Part 1: So You Want to be a Part of Our Family
Leila leaned back in her leather chair until the creases in the seat made a hissing sound. She looked the tall green hared duck over very carefully, almost distrusting. She tapped her fountain pen at her temple and sighed heavily.
"So. You're here because you want in to our world? Well Lana Emerald. You have quite a rep. I can't say that there is any reason why I should let you in. Granted, you have an extensive career in thievery, and you do pack a pretty mean wallop when put to the test, but there's something about you I don't like. What is it? I can't seem to put my finger on it, oh. Yeah! You are a bounty hunter as well as a tomb raiding pirate! You capture criminals for cash, and if your price isn't met, you trash 'em! Have ya anything to say on your behalf?"
"No. Except...well. They're not all criminals, darling. Quite a few are rich and important officials. I don't always go after the raw. Sometimes they're quite innocent."Lana laughed throatily. "Innocence equals giant pay back. I kidnap anyone who's worth it."
"Oh really. Do you kill all that aren't? 'Cause I got a lot of background info on you Emerald. If your beak ain't clean I can detect it a mile away."
"Geez. You're worse than the fuzz."
"What?! Listen, you want to be a part of our family or what?"
Lana played with the laces on her indigo leather corset."Yes."
"Then listen up you long legged Dominatrix wannabe!"
"Darling, I am one, I don't wanna be one."
Leila rolled her eyes.
"Back on page one...So."Leila scooted her chair in so her abdomen pressed hard against the mahogany desk. " So...you claim that you are the best hunter on Puckworld."
"--Am the greatest hunter on Puckworld. No contest."
"Whatever. You ever hear of the McGoslyns?"
Lana straightened up and a dark smile grossed her beak.
"Everyone knows them. They're the richest land owners in the northern hemisphere. Don't they have an ambassador among them? Caltec ducks, right?"
"Correct. They used to live in the Caltec Islands. Now, they live among the socially elite of Sin City."
Lana let out a low whistle. "Well. Well. My old home."
"Yeah, that depraved place."
"Oh come on. It's not all that bad. I got my start there. I run the largest Nightclub-casino-bar in the Four Cities, And I met my husband there-Oh I see your point darling."
"Yeah. Well good. There is one good thing about Sin City. The upper class and all their businesses that they own. They're the back bone of greed as we are the back bone of the socially discreet. Anyway. They have their most precious treasure, those McGoslyns--I want you to retrieve it. Do your routine. Do all that made you famous and get your job done."
"I always do."
Leila raised a very angry eyebrow."Right. Whatever."
"So ah, what is this treasure of theirs? A golden statue?" Lana rubbed her hands together. "Because if that's so, I'll be happy to take it off their hands."
"It's not a statue."
"A Caltec religious artefact with jewels stuck all over it? No wait...A prize racing pack that is highly bred and wins all that it competes in?"
"Those McGoslyns have tracks and tracks of land and packs aplenty to go with them."
"No Lana. Her-"Leila threw a file on her large heavy desk in front of Lana.
"What do you mean 'her?'"Lana took the file and opened it. There was a photograph of a petite looking girl of around sixteen, seventeen years old, with a quiet disposition about her. The girl looked as if taking her photo meant the end of her privacy.
"Who's this wimp? Pretty girl. But Drake, she looks pathetic."
Leila laughed quietly.
"So the famed Lana Emerald doesn't know who she is? I thought you were the best in the trade of hunting, Lana."
"I am the best! Just humor me. Who is she?"
"Oh, ELAINE McGoslyn. Their only child. I see."
"Do you really?"There was a knock at the door. " Yeah? What do ya want?"
The door opened quickly, and in sauntered Duke and his apprentice, Nosedive. Duke took one look at Lana, his old friend, and chuckled.
"Hey Leila! Isn't there a code about letting bi-criminals in to the Lair?"
"Duke, darling! And-"
"Nosedive Flashblade."The blonde hared youth circled the tall duck. Woo-dang you're a babe!"
Lana fell silent. Leila sighed, and Duke shot a nervous look to his apprentice.
"What did you call me?"
"Ah, listen kitten. The kid didn't mean it."
"Really. Well Duke, ha. Maybe I should school this, um, Nosedive in what happens when someone calls me babe."
"Uh-oh Lana, you aren't going to beat up my apprentice are you? He doesn't even know you."
"Lana Emerald never lets a derogatory term go unpunished." Lana pulled her whip slowly out from its coiled position on her left hip.
"Ah, Duke, what's she going to do?"
"Just apologize before it's too late."
Leila cleared her throat.
"Excuse me. We were in the middle of a meeting. Take this outside of my office at another time. Duke--whattaya want already?"
Duke stood between Lana and Nosedive holding his arms out in front of them, trying to keep them apart.
"Boy, I am going to whoop you so bad..."
"Yikes! I prefer to be whooped good."
"Smart beak. You know, for a kid, you're kinda cute." Lana swayed her hips into the crack of her whip.
Leila stood up from her chair.
"I said, TAKE IT OUTSIDE LATER!"
Lana ignored Leila's harsh tones and Duke's physical protests.
"You know, if you say you're sorry, I might just forgive your little chauvinistic onslaught."
"What, 'babe?' Look, Ms. Lana, I'm sorry. I didn't think that such a small word would offend an incredibly hot looking duck with three inches of height on me and a real bad attitude-I am sorry-"
Lana stood a breath away from the seventeen year old duck. She looked him up and down and sighed like a lazy concubine.
"You want me to forgive you?"
"Um, yeah, yeah I do. So much."Nosedive made a gesture with his hands of how much he wished to be spared. Lana flicked a piece of dust off his shirt, and looked over to her whip, which was clutched tightly in her right hand. She cracked it close to Nosedive's leg.
Leila gave a warning sigh and glared at Duke. He just shrugged.
Lana let out another lazy sigh, and looked at her boots.
She silkily waltzed away from him. Nosedive let out a sigh of relief.
