered how Jason had developed a nearly morbid curiosity about the leather-clad Amazon and her organization. He'd seen him whisper quite often intimately with Tommy lately ... With an effort, the one-time Judge Billy yanked his thoughts, which had developed a disturbing tendency to wander all over the place, back in line. He had work to do!
Meticulous as always, Billy Cranston, Blue Ranger, initiated the final phase of his master plan: To take revenge on the Yosties. Specifically, the Three Sisters of the Azure Elite – Mele, Peregrine and Rap.
By the time he got to Phoenix, Rap was rising ... oops, sorry. Wrong genre; this isn't meant to be a songfic. Let's try this again, shall we?
It was shortly after midnight in Phoenix; Rap had just gone offline after spending some enjoyable time in the alt-mmpr chatroom, poking and tickling unsuspecting visitors. Donning her camouflage nightshirt, she fell asleep, sinking smoothly into delicious dreams in which her favorite Ranger was bleeding sluggishly from at least six ripped-off toenails. "Mmm," she sighed, unaware, but was yanked rudely awake by a pillowcase being pulled over her head. Before she could react, someone tied a rope several times around her upper body, immobilizing her. Rap tried to kick her attacker and connected with one foot.
The voice sounded vaguely familiar, but again, it was too late for her to do anything more – her assailant managed to recover before her, capture both her feet and tied them, too.
"Whu r yoo tryng to duhtmuh?" Her voice was muffled to the point of near-incomprehensibilty, and she got no answer.
Actually, she did ... however, her slightly demented but nevertheless sharp-as-nails mind didn't consider "Mwahahahahahaah!" satisfactory, even under the best of circumstances – which these clearly weren't.
Then, a weird sensation began to engulf her nightshirt-clad body, and she knew no more.
"California, here I come ... right back where I started from ..."
[irate author: "WILL you stop this? I TOLD you, this isn't a songfic! And if you don't, I'll hand this story over to THEM, and you can see where that'll take you!" Startled, main character gulps down the rest of the song and continues in sullen silence, occasionally casting scared looks over his shoulder.]
A couple of hours later, the same scenario played out in a small green house in a quiet street in Bishop, CA. Um, it was supposed to, anyway; however, the lone occupant of the blue-draped four-poster bed was sleeping so heavily, she didn't put up even token resistance. Her abductor thought he'd failed in his self-appointed mission when he suddenly found himself face-to-snout with a small black-and-white dog, but the little creature seemed more frightened of him than he of her, so he paid her no mind, just taking care he didn't stumble over her in the near-dark.
Just before he hoisted his burden over his shoulder, staggering under the weight, he spied Murray the Frog sitting innocently on his author's computer, large eyes fixed calmly on him.
"I see you remember me," croaked the kitten-sized green and yellow amphibian. "How nice!"
Billy shivered violently. He was desperately looking for a way out, but to leave the room and to get to his portable transporter, he had to pass by the computer. His skin got clammy, his palms turned sweaty, and he almost lost hold of his burden. He managed only barely to catch her feet before her head hit the floor.
"Hey, don't damage her! She's the only author I've got!"
"M ... M ... Muh ... Murray...!" Billy eeped, utterly terrified.
"Sshhh! You'll wake the rest of the gang!"
Insatiable curiosity wouldn't be denied, amphibiophobia or not.
"Yeah," Murray pointed to a heap of mostly green bodies, which moved ever so gently. "There's six of us living here – me, my boyfriend Charlie, the two small ones are the kids, Hogan and Felix, and the two with the flowery outfits are Miss Rainbow and Bonnie, the baby girl. Why? You wanna meet them, come back during daytime hours."
Billy's tremors became more pronounced as his recently-acquired phobia took a firmer hold.
"Nonononono," he whimpered.
"Suit yourself," Murray shrugged. "You're missing out on some awfully nice people, but then ... can't say I really blame you," he grinned. His long tongue flickered out, making Billy recoil in sudden terror, even though he was too far away and fully dressed. "The kids are copping a rather mouthy 'tude at times. Anyway, what exactly are you planning to do with Mele?"
Reminded of the purpose of his mission, Billy pulled himself together. He missed a few edges, so he started looking rather funny, but who cared?
"I'm going to revenge myself on the Yosties," he declared, straightening to his less-than-imposing height. "Mele, along with Rap and Peregrine, have done enough to me! It's time they got a taste of their own medicine!" The word set loose another chain of thought, and he started skipping around the bed, swinging the oblivious Mele hither and thither with some effort.
"With a teaspoon of sugar you'll take any me-di-cine, yes, any me-di-cine, with a teasp-..."
"Okay, okay, stop with the musicals, already! You wanna torture someone, sing to them!"
Insulted, Billy shut up and sat down on the bed, sulking silently.
Murray regarded his nighttime visitor thoughtfully. Weighing the pros and cons (after all, it was he really who came up with the torturous plot devices, not his author – she only wrote them down), he decided it was the right thing to do.
"You can take her," he declared. "I assume you already have Rap?"
"I ... yes. I can? Really? You don't mind?"
"Nnnnaah. If you think she's out to get you, you should hear the things she's threatening me with! Knives! Barbecue! Sautée! I swear, that woman is positively cannibalistic! And why? Just because I was made to sign a Standard Muse Contract that allows her to! Demented is nothing compared to her! Why, she regularly tells me she's going to fry me – literally! In a white wine sauce, too! Is that any way to talk to one's Muse? Is it? Well?"
"Um ... I don't know; I've never had a Muse."
Large bulging eyes lit up.
"You don't? Tell you what, I have a couple of buddies who're looking for employment – a few dragon hatchlings, a bear, a unicorn or two ... you want one? Or two? Three?"
Hastily, Billy backed off. "Er, no, thank you. I'm sure they're all perfectly nice, *don't antagonize him!* but ... I have no literary ambitions myself at all."
The green-and-yellow face fell.
"Pity," Murray mumbled. Then, he recalled the purpose of Billy's visit.
"Anyway ... you can have Mele – but just for one night, and you'll have to promise to return her in still usable condition. A bit frayed around the edges I don't mind, but she'll have to function on her own. Sorta. Eventually. Like dressing and feeding herself -- that kinda stuff. Think you can do that, Blueboy?"
Billy looked skeptical.
"After all she's done to me? I dunno," he murmured petulantly.
"Take it – her – or leave it – her," Murray announced sternly. "Or else."
"Or else what?" the Blue Ranger asked unthinkingly, emboldened by this rather non-menacing exchange. His only answer was a lightning-quick flicking of a long, slender, cold, slimy tongue, wiping diagonally across his face.
"Do we understand each other, Billy-boy?" Murray asked sweetly and thoroughly insincerely after the young man had gotten his quivering nerves under at least nominal control again. He was fairly proud of himself; it had taken him only 43.8 minutes this time – but then, Murray's attack had been a very brief one. He looked once more at the snoring heap on the floor; in his haste to escape from further slime attacks, he'd dropped Mele after all. Was she worth a repeat of the disgusting punishment the Tongue Fu Master had meted out during their first encounter?
"We do," he said grudgingly.
"It's a deal, then," Murray croaked cheerfully and hopped towards his sleeping housemates. "Have fun, Billy!"
"Hmph," Billy grunted, whether under his resumed burden or in agreement was impossible to tell. He staggered outside, to vanish in a streak of bluish light tinged with red.
Murray was just about to fall asleep, when he remembered something.
"Oh yeah," he muttered. "Buddies. This oughtta be fun!" Slithering to the computer, he went online.
Several hours later, when night had fallen over Europe and a silvery moon hung over the English Channel, Billy materialized inside an upper-floor room in a small house in a quaint village near Glastonbury. Immediately, he bumped his head into several crystals hanging in front of the window.
"Silence – or do you want her awake now?" a strange voice, somewhere between scratchy and squeaky, whispered into his left ear. Simultaneously, a light weight settled on his shoulder, and a slight electrical shock stood every hair on his head on end. Billy suddenly looked like a beardless blond version of Einstein, drawn by a mad cartoonist. It didn't help that he jumped about three feet high, getting the crystals tangled around his ears.
"Oh brother," Heyoka muttered, flapping his wings wildly in order not to lose his perch on the young man's shoulder. Outside, lightning crackled across the night sky. "What is it with you Humans, anyway? You give them a teensy-tiny little thundershock, and they treat you like you wanted to electrocute them, or something." He tilted his head consideringly. "Well, I do, but ... is that any reason to go completely bonkers on me? Oh, stop trembling already!" he scolded his Human sitting pole. "I'm not gonna do anything to you. Not tonight, at least, that is."
Close to hyperventilating with fright, Billy finally recognized the Thunderbird chick, Peregrine's Muse. The one who had electrocuted him (and everybody else within a twenty-feet radius) the last time the Yosties had had him, and who had provided the feathers – however protesting loudly – for the first act of torture committed directly upon him.
"Y-you're not?" he asked timidly.
"No. Actually, I can sympathize with you. A little. Not that that'll stop me from giving Perry more ideas about how to do nasty things to you, but ... I do understand your need for a bit of retaliation. Tell you what – since time's a-wasting, why don't we agree to the same terms you have in your deal with Murray?"
The frog's name sent a fresh shiver of revulsion through Billy. Controlling his gag reflex with the utmost exertion of willpower, he swallowed several times before he could answer.
"O-okay. Er ... how do you know about my deal with M ... M ... Muh ... with him?"
"Murray emailed me," Heyoka grinned smugly, clacking his sharp beak. "After all, it's been a few hours since you met with him. I've been waiting up for you, actually."
"H-he has e-m-mail?" Billy asked, incredulously. For some reason, the thought utterly disturbed him. As did the bird's cultured British accent – somehow, it seemed far more menacing than James Cagney at his worst.
"Sure," the Bird Muse shrugged. "He's using Mele's addy; I expect he's told Ted about your visit, too."
Heyoka snickered, looking like a miniature shaggy crow. Declining to answer, he hopped into the air and sailed over to the computer monitor. Starting to pick at a leftover cookie, he looked back over his shoulder at Billy.
"Peregrine's over there. I'd advise you to take her and go, before I change my mind," he squawked.
"But ... I thought ... I haven't ... you didn't ..." getting as hopelessly tangled in his sentence as earlier in the crystals, Billy gave up and went over to the bed. Taking the oblivious figure in a fireman's hold over his shoulders, not caring that his last victim's long hair was sweeping over the floor, trailing behind them like a train, he activated his teleporter. In the wake of his departure, Heyoka booted up his author's computer.
"Ted? He's on his way. See you later, buddy!"
