NB: This is the continuation of "Long, Hard Fall".
Four years later...
Michele grabbed his satchel and leaped off the beam above the laboratory. He pulled out his grappling hook and swung it over his head. He threw it. Clang! Success! It grabbed onto another beam ahead of him and held fast. Michele swung out to the other wall, and landed onto the corner. He paused a second, hearing voices below him.
"Don't let him get away!"
"He has the secret canister!"
"Careful, that Emerald chick has got to be here somewhere too! Search everywhere!"
Michele reached into his satchel and pulled out a canister. The writing on it was in Cardakian, something that Lana would translate for him. He smiled. This is going to be easy, easy and fun.
Michele threw the vial-canister in the air short and caught it deftly in one hand. "Well, mes amis, it has been fun, but it's time to lose the excess baggage."
A police officer of low rank was under him. Michele dove down and knocked the boy off his feet. "What are you waiting for lad? Chase me!"
Michele ran down a hall, and heard the rushed breathing of the rookie behind him. Michele made a quick turn and found himself down another hall. He heard the commanding orders of a high officer and his men not far behind him.
"That rat BluLune has got to be here somewhere!"
Michele stopped down the hall from them and posed arrogantly. "You-hoo! Over here! I am, how you say? Ripe for the picking!"
"There he is!"
The police ran clumsily after Michele, who ran like a cat.
Lana hid behind a corner, waiting quietly. If there was one thing she could do well, it was to stay still as stars. She was watching over her shoulder when she heard Michele's heavy breathing nearing her corner. He turned into her corner and stopped to catch his breath.
"Mon Deiu! Ma petite vert bijou, I am getting too old for this!"
"Oh, you're a stallion and you know it darling. Now give me the satchel."
"Here. Take it."Michele gasped out of breath. " You know, I have been running for the past hour and I feel like a pinball in a pinball machine."Michele pulled out another satchel from the larger one and handed it to Lana. She pulled out the canister and smiled at the writing on it.
"My, my. Such trouble over little old you."The voices of the police got louder as they neared the corner. "Go darling! As planned."Michele climbed up the wall and jumped into a vent and pulled it shut after him. "Show time. It's time to give them what they want."Lana pulled out her bull whip and smacked a rafter above her. She pulled herself up onto it and waited as the police got to the intersection. They stopped at the hall opening and pulled out their weapons, aiming it down the hall.
They slowly and stealthily approached the hall, pointing their blasters at every door and corner. It was silent. Too silent.
Lana took a flying leap in front of them all, landing with agility and grace. She blew a kiss at them. "Miss me darlings?"
"It's Lana Emerald!"
"Bingo! On the first try."
"If you can, baby."
"Drop the act Emerald! We finally have you!"The Captain pointed his blaster at her.
"Oh, I don't think you want to do anything to me."
"Yeah right. We have you, ten to one."
"Ten to one? Tsk, tsk. What's a poor girl to do?"
"No. No. No."Lana held her indigo vinyl gloved hand out in front of her. "You see, I have the toxic chemical."Lana pulled it out of her satchel and presented it. "One false move and we'll all be able to shake hands with Drake DuCaine." She tossed it in front of her, and caught it with her whip. Everyone ducked as she threw it, and fell to the ground when she caught it.
"Emerald are you nuts?! One little jolt and that canister will bust, and we'll all be breathing fumes strong enough to wipe out a whole neighborhood."The Captain screamed.
"Oh you mean like this?"Lana threw it in the air, high above their heads.
"It's been nice knowing you, Captain."
The rookie wailed. "I don't want to die!"
Lana pulled gas pellets out of her belt and threw them in front of her, the whole hall was immersed in green smoke. When the smoke cleared, she was long gone. The police got up and activated their blasters at the remaining smoke.
"Hold your fire! She won't get far."
"At least we have the canister."
"Gimmie that!"The captain snatched it out of the rookie's hands and examined the label. It read in Ingallish, 'Property of Michele Du BluLune and Lana Emerald.'
"It's a phony! Get the detectors out and look for that bitch's footprints!"
Lana ran down the hall, and found the elevator shaft. She pulled the doors apart from the elevator and smacked the other side if the wall with her whip. It clasped onto a pipe. She gave it a test pull. Good. Stable. Lana jumped to the other side, and slowly began to climb up the wall.
Michele waited at his end of the hall. Any minute and the cops would find him. He waited patiently, with his blood racing and his head throbbing. He lived for moments like these.
The Captain and the squad ran down the hallways. No sign of Lana's footprints anywhere. "That sneaky witch. She escaped by rafters!"
"There's no way of tracking her!"
"Captain! Over here! We found BluLune's prints leaking from this air duct!"
Michele heard the pounding of feet hitting the cold linoleum. They were very close. "Sacre bleu! They are so indiscreet, I feel insulted!"
"We're going to get you BluLune! Your pirating days are over!"
"But boys, I have so many more years ahead of me as a grand pirate-hunter!" Michele stepped out of the shadows that concealed him.
"There he is!"
Michele ran out with the satchel closed tightly in his fist. His silver hair lapped wildly behind him as he dashed ahead of the police. He squinted his eyes at the light ahead of him. The elevator! He wiped a speck of dust from his beak and ran faster. He reached the elevator , with the cops close at his heels. He hit the up button, but the doors didn't close. The squad got closer, and neared the elevator. Closer they got, until Michele could see the sweat on their brows.
"Come on, come on. . ."Michele hit the up button again.
"The reward for you is two million BluLune! Imagine that! Someone else hunting you! Isn't it-"
The doors closed on the Captain's beak and Michele was taken up to the roof.
Michele ran out on the roof, the light from the three o'clock sun blinding him.
"Over here, handsome!"
Michele held his hand above his eyes like a shield, and matched the deep, husky voice of his wife with her golden feathers and her long emerald hair.
"Lana, ma cherie!"
"In the feathers darling. Get on."Lana revved the hover cycle and Michele hopped on the back, fastening the satchel around his wife's waist. "You got it?"
"But of course. Let's, how you say? Split."
"My thoughts exactly."
The hover cycle took off, and Lana sped through the air, dodging buildings and signs, in the midday sun. The air was cold and brisk, running through the two bounty hunting pirates like knives.
The captain and his men reached the roof, and saw the duo racing off. "To your crafts! They are not getting away with that canister!"