"Are you finished?"Leila pounded her fist on to her desk.
"Really, Leila. Half the fun of getting your point made is scaring the wits out of your victim."
Duke laughed. Nosedive made a 'How come you didn't do anything' look at his mentor, and Duke just patted his friend's shoulder.
"One day when you're older, you'll thank me, Dive."
"Back on page one..."
"Oh Leila, the reason why we're here is I want to ask you a question."Duke piped up.
"L' Orange, can't it wait?"
"Then step outside until I am through with this interview!"
"Yes Duke darling. I want into the wild world of the Brotherhood."
"How come you never joined when I asked ya?"
"Because, you're a guy."
"Oh. Wait a minute, Lana. That's reverse discrimination! You're like a sister to me! I would never act prejudiced to you, kitten."
"Ahem!"Leila cleared her throat again.
"We'll talk later, Duke."Lana breathed annoyingly.
"Fine!"Duke led Nosedive out of Leila's office and slammed the door.
"Hey! Some people in East Keltor didn't hear you!" Leila shouted after him.
"So Lana. Back to the matter at hand. Get Elaine McGoslyn. By your means. And if you bring her here for ransom, you're in. We'll convince her parents that she'll be dealt with accordingly if they don't pay up. Got it all?"
"Yes. By my means? Are you sure?"
"Very sure. Do as you will as long as you bring the girl here alive."
"Right. That's all I need to do to get in?"
"Yeah. So no screw ups, okay?"
"Don't worry."Lana laughed throatily and smiled like a demon before she raced out of the room.
Leila sat back in her chair, making a steeple with her fingers.
"Oh. You bet I won't."
Duke entered with Nosedive close at his heels.
"She's in a hurry. What's going on?"
"Oh. I just sent her on a mission for membership. If she fails, Puckworld will never hear about Lana Emerald again. I'll see to it her reputation is destroyed...just like Michele Du BluLune."
"What is she supposed to do?"
"Capture Elaine McGoslyn. Alive. And bring her here."
Nosedive piped up.
"Excuse me, news flash! Isn't Lana Emerald known for ruthlessly abandoning morale when she makes a capture?"
"That's just it, Nosedive,"Leila paused. "I am putting her to an extreme test. If she can make the capture by abandoning her old ways, she's in. The Brotherhood will not tolerate insubordinate behavior or any kind of inhumanity! That Cardakian has to learn that the hard way that we are not the terrorizing bully that she is!"
Part 2: A little Princess
"For the holy head of DuCaine, straighten up, Elaine!"
"But mother, this dress makes me look awkward."Elaine had a soft Caltec voice.
"It does not, you silly girl,"Molly McGoslyn said in her hyper Caltec tones.
"But mother, Everyone will be looking at me tonight! I stand out too much in this gown!"Elaine fiddled with the Maylaian(sp?) lace at her waist.
"All the more reason for you to straighten your posture. Good posture is one of the three marks of fine breeding." Molly pushed a red curl away from her finely shaped face. She tugged at Elaine's hem and began straightening the ice blue satin into a cascade of finery. "The first mark of good breeding is posture..."She hit Elaine in the buttocks and Elaine immediately straightened up. "The second is the value of finer things, such as property and a good name,"Molly began brushing Elaine's fine, corn silk strawberry blonde hair like it was fine china. "And third,"Molly found a snarl in Elaine's perfect tresses, she yanked it out, and Elaine yelped in pain. "Third, temperance. One can not be dappling in substance of any kind! A clear mind and body is a most valued one."
"But mother, you drink wine with all your meals."
"Elaine Sarah McGoslyn! That is a pack of a different color! I drink it sparingly and as a helpful cleanser for the blood and heart! Don't you ever take that tone with me again young missy!"
"Now. What are we going to do about your hair?"Her mother mused to herself. Molly pulled at Elaine's hair and formed a mock twist with it.
"Mother...Please. I like it the way that it is..." Elaine said quietly.
"I know! We'll put a nice tiara on you, Elaine. That fine one from your great great great grandmother Katie."
"And when all the guests arrive tonight, they'll be dazzled at your grace and beauty. A girl always remembers her coming out party! Elaine, I have a brilliant idea!"
"Oh..."Elaine put her face in her hands.
"Don't do that Elaine, you'll mess up your make-up. My idea is, that you'll play the piano for everyone after supper tonight! All those fine opera pieces and old Caltec ballads from our homeland."Molly sighed and held a hand held mirror to her heart. "You must play 'The Emerald isle of my True Home.' That will bring a tear to all the elders tonight if they hear it."
"You want me to play in front of everyone? Mother, please, I can't!"
"Stuff and nonsense! We paid good money for all those years of piano lessons, and you are going to play tonight for us all whether you like it or not."
Elaine looked down at her hands and fell into her plush powder pink chair. She slumped over and sighed.
"But all eyes will be on me."
Molly turned around and gasped at Elaine.
"Good gracious child! Sit up! Your back will have a hump before you reach twenty! Now I will not have anymore of this whining and crying. You young lady are a McGoslyn! For generations we McGoslyns ..."
"...Have been keeping the blood line pure and decent and upheld in wealth and power. I know, I know."
"Then you must also know that you are to do exactly as you're told! Tonight is the most important night of your life. You are seventeen and going to be introduced into society. Maybe you'll meet a nice decent boy with good breeding tonight."
"Boys don't like me mother. They say I'm too shy and that I daydream too much."
"And you do! This party will make you a wallflower no more! I am sick and tired of your plain and simple ways. You need to be more open, or the world will trample all over you! And our people have learned that. Do you think our ancestors got to be as wealthy as they were by being a shrinking violet? No, dear girl. Not by far."
Just then the door burst open and David McGoslyn came striding in with his riding crop on and a fistful of Puckworld dollars in his hand. A giant smile was spread wide across his beak, and his white feathers were ruffled and messy next to his finely combed blonde hair. He stopped as he caught sight of his wife, and laughed out loud. He approached her like a wild animal on the prowl and held his arms out low in front of him.