Rap and Mele were still unconscious when Billy arrived with Peregrine. Depositing the last of his intended victims in a home-made forcefield next to her two Sisters, he then checked the setup he'd devised after the last attack a final time. The circular dais inside the forcefield was well-lit by halogen spotlights, the holographic projectors surrounding it were ready to run, the teleporter was online in case drastic measures needed to be taken ... *Perfect!* Billy sent a specific signal at the three of them.
"Wake up, ladies!"
"Oohh, my aching head!" Mele complained, starting to rub her forehead. She encountered several bumps on her skull that hadn't been there when she went to sleep.
"Your head? What about mine?" Peregrine asked, trying to un-knot her tangled-up tresses. "Who's used me as a mop?"
"I dunno," Rap moaned. She'd been kept unconscious the longest, and was feeling the effects of the specially-concocted sedative the most. "Somebody tell that damn cat to stop stomping his feet!"
"That's no cat, that's a cockroach," Mele muttered. "A big one, too. Eeww!"
All three captives shuddered with revulsion. Suddenly, Rap's eyes lit up. "That's it!"
"Wotsit?" asked Mele.
"Something crunchy to snack on," Peregrine supplied, smacking her lips.
"No, I meant, 'what's what'."
"Oh. Why didn't you say so in the first place?"
"Not, NOT, NOT!!!"
"Too, TOO, TOO!!!"
Rap looked up from her notebook she'd produced out of nowhere and was busily scribbling in.
"That's 222, dear. And play nice, children!"
"Children?!?" Mele protested. "I'm older than you are!"
"You're older than everybody," Peregrine muttered under her breath.
"Not true! Dagmar is older than me, so's Eva Beckwith ... and somebody else they know, but I don't. So there!"
"And your point is ... what?" Rap asked, tucking her notes away again.
"That's what I thought," the toe-nail-besotted Azure Sister nodded, satisfied. She deliberately ignored her glowering co-captive and brushed off her Robe, adjusting her silver-lined hood. The gesture caught Peregrine's attention, who suddenly noticed she was still clad only in her moon-and-stars-bedecked blue jammies.
"Hey! How come you're wearing your Robe, and we're not?!?" She indicated Mele's worn-out sweats.
Before Rap could answer, a mild voice came from out of the darkness beyond the shimmering forcefield.
"I had to conduct a body search on her, and needed something to cover her with. This garment came in most handy."
"WHO SAID THAT???" Mele jumped to her feet ... well, she took less than 3.6 minutes to arrive in a standing position.
"I know that voice," Peregrine mused, a frown creasing her forehead.
"So do I," Rap said, a sudden girlishly-gushing, breathless note in her voice. "Can it be ...."
Peregrine shared a half-horrified, half-excited and half-suspicious look with Mele.
"You don't think ..."
"I sure hope not! Or there'll be Hell to pay!" As one, the two Sisters stepped closer to the forcefield, not caring that little sparks of electricity singed their eyebrows and lashes, making them look like casting rejects from "A Nightmare On Elm Street". Or was that "Friday 13th"? Whatever.
"Show yourself!" Mele demanded, her own voice quavering just a little.
"Yes, show it all!" Peregrine seconded, earning herself a sharp elbow in the ribs. "Hey!"
"Why?" the Sister from Somerset asked reasonably. "Don't tell me you're not dying to see his mmmphfff!" Her mouth was suddenly clamped shut by a sweaty hand.
"You know very well that's reserved for the Advanced Sessions!" Mele hissed.
"Oh. Yeah. Right. Bummer," the thwarted Yostie Elitarian sighed disappointedly. "Would've been nice, though."
"Never mind that," the senior Sister muttered. "Who are you?" she called once more into the darkness.
"Someone whom you have tormented beyond reason," the voice intoned. "Someone who has suffered immeasurably at your hands ... uh, keyboards and on computer screens. Someone who will no longer tolerate the inhuman treatment the three of you have meted out on my hereto defenseless person, even going so far as inducing others to commit even more unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty on me. Someone who ..."
"Yeah, yeah, we know what we've done," Mele interrupted, getting bored. "Identify yourself already!"
The shadowy figure stepped slowly into the circle of light bathing the small circular platform on which he'd imprisoned the three abductees.
"It is I," he intoned, in a voice that was supposed to be ominous, but managed to crack slightly, as if he were not quite out of puberty. "I am Billy, the Blue Ranger!"
"I KNEW it!" Peregrine squealed, like a 12-year-old hyperactive girl suddenly face-to-face with the Backstreet Boys. Or a stuck pig; the difference was negligible. "Billy! Billy! Billy!" She bounced up and down a few times (which looked pretty weird, considering her Junonic proportions; she could almost give Dagmar a run for her money), then threw herself at the object of her demented fantasies. The homemade forcefield held, though; sparks flew, but no major harm was done except to burn a couple of holes into her pyjamas. "Owie!"
"Owie?" Rap murmured, a rapt expression on her face. Mele eyed her suspiciously for a second, then her head jerked around to their captor as things suddenly went 'click' in her mind.
"You. Performed. A. Body. Search. On. Rap."
"Yes. I had to make sure she didn't have any sharp metallic objects hidden on her person," Billy explained, getting very uneasy at the furious look crossing the usually red-hooded Sister's face.
"What are you screaming about?" Mele asked her companions once she'd caught her breath.
"I was screaming because you were screaming," Peregrine gasped, having run equally out of air. "Do you have to be so blasted LOUD???"
"Well, yes," Mele defended herself. "He body-searched Rap. RAP! Why her, and not US???"
"Oh. Right." Peregrine shot a venomous look at the still-blissfully "ooooohhh"-ing woman. Her normally calm features were distorted by what even the most generous Yostie could only describe as a silly grin.
"She looks like Sailor Moon when she's seeing Tuxedo Mask," she observed.
"Nobody looks that stupid!"
"No? Just look at her!"
Mele did just that. She even went so far as waving her hand in front of Rap's rapturous eyes. No effect.
"Yeah." The two Sisters contemplated the situation quietly for a minute, completely ignoring their by-now fidgetting kidnapper.
"Come to think of it ... if it had been you instead of her, would you look much better?" Peregrine mused after a while.
That statement just earned Mele a LOOK. Peregrine was very good at giving one LOOKs – much better than at doing Evil Laughs. Mele blushed.
"Well ... er ... um ... maybe," she muttered. "Like you wouldn't, though!"
"Perhaps," Perry conceded, digging her bare toe into the dais. Or tried to; cement IS rather resistant to prodding and poking with comparatively small and weak digits.
Meanwhile, Billy was getting rather miffed at being ignored by his erstwhile tormentors. Well ... Rap wasn't exactly ignoring him; her blissed-out stare, however, was more disconcerting than anything else. He shook himself mentally, like a terrier would shake a rat he'd caught.
"I don't want her to pay attention to me," he mumbled to himself, checking his computer setup and remote control one last time. "When she does, I only end up hurt ... half-mad ... abused ... abandoned ...persecuted ... beaten ... tortured ..." he simultaneously ran out of breath and adjectives. However, having gone to all this trouble, he felt he merited at least some attention. Or something. After all, his objective was to show all Yosties everywhere, and most of all the Sisterhood of the Azure Elite, that he was not just the weakling they portrayed him to be. "I'm a certified genius. Not their scapegoat ... everybody's whipping boy ... the perpetual victim ... "
"Or maybe you're just certified," a scratchy voice came from the rafters. Billy looked up into the darkness, and could dimly make out Heyoka, the Thunderbird Muse. He shivered, all hairs on his head and body standing slightly on end as a faint electrical crackling was heard.
"Make that certifiable, and you'd be dead-on," someone croaked from right behind Billy. The young man froze. He knew that voice! Forcing himself to peer over his shoulder at the floor, he jumped about a foot high, then scrambled as far away as possible in sudden fright.
"M ... M ... Muh ... Mmmuuhh ..."
"Oh, for Apollo's sake, the name's Murray," the Frog said impatiently. "I'm not going to do anything to you today; we have a deal, remember?" Still, he couldn't suppress a broad grin when an instinctive flickering of his tongue across his nose made Billy whimper incoherently.
"Wow," Heyoka commented, fluttering closer. "Good job, buddy. You have him going but good!"
"One does one's best," Murray admitted modestly, disregarding the instant raspberry from his partner-in-crime. "Have you called Ted?"
"Who's Ted?" That was the second time Billy had heard one of the Muses mention the name. As before, he was ignored.
"Sure. He'll be by soon."
"Oh, goody! He said he had something to show us," the amphibian enthused, with a sly sideways glance at the Blue Ranger, who found that not at all reassuring.
"Who is this Ted you keep talking about?" he asked plaintively, fiddling once more with his control panel. Still no answer. The forcefield shimmered and seemed to solidify, which didn't bother the still-bickering Azure Sisters. The fight didn't serve any particular purpose that Billy could see, except that they were too busy taking potshots at each other, maligning their respective ancestry and the sexual habits of parents and pets, commenting unfavorably on their individual physical attributes generally and the perceived flaws in their writing specifically, badmouthing their Muses, who listened with only half an ear – they heard all that almost daily, anyway, and had learned to disregard their authors' rants by now – and coming close to exchanging blows. A typical cat fight, in other words. Oh well, it did manage to bring Rap out of her stupor.
A horrible thought entered Billy's mind.
"Uh ... guys?" he addressed the Bird and the Frog, having had to clear his throat twice before he could speak. The two figments of their authors' imaginations turned towards him, expressions of mildly curious enquiry on their faces.
"This, um, Ted ... he's male, right?"
"So he says," Murray nodded. "He has a girlfriend and kids, so I suppose so."
"He is," Heyoka added. "I've seen him."
"You saw Ted NAKED!?!? EEEWWW!!!"
"It wasn't that bad," the Thunderbird chick defended himself. "And not by choice, I tell you ... But seeing as his lady-love lives at my house, sometimes it's inevitable."
"Oh. Okay. Why do you wanna know?" Murray addressed the junior Mad Scientist. Billy swallowed hard.
"I ... I w-was just w-wondering," he stuttered, horribly embarrassed. Or embarrassingly horrified. "H-he's n-not a Y-yostie, is he?"
"You know, you really should do something about that stammer," Heyoka commented clinically. "It's even worse than your technobabble."
"I d-don't s-stammer," Billy protested, stammering.
"ANYway, no, he isn't. Ted's into Jason." Murray grinned at the blush suffusing Billy's cheeks. "He's Dagmar's Muse, y'know."
Billy's cheeks by now could rival Lord Zedd's evil red glow. He gulped.
Both Heyoka and Murray snickered, seeming to derive a perverse satisfaction out of his discomfort. Then, the avian Muse spoke up.
"You'll meet him soon enough," he promised, not at all reassuring the Blue Ranger. "I hate to remind you, bub, but aren't you forgetting something?"