"So darling, did you have any fun?"Lana shouted behind her through her flight visor.
"Absolutment, ma cherie. I always do, especially avec vous." He shouted back.
"Love you too, baby."
"As always, it is a pleasure."Michele pushed her hair out of the way as it whipped in front of him, and planted a sensuous kiss on the nape of her neck.
"Not now, my love. I have a headache and we are hitting clouds."
"You are non amusent."
"Whatever."Lana backed up against him, like a cat marking territory on its master's leg.
"Ha, ha. Tres bon. . ."
Just then a laser shot at Lana's hand on the steering gear and knocked her off balance. "Shit!"
"Are you all right, Lana?!"
"We have company. . ."
"Give it up you two! You're surrounded!"
"Never you fucking pigs!"
"Aw, ha. That is my girl."
"Let's get out of here."
"Emerald you're going to the big house. . .for butch women."
"But I'm so feminine and sexy!"
"Let us take the fast route. . .to Station Three."
"But that's on the cliffs of West Keltor."
"All right. . ."
"Michele Du BluLune! You're headed for Riecher's Island."
"Been there! Lovely jailhouse!"
"We gotta lose these pigs."
"Step on it ma petite vert bijou."
Lana hit overdrive on the hover cycle and it sped up to earth shattering altitude.
"They aren't getting away with that canister!"
"Oh you better believe we are baby."
"Just focus on the air ahead, mon amour."
"The Silver Streak and the Black Widow are going down!" The Captain shouted. "I've been after you two for years!"
Lana turned the hover cycle down an alley, and knocked over some homeless ducks as the tail pipe set fire to some garbage.
"Mon Deiu! You are going to burn off the engine on overdrive!"
"Back seat driver!"
"Lana you're going to hit that wall! Merde!"
"Have a little faith, darling."Lana led the police to the other end of the street, down another alley. The cops were on their tails as Lana sped ahead. She dodged oncoming cars noisily as they bopped their horns in protest.
"You are a wonderful lover but the worst driver on Puckworld."
"Aw, Michele do I hear fear in your voice?"
"C'est vrais! Wouldn't you be a little-AHHHHH! Look out for that car!"Lana pulled up on the gears and the hover cycle just brushed the roof of the car. " Je ne comprend pas pourqouis je vie avec vous!"
"Yeah. Yeah."Lana took a sudden turn down another alley.
"Follow her! Don't let them get away!"The police sped onto oncoming traffic and warranted a lot of noisy protests.
"We're going to lose them on Kanser Avenue, darling."
"Bon. It is not far from Station Three."
Lana sighed. "Fine."
Lana and Michele raced ahead of the traffic, and hover-sped over the Keltor bridge. The Sin City police were not far behind them. A slug hit Michele in the back, and he let out a horrible scream.
"Darling! What have they done to you?"
"Uh. . .never fear Lana cherie. It hit my vest, but the hit knocked a welt into my back. It burns so."
"Don't worry Mikey, your queen will make it all better." Lana said in a sickening saccharine voice.
"You're giving me cavities. But your daddy will appreciate it."
"Now who's getting too sweet?"
"I'm gonna get you two!"
"Oh. It's cappy again. I think he has a crush on me."
"Naturellement, mon amour."He laughed out loud, until his back ached him.
"Oh. . ."
"We are almost there, Michele."
Captain Duckpin hated that duo. He had been chasing after Lana for four years ever since her bank robbery with the Brotherhood of the Blade at Sin City's richest street. Lana had burst onto the crime scene on every paper in the Four Cities. He remembered the title: Duo Robberies Capture Millions.
It had made his blood boil then, when he could have kicked himself for letting that black sports car with the green hared girl in it pass his squad cars. And it made his blood boil now, with Lana teaming up with that questionable man Michele Du BluLune.
Now the two had done it. Taken from Hess Labs in Sin City, the chemical that could produce fumes strong enough for the heinous crime of genocide. Some wacko chemist at Hess Labs had made the chemical to destroy the Cardakian race in the Liana Island countries. The racist scum was captured, some young scientist named Lucretia DeCoy. But she escaped with the aid of a beguiled guard at the prison. But they were on her trail. She would be found in eight, maybe four days. But this new threat. . .
Lana Emerald was Cardakian. Michele was Franzian. The two races went hand in hand. So did those bounty hunting pirates. Michele had always been hard to track down. . .all the leads police got on his crimes went down the drain. And now this Lana Emerald. . .a seductive young woman about 22 years old. All men at the Diamond Roost knew her as the sexy chanteuse. And Michele had always been proud that his bride was now wanted in every country in Puckworld. In four short years she was as famous as he, and even more deadly. Lana always kissed her victims before she 'let them go' or disposed of them. All the police lusted after her, but feared her all the same. That damn whip of hers was horrifying. . .and that sword she carried, it was like a blade of lightning, fast as anything and just as deadly. Michele had trained her well. . .but he had been trained by the best. The Brotherhood. Drake only knows what his link is to that band of marauding manipulators was, but it made the duo just as infamous.
Captain Duckpin moved like he had been hit by lightning. His arm was bleeding immensely. . .that rat BluLune had hit him with a slug laser from his trademark weapon, the crystal image ray gun. He was losing a lot of blood. . . his black uniform was turning maroon.
"Captain's been hit!"
"Never mind me! Keep following them!"
Lana laughed wickedly as Michele fired another slug laser at the cops behind them.
"That's my daddy!"
"I love you ma cherie!"
Lana leaned back as Michele kissed her. She put her pedal to the metal and sped up.
"Almost got them!"
One of the cops focused his laser bull's eye on the back of Lana's neck. "Come on you little bitch. . ."
"Get her! Dead or alive! That toxin means the doom to any receiving end!"
"What about Michele, boss?"
"I want him alive! So I can torture that Franzia speaking bastard."
The aiming cop fired his beam at Lana. She saw him through her rear view mirror and dodged it as it hit a building, forcing a giant charred hole into its wall.
"Fuck! Who's doing damage control on these two?"
"Nailed them, darling!"
"Quickly! There is how you say? Kanser Avenue!"Lana glanced at the gas gage on the hover cycle and gasped.
"I hate to burst your bubble darling, but we're a three-fourths down!"
"We'll make it. Station Three is not that far."
