Friday, December 17, 2010

Spanner Chapter 13: The Battle of Evergreen Park

Halfway into a story, you expect something important to happen that will power the story to the shocking conclusion. Well, we’re now well into the second half of Spanner, which means the Author had better pick up the pace. And how better to do that than by having one villain draw a higher-ranking villain into his fight? Charmian Fleer has done this already. Now it’s Stan Green’s turn. Next — who knows?

From the Project Notebooks: the homeroom teacher’s question, “Ilsa, She-Wolf of Hollywood,” the mock fainting spells, Mimi in the locker room, the battle in the park, the loaded yo-yo, and the policebots (and what Shira does to them). All are from the early ’00s except for the robot idea that has remained essentially the same since the ’90s.

So far, I’ve neglected some major players and elements in the story. I left them behind when I took the story to high school. But now the strife is beginning to spread outside the school. Particularly from Chapter 5 onward, I downplayed some of the story’s more political aspects so I could introduce important plotlines and focus on the interplay of specific characters. That’s done. Now it’s time for me to start kicking the story into high gear.

Since Team Bremelo are holding a big gathering with family and friends invited to come, I’m taking the opportunity to bring some of the back. I’m also debuting another major villain, one I originally created for a very early version of Chapter 1 I plotted out in the later Project Notebooks. He’s a major player in my still unfinished prequel, Bad Company. But he never appeared in the Script Frenzy 2008 comics script. So he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to start making trouble — till now.

Beware: the Travelling Shovel of Death craves blood...

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Book 1: Rock City Blues
Chapter 13: The Battle of Evergreen Park

Definition of puritanism:
The haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy.

H. L. Mencken

30 September 2014
Shira’s bed. Leila sleeps peacefully next to Shira in her bed. Shira holds her from behind in “spoon” position, one hand cupping her breast and the other between her legs. You fascinate me, she thinks. The more I know about you, the more you surprise me. And I love you for it.

Every night, Shira spends an hour or so thinking about tomorrow’s plans before she falls asleep. Reality can be as deliciously unpredictable as Leila, so she makes sure every Plan A always has a Plan B, and sometimes a Plan C. Plan Z means winging it. She usually ends up resorting to Plan Z.

Just as she’s about to fall asleep, the fire-alarm notification sounds on her Droid Mega. J.T. “Oh, great,” she mumbles. She rolls over and reaches out to take the phone off her nightstand, then sits up.
Bad news: King’s popping by on the 5th. Doesn’t like this election thing. Wants to put a stop to it. He’ll meet w/Fleer to try & get Wally to end it. Expect full-city lockdown.

Spread the word, but keep it secret.

Shira feels her entire body go cold, and then numb. She texts a quick reply.
:O Thx! Keep me posted, cya soon <3 S!

She forwards J.T.’s email to her sisters Charlie and Desiree, and then to Alex, who will tell the Krewe. She no longer feels the need to sleep. Tomorrow stretches into an entire week. Things will get steadily worse as the the king’s advent approaches. She plans to warn the rest of the household at breakfast, then Team Bremelo the next time they assemble. But tonight she thinks about only one thing: what kind of Plan Z she can prepare for the arrival of the king of the world...

church. The West Sound Church of America looks like a grotesquely decorated sports dome in the heart of Bangor, south of its namesake nuclear submarine base and northwest of Bremerton, a lonely spot of life surrounded by a square mile of dead office parks and strip malls whose former occupants left the civilian world for the Navy and Marine bases after the coup. The surrounding seaport towns of Bremerton, Silverdale, and Seabeck struggle to thrive; landlocked downtown Bangor is the black hole sucking them down into the bottomless pit.

Drusilla Becket, the church’s much-worshipped Shepherd, princess and Prophet, does not live here; she still lives on her sprawling and infamous Bainbridge Island estate. But the First Assistant Shepherd she’s promoting as the hottest Prophet in the American Religion, does reside here, in opulent splendor befitting the Church’s ideals. Byron Herbert Scofield wears his power business suit and his gold chains the way the ancient pagan priests of Egypt and Babylon wore their bejewelled vestments as he holds an audience with Stan Green, assistant youth shepherd in charge of discipline, who prostrates before him to make a request.

“Lord Prophet! I beg to speak. This is urgent!”