"Er ... "
"Oh brother," Heyoka muttered again. He unfurled a wing, pointing at the arguing Sisters. "Your deal with us runs out in the next five hours or so. By then, we've got to have them back, whatever their condition. If you want to do anything to them, better hop to it."
"He probably couldn't hop if his life depended on it," Murray commented. "After all, he's only Human."
"I can so too hop!" Billy protested, momentarily forgetting his phobia.
"Yes! Look!" The blond young man then proceeded to give his revolted – uh, fascinated!-- audience a demonstration of Hopping that succeeded even in breaking up the altercation inside the forcefield. Mele stopped trying to give Peregrine a new haircut with her bare hands, Rap left off attempting to pull out everybody's toenails with her teeth, and Peregrine shut up from spouting psychobabble at all and sundry. Instead, she climbed to her feet and indignantly addressed the two Muses.
"What the heck did you two do to him? That's worse than anything we ever came up with!"
"Yeah, he's just trying to show Murray he can hop!"
"Oh, is that what it's supposed to be?" Rap shook her head. In the dim light, Billy was capering around, jumping up and down like a demented Mexican Jumping Bean, switching to hopscotch, then trying ineffectually to copy a few 'dance' moves that seemed to have come directly from a Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears MTV video, they looked that spastic. "Ladies, I think the next time instead of torturing him, I'll just put him through Basic Training!"
"Oooh, that has potential," Perry enthused. "Humiliation in a no-escape scenario, degradation at the hands of mentally-inferior bullies in uniform ..."
"What, you gonna revive Bulk and Skull?" Mele scoffed. "That's old, honey!"
Perry deflated like a pricked balloon. However, before she could come up with a suitable answer, Billy tripped over his own feet and fell to the concrete floor with a clearly audible THUD. Peregrine winced.
"That had to hurt!"
"Yeah. Hmm. Self-inflicted injury ... something new ...." Rap whipped her notepad out from nowhere again and jotted the thought down.
"Darn, I wish she'd tell us how she does it," Mele admired her accomplice's sleight-of-hand. Rap just grinned smugly at her and the notepad disappeared again. "But just look at him!" In front of the dais, Billy was scrambling awkwardly to his feet while trying to rub his stinging butt. "He has all the grace of a gazelle – or how do you call that big-as-a-house grey African critter with the very long nose and the huge floppy ears?"
Before either Sister could answer, Billy had recovered his wits. They'd been scattered all over the place and he'd even crawled under the computer console to get the last one, but he managed. Cramming them back into place in rather helter-skelter fashion, he then picked up his remote control.
The command should have been masterful, but his dishevelled appearance and breaking voice only made him sound a bit pathetic. Only the louder-than-usual volume managed to get his captives' wandering attention.
"I will now proceed to torture you!"
Mele, Rap and Peregrine stared at Billy, at each other, at the two Muses who were busy getting comfortable and back at Billy again. Lips began to twitch with suppressed laughter.
"He's gonna do what?!?"
"Did he just say ... torture? Us?? US???"
"That's what I heard ...."
"He can't possibly be serious! Can he?"
The three looked their kidnapper over critically. The look in the blue-green eyes was somewhere between dead serious and quietly maniacal.
"I think he is," Peregrine commented. "This ought to be ... interesting."
"That's one way of putting it," Mele agreed. "I personally prefer idiotic, but ..."
Rap was openly disdainful. "What does he think he can do to us?" she asked rhetorically. "He's just an amateur!" The Azure Sisterhood shared an open chuckle and snickered – loudly.
"But one with a genius IQ," Perry cautioned, once they'd calmed down again. Billy looked ... furious. Something she'd never seen him do before. She would never admit it out loud, but there was something about this situation that began to worry her.
"So what? He's dealing with the undisputed Masters here; there's nothing – nothing, I tell you! – that we haven't done yet, or at least thought of doing to him!" Mele sent a come-hither look to their captor. It succeeded in making him go-yonder – um, retreat to his computer setup, where he punched in a series of commands. She pouted playfully. He shuddered visibly. "Spoilsport," she muttered, only to yelp when two sharp elbows hit her ribs from either side.
"Will you shut up?" Peregrine hissed. "After what you've done to him in your two last fics ... even if you used another pseudonym ... if I were you, I'd be careful!"
"Oh? Like you were much nicer? Making him collapse emotionally in front of all his friends? Or what you're going to do to him next?"
"At least I didn't strand him 400 years in the future in another fandom, beat-up, tortured and whatnot!" Both turned to glare admiringly at Rap, who shrugged.
"One does one's best," she said.
All three were interrupted once more by Billy, who'd listened to their exchange with barely-hidden dismay. He didn't want to know what they had in store for him – he didn't! Well, to prevent more of this was the purpose of tonight's escapade, wasn't it? Besides paying them back for siccing their Muses on him when he was tied up and helpless? He'd show them but good!
"I am growing tired of this nonsensical and meaningless discourse. The crimes you have committed upon me both in fiction and in person demand retribution! It is to that purpose that I have brought you here ... and while I will not harm you physically in any way ..."
"Pity," Peregrine muttered disappointedly. "I'd love for you to get your hands on me ...."
"That's revolting!" Mele exclaimed.
"Not to me, it isn't. He body-searched Rap already, after all. I wouldn't mind a bit of roughing up like that ..."
"Hmm. Okay. Hey," Mele brightened considerably, "you think I can convince him to knock out my infected teeth? That would save me a hell of a lot of money in dental treatments! And I bet I could even sue him to pay for dentures afterwards!"
"That's ... that's sick!" Perry protested.
"Actually, it makes perfect economical sense," Rap threw in her $0.02 worth. "Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak ..."
Heyoka squawked indignantly from the mound of pillows he and Murray were conjuring up from who-knew-where, but was ignored by everybody.
"You two need help," Peregrine declared, quoting a trademark adage from the two previous kidnappings. For once, it wasn't directed at her. "Serious help!"
"Oh, like you don't?!?"
Sighing in exasperation, Billy cleared his throat loudly. And louder still. He was quite hoarse by the time the three were ready to listen to him again.
"AS I WAS SAYING *coughcough* excuse me ..." he gratefully sipped from the glass of water Murray handed over, grimacing only slightly at the inevitably slimy feel left behind by the Frog's flippers, "I am not going to harm you physically. Your Muses made a deal with me; you still have to function normally ... or maybe in your case that'd be abnormally ... once I'm done with you. That leaves as my only recourse psychological torture!"
Perry blanched at that, and was rewarded with a not-half-bad evil grin from Billy.
"Exactly. So, if you ... ahem ... 'ladies' would pay attention ... let the torture begin!" He pressed the "on" button on his remote control.
The forcefield surrounding the dais began to shimmer; colors started to waver and float until they gradually coalesced into a series of pictures. The energy beam they were carried on made them seem rather like transparencies, so that the images being projected could be watched from both inside and out. As the three captives slowly straightened, the first 360° picture burst into life.
Peregrine was the first to recognize the small blue locomotive puffing and huffing through an impossible landscape, talking to itself.
"By Zordon's warp tube, no!" she whispered, deeply shocked. If this was only the beginning of the torture Billy had in store for them, they were indeed in for a VERY bad night. Afternoon. Day. Whatever.
Mele and Rap stared at what looked like a talking toy train, then at their companion.
"You know what that is?" Mele asked, jerking her thumb over her shoulder. It looked as if the little engine was about to barrel directly into the back of her skull.
"Th-that's Thomas the Tank Engine," Perry said in a quavering-with-fear voice. "A British children's TV program/book series that has spawned merchandising to equal Dr. Who!" Ringo Starr's voice sounded loudly in the background, startling everyone.
"Ah. Fitting revenge for the B-song," Rap nodded wisely. "Well, it's your own fault, then." Before Peregrine could voice any protest, the images changed around them. The railroad tracks transformed into strobe lights, and a middle-aged man with pouffed hair, slanted eyebrows, an open-to-the-navel jumpsuit and enough artificial tan to make Venice Beach residents look like refugees from a death camp, minced upon a stage. He lifted a microphone to his lips.
"Huh? Who's he?"
"G-Gary Gl-glitter," Perry stammered. She tried to turn away, but succeeded only in coming face-to-face with a giant close-up of the overgrown wannabe elf. Or was that fairy? "EEEK!"
Even Rap, who was normally made of slightly sterner stuff than her two accomplices, had to swallow hard as the man began to wai – er, sing.
"Urk. Well, at least it's rock; if he had a piano, were fifty pounds heavier and ten years older, he'd give Liberace a run for his money."
As if on cue, Mr. Glitter went through a most startling metamorphosis, changing into the long-dead entertainer trailing his white floor-length fur coat to a concert grand piano bedecked with tiny little mirrors. A huge poodle settled at his feet.
"That's gross!" Mele complained, eyeing the jewel-dripping pianist with obvious distaste.
"At least he's American," Peregrine shrugged. "I'd always thought the worst things Britain had to offer the world were the Queen Mum's hats, cricket and Maggie Thatcher, but that was before I'd heard Ringo Starr voice the Fat Controller on Thomas the Tank Engine."
"You think that's the worst ever to come out of England?" Rap scoffed. "Then you're not very informed about a lot of your exports. What about lamb with mint sauce? Or Guinness beer?"
"That's Irish," Perry protested weakly. Her stomach was being turned by the sight and smell of a huge rack of lamb swimming in a dark green semi-congealed mass. Rap shrugged the distinction off, getting warmed up to her subject.
"Maybe, but what about mini skirts? Twiggy? Platform shoes? Punk rock? Take That?"
She was so intent on dredging up more atrocities the British had given the world that she never noticed that every suggestion instantly transformed into living color on the forcefield. On the outside, Murray and Heyoka sat frozen in shock. This was far worse than they'd anticipated! How their authors would survive this ordeal seemed to be anyone's guess at this point.
"I sure hope he knows what he's doing," the Frog commented to the Bird, tearing his eyes away with difficulty from a parade of truly outrageous Ascot designer hats to the Blue Ranger, who was capering madly around his computer, chanting gleefully, "It works! It works!"
"Hmm. Wouldn't count on it. Well, maybe Ted can get him to settle down ..."
"He's a Muse, not a miracle worker. Guess we'll see, won't we?"
"Yeah. Oh, that's BAD!"
The two Muses' attention was diverted back to the platform, where Mele had recognized what was happening and tried her best to shut Rap up. With very little success so far.