"Man, this town makes me crazy!"
"Keltor is the sister city to Sin City, ma cherie."
"Who cares. . ."Lana said under her breath.
Lana turned the hover cycle down Kanser Avenue, and almost hit a semi-truck. The loud bull horn startled the drivers beside them into an accident. Cars slid everywhere on the slushy avenue and horns beeped up and down the Avenue.
"Baise, Lana! You are fou-fou!"
"Don't get your pants in a bunch, Michele."
The police of Sin City lost the duo in the uproar on the Kanser Avenue. Lana laughed like a demon. "Ha-ha! We lost them!"
"Don't be too sure, ma petite vert bijou. . ."
Just then the police squad pulled up on their hover cycles and steered ahead of the traffic accident.
"We can't shake these guys."
Then Lana had an idea. "We can make it to Station Three if you let me get caught."
"Just listen, darling."
"All right. . ."
"Those two are not getting away!" The Captain winced in pain as he held onto his bleeding arm.
"Captain, you need to go to a hospital. We can handle this."
"No! I want to see them writhe when I put them in hand cuffs!"
"He says that every time."
"I said that'll be just fine!"
Lana reached the cliffs to where the secret base of Station Three was hidden. Michele and she had successfully traded places at the driver's pad and she was now behind him, with the canister still attached to her hip. They reached the mouth of the clearing on the main cliff and Lana hopped off the craft. Michele disappeared down the cliff.
The police were nearing the cliff. Then they saw her. Standing all alone, with her arms in the air, in surrender.
They pulled all around her, surrounding her completely, except for the long way down behind her. "What are you up to Lana?"
"We're both tired of chasing after each other. So I'll make a deal with you. I hand you the canister, and you can let me go."
"We won't fall for that again. Who's to say the one you have isn't a phony too?"
"I give you my word as a pirate that you can inspect the label."
"It's in Cardakian. . . ."
"I know. That means it is real. . .duh."
"Your word as a pirate? No. But as a bounty hunter, yes."
"All right. Lana Emerald. You get to go, if you give the toxin to me."The captain smirked.
"Only you. If any one of these hounds makes a false move, then the deal is off."
"So we can capture you, cuff you and get the canister?"
"Come on Emerald. You are in no position to be gambling." The force pointed their guns at her.
"Oh but I am."
"Really?"They cocked their guns.
"You see, if you all come at me, I'll take a dive."
"I'll die with the toxin in my possession. I have strict code of honor."
"Pft. Honor? You?"
"I'm warning you!"Lana made a step towards the edge of the cliff.
"She's warning us, boys!"They all started laughing.
"I've dreamed of nothing else for four years, Emerald. . .Get her."
The cops all advanced on her and she posed like a ninja cat before she hurled herself over the edge of the cliff.
"What'll we do, boss?"
They all revved up their hover cycles and dove down the cliff. No sign of her.
"Search the water! She can't go with that canister!"
"But the water's freezing!"
"I don't care!"
Lana giggled as Michele held her like a fallen deer in his arms. He put her down and closed the secret doors on the cliff's wall. The Sin City squad had dove down the cliff, searching the icy waters for the graceful duck.
Michele laughed and got off the hover cycle. "Brilliant plan, ma petite vert bijou."
"It came to me in a dream."
"Heh-ha!"He grabbed her face and pulled it onto his, and kissed her fast. "Love you!"
"And I always will."
Lana threw her leather clothes on the floor of her gargantuan bedroom back in their enormous flat. She sighed. "I never was one for the street rat life."
Michele strode into the room, Lana still dressing. "Michele! You should have knocked!" She said in a playful voice.
"Ma cherie, you have everything I've already seen. Besides you were never bashful before."
"Ha. I am developing some modesty."
"Sure you are. And Sin City is a Holy town."
Lana frowned. "Darling, I'm performing tonight. I need to cut the act short. I'm tired."
"But Lana, you can't! I have a full house! And the entire Brotherhood is coming to play at the club tonight. The higher ranks will be sitting at the main front table! Sacre Bleu! They are coming to see you!"
"So how are they going to know that the show will be seven songs long instead of ten? Huh? You can have Rodney do his comedy act after me."
"You know he is the clown of the club! He should go before you!"
"Darling. I've had a rough day. I am tired. I want to be in good form tomorrow."
"You can go to bed after the show and have your rest then. I need you on stage tonight!"
"Michele I want to be chipper tomorrow."
"Because tomorrow will be the day I'll be in season."
"Not this again."
"Please. Michele. We've been married for four years. We are settled in. I want to have your baby."
"Ma petite vert bijou,"Michele stood in front of her, and put his hands on her shoulders and sat her down. "Our kind of life is not a family oriented one. We've been through this a thousand times."
"But I want to be a mother! I want to have your child."
"What kind of mother would you be if you brought a life into this world of ours?"
"All I know is that I love you and this child would be of your blood and bone-Our child. My blood
and my bone."
Michele let out an exasperated sigh. "Lana, we can not have a child. Besides they are messy, loud, and take up too much time."
"I would make time! That's what being a mother is all about, you bastard! You can't be a father to our creation? You sound just like my father."
Michele swung out and slapped her hard across the face.
"Why did you do that?"She said in a hurt tone.
"You deserved it for getting out of line. Now get dressed. You have ten songs to sing for the Brotherhood tonight."
"I deserved it? What kind of a chauvinistic answer is that?"
Michele pushed her out of his way. "You deserve more. Now get ready. There will be no, how you say? Show cutting tonight." He slammed the door behind him.
Lana picked up her expensive perfume and threw the bottle against the doors, shattering it completely. "That will be the last time he hits me, I know it."
The club was crowded with the entire Brotherhood of the Blade and other shifty patrons. The juniors, presabers, and saber students filled the pool rooms and the gaming lounge, while the honor blades and the blade brothers occupied the bar. The red circles filled up the stage area and the council remained in the casinos, with their molls at their side, clinging to their arms.
Duke L'Orange and Ernie Falcone stood by Ascelin Wingblade, the leader of the Brotherhood. They were crowded in a private cloister, watching the club's goings on.
Ace sighed and stretched his arms in front of him. "Men, this may be the last night I have out of treatment centers. I am going into the brotherhood's hospital tomorrow morning. So let's make this night a memorable one."