"Molly, my best girl!"His Caltec accent was thick with jovial tones.
"Drakes preserve us! Is that whisky I smell on your breath?"
He only laughed again, and picked his wife of twenty five years up into the air. Her tiny body looked like a doll as the burly duck threw her lightly into the air, then caught her.
"No! I only had a sip!"He put her down.
"A sip my auntie! You've been drinking again! And that money, where did you get it?"
"Relax Molly! Jacob Feathersby and I had a wee little bet on who could finish the pack track first down on twenty third street! Guess who won?"
"Awck! Gambling and drinking! David McGoslyn, this is a temperance household!"
Elaine let a small laugh escape her. She covered her pretty white face with her delicate hand.
"Oh...and who is this lovely princess whose beauty makes the sun's rays pale by comparison?"
"No, no. You. You look wonderful little one. So how was your day? I haven't seen you since breakfast."
"It was all right."
"Molly, why don't you leave me and my daughter alone for a while."
"Why certainly not! I'm not through with her."
"Yes you are Molly dear. You've had her all day long. Now get going my love."
"Well I never! Just remember Elaine...eight o'clock tonight you must be ready! I will be back later to see how you've prepared yourself."
"Yes ma'am."Molly crossed the room and touched her daughter's face.
"Such a waste. You could be so popular if you would just quit your incessant coyness."
She lifted her hand away from her face and walked out the doors with an armful of rejected gowns. The doors shut automatically after her.
"Well! That's enough of that! I think that you are perfect the way you are sweetie. Now, how's my favorite girl? What did you do today?"
"Daddy, I wrote a poem."
"Well, let's see it."
Elaine walked over to a fancy white and powder pink rug, and lifted the corner. The marble floor beneath it had a small tile loose. She opened it, and pulled out an ivory wood box. She opened it and pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to her father. He read it silently.
Where Angels save the lonely
Where the lonely save the heartaches
Where the elements chime with each other,
I'll feel free at last
In a perfect world.
Where the sounds of the world
Harmonize bright as day
I can tell I've come a long way
Much farther than a dream
Or a wish
Or fantasy can take me
I will always feel free.
As long as
I am one with the heavens above
I will know in my soul
What I am made of.
There are dreams to be made
Only there do I know
That I am safe and
Only there do I feel
Don't take that away from me
I want to be free
I don't want to ever hear
He stared down at the paper for a minute, then looked up at his daughter's face.
"They get better all the time."
"Thank you daddy."
"Know this: If there is one thing that your old man leaves you, may it be this; You are a special child and a gift to all who dare to find you. The real you inside. Remember this always. Especially,"He gestured to the doors where Molly had left. "Especially when others say you have faults where there are none."
"Never let your heart grow cold. Always love and give love. For anyone who believes that there is something wrong with the world and must stop what they hate by destroying all, they are dead inside. Please promise me, Elaine dear, that you will never hate or feel you must be cruel and unkind."
"I will. You have my oath."
David looked up at her cathedral ceiling and sighed.
"Good. I'll hold you to it little one."
"Thank you daddy."
They embraced each other, and Elaine held on tight.
Part 3: The Cage We All Want out of Life
Lana shot a look up at the high walls of the estate. The bricks were classic antique and wobbly. Lana looked around her. It was night and she was well hidden by the bushes and shadowed snow. There was no fence or walls surrounding the estate. Good. That will make the job much easier. Lana crouched down when she heard another limousine pull up the long, McGoslyn driveway. She opened her sack at her hip and fished through her things. All her tools were there. She opened her black bullet proof trench coat and went over all her larger tools. She selected a harpoon grappling hook and set aim at the grand balcony. She shot the silent weapon and watched the metal rope glide through the cold night air. Clang! But the clang wasn't loud enough to catch anyone's attention. She began to laugh quietly and closed her lush lashes over her sea blue eyes.
"Enter: Lana Emerald. Exeunt: One spoiled brat Elaine."
She began to slowly and stealthily climb the metal rope.
The waltz music filled the air like a vale of superficiality. Debutantes glided with boys of high stature and there was champagne, and chandelier light softly glowing in the peach and gold ballroom. People of all ages and of fine breeding laughed haughtily at each other's vain attempts of humor. Glasses tinkled and the orchestra played a symphony of delight. Girls giggled at boys attempting to act grown up, and old dames scrutinized their company with opera glasses and lady monocles. Men chattered frivolously about trade and bonds and higher hockey, while their wives and ladies sipped their champagne and talked of shopping and fine breeding. Dancers glided by, and everyone was happy.
That is, except for Elaine.
Amidst the silver, golden feathers, and heavy curtains, sitting all by herself in a plush peach velvet chair with gold leaf, Elaine stared down at her punch. No girls were talking to her, no boys asked her to dance, and all the elders complimented her hollowly. She swung her feet around beneath her, and sighed.
She looked absolutely beautiful. She wore an ice blue satin gown that hugged her tiny waist and flattered her fairy like body. Her lavender gloves held her punch glass delicately and her finely combed strawberry blonde hair sat perfectly like a crown of an angel. Her eyes shone like silver and her finely angular shaped lashes fluttered coyly at anyone who would catch her looking down at her powder blue shoes. Yes, Elaine looked perfect. Like a princess of days of old. Everybody was enjoying themselves, jovial and loud rich they were; at her coming out ball. Elaine was calm and composed on the outside, but inside she was screaming.
Lana reached the banister of the soap stone balcony, and peered through the openings. A boy that reminded her of Robert Johansen was toying with a brunette girl of about sixteen. She watched them closely, and to her disgust, the boy was more like Robert than she thought.
"Come on, we've been steady for almost a month..."
"But Billy, I'm not ready."
"Sure you are."
"No, I don't think so..."
"You look so pretty tonight, much prettier than the other girls here."