"I could use some help here," she hollered finally to no-one in particular. Unsurprisingly, no-one specifically answered, either. She started to curse and used some very impressive sign language – her left hand balled into a fist, middle finger extended. Murray just blew another raspberry and Heyoka cackled. Both Muses were grinning hugely and were lounging on their magically-conjured cushions, colorful drinks with straws and little paper umbrellas within easy reach and sharing a huge bowl of popcorn between them. It was clear they were enjoying the show immensely. The finishing touch were the Barbie-doll-sized replicas of Greeneyes, Mouse, Cinders and Froog, standing behind them in Egyptian Slave Girl outfits, two of which were fanning Frog and Thunderbird, while the others constantly popped popcorn into mouth and beak on demand. Whenever they could, they ogled Billy.
Grumbling to herself, Mele drew a deep breath. This was going to be embarrassing, no, almost humiliating, but she could do it. She knew she could. She was a Yostie – a Sister of the Azure Elite! The Sisters could do anything! Steeling herself, she opened her mouth. "Perry? Rap?? Please???" She choked a little over the last word, but managed. Barely.
When even that didn't help, either, she rolled her eyes disgustedly. "Sheesh! Do I have to do everything myself? Looks like it," she muttered, looking around inside their bare prison. It was a bit difficult, given that the colorful images conjured up by her fellow Yostie's monologue provided insufficient light. However, it was enough to see that there was absolutely NOTHING available with which to whap Rap into calming down, except her bare hands.
"Oh, great, just great," Mele groused. "NOW what?"
Help came from a quite unexpected quarter.
Getting tired of being ignored by his captives, the Blue Ranger decided to step up his torture a bit.
He added music.
Soon, his helpless victims were subjected to a dizzying kaleidoscope of the Spice Girls, a half-naked Mick Jagger, and Billy Idol dribbling spit into a microphone, interspersed with a healthy (er, right) dose of soprano singer Moira Anderson warbling Scottish folk songs done up as arias. Mixed liberally with really bad rap, country and brass bands playing polkas.
All live and unplugged.
The first to notice was Mele. Letting Rap fall to the floor, she stared at a closeup of Scary Spice, shaking her booty all over something that almost looked like a Terminator version of a Galaxy Glider.
"Who ... or better, WHAT ... the Hell is THAT???" she asked, halfway between fascination and revulsion.
"Ooohh ... th-tha's .... S-scary ... Spice," Peregrine gasped, writhing in utter horror.
Rap turned pale, even her toughness shattered by the images.
"The blonde," she whispered, "is she .... " she indicated her bare feet, miming a three-inch-thick sole on imaginary shoes. Peregrine nodded mutely. "Oh my God, it's Baby Spice ...."
"Is that like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme?" Mele queried with a grin.
"No, Emma," Peregrine replied, managing a puzzled look. "And Mel C, Mel B, Geri Halliwell and Victoria Something-or-other. They're The Spice Girls, and this is from their *gulp* movie."
Mele regarded her companions with mounting confusion. Peregrine was shivering uncontrollably, and Rap looked decidedly green around the gills. She stared at the pictures of various singers floating around them, then back at her fellow inmates. (Well, they WERE in a prison cell of sorts, weren't they? What the heck else did you think I meant?)
"Um ... they're bad?" the Californian asked.
"You have NO idea," Rap groaned, then narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "How come you're not affected by this?"
Mele shrugged and grinned sheepishly, with overtones of smugness.
"Well, um, when there's too MUCH noise, and too many folks go off all together, I can't understand 'em," she admitted. "All I get out of this is that it's damn loud here, and I can take care of that easy ..." a small twitch of her finger at a tiny flesh-colored device in her ear, hidden under her long hair, and her hearing aid was turned way down.
Rap watched with amazement.
"You mean to tell me you're deaf?"
"No. I just don't hear very well."
"Um, that's what 'deaf' means, dearie," Peregrine contributed, the linguistics problem far more fascinating than the projections all around them. She turned her back on the Blue Ranger and joined the increasingly heated discussion between her fellow Yosties, completely ignoring the sights, sounds and smells still being directed at them.
Outside of the forcefield, utterly frustrated, Billy started to bang his head methodically against the computer setup.
"This – can't – be – happening," he ground out between clenched teeth. "My plan was perfect! How was I supposed to know one of them couldn't hear???"
"You might have asked us," Murray said sensibly, reaching for a fresh drink. "We know all about them ... "
"Yeah; every little foible and weakness," Heyoka added, snuggling more comfortably into the pillows he was resting on. A slight movement in a corner caught his beady eye, and he turned to the Cinders Barbie fanning him.
"Be a dear and catch me that spider, will you?"
Murray perked up.
"What? Where? I want one, too! You there! Run along now and bring me a nice, juicy one!"
Shooting a venomous glance, which was totally ignored, at the Frog Muse, Mouse laid aside her palm frond fan and joined Cinders. Both women were muttering rebelliously under their breaths as they commenced the Big Spider Hunt. Froog and Greeneyes nearly stopped feeding the Muses, but a warning stare from Heyoka prompted them to resume their task with renewed vigor. Besides, with just the two of them, there was more Billy for them to stare at greedily. The popcorn was disappearing at an alarming rate.
"Mmm. It's been ages since I got one fresh," Murray sighed in anticipation and leaned back. A particularly loud Thump! from the computer caught his attention, and both Muses swivelled their heads towards Billy, who had just managed to give himself a spectactular bruise right in the middle of his forehead.
"He's not doing too well at this torture business, is he?" Heyoka commented clinically, reached past Froog and tossed a clawful of popcorn into the air. His beak clacked like a tiny machine gun as he snatched each puffy kernel before it fell onto the pillows.
"Nah. But then, he's operating under several handicaps ...." Murray slurped the dregs of his current drink inelegantly and loudly through his straw. Then he burped. "Sorry."
"Oh? Like what?"
"Well, for starters, he's young, single, male, extremely intelligent, reasonably good-looking, fit ..."
"In one word, no Yostie?"
"That's two words, but yeah."
"Hmm. You know what, I think you're right," the Thunderchick admitted. "This could be even more interesting than I thought it'd be."
Grinning happily at each other, the two Muses settled back to wait for their snacks and awaited further developments.
Meanwhile, the topic of Mele's inability to hear the cacophony around the captive Sisters had been discussed into the ground, with her hearing aids being turned back on by her irate companions, and the would-be torturer was frantically searching his computer files for another method of inflicting anguish and pain.
"HAH!" he exclaimed suddenly in an overly dramatic fashion. "I have it!"
Typing furiously for a couple of minutes, he then grabbed his remote once more. The various singers and bands disappeared, along with their gyrating, bouncing bodies and talentless warbling. For a second, the forcefield was transparent, then colorful images started to coalesce.
"Watch this and squirm, ladies!"
Murray was chomping down on the wiggling arachnid Barbie Mouse had just dropped into his mouth, when he recognized the first of the pictures. Gulping his treat down hastily, not caring that one hairy leg was still sticking out of one corner of his mouth, he sat up in alarm.
"Oh no," he croaked, nudging Heyoka who was messily picking his own spider apart, to the absolute disgust and revulsion on Cinders and Froog's faces. Not that he cared. "Just look at that!"
Heyoka looked, then shared an amazed glance with his buddy.
"Ew. That's almost too cruel, even for them."
"Hmm. I'd say our boy did learn something, didn't he?" There was reluctant admiration in the Frog's voice.
"Uh huh," Heyoka agreed, shuddering as he recognized another scene. "Who'd'a thunk he knew about all these TV series, shows and movies?"
"Not me; I thought he had better taste than this! Ew, gross!"
On the wraparound forcefield, scenes of unparalleled horror began to unfold.
Doris Day movies. Teenage sitcoms. Forties black-and-white musical comedies. Dallas. Battlestar Galactica 1980. King of the Hill. Dynasty. Wayne's World II. Adam West as Batman. [Kaboom! Holy Bat-Suit!] Animated Star Trek. Every daytime soap ever made. Highlander III. The Beverly Hillbillies Go To Hollywood. Chopsocky martial arts flicks. Then, just as they thought it couldn't get any worse, Billy added ... talk shows.
Geraldo interviewing Richard Simmons. Jenny Jones refereeing loud-mouthed teenagers on 'Help me, my mother is a biker chick!' Sally Jessie Raphael doing fashion makeovers for overweight punks. Rikki Lake feeling up Pro Wrestlers. Jerry Springer doing ... (well, this is a PG-13 story. Sorry!)
The three women imprisoned on the dais tried to withstand the audio-visual torture, each managing somehow to find scenes that didn't revolt them, but it was ... difficult, to say the least. When Billy finally ceased the relentless barrage, all were pale and trembling, holding on to their sanity only by the thread slowly unravelling from the hem of Rap's robe.
"You ... you can't break us with this, you know," Mele croaked. She'd managed to hide the fact that she actually liked over half of the films and shows, but there had been enough evil selections to rattle even her.
"Yeah," Rap muttered, drawing herself up to her medium height. "We're made of stronger stuff than that!" Her knees wobbled alarmingly, but the once floor-length robe hid that. Or so she thought.
Peregrine wiped her sweaty face on the sleeve of her blue PJs. Gulping several times, she finally managed to speak coherently. "There's nothing so bad that it can't be saved by hunky guys."
The Azure Sisterhood gradually recovered. Billy was slightly disappointed, but then, he hadn't really expected this part to work; it was just an interlude to something even more fiendish. A fresh maniacal gleam entered his eyes – now a startling electric blue – as he typed in another set of commands.
"You think so, ladies? Well, watch and listen while I set up the next stage," he smirked.
Murray and Heyoka looked apprehensively at their respective authors and their partner-in-torture, getting a bit worried at last as the image of a fat old lady with BIG white hair, dripping marble-sized pearls and pounds of diamonds over a neon-pink evening gown, laden with sequins and marabou feathers, appeared. Her wrinkly face was slathered with makeup and her false lashes caused miniature storms as she lowered her eyes to a slim book held in her gnarled hands, which sported half-inch Frosted Fuchsia nails and were covered with age spots. In a syrupy voice, she started to read a disgustingly sappy romance, full of clichés and with a plot thinner than a first season MMPR episode.
"Oh my God, he resurrected Barbara Cartland!" Heyoka breathed finally. "That is sooooo mean!" His scratchy voice was full of admiration for the Blue Ranger's unsuspected evil genius.
Murray listened briefly, shivered violently as the insipid heroine declared her undying love for the moronic hero in far too many melodramatic words, and smiled almost angelically.
"Yeah. Truly evil," he agreed, settling back comfortably and ignored the retching sounds coming from the Barbie-sized Yostie authors attending him and his friend. They looked kinda weird, trying to puke and smile sexily at Billy simultaneously. "I'm getting really curious what he's planned for the finale."