"Are you feeling all right right now, sir?"Duke questioned sincerely.
"I'm fine."He coughed horribly and into his handkerchief.
"I say, sir. You shouldn't be here. You should be having fun at the poker tables." the raptrin said haughtily.
"Naw, Ernie, he should be just chilling out right here until Lana's show. He needs to rest a bit. After watching that ducky's performance, one needs to take a cold shower and a brandy."
Ascelin Wingblade laughed. "That's for sure. Michele sure can pick them."
"But sir,"Falcone protested, "You always love the crap tables and the poker games, and the-"
"Knock it off, Ernie! He said he wants to just sit here and chill awhile."
"But I think that he should be having fun!"
"C'mon! He knows what he wants and what's best for him, so shut up and let him drink his whisky."
"I say! You have no authority!"
"I'm red circle. What are you?"
Falcone growled and got up as if to punch Duke. But Duke got up, meeting him eye to eye.
"Men! That's quite enough! Duke is right Falcone. I want to enjoy my drink."
"So sorry sir."Falcone uttered in a malice like tone, staring down at Duke.
Duke smirked and sat down next to his leader. Score one hundred for him.
"By the way, men, When does that long-legged seductress begin her show?"
Duke laughed wholeheartedly. "In ten minutes."
"Oh goody."Falcone whispered in an irritated tone.
The audience was at a slack hush, talking low and warmly. The red and gold room was aglitter with the soft lavender light of the chandeliers. The stage was set, all the musicians poised to play, waiting for the diva to enter with her droll, sultry voice. The stage was a black, reflective floor and the musicians were in cubby platforms book ending the staircase where each performer descends. The proscenium was black and gold, with blood red curtains and exotic Lianan plants decorating the stage ends.
The brotherhood council and its red circle and honor blades sat in the grand main table up front and center. Ascelin Wingblade sat at the head of the table, with the head councilman to his right and Duke at his left. Ernie Falcone sulked at Duke's side, staring Wingblade down. Ascelin started to cough, and Duke and the head councilman immediately went to his aid. He held up a hand as if to say 'I am fine', and they backed into their seats.
"I'm looking forward to this show. I haven't seen Miss Emerald in a long time, me being at the hospice of late."
"She's quite a woman, sir," One of the red circle said.
"Remember when she hunted that murderer and caught him for twenty gees? Michele wasn't even present."Another said.
"I remember when she stole that DuCaine monument sculpture and held it for ten million. Boy, Michele sure was mad when she did that without him."
Duke laughed. "I also remember how she explained it to him. . .'No darling, I didn't steal it. I was shopping in the town square and saw this at the temple. I knew it would look divine in our sitting room.'" The Brotherhood laughed.
Ascelin Wingblade spoke up through the laughter. "How did you know what she said, Duke?"
The table fell silent.
"Well, you see, I was hidin' behind her curtain in her piazza. I was gonna get that diamond tiara she stole from the princess of the Liana Islands."
"Oh I remember,"Ascelin said. "I sent you on that mission specifically. You see, that particular tiara belongs to the Brotherhood's timeless collection."
"Everything belongs to our collection,"Duke laughed.
Ascelin laughed along with him. "I knew I liked you."
Duke shrugged. "What can I say? I'm a popular guy."
Falcone smugly frowned at Duke behind his back. "I say, when is the bloody show going to start?"
"Oh shut up Duke."
"Now, now, Falcone."
"Chill out, Ernie. She likes me better anyhow."Duke leaned back in his chair.
"You? Get off it."
"Yeah. She talks to me all the time. We're like this." Duke crossed his pointer finger over his middle one.
"You mean like this."Falcone made an X with his pointer fingers.
"You have a lot of hate in you, pal."
"No, I don't. You just annoy me."
"Enough Falcone! I am sick and tired of your mouth. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the show when it starts."
The lights began to dim, and the bass player struck a few mellow notes. Soon the band started up, and a tall, voluptuous silhouette shone behind the sheer backdrop. The lights on stage began to brighten. She came nearer, slowly descending the staircase. She began to sing. . .
Don't look at me baby if you're just going to look away
Don't smile at me baby if you're just going to smile at her
Don't touch me unless you plan on taking me all the way
You see I'm strong
I don't want to be left alone
Don't kiss me lightly, kiss me deadly
Don't hold me softly, hold me tightly
Don't whisper sweet nothings
Whisper dirty somethings
You see I'm naughty
I'm the spice of life
Don't kick me aside in the morning
Or I'll leave by evening star
You can't keep me
I'm wild and I'm free
Don't take me shopping unless you'll buy me something sweet
Don't patronize me daddy unless you'll take a whack
Don't scrutinize me honey unless you like to be scrutinized back
I'm your worst nightmare, your best dream
Don't brush me aside
I'm worth more that I seem
I'm a hot-tempered woman
And an even hotter lover
You see I'm cool by day
And on fire by night
You can't keep me
I'm wild and free
I'm naughty not nice
Not sweet and full of spice. . .
As the song ended, Lana sauntered to the front row and winked at Duke. He acknowledged her with a warm smile.
Michele was watching from his seat in the balcony. He slowly began to glower at the young man.
Lana was tired and sweaty from her long show. She wrestled out of her red sequined gown and threw it on her faint couch. She was getting her robe on, when there was a knock at her dressing room door. Strange. Michele never knocks, he just barges right in, she thought. "Hold on a minute."
"Take your time, kitten."A Keltorian said through the door.
"Duke! Darling! Come right in."
Lana fastened her robe shut and opened the door. She was still wearing her jewellery and her hair was still up.
"You were great, kitten."He kissed her on the cheek.
"Thanks darling. I was hoping you might come by after the show."
"Oh yeah?"Duke poured a drink from her personal bar. He handed it to her and poured himself a drink. "Here Lana. What's up?"
"Well, something kind of strange happened tonight." She sat on the faint couch and he joined her.
"Michele...hit me this evening. Before the show."
"He did?"Duke put his drink down and clasped her hand. "Kitten? Has he been hitting you? I mean. . .all the time, too?"
"No! I mean, it didn't hurt. It was just loud. But he never struck me before."
"Kitten, if he hit you once, he'll do it again."
"No! he won't. I mean, I won't let him. I love him too much to do what you're thinking."
"Lana. Let me be honest with you. We're always honest with one another."
"You're my best friend."