Lana hoisted herself so that she had a better grip on the banister.
"Really?"She said with a twinge of awe in her voice.
"Uh-huh. So what do you say? My folks will be at this party until at least midnight. I have the chauffeur's summons key. All the servants have the night off..."
"I don't know..."
"Comon' you really are the ultimate example of perfect beauty."
Lana rolled her eyes.
"Oh puke on my boots."She muttered. "If I didn't know better I'd say that that girl is Elaine..."
"Beverly, let's ditch this party. Elaine's no host and it's mostly old people here."
Lana reached in her pocket and pulled out the photo of Elaine.
"Same hairstyle, different girl."
"I don't know Billy..."
"A guy can die waiting!"
"Really?"The brunette threw her hand over her beak.
Lana was getting furious.
"If that male idiot slob of a duck doesn't watch his beak, I'll pin his tail on the wall. And that girl is not exactly the brightest crayon in the box."
The two were spotted by some older ducks, and returned to the party. Lana flung herself over the banister and collected her harpoon. "Finally! I thought that I'd never get some peace."
Lana looked about the balcony. There were snow plants and ice flowers everywhere. The furniture was gold chromed, and fine crystal table tops gleamed in the moonlight. Lana let out a low whistle.
"This is better than the stuff dad had. It's like Michele and an army of Franzian sissies were let loose on the verandah with fabric samples and decorating files."
Lana stretched like a lazy animal and plopped herself down on a luxurious chair made of white wood and padded with hard textile. She was hidden in the shadows, and sat still as death. " All I have to do is wait. And I can do that. I can wait until Puckworld heats up like a Liana Island heat wave."
Lana Emerald sat back into the soft chair and looked about her. She reached into her side pocket and pulled out a pack of menthol darks and lit up. "Ahhh, nicotine. My only friend." This fine mansion was like the palace that Lana lived in as a child. She remembered...
The most expensive and lavishly decorated home on Grover Island. That is where she grew up. Lana was well loved by her mother, Myelin. Until Lana was five, she shared the best relationship a daughter could have with her mother. Myelin played make-believe and sang lullabies, took Lana to the park for lazy afternoons at the zoo. Lana was her mother's princess. She was sure that Myelin would live forever...
So did Francois, her father. He was so in love with his green haired, violet eyed bride. Myelin was a beauty that possessed many charms and values of kindness. Francois and Myelin shared seven years of wedded bliss, positive that their perfect romance would last forever...The three of them shared a bond so rare. And the power and glue behind its strength was Myelin. For when she died, Francois fell into despair, feeling pity for himself and never getting over his wife's death. He became a cloistered man, only coming out of himself for business deals and punishing his troubled daughter.
And Lana grew from an innocent child in white to a monstrous child in black, throwing fits and getting into constant trouble well into her teens. Now she was twenty six, a well known felon, and an over sexed feminist who played rough.
Because Francois seemed to never love her, because Robert Johansen tormented and raped her, because Michele Du BluLune destroyed her life and nearly succeeded in killing her, because every relationship she found ended in pain, Lana hated love. And would never trust a man again. She had been open with the world, and in return she had been beaten, torn and thrown away. At the same token of her hate and discord, she thrived on affection of the harder sex, and indulged wickedly in the flesh. She could not go it alone in this harsh, cruel world, but she felt that she had to punish all who had a chance at happiness.
Perhaps that is why she was still alone. She wanted too much and in return refused to bend. Yes, she felt pride for her accomplishments, yes she was obsessed with changing the world, and yes she wanted pure bliss and a family, but there was something wrong with her. Like a hairline crack through a ying-yang vase, Lana was flawed.
And now this capture. This mission was her ticket into a family at last.
The Brotherhood was her last chance at a world that would accept her. And she knew it. There was rumored to be sexism going on in the Brotherhood, but Lana was an Amazon of a woman, tough at every side, and she lived as a strong woman as a second nature. Men feared her just as soon as they would fall for her. But for the first time in her life, she didn't want that kind of reputation. Joining the Brotherhood meant more to her than anything. She knew her whole life that she was imprisoned, different from all. Elaine McGoslyn was the key to her prison door. More than she would know.
Elaine was cornered by her mother and several of her Ladies Auxiliary friends.
"Hasn't your Elaine grown into a lovely creature, Molly?"
"Oh yes, I agree, she looks like a fine lady."
"Ladies, my daughter is the finest bred girl here. Generations of McGoslyns have bestowed their grand genes onto the next generation most kindly, don't you agree?"
The ladies nodded and agreed with 'oh yes' and 'but of course.'
"Mother, can I go now?"The ladies hushed and took a look of shock.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Please, no one is even noticing that I'm alive."
"What do you think all our praises were? Hot air?"
"No-it's just that-"
"Elaine Sarah McGoslyn! If I were you, young lady I would think long and hard on how I am behaving like a peasant and how I am embarrassing my mother."
"Elaine, your mother tells us that you are going to play the piano for us tonight."Another lady injected.
"Well, I, that is,"
"Yes she is! She plays beautifully! Something that the dead would awaken for."
"Oh, you don't say, Molly. I can't wait to hear her play."
"And her poise is perfect..."
Elaine slipped away as her mother spat another series of empty compliments.
Lana watched from the large pottery as the party swelled and the doors to the balcony were shut. It was getting colder out by the minute. Lana shivered.
"I hate this weather. I belong in a place of my people...I've been waiting over an hour and everybody's been out here but Elaine." The quiet doors opened softly, and the wind greedily grabbed the lace curtains that were on the doors.
"Wait a minute, darling, who is this?"Lana whispered under her breath. A short, pixie like girl with an ice blue gown and strawberry blonde hair to the small of her back tip toed out from the bright lights and glass clinking party.
Elaine began to shut the doors silently in front of her. She watched the party within for moment, and waited as the doors shut the golden light out from within. Elaine sighed, and turned away from the closed doors.