When the pink-swathed hag finished her recitation and faded into nothingness once more, the Yostie Elite was huddled in the far corner of the circular dais, holding onto each other for dear life, but still conscious ... and defiant. Disregarding the fact that tears of mental pain were streaming down her cheeks, Peregrine hauled herself upright.
"You ... you can't do this to us," she protested, wishing her voice wouldn't quite squeak so much.
"Oh no? After all the things you, and your Order, did to me? You bet your keyboards I can," Billy told her adamantly, setting up his computer to implement the ultimate act of torture.
"B-but that was in fiction," the British-born Yostie said weakly. "We didn't torture you like this in person!"
"Only because you haven't had the opportunity, I'm sure," the Blue Ranger asserted. "You talked enough about 'Advanced Classes' the last time you abducted me to convince me I want no part in it. None whatsoever. Besides, you try hanging only partially clothed from a hook in the ceiling, being tickled with feathers from all sides, or be helpless and tied up while getting groped by seven demented females, all of which have clearly nefarious intentions on your body ...." his voice trailed off and a faraway look entered the turquoise eyes. Slowly, a goofy grin began to spread across his face, and he began to breathe harder.
"Tied up ... half-naked ... seven women groping me ... mmmm ... yeah ...." he mumbled, sinking into fantasy bliss for a minute or two.
Peregrine took the opportunity to help revive her still-reeling companions.
"Come on, girls, it's over – at least for now," she told a retching Rap. "Soon, we'll be home and we'll all listen to a nice scary tape of Stephen King. Or maybe watch 'Silence of the Lambs' together," she suggested. The other two perked up visibly.
"Can I watch some Buffy, or Sentinel?" Mele asked hopefully.
"ER," Rap demanded weakly. "Or DS 9, if necessary. Anything to get rid of the memory of ... of that," she suppressed another violent shudder.
"Whatever," Peregrine promised. "We'll take a look at the TV Guide, and choose a nicely violent program to calm us."
Just as the three started an amicable discussion (i.e., they kept their yelling down to a minimum, actual physical damage was slight and Peregrine made arrangements for discount emergency psychological counseling) about what to watch, Billy came out of his mental daze.
"Later," he consoled himself. "When I'm done here."
He fixed teal eyes on his three captives. Deciding to spare his still-hoarse voice further strain, he sent a brief high-voltage surge of electricity into the dais. The bickering women jumped in surprise. (Actually ... did you ever see Wile E. Coyote caught in an explosion? All spread-eagled, every single hair on his body erect with the charge, eyes bulging, tongue lolling out almost to his knees? Steam coming out of his ears? That's exactly how they looked, only bigger. The effect was especially nice with Rap's tattered black Acolyte's robe ... but we're not going to mention that, are we? After all, the Sisterhood has a reputation to protect ...) It did catch their attention, though.
"What?" Mele grumped, smoothing down her sweats.
"I told you last time to keep static cling away from me," Peregrine complained, trying vainly to smooth down her flyaway mass of hair.
"Sshh," Rap said. "I think he's trying to tell us something."
"You listen to him. Me, I can't. That little trick has fried my hearing aids."
"I'm not sure I want to hear him," Perry ruminated. "I'd much rather watch him ... touch him ... feel him ... up ..."
"Hrr-hmm," Rap interrupted her. "Stop giving away secrets!"
"I never made a secret out of the fact I find him yummy," Peregrine contradicted with a saccharine smile. "Not everybody is as repressed as you, darling. You really should do something about that tendency ...."
"At least I don't check my morals at the door, unlike some other people I know!"
"Last I checked, I didn't have any morals," Mele contributed with an apologetic grin. Under dire threats sent by eye-contact, she'd managed to restore function to her hearing aids.
"We don't have a door here, either," Perry added. "If we had, we could use Rap's cammies to tie him up, and then WE could torture him – the way it's meant to be!"
"Right. I can't help it, but there's something fundamentally wrong with this set-up," Mele mused.
"Like the fact that we're the ones being tortured by him?" Rap asked sarcastically.
"Could be. Only, when we're torturing someone, he usually stays tortured!"
That set off another round of professional courtesies – hair-pulling, name-calling ... you know, the usual.
Billy was quietly gnashing his teeth. His eyes shot sky-blue sparks as he turned to the two bored Muses.
"Make them stop that," he ground out. "Make it so that they're paying attention to me, or you'll be looking for new authors at first light!"
"Now, now, don't let's be hasty," Murray soothed, scrambling up from his comfortable slouch into a sitting position on his pillow, looking for all the world like the Frog Prince, minus the little coronet. He puckered up for a minute, but when nobody volunteered to kiss him, he deflated like a days-old balloon.
"Just give us a second to come up with a plan."
"Yeah," Heyoka concurred, fluttering his wings a little. He knocked the four small author-shapes over in the process, but didn't care. "It has to be something that'll get EVERYBODY's attention, not just Perry's. Or Mele's."
The two looked at each other speculatively for a long minute. Just as Billy was about to explode, Heyoka tilted his head like a shaggy, overgrown sparrow.
"It's the only way I can see," Murray agreed. "Who's going to do it?"
"I wouldn't dream of depriving you of this pleasure," Heyoka cawed oh-so-graciously. He grinned unrepentantly at the dirty look his buddy shot him.
"Coward," the Frog muttered. He didn't look too happy, but quite visibly steeled himself for what he must do. "Very well. But you owe me for this! Big time!" Then, he filled his lungs with as much air as they would hold.
"NEW FIC IDEA!" he bellowed out. Instantly, the squabble inside the forcefield ceased, and three pairs of ears figuratively perked up. A little quieter, Murray continued.
"Billy returns from Aquitar, having ditched the fish. On his way home, he's captured by a New Evil Villain, stronger than anything the Rangers have ever encountered. Bad Guy knows his reputation, tries to turn him evil, but Billy-Boy resists. To break him, Bad Guy summons his Chief Henchcreature, a sexpot in tight leather and a metal brassière. She ties him up, cuts his clothes off piece by piece with dagger and whip. After days of mistreatment, Our Hero is hanging from manacles set into a dank stone wall. He's hungry and thirsty, bleeding from several cuts, his naked chest is heaving. The Villainess approaches him, a fiendish new torture device in her hand. 'Will you join us?' she asks. 'Never!' answers Billy defiantly. Bad Girl smiles evilly, and raises her hand. The slim wand she holds starts to glow balefully and he screams in agony as she touches it to his ..."
It was no longer necessary to go on; the Frog had the three women's undivided attention. By now, they were close to hyperventilating, their eyes glittering in anticipation. When Murray stopped mid-sentence, they started, then scowled at the kitten-size creature.
"And? Then .... what?" Mele demanded of her Muse. "You know better than to stop now!"
"Yeah – go on, Murray," Peregrine cooed, to her own Muse's disgusted snort. "What's going to happen next?"
"How should I know?" Murray shrugged. He hopped back onto his mound of pillows. "I just needed to get your attention. For him." He pointed a flipper at the shuddering Blue Ranger, whose imagination was running riot – much to his own disgust. With an effort, he wrenched himself out of the compelling story, tuning out Rap's frantic muttering as she scribbled furiously. "He escapes ... returns to Chicago, Earth, badly injured ... need Dr. Greene to examine him ... Carol will agonize over him ... Peter can operate, but almost fails because his son skinned his knee right that morning ... the Rangers try to recover him, but clash with everybody ... Luca arrives to save the day ..."
"Oh brother," Mele muttered. "Maybe giving her lots of physical injuries to play with is NOT the brightest thing to do at the moment."
"Seems like it," Peregrine agreed. "Just be thankful it's ER and not 'General Hospital'." The Brit looked around. "But I think Blue-Boy here wanted our attention." She turned towards the steaming scientist. "Yes, dear?" she enquired politely.
"This isn't forgotten," Mele warned her shrugging Muse, then kicked a still-scribbling Rap. "Pay attention here!"
"Yeah, yeah, keep your pants on," the Arizonan muttered, stowing her pad and pencil wherever. "What?" she demanded impatiently.
"This. Is. ENOUGH!" Billy grated out, stalking furiously towards the dais, brandishing his remote. "You have mocked me, tortured me, made me seem like a blithering idiot once too often! Setting these ... these ... creatures" he indicated an indignant Murray and insulted-looking Heyoka, "on me was bad enough, but your constant disregard of my personal dignity and my feelings, your inability to focus on what's happening to you here, and your blatant insensiblity to what would drive any normal person insane is the last straw."
The Blue Ranger was breathing harshly, the rapid heaving of his chest beneath his t-shirt not going unnoticed by his captive audience. All three started to drool a little.
"I had thought that maybe – just maybe – I could spare you this, but since you show absolutely NO sign of remorse over your actions, you leave me no choice!"
Mele looked at her fellow kidnappees.
"Is it just me, or do I get the feeling we've, um, annoyed him a little?"
"It's not just you," Peregrine concurred. "He seems somewhat upset ..."
Rap snorted. "Try 'he's royally pissed off', and you may get close," she commented drily.
"Should we be concerned?"
"Mmm ... a tad worried, maybe. But there's no need to panic."
Billy had returned to his computer and inserted a special CD into the drive. Bracing himself, his finger hovered over the 'Load' key.
"For the last time: Do you renounce your evil ways? Will you cease to torment me?"
The three women exchanged glances, then turned as one to the blond young man. Their answer was as unhesitating as it was unanimous.
"Then on your head be the consequences." His hand came down on the keyboard, and the computer whirred to life with a sound that was almost ominous.
Mele, Peregrine and Rap braced themselves, but for a couple of minutes, nothing happened. Gradually, they started to relax.
"See? I told you there's no need to panic," Peregrine said. The next instant, the shimmer of the forcefield around them vanished, and strange colored lights emitted from the computer. "Huh?"
"I'm not sure that's such a good sign," Mele murmured, taking a careful step forward. "Are you sure we shouldn't panic?"
"Pretty much," Perry started to say, when a strangled squeak/croak caught her attention and her eyes fell on the two Muses. She needn't worry, though; they bounced back into their sockets almost immediately. The indolent posture had changed to something that could only be described as a terrified huddle. Frog and Thunderbird were clinging to each other, Barbie-sized authors (who were still drooling over the amateur Mad Scientist) forgotten as they stared, wide-eyed and mute with fright, at a point at the back of the darkened room, where the strobing lights converged. Was it her imagination, or were those two actually trembling? Because if they were, that was NOT a good sign.
Rap and Mele had noticed the sudden silence, and turned to look at the spot the two Muses were fixating upon. Peering into the darkness, just barely visible to the naked eye under the kaleidoscopic beams, four teleportation signatures began to shimmer into existence.
"We're getting visitors, it seems," Rap said quietly. Try as she might, she couldn't help the uneasy shiver crawling down her spine.