"And you're mine. So let me say this much; as a man. If a man hits a woman once, he'll do it again."
"It was only a slap."
"But enough to have you worry? C'mon Lana! We're both adults here."
"I don't know. . ."
"Just promise me you'll be careful? And that you'll come to me if you need hel-"
"-Please! We're talking about a slap!"
"Did he yell at you, too?"
"Well-he said I deserved it for getting out of line."
"Bingo! Lana! It makes sense. He doesn't like how you're getting ahead of him."
"What? What are you talking about? How did we get to this subject?"
"Like I said. I'm a man and I can interpret this for you. You're beating him in every way. Three fourths of the jobs you carry out are solo and successful. Michele is lacking where you are excelling. The whole Brotherhood is talking about you. You are eclipsing him in reputation. More people tremble at 'Lana Emerald' nowadays instead of 'Michele Du BluLune'. . .You're a household name, kitten."
"The whole Brotherhood is talking about me?"
"Yes. Lana. . .you are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with for us."
"Ernie hates me."
"Falcone? He hates everyone."
Lana smiled, her head hung low. "Does your leader speak of me?"
"He likes you. Says you got spunk."
"Really. Maybe I should dedicate my act to him."
"He'd love that. He's a big fan of yours."
"I know that Michele would like it if I kiss his ass, too."
"Michele wrote the book on kissing Brotherhood ass."
"Tell me. . . he never does. . .why the Brotherhood and Michele are so hush hush?"
"Well. . .Lana I can't let what is said leave this room. Understand?"
"Michele and Ascelin were both in for the Brotherhood about twenty years ago. Michele and Ascelin went to school together and were both after the same things together. The fencing club, chess, and the same girl."
"Yeah. Michele and Ascelin were both vying for the attentions of this black haired, violet eyed looker that was very sweet and very innocent. She had royal blood in her or something. She was Franzian like Michele, so one would think that they would hit it off, right?
“Wrong. Ascelin was more of a patient boy, and quite innocent himself. So the shy gal gravitated to him. This made Michele furious. I'll tell you, Michele Du BluLune is one jealous mutha fucker.
“So, in fencing class at the secondary school they were in, Michele volunteered to duel Ascelin. Ascelin had no idea that Michele was angry him. So Michele had every intention of defeating Ascelin horribly. But, Ascelin won, and wounded Michele on both sides of his beak."
"But Michele doesn't have any scars. . .wait. He does have those side burn-beard things on his face."
"Uh-huh. That's to hide the scars. Anyway, Michele was humiliated, and vowed that he'd never let another surpass him without a fight. They drifted apart and aren't really friends anymore. They only met again when they were twenty and both aching to join the Brotherhood of the Blade. Michele came close to becoming red circle, but quit when the position of leader was handed to his rival, Ascelin Wingblade."
"I thought the Brotherhood had a strict code on quitters. Couldn't Michele be up for execution?"
"He won his duel. Some say that Ascelin let him win, just so he could give his 'friend' a goodbye present of pride. So Michele was granted a sort of pardon by Ascelin, and now Michele is an under the table kinda dealer for us. He fears the Brotherhood because he was once one of us. He knows the power we have."
"That's all he ever tells me. 'Lana ma cherie, you cannot fathom the amount of power and influence the Brotherhood of the Blade has.' Then he rolls off of me and asks me if it was good for me."
Duke laughed nervously.
"Why Duke, did little old me give you a vision you wish you hadn't had?"
"You bet. Now if there's anything else you want to know. . .make sure that you never tell what you hear from me. I only tell you this kitten because I love you like you're my sister. And I trust you. Like I said. The Brotherhood is watching you. We like what we see."
"It's my legs. They go up to my neck and I have a nice rack, too."
Duke sighed and got up.
"Lana you will be the end of the male gender."
The door burst open and Michele strode in furiously. He saw Duke and pointed at him like he had a laser beam at the end of his finger.
"Qu'est que sais pourquois tu es ici, mais il faut que tu parti!"
"Michele, darling in Ingallish please."
"I don't know why you are here, but you must go!"
"Michele, darling, he's my best friend."
"And your enemy."Duke said, with fury in his eyes.
"Duke, Michele please. Don't do this."
"It's all right, kitten. I was about to leave."He kissed her quickly on the beak. "Call me if you feel. . .trapped. We can help."
Duke turned around and walked to the door where Michele was standing. Michele and Duke glared at each other on the way out, Duke pausing to stand eye to eye with the Franzian. He silkily stepped out and shut the door behind him.
"What was he doing here? Lana, one must smile and nod when the Brotherhood is around, but not engage fully."
"Oh please. I have been Duke L'Orange’s friend off and on for three years. You never objected before."
"Because Lana cherie, he never looked at you the way he did tonight. And what was that kiss he gave you?"
"Please. It was a friendly peck. And he loves me-platonically. We're like brother and sister."
"More than you know."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"What does 'we can help' supposed to mean?"
"He means me and him. Putting our heads together can render some change in my weird life."
"You need no change. You can go no higher and no lower. You're fine the way you are my love." Michele gently kissed her forehead.
"What if I have the chance to progress? I can always go higher."
Michele grinded his teeth together. He spoke into her forehead, pressing her tightly against him. "No you cannot!"He crunched his fist into her shiny, green hair.
"Michele what is wrong with you? Lately you are so mean to me. Earlier today you were by my side, stealing that horrid chemical, and now you've gone mad."
"I've not gone mad!"He pushed her to the floor. She stared up at him, unblinking.
"I don't understand you anymore."Her voice was barely audible.
"I need some Bliss! You haven't dealt all of the good stuff away, have you?"
"No. I have some in my dresser drawer, here."
He took three large strides to her dresser and began tearing away at her clothes, throwing lingerie here and stockings there, searching for the Bliss. Lana watched with bewilderment in her eyes. What was wrong with him?
"Ah! Found it!"Michele rolled his sleeve up and wrapped a tourniquet tightly around his arm.
"You're not going to do that here, are you?"
"Oui, c'est vrais you worthless woman!"
"Michele, calm down!"
"What do you care about me taking Bliss? You are the biggest addict in all of Sin City."
"I am trying to cut it down to mere dealing, now. I OD'ed on the stuff twice already, and nearly went into a coma. I was lucky."