Very different from her usual quiet and sweet disposition, away from others, Elaine voiced her opinion.
"What did she think when she first had me? 'Oh here's a project: Let's see how much I can belittle and hurt my daughter in front of everybody.'"Elaine walked over to where Lana was, but did not see her. Her black and indigo leather concealed her well.
"I might as well be invisible. No one cares about me." Elaine was distant in her voice. "I wish somebody would take me away from this awful place. They treat me like I'm a princess, but I'm really a prize on a shelf. It's hopeless. I can never be what they want."
Elaine leaned over on the banister and softly cried.
"I feel like I'm trapped in a gilded cage, with no way out. There's no hope for me."
"Too true."Lana's voice was dark and hard, like a slow poison. Elaine gasped and spun around.
"Huh! Who's there?"
"No one that will mean anything to you in a few seconds."
Lana stepped out of the shadows and pulled a cloth soaked with sleeping potion out of her sleeve. Elaine had no time to scream...
Part 4: Two Alike in Dignity
Elaine's sinuses swelled, and her head was throbbing. She awoke with a slow start, and found herself in strange surroundings. Lying on the cold stone floor of an underground station, Elaine blinked several times before getting up. She turned her head to the side, her eyes shut. She slowly wiped her face, for she felt cold sweat dotted among her brow. All of a sudden, she felt a sharp kick to her ribs. She opened her eyes and saw a pair of black stiletto leather heels tapping impatiently.
"Finally. I was beginning to wonder if I mistakenly used ratarin poisoning instead of sleeping potion on you."
Elaine rubbed her eyes and ribs, and sat up, bewildered and in immense pain.
"But I am alive."
"I know, I never make mistakes."
"Who are you?"Elaine sized up the six foot vamp very carefully, and realized that her four foot ten stature was no match.
Lana laughed out loud and clear.
"You mean you don't know? I am Lana Emerald! The greatest land pirate, tomb raider, and bounty hunter on Puckworld. The greatest hunter of anything for that matter."Elaine gasped.
"You're the Black Widow, right? Don't you kill all your male victims?"
"No darling, I kiss them then I...dispose of them. Be it death or I just get rid of them."
"How can you live with yourself?"
Lana lit her cigarette, and inhaled deeply. She didn't even look at the girl on the floor.
"With over eight hundred million Puckworld dollars a year." She laughed.
Elaine made a face.
"Where am I?"
"If I wanted you to know I would have already told you, you worthless brat. Actually, you are worth something."Lana laughed smugly. "You're at Station One."
She bent down and puffed a cloud of smoke into Elaine's face. Elaine coughed vigorously.
"What do you want with me, Black Widow? I never did anything to you."
Elaine said in her Caltec tones.
"Please, call me Lana. All my prey do."
She took her sword out and activated it; she held the tip of the blade to Elaine's throat. "Now, it's time for clarification."
Elaine watched the sword and its master carefully.
"Why haven't you tied me up?"
Lana rolled her eyes up at the ceiling.
"This isn't twenty questions. Besides, look at you! Please. Look at me! Need I explain further?"
Elaine was shaking all over. This woman was playing with her. Like a spider and a butterfly caught in a web. But she managed to screw her courage up and high kick the blade away from her, rolling backwards, and then flipping over to the wall. All those years of gymnastics paid off. Her long gown tangled around her short legs. Elaine used her precious few seconds to look frantically about for any kind of door. Lana tapped the excess ash onto the stone floor, and took another hit of her cigarette. She held fast to her golden sword, and took five strides to where Elaine was standing, cornering the petite duck.
"Now, that was unmannerly of you. And rude little girls need to be punished. I gotta say, that was gutsy of you. Gutsy, but stupid also."Lana reached deftly out in front of her and single handily choked Elaine. She held Elaine at her throat, and dragged her to where the main computer was. She took another hit of her cigarette, and pulled Elaine along, to the giant ten foot screen.
"You're...choking m...me...stop, I can't, I...can't...breathe."
Lana pulled her short body up to her own beak and whispered cruelly into her ear.
"That's the point, darling."
Lana threw the girl down on the floor. "Like I said. It is time to know the basics..."
She finished her cigarette, put it out, and flicked the butt at Elaine's face.
"We're going over the rules and regulations that my prey must follow."Lana pulled her whip out, and struck Elaine with it, wrapping the bull whip's hard braided leather around Elaine's tiny waist. "Number one: I am the holder of your fate, so I am in charge of your life. Number two: I will do all that I can to get what I want from my prey. Number three: Refer to number one. Number four: I don't give damn if you beg, a job is a job, and I always complete my jobs. Number five: You are worth shit to me until I get what I want. And finally, number six: Until I get paid, your health is expendable."
Elaine slowly looked up at her. Lana towered over her like a mighty tsunami about to drown a village.
"Number five and six are the same thing."
"It's for effect darling. I mean what I mean! Now, I want you to stand in front of that camera. It is hooked up to the master computer. We're going to send a little message to mama and daddy. Oh and don't think about telling them where you are, because no body knows where any of the ten stations are in Puckworld."
"Why are you doing this? If it's money that you want-"
"For once this is not about money! Look at you. So pathetic. I bet daddy buys you everything you want, and mummy dolls you up and treats you like you're gold."
"You don't know me, Lana. Not by a long shot."
"I know your kind. Perfect baby gets all she could ever want, and is adored by all who know her. Everyone kowtows to your every whim and you're treated like a goddess. I bet you've never done a thing on your own! I bet you don't even know what it's like to live like a rat in the street, with a whip and a sword as your only friends after the love of your life beat you soundly every night and nearly killed you! No, you would never know what it's like to feel pain. To feel completely alone in a crowd. To stare out at the world and know that you deserve to be treated better!"
Elaine looked down at her hands.
"Yes. I do."
Lana spun around at her, staring her down, a breath away from each other's beak.
"What do you know of it?"Lana said softly. " You don't know the first thing about it."