“You may rise, Stanley,” says Scofield in his sonorous Carolina twang. Stan rises to one knee. “I know exactly what you are about to say. It is about one particular monkey who has become more of a thorn in our side than her traitorous mother. I saw what she did to you last night. Everyone did. But none of them saw her truly, the way we did.”

Stan shakes his fist. “That Shira Thomas is a menace! We can’t let her even grow up, or she’ll destroy everything we’ve worked for all these years, since long before we were even born!”

“She is not Shira Thomas.”


“Her name is Rebel Styles.

“What? Her? No! That can’t be—”

“Yes, it is. Furthermore, she is not of origin human or divine. That traitor is not her mother, but her familiar. Her true mother is Lilith, and her father is Satan himself. She is a demonic entity materialized. I have seen this with my very own eyes. I have watched every single one of that sick little whore’s repulsive videos, over and over, both as Rebel Styles and as Aya Shibata. It was she who murdered the man who laid his hands upon me to gift me with prophetic powers, Prophet Tremayne, by that very means. So when I heard the name Aya Shibata, I knew that it was she. What you saw at the fighting arena was her true demonic form.”

“You mean I was fighting a demon?

“Indeed. That was spiritual warfare. It is a truth that spiritual evil cannot be defeated through the methods of the flesh. If anyone knows this, it is Rebel Styles.”

“Then what can we do?”

“We take the spiritual war to the spiritual enemy. Tomorrow, she will attend a gathering in her usual disguise as a human woman named Shira Thomas. We will find the demon whore, bind her, and cast her down living to the Hell whence she came. Thus shall we save those suffering souls who are now in her thrall, in the name of Jesus America.”

Byron Scofield’s voice remains calm. But nothing can disguise the madness in his eyes.

1 October 2014
wake-up call.
The police siren wails on the Droid Mega, waking up Shira and Leila. Leila complains, “What’s that for?”

“I’ve got friends. If you know what I mean by... friends.” Shira winks. Leila rolls her eyes and rolls away from Shira.

Shira sits up, picks up the phone, and says, “Hello?”

“Sorry to pile on the lovely news, red,” says J.T. over the encrypted voice line, “but word travels fast here in the Blue Mafia. One of the girls in the office has a few friends among Bremerton’s finest, and she says your friend Mr. Green and his pastor got plans to drop by your high school picnic today. She also tells me they plan to test a few of your local law enforcement’s brand new copbots.”

“Does she know what they’re running?”

“I do. This new model’s the talk of the whole guild. Top of the line expert system, immune to DDoS, better surveillance than an entire police department, can sniff a dissident from a mile away. Hot stuff, this. What’s it running on? You’ll never guess.”

“Right. iOS.”

“Nope. Windows.”

“Well, well, well!” Shira grins wickedly. Visions of malicious ActiveX exploits dance in her head. “Well! I know just what to get, then.”

“Love ya babe. Be careful.”

Shira kisses at the phone. “Ciao.” She puts it back on her nightstand.

Leila rolls onto her back so Shira can take the covers off her, get on top of her, and kiss her. “So what was that about?”

“J.T. says we’re gonna have ourselves a few unwanted guests at the picnic, and they’re bringing gifts. He wanted me to make sure I had a surprise ready for ’em.”

“Who would that be, I wonder?”

“Our old fiend, Stanley Green.”

“Will you please let me kill him this time?”

Shira laughs. “But I’m toying with him.”

Leila frowns. “Figures you’d be named after a cat.”

breakfast. Shira, Leila, Aira, and Hope sit together naked at the dining room table, conversing over delicious bacon and cheese omelettes. Hope notices the grim look on Shira’s face. “What’s wrong, darling?”

“Guess who’s dropping by town for a visit this weekend.”

The others stare at Shira. Hope cocks her head slightly in curiosity. “Anybody we know?”

“Only the worst person in the world.”

Leila gasps in horror. “No! You don’t mean him—”

“Yes, him. Mom, you gotta get out of here as soon as possible and stay away till at least Tuesday, or the King’s agents will find you and then he’s gonna have himself a live human barbecue on Sunday. I say take an official business trip to Portland or somewhere.”

Hope looks at her daughter strangely. “Are you serious about this?”

Shira’s look lasers into her eyes. “Damn right I’m serious, Mom. King Patriot is coming on Sunday. The rest of us will stay inside for the weekend with the lights off. But you have to get out and make it look official without making it look political. They can claim deniability all they want, but this time you need it. Got it?”