"Non, you were bete. Everyone knows that you don't take more than one packet at a time. Three is way too many."
"Oh thank you wise one. But I was really upset that day...and very horny the other time."
"Women use Bliss for all the wrong reasons."Michele uttered under his breath. He loaded the red powder into the spoon and held a lighter under it. It began to boil.
Lana sighed. "Please don't do that in front of me."
"This is my dressing room!"
Michele soaked up the red liquid into a shot's needle. He didn't even look at Lana. "You are forgetting, ma petite vert bijou, I own this club. From the roof to the casino, to the shit houses...and your dressing room!"
He plunged the needle into his arm. He sniffed deeply, and fell back onto the faint couch. He closed his eyes. "Ahhhhh...that is parfait. Lana, come here."
"Because the Bliss is working fast and I want some...company."
"What are you, the Sheik of Manalania? I told you, it's late and I am tired. I'm going to bed."
"Oui, that is a wonderful idea."He slowly rose from the faint couch and slurred his steps toward her. He grabbed her arm and pulled her closer than death to him. " Let's both go to bed."
"Michele! No! I want to sleep. You're high. Let go of me."
"I believe the wedding vows were 'to love and obey.' So, obey me."
"You are a pig!"
He stared at her for a moment, than swung his fist into her cheek. Lana fell back a few steps then regained composure. She stepped forward and punched him in the gut as hard as she could. He doubled over and fell onto the couch again.
"Bitch...I shall teach you...a lesson you'll never forget."
"Don't hit me again!"
Michele got up and dove for her, knocking her down. The music below was extremely loud and the party was even louder. No one heard Lana's cry of help as Michele dug his punches into her ribs and face...
Morning came too slowly. Lana awoke in a pool of blood and dried browned blood on her face and beak. She was naked with her robe placed over her like a blanket. She opened her eyes slowly, looking around without getting up. She was in her dressing room, on the floor. She was alone. Her head felt like a herd of elephants ran over it. She groaned in pain as she breathed.
Then the door burst open as she saw two black leather legs striding over to where she lay. The long black overcoat swayed from left to right with each stride. The feet stopped right before her face.
"Ma petite vert bijou, I have called an ambulance."
"Wha-why? What happened last night? I feel like I've been hit by a semi."
"You were high on Bliss last night and thought that you could fly. You were very nude and on the ledge outside you window. You fell onto the street, but a garbage pile broke your fall."
"But...no. That can't be true...I don't feel like I fell, I feel like I've been thrown around."
"Trust me, ma cherie, you fell."Michele picked her up off the floor, and delicately clothed her with the robe. He held her like a child in his arms, and kissed her on the top of her head. "Je tu adore toujours."
Duke and Falcone were duelling in the practice room at the Brotherhood's lair. They were all alone.
"Too bad about Nightwing, eh Duke?"
"Yeah. He was doing so well." Duke parried Falcone's blow.
"Good one. But not as good as this-"Falcone lunged at Duke with his sword, but Duke dodged it fast enough to just rip his shirt a little bit.
"Almost, pal. But seriously, what do you think Ascelin is going to do? It was a couple of days ago we
were sittin' at the Diamond Roost, and he was laughin' and enjoying himself. Now, he's laying in bed, sleeping all day and only waking up to-"
"Thanks Ernie for that little bit of info."Falcone and Duke clanked their swords high above their heads and twisted around, the swords still crossed, so that they were back to back.
"No problem old buddy. Prepare to be defeated."
"In your dreams!"
"Well, at least in reality. Say, Duke, do you think he'll-die?"
"Pa-lease. He's still got some fight left in him, Ernie."
They twisted around again, this time they were face to face.
"Not according to the health ward. The old boy could kick off at any second."
"What? Where's your respect?"
"I left it at home with my honesty. But Duke, he's got the cancer."
"I know that, but with the brotherhood's medical know how, he has a ninety-nine percent chance to get cured."
Duke hit the blade edge of Falcon's sword hard, and Falcone parried it.
"And a one percent chance he'll die."
"What's with you? Don't you want him to live?"
"Sure...I do. But come off your high mount, Duke. Don't tell me that leadership hasn't crossed your mind?"
"Only if he steps down and gives it to me."
"Or dies and passes it to the council to decide."
"Then we'd have to fight for it Ernie."
"Right."Falcone flipped the tip of the blade under Duke's sword and nearly succeeded in disarming him.
"Nice try, Falcone. Let's talk about something else."
"All right. How about Emerald. She's in pretty bad shape."
"I'm just saying that the poor girl's got her pretty face all black and blue all of a sudden. And that corset of hers is getting tighter and tighter.'
"What are you saying?"
"Her ribs are busted, old buddy."
"I bet Michele has something to with it. I asked her why she was so beat up, and she just started crying."
"Lana Emerald crying? Has Puckworld melted over?" Falcone laughed and plunged for Duke's side again.
"C'mon, Ernie. Leave it alone. I don't trust that Michele Du BluLune."
"Who does. Wait. That foolish bitch of a friend of yours does...Lana."
"I said lay off!"Duke disarmed Falcone, and the Raptrin backed up as Duke neared him ferociously.
"Calm down, old buddy, I was only joking."
"I bet you were."Duke put his sword at his side. " I'm hittin' the showers."
Lana looked at herself in the mirror. The bruise was fading away, and the medication she took for her bruised ribs was helping her day by day. She was getting better.
It had been four weeks since the incident. Duke had been trying to convince her that Michele was abusing her, and Lana just laughed. He only hit her three other times since the incident, and Lana just took to it as if it was nothing. He never hit her in the face, because he said her face was an asset to his club. But still...Lana didn't know what to feel. She regretted yelling at Duke when he told her to leave Michele and get even. She was sorry she did that. Duke was only looking out for her. She was twenty-two and still young, despite the pirate-hunter and killer thing. There was room for mistakes.
Michele would never kill me, she thought. He has been so distant. Especially when Lana came home five days ago with over two hundred thousand gees for a 'cleaning job' for Mr. Biggs.
Lana sighed as she covered her fading bruise with make-up. The yellow of the bruise blended coarsely with her chick-yellow feathers.
Michele rushed into the room excitably. "Lana! I know it has been a over a month since we worked together, but, I have a job for us!"
"Mr. Biggs has some information for us. You know that Lucretia DeCoy?"