Elaine lifted her face to meet Lana's eyes, and then closed her lids.
"I know that I never feel like anyone understands me, but daddy. I know that I don't have any friends besides my pack, my piano teacher, and the mansion's librarian. I know that I seem pitiful to someone like you. You've done something with your life. Even if you are a murderer, thief and villain. You have people who respect you and pay attention to you. I just have...myself."
Lana was quiet for awhile. Then she silently replied,
"Stand in front of camera one. We have a message to send."
Molly McGoslyn was frantic.
"Good gracious! Where is that child!? I've had the servants look all over the mansion, and there is no sign of Elaine! David? David! Where could she be?"
"Molly, dear, she's probably in the bathroom or something."
"No David! She's been searched for everywhere. She has to play piano!"
"Molly Margaret McGoslyn! Is that all you care about? If she is no where to be seen, then we have a real problem, love."
The party went on and on. A stately older woman with a silver bee-hive hairstyle, and a mauve gown, approached the two with her tiny, skinny husband.
"David, Molly, dears,"She bent over and gave Molly a kiss on each cheek.
"David, Molly."Her husband shook their hands.
"Really dears, this ball is absolutely smashing! But I heard that your daughter was the cause of this grand affair, and we've yet to see her."
"Oh, uh,"Molly stammered.
"She's probably about somewhere."David finished for her.
"Yes,"Molly added. "She's such a popular girl. All the young girls here adore her and all the boys can't stop asking her to dance."
David shot an angry look at his wife.
"And no one has stopped talking about her."
"She really is the belle of the ball."
Molly hushed David.
"Yes, David, what do you want?"
"That's quite enough!"
The woman looked over to her small husband, and they exchanged glances.
"Actually, No one has been speaking of her that much. That Sandy Drake seems to be the popular one here."
"Please! How dare you insult us!"
"I was just saying-as lovely and sweet as your girl is,"
"Enough of this prattle! My daughter is the finest girl here, and that is most certainly that."
A frantic servant ran up to the four, with a computer remote in his hand.
"I beg your pardon, but there is something that you should know, We just received this message."
The servant cued another to pull back the grand curtains to reveal their twelve foot computer screen.
David went to the center of the ballroom, and whistled loudly.
"Everyone! Shut your cake-holes! We have a message!"
Everyone shockingly quieted down.
"Really, David, must you be so brash!"
"Shut it Molly."
"Turn her on!"
The servant turned to the screen, and turned it on. An enormous image of Lana's shoulders and face showed up. She was twirling a piece of green hair around her finger. Immediately David and Molly knew where Elaine was.
"Greetings, everyone. So sorry to interrupt the festivities, but alas a busy woman's job is never done."
"What do you want, Lana?"David demanded.
Lana held out a hand and closed her eyes for a second.
"Now, now, none of that. I'm here because we're both tired of fighting."
"What do you mean? We never fought."
"Your daughter has informed me that you David McGoslyn, have a fossil aged fraternity for the decimation of thieves and hunters like me. Correct?"
David didn't really hear the whole sentence.
"Where is my daughter!?"
"Calm down, I have not harmed her...yet."
Molly yelled up.
"Oh merciful heavens! If you've done something to my baby-"
"-You'll do what? Please. Look at me, then look at you. I'm a professional."
David stood in front of his wife.
"You monster! What do you want? Money, jewels, gold? I hear you love the latter."
"Hmmm. It all sounds tempting. But I'm not after any of that. I demand this. That I may borrow your daughter for awhile. Oh...and I warn you. Do anything legal, like sending the cops or national guard, your precious daughter will be ended." David stirred restlessly, speechless, with a gape-beaked Molly clinging on to him from behind.
Lana pulled her hair in front of her beak, and spoke into it. "What's the matter? Afraid to trust me without an army around? Is that it, Ambassador?"
"I'm not afraid of you or anyone from your criminal world! Just don't harm my daughter! You got that, Black Widow? She's done nothing to you!"
"How sweet. Daddy dearest sounds a little protective. Can't say the same about your simpering wife. Hmmm. Would you like to see how well I baby-sit?"
Molly held a handkerchief to her face and sobbed into it.
"David, I want to see my baby."
"Lana, we want to see Elaine."
"Elaine, darling, they want to see you."
The screen split over to where Elaine was, and Elaine rushed on.
"Daddy! Just get her what she wants! Please! I want to go home!"
"Elaine,"Molly spoke up, "Where are you?"
"I don't know, I was drugged and dragged here."
"Merciful heavens! Your body must be free of vice! That includes all substances that aren't prescribed!"
"Mother you can't be serious!"
"Molly, that's enough!"
Lana flicked an imaginary piece of dust off her fingers. She looked up drolly at the party.
"Stop! All the love in this room is giving me cavities."
"All right you win, I'll grant you anything! Just give us back Elaine."
"I love those two words: you win. I always do, darlings. This is the proposal: and let's get one thing straight, when I want something, I get it. Got it?"
"Your daughter is mine. I get to keep her as long as I want. I will return her to you only when I am through with her. I won't kill her. But she is mine at my disposal! Understand?"
"Good. I will contact you when I see that my needs are met. Then we will meet at the Moonlit Tower at midnight tonight. Come alone, and bring your most prized possession with you. Oh, and I know this will be hard, but seriously...NO ONE BUT YOU DAVID!"
"I thought you said you didn't want anything but to have my daughter for awhile."
Molly jumped in front of David, and spat out a cruel comment at Lana's image.
"You unimaginable witch! How can you do this to a mother? You have no heart! How can you live with yourself? How can you call yourself a woman and kidnap the joy of another mother?"
Lana frowned bitterly at her, and put the piece of hair she was playing with down.
"I was being nice. But hey! If you never want to see your girl again, that's fine with me!"
Elaine stared down at her hands.
"Mother, daddy, it's all right. I'm fine. Just do as she commands."