"Uh hunh," Mele agreed, swallowing hard.
"Behold! The Greatest Evil of All!" Billy intoned behind them in a sepulchral voice. Murray and Heyoka whimpered, but the three Sisters of the Azure Elite hardly heard them. All their attention was focussed on the four columns of colored light gradually forming against the far wall. The doll-like Initiates shrank back from Billy, for once having second thoughts about him that did not involve anything X-rated.
Fluorescent Pink. Glaring Yellow. Nauseous Green. Garish Purple.
"Purple?" Mele muttered, puzzled. "Who the heck could have a PURPLE teleport ..."
"I don't remember that vile shade of Green, either," Rap agreed.
Next to them, Peregrine suddenly collapsed in a quivering heap.
"What? What is it?"
"The horror!" Peregrine gasped. "Oh my God, it's TERRIBLE!!!!"
"WHAT?!?" Rap nearly shouted, watching with dawning terror as the columns of light formed into four seven-foot tall, chubby beings with moon-shaped faces, big round eyes, TV screens in their ample bellies and weird geometric shapes on their heads. "I-it can't be," she gasped, recoiling.
"Afraid so," Perry wailed. Turning to Mele, who was undecided as yet whether she should be frightened or just confused, she grabbed her arm. "You wanted to know if you should panic or not?"
"Yeah," the oldest Sister nodded warily. "Why?"
"Well, THAT answers your question! PANIC!!!!"
The four figures had fully materialized by now and were prancing towards the dais with its three near-immobile occupants, babbling in a way that would have insulted an average two-year-old and humming an insanely cheerful melody. From the background, Billy's voice could be heard once again.
"Fight Evil with Evil! To pay you back for every indignity I suffered at your hands, I give you ... the TELETUBBIES!"
He watched with immense satisfaction as the four Incarnations of Evil closed around his gone-pale captives. Their desperate moans and cries were drowned out by the monstrous creatures, and a quick glance to the side showed that the Barbie authors were hiding among the pillows as best they could. Heyoka and Murray seemed paralyzed with fright, and the young genius couldn't help himself. He threw back his head and laughed with evil satisfaction.
"I ... I th-think we t-taught h-him t-too well," Murray moaned as he clung to Heyoka's leg. His author may not have been the most versed in children's fads, but not even Mele had been able to escape the menacing media presence of Laalaa, Dipsy, Tinky-Winky and Po. She had sunk to her knees with Rap and Peregrine, trying desperately to shield eyes and ears from the horrifying manifestations, but with little success; the relentlessly cute ...things... wanted to 'play' and kept tugging at the arms of the quivering victims, patting, stroking, poking, prodding ...
"Y-y-yeah," the Thunderbird Chick agreed, his suddenly very squeaky voice betraying that he WAS, in fact, just a chick, and not quite the tough old bird he wanted to appear. He only barely managed to hold on to his buddy.
"Wh-what are we gonna do if they d-don't survive this?" Heyoka asked nervously, watching as Peregrine tried to scoot away from the plushy purple paws reaching for her. She was brought up short by an ample green belly at her back, and screamed.
"Hey, that's almost as good as Fay Wray in the original 'King Kong'," Murray admired the artistic warbling of his buddy's author. It was good enough, in any case, to distract him from his own fears.
"What do you mean, 'almost'??" Heyoka indignantly demanded to know. He, too, was recovering now that his attention was diverted. Before the two Muses could launch into one of their frequent squabbles (which they preferred to label as their version of 'male bonding'), a groan from Rap brought his head towards the dais once more. She was futilely struggling in a smothering hug by the Green Teletubby. The sight was enough to turn stronger stomachs.
"Oh. My. God! HELP!!!"
Later, nobody could say who had called out for divine assistance, but definitely nobody had expected to get an answer.
The voice coming out of the darkness was warm, a little gruff and surprisingly deep, considering the small size of its owner. The toy-poodle-sized Polar Bear trolled gaily towards his two friends, his white fur gleaming in the light from the computer screen.
"Hi guys! Miss me? More to the point, did I miss much?"
Murray and Heyoka pounced on the last member of the Terrible Threesome and hastily filled him in on what had happened so far – and that they'd never meant for things to go this much out of hand. Ted listened in silence, snagged a colorful drink for himself out of thin air, settled himself into the heap of pillows and watched the three Yosties being chased around the room by the Teletubbies. It was a horrifying sight, especially since there always was one more Teletubby than Human; if necessary, the spare one would tag-team with whatever partner needed help.
"Good grief," the small bear muttered, closing his eyes briefly as Peregrine stumbled and Dipsy fell on her back, nearly smothering the gold-hooded Azure Sister. Tinky-Winky was trying to 'dance' with Rap, who resisted with all her might but succeeded only in being dragged in circles along the dusty floor. And Mele was being hugged aft and front by Laalaa and Po and NOT looking happy about it.
Ted looked over his shoulder towards the computer. Billy sat at the monitor, grinning to himself with a maniacal gleam in his leaf-green eyes. He fiddled occasionally with a few controls, which usually resulted in a fresh outbreak of song from the revoltingly cute creatures, but was otherwise oblivious or indifferent to his surroundings; it was hard to say which. Nor did it really matter.
"Didn't you say you made a deal with him he couldn't permanently damage 'em?" Ted asked, watching the three women with growing dismay. "If he keeps that up much longer, they'll get hysterical, and what are you gonna do then?"
The other two Muses lowered their heads, not looking at anybody.
"I ... I dunno," Murray admitted. "I mean, I expected a little torture, but nothing on the scale he managed to come up with."
"Yeah – some broken ribs, welts, black eyes ... a knocked-out tooth or two ... that kind of thing," Heyoka added. "You know, the usual."
"Usual?" Ted gaped. "That's usual? Man, I certainly don't wanna know about unusual torture methods!"
"Oh, there's the whole Spanish Inquisition repertoire," Murray said blithely. "The rack, Iron Maiden, Spanish Boots ...whips, red-hot tongs ..."
"Yeah, and if you want to get really creative, you can go for Demon Banishment, voodoo, exorcisms of all denominations ..."
"Or knives. Mele's always been partial to knives and other stuff with a cutting edge."
"Like her tongue?" Ted murmured, but the other two didn't hear him; they were too busy enumerating various methods of reducing a Human body to a quivering mass of pain, torn muscles and broken bones.
"Perry always says the greatest torture can be inflicted on the mind, though," Heyoka remembered.
"And Blue-Boy's certainly proving her point, isn't he?" Ted interrupted, directing his pals' attention back towards their authors, who were squirming helplessly inside the circle the four 'Tubbies had formed around them, pelting out one silly song after the other. Tears were starting to form in their eyes, and even Rap was as close to losing all control as anyone had ever seen her. All three were moaning softly.
"Hey, how come you're not affected?" Murray suddenly wanted to know. "I mean, Junior Birdman here and I can barely look at these monsters, and you don't even cover your ears ..."
"I live with a teenager," Ted shrugged. "Believe me, you don't want to know what kind of TV programs the household is subjected to on a daily basis." He scooped up a last pawful of popcorn that the other two had overlooked. Munching on the white puffy kernels, he gazed earnestly at his friends.
"Guys, I really think you ought to do something. Billy here has lost it; just look at him! He's enjoying himself far too much to stop of his own volition, and if he doesn't ..."
"...we'll be looking at the unemployment line," Heyoka sighed. "Damn."
"Exactly. Now mind, I'm kind of partial to certain kinds of judicial torture myself ..."
"YOU?!? Like what?" Murray demanded to know incredulously. "I thought the Power Hunk Appreciation Society didn't do torture, just sex!"
Ted grinned a bit sheepishly.
"Well, we might do the other kind ... a nice bit of bondage here, a friendly spanking there ... "
"Oohhh ... THAT kind!" Frog and Thunderbird grinned back knowingly. "The Personal Kits!"
"Nothing too excessive, mind ... just enough so everybody has fun," Ted defended himself. "It's a PHAS rule; if I take things too far, I'll get fined."
"Fined? How?" the other two wanted to know. Punishment for excessive violence was not something a Yostie Muse ever had to worry about. On the contrary, the rule of thumb was, the more, the better.
"I'll have to supply Dagmar with a story I really, really don't want to do – like an Aisha romance, or a ..." here, the little bear grimaced "... a Zack songfic.Or if I'm VERY bad, a Mary Sue."
"Uh huh. And if I do that, she'll kill me. So I thought I'd better be careful, y'know?"
At this point, the three Muses' professional confab was interrupted by a truly pathetic moan from one of the tortured Sisters, and gleeful evil laughter from Billy, who was slapping his thighs and chanting "I did it! I did it!" incessantly.
"Well, all that can wait," Heyoka murmured. "In the meantime, I think we have a problem."
"No shit, Sherlock," Murray agreed sarcastically. "Any bright ideas on how to solve it?"
There was a Minute of Silence. Everybody stood up, solemnly stared a hole in the air and resumed whatever they were doing when a loud siren signalled the end.
"No," the shaggy Bird had to admit when it was over. All around them, the air stitched itself together again. The patches were still visible, but nobody cared. "You?"
"I, um ... er ... no," the small Frog confessed. The two looked at each other, at their collapsed authors, at the cackling junior Mad Scientist ... and then turned big, moist, hopeful eyes on their buddy.
"What are you looking at me like that for?" Ted asked suspiciously.
"Help us? Pleeeeeeeeeeeaze?"
"Me? What do I have to do with this?" the white-furred Muse complained. "It's your authors he's getting even with – Dagmar and I have done nothing to piss him off!"
"You still haven't put him on the PHAS list!"
"Yeah; and he seemed really bummed about that!"
"That's not my decision to make! That's up to the OVG Contributors' Committee!"
"Yes, but Dagmar's on it, right? And she's Mele's and Perry's friend, isn't she? Wouldn't she be upset if they were permanently damaged?"
Ted thought for a moment.
"I guess so," he finally conceded grudgingly. "We warned you something bad would come of your obsession with torturing the guy, but would any of you listen? Nooooo, of course not! And now, when the chips are down, I'll have to pick up the pieces!"
"Chips? Where are chips?" Heyoka perked up at the mention of his favorite snack.
"Geez, Louise," Murray groaned. "No chips, Flyboy ... and stop thinking with your stomach!"
"You should talk," the Thunderchick complained. "Who is this Louise, anyway?"
"How should I know?"
"You're the one who brought her up," Heyoka murmured, but shut his beak with an audible 'clack' when the Bear glared at him.
"You want my help, or not?" Ted demanded to know.
"Yeah. I hate to admit it, but I know how to get folks into torture, but not out of it," Murray grumbled. "And I have absolutely no experience with this kind of situation. There's no Modil to help 'em, or a doohicky to invent ..."