"How could I forget? She hates me because I am Cardakian. Racist scum."
"And that chemical we stole four weeks ago? We thought by taking the whole formula and the only canister, we had stopped her, but the psycho made another one, this time, enough to kill a whole nation. But it isn't a gas. It's a small vial of liquid, to be put into the Lianan water supply. We need it."
"I'll do anything to stop that crazy woman's plans for genocide of my people!"
"Tres bon. We'll start tonight. Mr. Biggs has agreed to destroy the vial and rid this world of it."
"You mean we get to kill DeCoy?"
"No. he has a chemical that will counteract with the poison and make it harmless."
"Wow. No kidding?"
"Non. Now let's start on it, Lana."
"Do you have a plan?"
"Of course. I always do."
"Not always."Lana said under her breath.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing. So what's the plan?"
Lana stood at the roof of Mr. Bigg's lair. Michele was cutting the glass ceiling so they could get in. "I can't believe you forgot the door's combination."
"Hush Lana. We're almost in."The flame blade faded from red-orange to dull iron. The glass that was cut fell loose, and Michele reached in and caught it before the glass fell. "Ladies first."
Lana pulled out her whip and swung it above her. It latched onto a gargoyle nearby, and Lana jumped down the hole, just before she let go of the whip, setting it free. Michele jumped in after her. They both did a series of flips and leaps on their way down. Michele lost control and bumped into the graceful duck. She lost control in mid air, and fell the rest of the way down. She fell right in the middle of the warehouse, soon Michele landed on the ground, buttock first, next to her. Mr. Biggs sat a long table in front of them, henchmen with blasters, all around.
"Ooof!"Lana pushed Michele off of her.
"Michele! Lana! So good to see you again."
"Allo, Mr. Biggs."
Lana struggled to untangle her whip, which was wrapped around her waist and back. A henchman noticed Lana and slinked over to her.
"Hey babe, let me help you."He pulled her to her feet, ogling her indigo leather corset and cat suitfor the first time. "Oooh babe, you should be in porno."
Lana straightened up, then pounded his eye so hard that he fell twisted, and backwards. "Don't call me babe."
"Delightful woman."Mr. Biggs chortled.
"Mesieur Biggs, where is the vial?"
"Oh yes, the matter at hand. You must go to a warehouse where Lucretia has moved her, ahem, practice. Here is the address."
Michele strode over to Lana and handed it to her. "Go, Lana. Like we planned."
"I'm off."Lana turned and bolted out the door.
Mr. Biggs waited until there was no sign of her. He began to laugh. "Do you think she suspects?"
"Not a clue."Michele began to laugh evilly. " I vowed long ago that no one would ever surpass me without a fight. Tres bon! The hunt begins."
Lana finished the last of the incision. The wire sprang out. Lana took her tweezers and pulled on the red wire. The doors to the warehouse opened.
"Thank you, Duke for that."
Lana tiptoed into the warehouse and ran without a sound to a stack of crates. She heard some voices.
"I'm sick of being on duty past midnight. I thought the rookies are supposed to have graveyard shift."
"It's a new policy, Bob."
"The policy sucks."
Lana watched as they passed her and headed out the doors. She took out her sword and ran down the isles and isles of crates. Slicing them, they began to fall behind her, in gargantuan mounds of sugar, flour and salt.
"I could always quit this gig and become a baker." Lana laughed.
Men started to run to the catastrophe from all over the warehouse. "Stop it!"
"How can we stop it?"
"Get out the shovels and start piling them back into fresh crates!"
Lana ran further and chuckled to herself. "That'll keep them."
She ran until she reached a new set of automatic doors, then closed her sword and put it on the hilt attached to her left leg. She swung her whip and it latched onto the landing above her. She pulled herself up, climbing up the wall. She reached the landing and side walked along the edge until she reached another higher ledge. She climbed up it and found a hidden tunnel.
"Exactly where Michele said it would be." She wormed her way through it, heading on to the other side.
Mr. Biggs' henchmen waited in the room on the other side of the warehouse. Michele paced impatiently in front of them.
"You remember your orders?"
"Of course, Mr. Du BluLune."
"Bon. All we can do is wait."
Lana reached the room, and it was empty. No sign of anyone. Then she saw it: the lab's table covered with beakers and formulas scribbled onto the blackboard behind it. Lana pulled out her motion detector and looked for rays. No sign. Something was up.
She walked slowly up to the lab table and found clear as day, the vial she had been looking for. She picked up the small, glass vial and held it to the light. It was a putrid shade of green, and seemed to glow in its casing.
"Put it down."
A female voice behind her hit her like lightning. That voice! Where had she heard it before? Lana slowly turned around, still holding the vial. "Not on your life."
"Oh really?"The woman was holding a gun towards her. They were a good distance apart.
Lana shifted to her other foot. "Really, Lucretia? A secret hideout in a baker's warehouse? Have you sunk so low as to take an obvious place to concoct your poisons?"
"It won't be long, Lana. Soon you race will be purged from this planet, and you will be dead before it happens."
"You really believe that you can get me without me escaping first? I've never been caught."
"There's a first time for everything you worthless piece of Cardakian shit."
"Don't start this again, Lucretia. I hate you, you hate me more. Please. It's getting a tad old."
"Is the big, fat Cardi scum getting offended?"
Lana flared at the name Cardi. ( It's like Nigger to an African American) "What did you say? Bitch. I'm leaving with the vial and you're not going to stop me. You'll never destroy my race as long as I am around!"
"Then you won't be around!"Lucretia fired her gun at Lana, but Lana dodged it and it hit the lab table behind her. The table burst into flames.
Just then, Michele and the henchman burst through the rear entrance and ran into the room. "Now you're in trouble! Michele, boys, take her out."
"Not so fast."The room was filling with smoke and fire. Lucretia fired another shot at Lana, missing her, there being too much smoke. "Damn!"
"Lana! Over here!"Lana ran to Michele and he held her in his arms. The henchmen barricaded the door.
"Let me out! You haven't seen the last of me!"Lucretia's cries got quieter and quieter. Soon, no one could hear her anymore.
Lana turned away from Michele, and watched the smoke pouring out from under the door. "Is she gone at last?"
All of a sudden, the henchmen turned their weapons on Lana. Michele stood behind Lana, unmoving.