Lana shot a shocked glance over to Elaine.
"See! They can be taught!"
Molly could not stand it anymore.
"You will not corrupt my daughter! She is innocent and pure! She can't be treated like a piece of nothing! She will be a fine lady one day with dozens of Caltec suitors, and a castle on the hill, living the life of a busily popular lady of days of old!"
"Mother, I don't want that!"
"Yes you do! You will go to the grandest schools, and join my old sorority!"
Lana raised an eyebrow, and shook her head.
"Elaine, darling, are you sure you want to go back to that?"
"You cursed eternal rotten tooth of a woman!"
"Stop, my innocent ears!"Lana laughed.
"Molly! You're making it harder to get our daughter back!"
"ENOUGH!"Elaine's scream silenced them all.
"I've had it! You treat me like a prize on the shelf, not a daughter! I am in a life or death situation and all you care about is a future for me that I don't want! I am a live mallard not a porcelain doll!"
Lana began to softly laugh.
"Very good Elaine! By the way. Deal's off. You won't get her back until I contact you again. And one more thing. You can't trace this call, because I have an invention that latches onto the communicator unit and blocks all radio waves to your receptor. Ta~ta!"The screen whirled until their faces were distorted, then went black.
The ballroom was in pandemonium.
"David, what are we going to do?"
"I don't know Molly, I don't know."
Lana threw her head back and laughed. "Hoo! That went well!"
"What are you talking about?"
"You've got moxie under that flower petal exterior."
"No I don't. That was completely unlike me. I don't like losing my temper. I don't see the worth in getting so angry that you hurt someone's feelings."
"But you'll stand up for yourself if you see fit?"
Elaine sighed and sat on a black leather swivel chair in front of Lana's gargantuan computer.
"I don't know."
"Look, kid. That mother of yours is a real hard woman to live by. She reminds me of my father."Lana added absently, stroking her forehead. "I need an aspirin."
Elaine looked up at the leather clad woman.
"Your father? Do you still live with him?"Elaine eagerly inquired, trying to strike a conversation with this mystery lady.
Lana laughed shortly.
"Naw, I left home when I was your age."
"Why? Don't you love him?"
Lana closed her eyes and looked away.
"What could be so bad that you would think leaving is the only way out?"Elaine was trying hard to understand Lana.
"Believe me, things were bad! Well...It's painful for me...but...I was raped by my dad's biggest client. He refused to believe me. The way I was raped was brutal, I still have nightmares about the bastard to this day, when truth be told, I could kill him with a paper clip...but somehow, I still believe he's stronger than me. So he lives on...And my father hasn't tried looking for me all these years...He doesn't care. No man in my life ever cared about me."Lana suddenly got indignant. " Is that what you wanted to bleed out of me?"
"No. But, what do you mean, your rapist still lives to this day? Didn't you tell anybody else who would believe you? I may be small, quiet and unnoticeable, but I would tell the world if that happened to me."
"Yeah. You would get the world on your side in an instant. No one ever treated me less than a whore. You're a lady."
Lana almost sounded jealous.
"Anyway...I told my EX--husband about the rape the first night we met, and he disappeared all day the next day. I think he did something to him, because I was home alone all day."
"I thought you had no home."
"Darling, ha. I slept my way to the top...the first week anyway."
Elaine blushed feverishly.
"It's just that...well..."
"Don't explain. You wreak of virgin."
Elaine stared defiantly up Lana.
"And proud of it."
"Yeah. I could've been like you. Pure. Innocent. But dad never cared."
"You're in charge of your own fate. No one else is. Why do you blame the world?"
Lana spun around to face Elaine, and bent down to her level.
"Look! This is my Puckworld! They owe me everything! I am the salt of this planet's earth, and it is connected to me. So I take all the effects this planet dishes out. The good, the bad."
"And you still remain bitter with that philosophy? Please. You could be so much! Your talents are world known! You could play the hero, not the villain! Why don't you do good instead of bad?"
"It's not of me."
"Why not? I see a powerful woman with all the courage and abilities that would make the fair sex proud! I would never share your beliefs, but I do say this, I would love to be like you!" Elaine spun the chair away from Lana and hung her head. " People listen to you. Nobody pays attention to someone like me. I have things to say, I have things to contribute to this world, but no one cares about a 'flower petal' like me."
"Kiddo, want a cigarette?"
"I do."Lana pulled her pack out and selected one, lit it, and inhaled deeply.
"Ahhh. Sweet nicotine. My only friend."
"That's so sad."
"Well...I do have friends. There's Duke L'Orange . He's been my best friend for years. And there's...well. Not very many are there? Well, there was this guy I met during the invasion, named Cody...Thunder...Thunder something...He's a Cardakian like me. We fought in the Misfit League when the Resistance refused to admit us."
"You were in the Misfit League? You see? You can be a hero."
"This is my Puckworld, remember? No one was going to take it from me."
Lana puffed a cloud of smoke in a serpentine shape.
"What about your mother?"
"Mother? She died when I was five. I was closer to her than anyone could be to a mother. Something dad and I never had."
"I understand."Elaine got up and walked a few steps next to Lana. Her strawberry hair glistened under the fluorescent lights above.
"Do you?"Lana inhaled again.
Lana looked down at the petite duck for a minute.
"Yeah...maybe you do. I saw mummy dearest back there."
Elaine changed the subject.
"Can you use all those vehicles and flying crafts back there?"
"You bet, darling. I can master anything in all my stations."
"Wow. I always wanted to learn how to fly."
"It's duck instinct. I'd teach you sometime, but. Well. You know."
Lana glanced over at the clock. Midnight.
"It's past your bedtime."
"Oh."Elaine opened the conversation up again.
"We've talked for a long time now. And you didn't once treat me like I was crap."
"Yeah. It's my time of the month. I get really unpredictable around the Aunt Flow days."
Elaine turned from white to red instantly.
"You're so raw!"
"I know. You're so prude."