"Nor a nice little catharsis and epiphany for him to go through to mend his ways, either," the Thunderbird chick sighed. "A serious design flaw."
"Whatever." The Frog cast an anxious glance at the melée of Azure Sisters and Teletubbies. He was pretty certain that the pathetic whimpering which was growing steadily in volume was NOT coming from the green, pink, yellow or purple menaces. "Ted, DO something!"
"Okay, okay, keep your pants on," Ted muttered, thinking for a minute.
"What pants?" Heyoka wondered, staring at his buddy puzzledly. "You're not wearing any pants!"
Ted shook his head. Really, sometimes their British buddy was still a tad naive, The Falconer subscriber or not. Seemed an interest in leather bonds and hoods was not enough ... "I think I may have an idea," he announced finally. Carefully, he started sidling over to the computer array.
Billy hadn't noticed him yet, he was so engrossed in watching his chief tormentors squirm. "I'll have to keep this in mind for when I pay back the rest of the Yosties," he murmured to himself, typing a few notes into his files. "A little more research, and I'm sure this session will yield something suitable for the other four, before they get invited to any 'Advanced Classes'. And as for Cynthia, the 'Evil Pagemistress' ... "
A very evil smile crossed his features. "I think with her, I'll start with a twenty-four-hour marathon of every Tommy/Kim Reunion fic ever written, read by Lamb Chop ..." He twitched his leg; something was tugging at his pant leg. The twitching didn't help; still dividing his attention between the torture scene and his keyboard, he tried shaking his foot to rid himself of the irritant.
"Hey! Be careful up there! A body could get hurt!"
"Huh?" Yanked rudely out of his pleasant dreams, Billy peered under the desk, blinked, looked, shook his head disbelievingly, and stared again. Right next to his leg sat a small fuzzy animal that looked for all the world like a miniature Polar Bear. It was glaring at him.
"Did ... did you just talk to me?"
"Of course I did, blockhead," the little Bear scolded irritably. "Who did you think it was – Elvis?"
"And here I thought you were supposed to be so smart," the fluffy creature mumbled. "Yeah, right. Even Bulk and Skull would've known it was me. But nooo, Mr. Einstein Junior here has to ask ..."
"What?" Ted asked, hiding his grin. He'd just achieved his first goal – Billy was no longer paying attention to his victims. As a result, the manic cavorting of the Teletubbies was gradually slowing down. Time for Phase Two. But before the furry Muse could initiate it, Billy recovered at least some of his wits. Really, they had a most annoying tendency to scatter all over the place when he wasn't looking ....
"Ahem. Um, who are you? And what are you?" The Blue Ranger felt a certain suspicion creep up on him, and had to resist turning around, shout 'BOO!' and scare it off.
"I'm Ted. A Muse. And before you ask, I have nothing to do with the Yosties. I work for Dagmar." He winked at Billy and grinned ... or more precisely leered at the blond young man. Billy promptly blushed beet-red.
"I thought you were supposed to be the BLUE Ranger," Ted needled, delighted at how easy it was to rattle the genius. "Are you sure you're wearing the right color spandex?"
"I, um, uh ... yes, why?" Billy stuttered, thoroughly disconcerted. After meeting the PHAS author during his last abduction, he'd expected her to have a Muse that was ... different, somehow. A Playboy Bunny, perhaps, or last month's Centerfold (he sighed longingly at the memory), but not a creature that looked like a cuddly toy. Something to sit on the bed, not to take to bed, as it were.
"Oh, nothing," Ted waved a small paw dismissively. "I was just wondering ... can I tell you something?"
"Huh? Sure," Billy said, after only a moment's thought. This Ted was not in possession of a long, slimy, sticky tongue, nor could he electrocute him. He also had no feathers which could be plucked to tickle him. Besides, Dagmar wasn't present, and she'd said she had no designs on his person ... never mind that that remark still rankled; after all, what did Jason and Tommy have that he didn't? *Except for gorgeous dark eyes and hair, bodies to die for, outstanding karate skills and all the really cool gadgets?* Billy dismissed the thought. It pouted and skulked off, to hide in a corner of his brain, to re-emerge at a better time.
"Could you please pick me up, then? This is kinda ... um ... personal, and I don't want anyone to overhear," Ted asked politely.
"Of course," the Blue Ranger agreed readily. He lifted the toy-poodle-sized creature onto his lap, automatically stroking the soft fur. "You're different than I thought you'd be," he confided.
Ted wiggled around a little bit until he was comfortable. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that his two buddies were watching his every move, and that the Teletubbies by now were moving as if in slow motion. However, they were still encircling the near-paralyzed authors too tightly to offer them a chance at escape.
"Oh. How so?" he queried, marshalling his strategy.
"I thought you'd be more ... um ... disgusting, like the other two," Billy admitted. Luckily for him, he didn't look at the Muses in question, or he'd taken off to the M 51 Galaxy along with Rita and Zedd, they were fuming so much. Evil glares abounded, and dire threats and curses against the Blue Ranger were muttered under their breaths. Surreptitiously, Ted signalled them to calm down. Gritting their non-existent teeth, they settled back again. For now. But the Blue Ranger was in for some more judicious torture in the future – if they ever managed to extricate their authors relatively unscathed!
"They're not disgusting," Ted defended his friends. "Murray can't help being a little slimy, and Heyoka is still a bit young. We're trying to find him a girlfriend, you know; maybe that'll settle him down a bit," he added conspiratorily.
"Er, quite," Billy agreed, now thoroughly befuddled. How had they come to discussing an imaginary Bird's non-existent love life? He had no idea. With an effort, he wrenched his mind back to the matter at hand. It squeaked in protest. *Need to oil that,* he made a mental note. "What exactly was it you wanted to tell me?"
"Oh. Right." Ted grinned sheepishly. "Just a little story I want you to listen to. Are you ready?"
"Of course." Surely there was no harm in that?
"Okay." The little Polar Bear cleared his throat, then started to speak. His pleasant voice deepened, became low, intimate ... positively mellifluous as he began to weave his tale, designed to render Billy helpless so the Three Stoog-, er, MUSES! could free the hapless authors.
"Imagine yourself in a cosy, warm room, lit by a couple dozen candles. The scent of fresh flowers is in the air, and in the open fireplace, a fire is crackling merrily. On the rug before it, a gorgeous young woman lies, clad only in lacy skimpy underwear, stretching out a hand to draw you down to the mounds of soft pillows with her. Her eyes glow softly, reflecting the dancing flames as her fingers smooth through your hair. She kisses you very gently, then starts to unbutton your shirt. Her hands are like silk on your skin as she touches you ..."
A quickly-strangled moan was coming from Murray and Heyoka's direction as Ted continued his romantic and extremely sexy fantasy, but when he snuck a peek at the blond young man, all he saw was mildly polite interest in the blue-grey eyes. Dismayed that his usually fail-safe method of distracting a teenage male from anything wasn't working, Ted redoubled his efforts, getting more and more explicit, but there was no reaction other than that Billy's ears started to glow a nice, brilliant red.
*If he were a reindeer, he could give good ol' Rudolph a run for his money,* Ted thought irritably. Before he even got to the climax of the story (or the characters'), Billy interrupted him.
"That's all very nice, Ted, but I'm not at all sure you should be telling me this," he said gently, deposited Ted back on the floor and turned back towards his computer. The little fantasy had been very stimulating, but there was still work to do; besides, he'd voice-recorded it in his computer and could come back to it once he was finished with the Azure Elite. Billy decided not to mention that fact to his fuzzy visitor, however; better safe than sorry, no?
More puzzled than infuriated, Ted wandered back to his two buddies. They looked somewhat breathless and dishevelled, and for some reason the four Barbie-sized Yostie authors were nowhere in sight anymore, but he was too preoccupied to notice.
"I don't get it," he mumbled, shaking his head. "That ALWAYS works! On everybody! Every time!"
"Well, Billy's not exactly everybody," Murray commented.
"He's a teenage male, right? And from what you and Dagmar told me, he's NOT immune!"
"Not immune, maybe, but very single-minded," Heyoka mused. "Especially when involved in some kind of experiment or something."
"And this IS an experiment of sorts for him," the Frog added, a bit excitedly. "He's a scientist; even his friends had to deal with him a little differently ..."
"I can't very well get him to invent another Zord geegaw," Ted protested. "He wouldn't even need glasses to see through THAT!"
"No, but can't you tell him something scientific instead of steamy sex and romance? Not that you don't do that extremely well, but ..."
Heyoka's sudden enthusiasm was catching. Ted paused to think again.
"Hmmm ... you may have something there ... hmmm ... yeah ... that might work .... it's worth a try, anyway," the little Bear ruminated, his black eyes taking on a challenging glitter. He was NOT going to let himself be defeated by a nerd – never mind that PHAS had been taking notice of him on occasion!
"What? What are you gonna do, Ted?" Murray asked eagerly.
"Watch and learn," Ted murmured, and scrambled back towards Billy, who had returned his torture program to full strength again. The agonized Yosties moaned pitifully from inside the wall of huge plushy bellies. "Um, Billy?"
"Yes," the scientist answered distractedly. The three women were still conscious! What was taking so long? Maybe he ought to increase the volume ... or maybe add a few features of the early stages ...
"Can I sit on your lap again?"
"Sure." Absently, he lifted Ted up. Dagmar's Muse cautiously snuggled into position, gave Billy a couple of minutes to forget about him again, then began to hum softly. Gradually, the song got louder, until it became discernible that Ted was actually singing. It was a sprightly, bouncy tune, that sounded vaguely familiar to his audience.
"Gilbert and Sullivan?!?" Heyoka gasped when he finally placed the catchy melody. "Where the HECK did he come up with that???"
"I dunno, but I'll eat a Zord Uncoupler raw if those are the original lyrics," Murray grimaced. Ted had a nice voice, but he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket if his life depended on it. Fortunately, his victim didn't seem to mind much. "What IS he singing, anyway?"
The two Muses strained their ears and finally managed to make out the words, after Billy had picked up the song and was singing merrily along with their buddy. At the back of the room, paint began to peel from the far wall at the combined sound.
"There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium, And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium, And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium ..."
"Oh brother, they're singing the Periodic Table of Elements," the Bird realized.
"Some nutty professor at Harvard put all the chemical elements to music ages ago, and that's what Ted is warbling. You know, sometimes I wonder where he picks that stuff up!"
"Don't look at me; not at my place, that's for sure!"
"Didn't think so," Heyoka murmured under his breath.
"Nothing. Hey, look, it seems to be working!"