“This is about the election, isn’t it,” says Leila.

“Hey, if there’s one thing we all know about kings, it’s that they hate the very idea of elections. Reminds ’em they aren’t gods and the people aren’t their little toys or pets.”

“Actually, it reminds them that other people can replace him as gods,” Hope adds. “It’s also why royals tend to get jealous of mere celebrities. Anyway, the important thing is that we now know what’s going on. And forewarned is forearmed, right? We’re ready for them now.”

“But this is about you, and you know it.”

“Actually, I fully expected him to pull a stunt like that. Old Roger Becket was never subtle; he always loved to throw his weight around.”

“So what do you plan to do?”

“Warn people, first of all. Since we don’t want to get anybody hurt, I’ll suggest everybody stay at home when his imperious highness drops by.”

Leila sighs. “But there’ll still be somebody trying to kill him, and they’ll punish the rest of us for it.”

Shira smirks conspiratorially. “I’m already taking care of that.”

“And how do you plan to do that?

“Never underestimate the ego of a terrorist.” Shira winks.

Leila rolls her eyes. “Ohhhh.”

before class. “Stan’s coming, pass it on, don’t tell Bart,” whispers Jennifer into Cory’s ear. Cory winks and makes haste to tell Kio across the cafeteria.

Dorian steps in front of Shira and Jennifer with her arms crossed. “And why are you two not coming to watch our game tonight?”

Shira says, “Sorry, but that was the only good time we could find to get a gazebo for our team picnic. We’ll keep track online, at least.”

“You’re missing a good thing, I swear.” She flounces off.

homeroom. Shira comes up to Mr. Whitmer to whisper something into his ear. He looks at he quizzically. She nods seriously. He lets her get close and speak.

“I just got word last night that the king’s dropping by to lock down the city on Sunday.”

“Well...” He turns to her. “You know he likes to bait terrorists, don’t you?”

“Then he throws a bomb into the pond to kill all the fish.”

“The old master terrorist knows his own kind all too well.”

The bell rings and the students scramble to take their seats. After Mr. Whitmer takes roll call, the class begins. “As you might know, in the philosophy class I teach, we frequently have to deal with various difficult questions—”

Kelly groans. “Mr. Whitmer, you and I know that there’s one simple answer for everything.”

He smiles. “As Mencken said, ‘For every problem there exists a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong.” The class has a good laugh at Kelly’s expense. She blushes angrily. He gestures for the class to quiet down. “One thing we have to deal with in life

“Here’s a question to ponder over: Imagine that you had to make a choice. One, you can choose to live a long life, but on the condition that you would have to endure boredom for the rest of your life. Two, you can choose live a life of perfect happiness, except that you would die exactly one year later. If you had to make a choice between these two and only these two, which would you choose?”

“I’d die tomorrow if it means I’ll be with Jesus!” blurts out Kelly. Some of her classmates laugh at her; others groan.

Jennifer sighs. “Kelly, suicide bombers think like that.” The class bursts out in laughter; Mr. Whitmer has to gesture the class to quiet down and Kelly to refrain from hitting Jennifer.

“Okay, let’s do it this way. Which of you would rather live a long but boring life? Raise your hands.” Most of the students in the class raise their hands. Shira, Leila, Jennifer, Robert, and Fiona do not. Leila shakes her head. “You don’t agree, Leila. Can you tell us why?”

“It seems none of you know how horrible and soul-destroying boredom can get. I’ve attempted suicide before because I felt so bored it hurt.”

“You actually have a point there. Boredom, in fact, is a form of pain, intended to force us to get up and do something interesting. It’s extremely overvalued by the dreary ‘Puritan work ethic’ on which our nation was built and, as Leila pointed out, it can indeed kill. So, Leila, you would be willing to live just one more year for the sake of perfect happiness?”


Kelly snaps back, “But you tried to kill yourself five times, Leila!”

“I’m actually not afraid of death. Maybe I should be afraid, being that I don’t believe we exist after death. Most people are, even if they do believe in an afterlife. I don’t, yet I’m not. And if I could just live a life of perfect bliss for just one year, I’d gladly die at the end of it.”

“But you’re too young to die!” gasps Mimi.