"It's refreshing to be around the type of person that I would normally abhor."
Lana laughed out loud, and took a hit of her cigarette.
"I was going to say the same about you."
"You miss your father?"
Lana sighed and hung her head.
"He doesn't care."
"That's not what I asked. Do you miss him?"Lana was quiet for what seemed an eternity. Her answer was barely audible.
"Every minute of my life."
"You love him, despite your anger."
Lana breathed deeply.
"Every father loves his daughter. That's why they say, 'daddy's little girl.'"
"I was never that. Then you must know. Every mother loves her daughter. That's why they say, 'every girl's a princess.'"
Elaine smiled slowly. She jumped up, and embraced Lana suddenly.
Lana was too shocked to do anything.
She cleared her throat.
"Let's get you home."
Part 5: Where you Belong
Lana pulled her hover craft around the ally, and stopped.
"Here's the docks. I have to split now Elaine. Here. Open this when you have a moment alone."Lana handed her a small card in a tiny envelope.
"Okay. Lana...remember what I said. People can change."
"Yeah, yeah get out of here. I like you kid. Just don't go spreading it around."
"You know, deep down I think you're a little like me, Lana."
"If I'm lucky. Now get going."Lana gave her a friendly smack on the back. Elaine started off, then turned around to face Lana, suddenly.
"Lana. Why did you capture me?"
Lana sighed heavily.
"You really want to know?"Elaine nodded. "I want in to the Brotherhood. This was my ticket in. Getting you, taking you back with me...but now. I've changed my mind. No torture is worth it."
"They would have hurt me?"
"I don't know about them, but I would have. That was before we got to talking..."
"Maybe if you talked to all your 'prey' you would never kill again."
"Maybe. But like I said. It's not of me."
"I think so. Goodbye Lana. Maybe I'll see you around one day?"
Elaine jumped out of the hover craft's headlights and bounded out to the docks.
"Sooner than you think."
Leila crossed her arms and frowned.
"You did what?"
"I let her go. I just couldn't..."
"Really? Lana do you have any idea what I am aboutta do to ya?"
"Yeah. right. Lana. Get down on your knee."Leila activated her sword and came towards Lana.
"Oh. So this is how it ends. Lana Emerald beheaded in the office of the Brotherhood's leader."
"Shut up and repeat after me."
"I, Lana Emerald do solemnly swear..."
"I, Lana Emerald do solemnly swear..."
"To pledge allegiance and secrecy to the Brotherhood of the Blade..."
"To pledge...why are you accepting me when I didn't bring the girl here?"
"Because...you have shown humanity for the first time in your career. The Brotherhood accepts you for this. We aren't rougues, but we ain't simpeltons either. Now...To pledge allegiance and secrecy to the Brotherhood of the Blade."
"To pledge allegiance and secrecy to the Brotherhood of the Blade..."
Lana opened the door to the outside of Leila's office and strutted out confidently.
Duke began to laugh uncontrollably.
"I know that look! You're in, kitten?"
"You bet darling! Want to go to the Diamond Roost and celebrate?"
"Can't. Dive and I have practice in a half an hour."
"Oh. Well, I have to attend to something anyway. What about tomorrow night?"
"As long as Dive can come too."
"You are weird. All right. He can come."
"A mentor never leaves his apprentice."
"I know. That goes without saying."Lana jumped into Duke's arms and gave him a giant hug. "You're my best friend."
"I know. You're like my sista."
"Whatever. See you around. I have to attend Orientation tomorrow and get my bunk. Bye, darling."
A month later...
Elaine carefully scanned the grounds. No one around. She heard a husky, sultry voice that immediately registered with her.
"Over here. You alone?"
"Did you think about what I wrote you?"
"I'm here aren't I?"
Lana smiled in her ally's shadow.
"Good. So you know. I'm of the Brotherhood. You want in to my world?"
"You realize that you'll be giving up everything."
"I know. I know all about your kind."
"Are you ready to sacrifice everything?"
Elaine sighed and looked down at her feet.
"Everything. Even Daddy. Mother and Daddy fight all the time now. I know it's only been a month, but, all they do is fight over me. I can't have them split up. They were so in love..."
"A wise young thing once told me, that no one else in charge of your fate. You decide your own path to follow."
"I choose yours."
"It will be a hard life, you'll have to steal and manipulate, and do as I do...you'll become a hunter like me."
"Are you sure?"
"I want to be with you. I don't care how, but I know that you would be all I ever need to find myself. And that's what I want. To find myself. The worst and greatest thing to ever happen to me was when you kidnapped me. You corrupted my innocent head with thoughts of becoming a strong, potent woman. I want that. I can't learn that as a billionaire and Ambassador's daughter. I want to fight for what I need in life. I want to be in your life."
"Well. That's that then. You're my associate. Stay by me and you'll aspire to higher rankings. You see, I already am apprenticed." Lana suddenly scowled. "Remember that guy I told you about? Cody? Well he's been of the Brotherhood for a while now an is an Honor Blade. He claimed me as his apprentice."Lana loked up at the midnight sky. "Why me? Anyway, Leila's already said boo, and is willing to take you in. But you need to be tested first before you can take the title of apprentice."
"I understand. Let's go home. Our real home."
"You know. You're kind of like my sidekick now."
"I know."Elaine and Lana walked over to Lana's car. "Do I have to do the hard stuff while you do all the easy stuff?"
"Only at first."
Lana laughed jokingly. Elaine almost believed her. "Come on. Get in the car, Ellie."
Molly clutched Elaine's doll close to her breast.
"Three days. Three days and not a word. David. She came home, and now she's gone again! How can she be so cruel?"
"Molly. Elaine will come home one day. We have to believe that."
"I've lost my baby..."She began to sob.
"It's only a phase...she'll see what Lana Emerald is really about, and she'll come home to us."
"What if you're wrong?"
"Let's pray I'm not. For then we have lost our angel princess to the world of sin..."