"What's going on?"
They cocked the blasters. From behind, Michele began to laugh. "You'll never get us!"
"What is going on Michele?!?"
He moved close behind her and whispered in her ear from behind. "I believe, ma petite vert bijou, it is called a setup." He cocked a gun and pointed it at her back. "Now hand over the vial, Lana Emerald."
"Michele...I don't think so!"Lana turned around and kicked him in the face. She jumped up and threw her grappling hook at the roof above her. The men started to open fire at her.
"Hold your fire! She is mine!"
Lana skated down the field, not far away from the warehouse. She passed couples and children skating in the park, and pushed them aside as she speed skated away. She heard laser shots behind her, men following her at a fast speed. They kicked aside the civilians, rushing to Lana.
Lana dodged their fire and raced ahead. She reached into her hip sack and put the vial in a safe pocket. She skated down the ally ways and found herself on the other side of a water reservoir. The park was a patch of ice behind her and she found a water tunnel and ducked inside of it. The henchmen ran right past her, screaming for her blood.
She began to laugh and let out a sigh of relief. "Lost them. I'm safe."
"Why hello, Mrs. Du BluLune."Lana turned around, out of breath.
"Mr. Biggs! I have the vial. We can negotiate payment later, I have to escape Michele. He-"
"Yes. How did you know?"
"Because Lana, we're partners in it."Lana gasped as she heard a step behind her in the duct. A tall Franzian stood behind her, pointing a gun at her.
"Hand over the vial, Lana."
"You! I trusted you! I loved you! How could you!?"
"Tell her Michele."Mr. Biggs pulled a gun from his coat and pointed it at Lana.
"I'm afraid, ma cherie, that you're too good for your own good."
"Michele what is this?"
"Tell her BluLune. We are going to take the poison from you, then kill you."
"That poison Lana has enough power to defeat all the foes of the world in one fell swoop! C'est vrais, it will kill legions of people, but at millions and billions of Puckworld dollars, it will be-ha-a steal. Worth it. And I will be-"
"We will be the most powerful men on Puckworld."
"You're mad! Killing someone in the heat of battle is one thing, but not like this-This is an unspeakable crime that should never be committed!"
"It's true Miss Emerald! You're time is up."
"Michele! Don't listen to him! I know things have been rough for awhile, but we can change! We can reform and leave this life behind! Don't do this Michele! Please. I know somewhere deep inside you still love me. You can't betray me like this! Not when we have shared so much together. You swore to me that you would always love me!"
"Forget her BluLune! She must die! It's useless, Lana! His mind belongs to me!"
"He may have your mind, Michele, but I have your heart! Don't do this. Destroy this evil chemical with me, let's go home. Home Michele. Remember? Where you took me in and gave a place I would always cherish. You gave me a place that I would always feel welcomed. Michele-you were the first person I have ever loved! Let's go home. It's over!"
"You're right it's over! Let's kill the bitch now!"
"Shut up! Michele, we have much to work out."
"How pathetic you are, Lana. You could have had it all, little one. You are smart, sexy, a powerful force, but you have a weak link that will be the end of you. You trust too much. Sorry ma cherie. But the love has gone out of our relationship. Au revoir." He cocked the gun at her, squinting one eye as he aimed for her head.
Something broke free in her at last. "Oh Michele, you know me better then that."She reached into her hip sack and pulled out pellets that filled the tunnel with thick, green smoke. She was gone when the air cleared.
One Year Later...
Lana stood atop the Sin City Trade Center, staring out at the immense city, looking over the river to the Keltor bridge. She was not crying, merely staring out at the water and the city on the other side. Lana hadn't cried for over a year. She stared out at Keltor. That city was her home now. Visiting Sin City was a priority, now that she owned the Diamond Roost.
Suspecting that Michele was acting strangely about the poison vial affair, she had gone into his desk and stolen the deed to the popular club. Then, when it turned out to be a setup, Lana had the property under her control and Michele was kicked out of the crime district; when Lana nearly killed him.
She would always hold a grudge for him...
Duke had been the biggest help to her, helping her build her life up in Keltor. He had suggested she join the Brotherhood of the Blade. But she had turned him down. Maybe, later, she would join...
Michele was out there in Puckworld somewhere, trying to rebuild his reputation. But Lana had single handily destroyed it in one year. He was now a rouge that steered clear of the woman he tormented for so long. She had beaten him. The Brotherhood was on her side, she was known as Puckworld's most notorious Bounty hunter and pirate. Never harming the innocent, but stirring a hell's pot for all that paid the right price. Everyone feared her or sought her aid, the most famous free lancing criminal in Puckworld. Now, she had finally beaten the man.
Lana turned around and came face to face with Duke l'Orange. He had been standing behind her for awhile. There was smoke and fire in the distance, near the DuCaine Metropolis.
"What are ya doin' here, kitten?"
"Just thinking...And watching. Duke, the world needs help. Saurian scum has been on this planet for two days now. This world belongs to a business woman like me, not a bunch of hell-raising, enslaving, ruthless lizards."
"I know. The Brotherhood is torn. We don't know what to do."
"This is my Puckworld!"
"Mine too, kitten. Mine too."
"So I guess this isn't a good time to be up for membership to your little club, eh, Duke darling?"
"I haven't heard someone laugh in longest time. Sin City is so Goth. Anyway...The Saurians haven't gotten here yet."
"They haven't reached Keltor either."
"What are we going to do?"
"Fight. I know you have it in you. I've seen it. Fight. Together we can beat them."
"I have to believe you."
"I'm the only one you can trust besides yourself, kitten. Remember that."
"You know...I still have that vial. Hidden to where I only know where it is. We could slip it into the Saurians' water supply...and be rid of them-"
"-And what if the water fell into a mallard's possession? You would be responsible for killing our people, too."
"I don't know. I can't fight this alone, but if I don't fight, I would be letting my planet down. I need to win from now on. I will never be dominated again. Not ever, Duke."
Duke nodded sadly. "Is that what you want out of life, Lana? To never fail?"
"That, children and a home at last. But, with the times being as they are, I'll settle for a cigarette. Got a light?"
Duke sighed. "I don't smoke, kitten."
"I know, but do you?"
"Let's go home. Keltor is where we belong now."
"Keltor is probably where I'll be married and buried."
"One thing at a time."