“People die young all the time, Mimi. From accidents, disease, being killed by other people or eaten by wild animals... Some young people feel so old they try to die. Nature doesn’t care how long we live, only that we reproduce our species—”

“But God cares!” protests Kelly.

Leila glares back at her. “God cares only about his chosen few, Kelly. Everybody else, all seven billion of them, belong by definition to Satan, so He’ll always be trying to destroy them. Even though the alleged Mayan prophecies failed to pan out, the current trendy rumor among the eschatologists has it that God plans to destroy the world by fire, since he failed by flood before.”

Kelly sighs, throws up her arms, and storms out the door, making sure to slam it.

When Mr. Whitmer asks the class who would choose the long-life option, most of the students still raise their hands. But this time Courtney, Seika, Cory, Kio, and Polly keep theirs down. After agonizing for several seconds, Mimi lowers hers and blushes. She smiles at Harumi, and Harumi lowers her hand. When the light comes on with a shock in Dorian’s head and she finally understands what he’s saying, she decides she’s willing to face everybody else’s questions and lowers her hand.

first period. When the substitute teacher enters wearing a Nazi uniform, Jennifer bursts out laughing.

“And who do you think you are?’ he snaps.

Jennifer turns to Shira and says conspiratorially, “Excuse me while I shift into Evil Fräulein Mode.” She sashays up to the sub and says in an exaggerated German accent, “I am callt Ilsa, She-Volf of Hollyvoodt!” The other students laugh, even Kelly.

“I’m not here to play games, Fräulein Richter-Thomas.”

“Zen vhy are you playing games mit Der Führer’s Reich like a dummkopf? Could it be — you’re a Chew?” The sub’s jaw drops to the floor in shock. The students laugh uncontrollably.

lunch. The freshman class president, Lady Bird Penner (her full name), is, like her mother, a Southern belle of the most florid variety. Her stated goal is to marry a lord, though this might be a bit of vicarious living on the part of her mother, who married a mere Navy captain. Most people are afraid to make fun of her because, beyond her family’s military and Corporate connections, she has some very dangerous friends (if you know what I mean). Still, Shira and Jennifer are not most people.

She assaults them as they sandwich-hug Mimi. They glare at her. “And what was that for?” says Shira with a warning. Expecting a confrontation, a crowd of students in blue begins to gather around them.

Lady crosses her arms stares back. “I should be askin’ you people that.”

“Excuse me, your ladyship, but that is called a ‘hug.’. As in what friends do to friends who just lost their best friends? But I don’t expect you people to understand that. You’re way too caught up in your imperious egos.”

Lady gasps. “Well, I say!

Jennifer clamps her hands together in front of her chin, imitates Lady’s gasp, and says in an even more florid aristocratic Southern accent, “Well, what do you say?” Several kids in the growing crowd laugh.

“Are you two makin’ fun o’ me?”

Together, Shira and Jennifer say, “Yes.”

“You people are actin’ like peasants!” Lady turns her head with delicate contempt. “A lady keeps her distance.”

“You know we don’t have a ladylike bone in our bodies, Lady Lady,” says Shira. Several kids chuckle and giggle at her preferred nickname for Lady.

Jennifer flicks out an ornamental Chinese fan, puts the back of her hand to her forehead, and falls back sighing into Shira’s arms, pretending to faint. Then she opens the fan and fans herself delicately. Shira stands her back up.

“That’s not funny, Jennifer!” protests Lady. “Stop that this instant!”

Jennifer mock swoons again, this time for the crowd; their titters grow into laughs. Angrily, Lady turns from them and flounces her way down the hall. The crowd stops laughing and parts to let her leave; they make way because they don’t want to risk getting in trouble with her family.

after school. Several girls, including the female members of Team Bremelo, stay behind to shower together in the girls’ locker room near the pool. It still smells freshly built. Shira notices that even though Mimi is showing the courage simply to join them, she remains very reluctant to take off her clothes in front of them. After Shira puts her gym clothes into their bag and puts it in her locker, instead of heading straight for the showers she walks over to the furiously blushing Mimi.

Shira puts a comforting hand on Mimi’s shoulder. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Mimi is too afraid to speak. She can only shake her head. Shira hugs her, making her blush deeper. She lets go and says, “You can do it, Mimi. You know you’re among friends who don’t care what you’re wearing as long as you’re naked in the shower.”