Indeed, ever since he'd started yodeli- uh, singing along with Ted, Billy had been neglecting his keyboard, caught up in the song, and the Teletubbies were slowing down their antics once more, giving the plagued and desperate Yosties some much-needed breathing space. They were clinging to each other, hiding themselves from view, but as a group, they were quivering more than a huge bowl of fruit jelly. A truly terrifying sight to their Muses.
Both Bear and Ranger ended on a long-drawn-out note that managed only NOT to burst lightbulbs, eardrums and monitor screens because their voices were too deep. If both had been sopranos, however ... the thought didn't bear thinking about. Ted grabbed the water glass Billy still had next to his computer and gulped down half the contents in a single swallow before passing it on to his Human companion. He needed his voice in perfect working order if the next stage was going to succeed!
While the blond sipped the water more slowly, Ted lifted himself up on his hind legs, tucked his soft, furry head next to Billy's neck, and as soon as he was finished with the glass, began to murmur softly, soothingly, into one none-too-clean ear.
"Billy? Listen to me, dear boy ... this is something you'll like lots, I promise... just clear your mind, listen and go wherever it takes you ... "
The Polar Bear's voice deepened to the same timbre he'd used before as he'd been spinning his erotic fantasy. Only now, he eschewed flickering flames and nubile young maidens; instead, he breathily and intimately began to speak in a born story-teller's well-modulated voice.
"One. Two. Three. Five. Seven. Eleven. Thirteen. Seventeen. Nineteen. Twenty-three. Twenty-nine. Thirty-one ..."
"He's reciting PRIME NUMBERS?!? Has he gone mad?!?" Murray exclaimed under his breath.
"Well, Math is more likely to distract Billy ..."
"Yeah – a complex calculus problem maybe, but this? That's 6th-grader stuff!"
"No, look, it's working! Billy's getting that blissed-out look already!"
Indeed, the young man's eyes started to glaze over as he was caught up in the magical world of numbers that had always been closest to his heart. (Next to Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Mechanics and any other 'hard' science he could think of, of course.) Soon, he became so caught up in the spell Ted was weaving that he began to mouth the words along with the furry Muse.
"Eighty-nine. Ninety-one. Ninety-seven. One hundred and one. One hundred and three. One hundred and seven. One hundred and ..."
The Blue Ranger was lost. Glassy-eyed and slack-jawed, he sprawled limply in his desk chair, mumbling numbers without end. About every second group of ten, a very goofy grin flitted over his face, and cautiously, Ted slipped from his lap onto the desk, next to the keyboard. Stealthily, he began tapping at the keys, and within a couple of minutes, the seven-foot-tall horrors were completely frozen in whatever position they'd held last. They looked as if someone with very bad taste had taken a coloring set to Henry Moore statues. Ted removed the CD from the drive and hid it behind the monitor. Between the Teletubbies' chubby legs, the three Muses could barely make out Mele, Rap and Peregrine, who were all huddled together on the floor in front of the dais, trying to hide under Rap's robe. The black material was not enough to cover all of them, so despite their frayed nerves and the cloak's frayed hemline, every now and then a tug at one corner yanked the garment to the left or to the right, while Rap tried vainly to swathe herself in what was after all HER robe. Besides, after the body search, Billy hadn't returned her camouflage nightshirt, and while it looked properly sinister, that thing was drafty!
"Let's get 'em outta there!" Ted commanded his buddies.
It was hard for the three small creatures, but they managed to rouse the Sisters of the Azure Elite sufficiently that they could push and squeeze themselves through the spaces between the Teletubbies' lower appendages. (I'll spare you, dear reader, a closer description of exactly how they extricated themselves – like the sight of Peregrine's rear end leading the way, or what was under Rap's robe, or the splatting noise Mele made when she landed facedown on the floor; after all, this is NOT a horror story!) As soon as they crawled free, their gibbering terror almost magically transformed itself into towering fury at their oblivious captor.
"That's IT!" Mele fumed, tugging her disreputable sweats back into place. "Just let me get my hands on that boy, and he'll know what it means to torture a member of the Azure Elite!"
"Oooh, can I help? Can I? Can I?" Peregrine squealed excitedly, an unholy gleam in her eyes. Her long hair was sticking up every-which-way. "I'll hold him still while you do ... er, what exactly ARE you going to do to him?"
"You'll see," intoned the senior Sister. "Rap, where's your sword?"
"He confiscated it," the ex-military Yostie growled. "It was here in this hidden pocket in my robe, as usual, and he took it out before he gave it to me. I want it back!"
"Oooh, you have a lot of ITs!" Mele marvelled. "Can I have one?"
"Sure. Help yourself."
"Hey, I want an IT, too," Perry complained. "I didn't get one last time!"
"Bring your own ITs, why don't you?" Mele suggested too-sweetly, flexing her fingers. Peregrine pouted. "Okay, no sword ... anyone got a chainsaw?"
"Not on me ..."
"Never mind. What do you say we'll settle for giving him a good, old-fashioned beating now, add a few broken bones for good measure and get some rest? Then, when we're fully recovered and he's wallowed in pain for quite a while, we'll deal with him – in detail!" Rap suggested, smirking evilly. Her two companions perked up visibly, turned as one and started to march towards their kidnapper – only to be stopped by the phalanx of Muses.
"Sorry, gals – no go," Murray croaked. "We don't have time for this!"
"That's what you think! Outta my way, frog!" Mele prepared to push her Muse aside, but was stopped by Heyoka fluttering right before her face.
"No, really! You can't do anything to him!"
"Why not? We have all the things we need right here to pay him back for subjecting us to ... to that," Rap jerked her thumb impatiently over her shoulder, in the vague direction of the purple, green, pink and yellow monstrosities.
"Because eventually, he'll come out of his stupor," Ted said calmly, but keeping a weather eye on the still-mumbling scientist. "Prime numbers go on indefinitely, but he's had a very exciting evening, and I'm afraid his stamina in that department are a bit ... um ... less than what I'm used to. Now if he'd reacted to my standard method, I could give you an exact estimate of how much time you had, but with this ... I dunno." The little Polar Bear shrugged.
"But he's still in La-La-land now," Peregrine started to protest, but winced as behind her Laa-Laa twitched. "Ooops!"
"See? He could come out of it any minute, and he still has his full set-up operational. I only managed to freeze his program, but with his computer skills ...."
"He could un-freeze it in ten seconds flat," Heyoka added oh-so-helpfully. What with the time differences between Europe and the US, he was getting tired, and wanted to go HOME! Besides, there was that stash of Pringles behind the computer Peregrine knew nothing about ... he shut his beak to hide that he was starting to salivate.
"I'm NOT letting him get away with this!" Mele was adamant, and at her glare, her two companions nodded sternly.
"He'll think he beat us! US!"
"You can always pay him back later," Ted suggested at a nudge from Murray.
"Yeah. Or do you WANT to go back to them?" The Frog Muse pointed at the four candy-colored giants.
In that, at least, the Yosties were of one mind.
"So go home, get some rest and think up some nice, nasty thing or two to do to him next," Heyoka said with a wink at his buddies. Murray grinned knowingly, and Ted rolled his eyes – as the only non-Yostie Muse, he only tolerated his pals' preoccupation with inflicting pain on their literary victim.
Rap glowered at Billy, and Mele and Peregrine didn't look very enthusiastic about leaving just like this, either.
"Let me just break a rib or two," Mele muttered darkly, glancing around for a suitable blunt instrument. She found none, whch didn't exactly improve her mood.
"Anybody got any pliers? Or a Swiss army knife?" Rap inquired. "He's wearing canvas shoes; I can get at his toenails easy!"
"Mmm, I really ought to invoke a curse or two," Peregrine added. "Or tell him in the smallest, graphic detail what awaits him in my next fic ... AFTER I've made him watch his friends undergo the Deluxe version of the Spanish Inquisition!"
"Sounds good," Mele concurred. "Come on, ladies – this won't take long!"
However, before they could take more than a step or two in Billy's direction, the young genius moaned suddenly, shivered voluptuously in his seat, and started to breathe in short, deep gasps.
The exclamation was accompanied by an all-over shudder, then Billy slumped back bonelessly into his seat, sweat breaking out on his forehead. His expression could only be described as a silly grin of ... relief?
The three Yosties froze in their tracks, then exchanged wide-eyed glances.
"Did he just ... y' know?" Rap gulped.
"I ... I think so," Mele swallowed, blanching.
"From counting prime numbers?!?" Peregrine grimaced. "And you say I need help!!!"
"Eww, that's sick," Mele moaned, turning a lovely shade of green. Apparently, this on top of the mental strain Billy had placed them under all night was too much for her stomach. It would have clashed nicely with her hood's lining, had she been wearing her Robe, which she wasn't.
"No, but you will be if we don't get out of here." Resolutely, Rap grabbed an arm of her comrade, indicating Peregrine should do the same with the other. First things first. Holding the Californian Sister firmly up between them, they then turned towards the Muses.
"Allright, guys, you win. We may not like it, but – get us out of here!"
"Sure. Just stand over there, and we'll spirit you away," Murray said amiably. Now that the fun was over, he hoped the three would never find out about his and Heyoka's part in this little jaunt. If they did ... the small Frog shivered inwardly. That was NOT going to be pretty. Well, if all else failed, they could always hole up at Ted's place for a while, he supposed. After all, Dagmar hadn't been involved in this adventure ... and she wouldn't turn them in to her friends, would she?
[smirking author If I were you, Murray, I wouldn't be too sure about that!]
As the shadowy room slowly began to fade from the Azure Elite's view, Rap cast a last, baleful glance at the slowly-reviving Blue Ranger.
"You'll pay for this, Billy – see if you don't!"
"This isn't over, Blueboy," Mele muttered, still fighting to control her stomach.
"Yeah," Peregrine threatened as they dissolved into their respective particles – black beams tinged with gold, silver and red. "The Sisters of the Azure Elite not only get mad – we get even!"
There was a whoosh! and then a loud POP! as air rushed in where seconds before there had been three Yosties and three Muses.
And Billy came to from his euphoria to an empty
room and wondered why he was trembling with dread ....
The End? I don't think so ....
Author's Note: The song Ted and Billy sing does really exist. It's from the album "Too Many Songs" by Tom Lehrer, and titled "The Elements". It and all other songs and ditties are used without permission. -- Mele and Peregrine saw this while in production. I blithely disregarded their howls of protest, outraged cries and various death threats passed on directed at Ted and myself. It's their own fault for continually nagging me about Billy, extolling his virtues. *coughcoughWHAT?coughcough* Anyway, thanks for your permission and great sense of humor, ladies! This was a blast ... and be gentle on Blue-Boy when you get even! Feedback from everybody is welcomed, as usual. DB, Summer/Fall 2000