“But I can’t—”

Shira stares deep into Mimi’s eyes. “Yes, you can do it. You’re here to do it. Just take a deep breath and put your clothes into your locker and walk to the shower as if you had no fear.”


“Pretend it’s totally normal for you. Act as if.” Shira winks, then leaves to shower.

“Okay...” Reluctantly, Mimi takes off her clothes and puts them into her locker. She turns to face the showers, takes a deep breath, says “This is normal for me” under her breath, and walks to the showers. She can feels several pairs of eyes pointed at her. She blushes even redder and reminds herself, This is normal. Then she hears the other girls applaud and cheer her. For the first time in her life, she realizes that she no longer needs to feel embarrassed even when no one can see her. For these girls, she realizes, this kind of thing is normal. She feels an elation she has never felt before. She walks proudly to the showers next to Shira, turns on the nozzle, and flashes her a huge grin.

Shira pumps her fist. “Yeah! That’s the spirit!”

picnic. Evergreen Park, Bremerton’s oldest large public park, is in the center of town north of downtown. Usually, the park is crowded and all the gazebos are taken for picnics and meetings. The Bremeloes managed to snag the use of one of the larger ones for their team picnic on the last day of the year before the wet season begins because Wednesday is a slow day when most of the usual church groups go to their church buildings for Wednesday night Bible study.

Officially, this picnic is being held by Team Bremelo. The team members and their two faculty advisors reserved the gazebo in the team’s name. The picnic flies the team flag, with a yellow buffalo on a blue field. All team members are present, along with their advisors, Dave Whitmer and Elsie Currie. But they have brought along with them the nineteen active members of the Gay-Straight Alliance and their advisor, Sylvia Plame. They can get away with this because the memberships of Team Bremelo and the GSA overlap, and high school clubs are permitted to bring friends to their meetings. Shira, Karen, Jennifer, Connor, Cory, and all three Shelley siblings belong to both clubs. The remaining eleven consist of two lesbian couples, one gay couple, three unattached boys and one girl, and Lorelei Straight, who doubles as Team Bremelo’s senior class advisor. Karen has brought her boyfriend, Dexter Conway; Kio has brought Mimi and consider this in part an unofficial date.

Lorelei steps behind the podium Willa loaned the team, to applause and cheers. She gestures them to quiet down. “Thank you, everybody, for coming to our first annual team potluck!” Louder cheers; it takes Lorelei a bit longer to convince the crowd to quiet down. “I’m Lorelei, your senior class advisor. For our first order of business, I’m going to call up our team secretary, Polly, for roll call.”

As the picnickers cheer, Polly scampers up beside Lorelei and starts pointing. “Hmmm... Don’t say anything yet. I see four scrumptious boys...” Everybody laughs. “Cory, Connor, Rob, Kio, and I see Karen, and here’s our prettiest members, Leila, Fiona, and Jennifer, and there’s our cutest members, Sei-chan and Haru-chan, and our token evil member skipped out on us to go and do evil yet again, and oh, I’m Polly, our token magic user. Did I miss anybody? Oh yeah, there’s our new Team Auxiliary and their senior advisor Courtney, with, there’s Sky, and Lyssa and Chuck, who’ll be our game announcer tonight, and there’s Ken and Steve and Don and Lorine, and there’s Mimi with Kio, and Dexter’s with Karen, and there’s Eddie comparing moves with Cory, and there’s everybody else. Shira’s big sisters brought the meat and the fake burgers, so they’re doing all the cooking. I think we’ve got a big enough picnic for the biggest gazebo in the park, don’tcha think?” The whole crowd roars “Yeah!” in unison. “And it wouldn’t be a fight club picnic without a Team Challenge, so if anybody wants to prove themselves worthy to be a full member of our team, then join Shira as she unleashes her Official Go-Yo on the brittle ligaments of Stan Green and his gang of muscleboys. So everybody eat!” Everybody neglects to cheer as they rush the food tables instead. No big fights ensue.

Shira, idly playing with her weighted yellow branded yo-yo that matches her school uniform, ambles up to Charlie and Desiree to watch them cook. Charlie kisses her and says, “So where’s Moms?”

“I convinced her that Uncle Charlie had special plans for her, so she decided to attend a weekend Green Cities conference down in San Fran, all paid for by the Wilder Foundation. It’s completely official, so she’s got deniability. Me, I’ll be staying with Alex and playing with her toys. Actually, Stan’s bringing some toys of his own, and I’ve got to play with ’em.”


“Automated Security Personnel.”

“You mean copbots?

“Running Windows, no less.”

Charlie crosses her arms and stares at her mischievous kid sister. “I hope you know what you’re doing.” The spatula she’s holding drips burger grease.

“Just watch.” Shira winks.

“Hey, everybody! The game’s starting!” yells Chuck. Her name is really Charlene, but everybody calls her Chuck to distinguish her from Charlie.

Desiree interrupts. “Hey, how’s the martial arts coming?”

“Oh, me?” replies Shira. “You know me. As for the others, Brandi, Eddie, and Ken are all really taken with our capoeira class, while Chuck and Lyssa are going for the Brazilian jujitsu ’cuz they’re huge MMA fans and that’s the style all their favorite fighters use. They’re bringing Marina with ’em. As for Steve, he’s starting to really like Schuyler, so when she explained to him that combat sambo is basically Soviet jujitsu with some ninjutsu thrown in, he started going with her to classes. They stick to it long enough, we may let ’em join the team. Why do you ask?”

“I’m hearing from hush-hush official channels that Grandpa’s thinking of adding martial arts to his gun-ban mania.”

“Like I’m surprised. An armed citizenry’s likely to hang the old bastard by his own entrails.”

“Speaking of which,” says Charlie, “I’m hearing rumors that Grandpa’s about to pay us a visit.”

“Rumors, Charlie? The official announcement’s already being unofficially leaked to Fox News as we speak. That’s why we sent Mom off on official business.”

Charlie and Desiree look at each other. Charlie says, “Well then, we’d better prepare us a welcoming party for Grandpa.”

“I’m already hard at work on it.” Shira winks.

Elsewhere, Eddie can’t keep his eyes off beautiful Robert. Slightly disturbed, Dexter says, “What are you looking that way at him for?”

“Hey,” Eddie says in his soft Jamaican accent, “you’ve got your taste in pretty girls, and I’ve got mine in pretty boys. It’s just how I’m wired. I mean, you’re handsome, but Rob Shelley needs to be naked.”

“I’ll second that,” says Shira, wandering by. “Let’s make it an official team resolution.” The straight and bi girls around them squeal in delight. Leila embraces him from behind and starts unbuttoning the jacket of his uniform.

“Hey, stop that!”

Leila grins wickedly. “No. Take that jacket off, or I’ll take it off for you.” Eddie, Dexter, and Cory look at each other, then hastily remove their jackets and undershirts. Soon, all the boys are shirtless, even Rob. He decides to give Eddie a hug. Eddie decides he’s in love with Rob.

Eight people can sit at one table. Don, Lorine, Connor, and Jennifer are sitting on one side of a half-empty table, so Eddie, Rob, Leila, and Shira sit on the other. Eddie, Cory, Dexter, and Kio sit at the next table. Marina stops by Jennifer and Shira’s end of the table and asks, “Do you guys think I’m a spy?”

“A spy?” says Shira. “Why would anybody think you’re a spy?”

“Well, Bart and his boys are saying all Mexicans are working for the drug gangs...”

“Actually, the lamestream’s been spinning that all brown people are terrorists working for the Caliphate and all black people are New African spies and all Asians are Chinese spies, just because we’re not white. That’s the Eugenics Institute talkin’, girlfriend. Don’t believe a word of what they spin, but always watch your back.”

“Shira,” says Eddie, “they’re saying all black people are New Africa. Problem is, I’m gay and they’re a cult.”

“That’s merely how government works, Eddie. Every big chief’s gotta have his tribe to rule everybody else. That goes double for the Great White Father which art in Holy City.”

“And that reminds me of one other thing. Jen, how come you get to marry your own mother when us gay guys get punished for just looking at each other?”

“Well,” says Jennifer, “Willa and I just happen to possess some very dangerous secrets about some very powerful men. Their desire to keep their secrets helped us fund the Exception we needed to marry. The Eugenics Institute has recently been opening up to the new technologies that will make same-sex reproduction possible. We managed to convince them to accept incestuous same-sex couples because they don’t breed. And that’s how I was able to marry my mother, change eugenics policy, and start a trend that so far the Church has been unable to stop. As for my cousins...” Everybody looks over at Charlie and Desiree, who hug and kiss each other openly now that the food is cooked. “Well, they’re princesses of the realm, which gives them sovereign immunity. The Becket blood they inherited from the Holy Prophet Drusilla herself puts them above the law, so they can even get away with murder. It just so happens that they chose to defy their mother by getting married.”

“Come to think of it,” Shira adds, “I think they’ve gotten away with murder a few times already.” Lyssa runs over and nervously taps her on the shoulder, then points at a group of angry elderly and middle-aged women, led by Mrs. Muriel Green, mother of Stan and Bart, stomping toward the picnickers.

“Why, speak of the devil...”

“But that also means Dru can get away with killing us, too. She’s sending her assassins as we speak.” Shira stands up and yells, “Hey, Bremeloes! It’s a church lady rock party! Let’s play catch!” She runs out to meet the intruders, followed by four shirtless boys and five more sailor-suited girls; they form a line to stop them as her sisters stroll casually in their direction, Desiree taking her kubotan and Charlie a meat tenderizing mallet. She takes out her Go-Yo to play with it and says to their leader, “Hiya, ladies! I see you brought a few hard gifts from your cult guru, my Evil Stepmother. Thing is, you can’t throw ’em fast enough or hard enough.”

The church ladies gasp in horror at hearing the insult thrown at their object of worship by one of her worst enemies. Mrs. Green shrieks, “The nerve you children have! Such blasphemy shall not be tolerated, especially from half-naked mudblood whores!”

Shira laughs. “Blasphemy? I thought God was a man!” She puts her Go-Yo away, turns around, holds her hands to her mouth like a megaphone, and shouts at the gazebo, “Everybody! Sharia alert! The dress code nazis are here! And they’re real Nazis, too!”

Charlie and Desiree pass through the line to face their mother’s devotees. The church ladies gasp in horror at their near nakedness. “Well, well, well,” mocks Charlie. “Look what Mommie Dearest decided to feed us.”

Desiree waves cheerily. “Hi, Mrs. Green, Mrs. Wilkinson, Mrs. Lawless, and the rest of you old hags!” She turns to the others. “Do you see what they’re carrying? I think they brought us a Challenge!”

Shira steps in front of her sisters and holds out her arms to stop them. “I’ll take ’em this time. We don’t want any more deaths Mommie Dearest can sue us over.”

“All right,” Charlie sighs.

“Have it your way,” adds Desiree. They slip back behind the line of Bremelo fighters.

“Back me up!” shouts Shira to her fighters. She turns to face the pious intruders and holds her left arm outstretched, Go-Yo in hand. “Get out of here, you hideous old prudes, and go tell that evil woman we ain’t taking no shit from your cult!”

Mrs. Green’s rage robs her of the ability to speak, so she takes a throwing stone out of her bag and throws it at Shira as hard as she can. Shira flicks her Go-Yo on a collision course with the rock. It ricochets the rock into another church lady’s knee; clutching the injured knee, she falls to the ground screaming in pain. Shira brings the Go-Yo back into her outstretched hand, grins, and says, “As a matter of fact, I’m ten times faster than the six of you combined. So why don’t you old ladies just go home and leave us in peace to let us eat our greasy picnic food that’s bad for us. Okay?” She lets her arm drop to her side.

Mrs. Green turns around and yells, “Stanley!” Sure enough, Stan Green and his group of five muscleboys are getting out of their evil-looking Hummer H1, ready to take on Team Bremelo. They rush over to the disturbed old ladies and quickly take away the fallen woman. Mother lets son take her place, and the church ladies haste for their cars. Stan points at Shira and howls, “How dare you try and hurt my mother and the elder ladies of my church!”

Shira answers him with a wide-eyed grin. “So those were your church ladies, whose pastor is my Evil Stepmother!”

“Don’t you dare speak ill of our Shepherd! We’ll punish you for that!”

“You can try, Stan baby. Hell, let all your ’roid-ragin’ friends join in. I’m ready.”

The bullyboys return and pick up the bags of stones the ladies dropped, then start throwing a hailstorm of rocks at Shira. She spins her Go-Yo around and deflects rocks in every direction. The other Bremeloes flee to the relative safety of the gazebo. Jennifer yells, “Incoming!”

When the bags are empty, they rush Shira. She swings the Go-Yo upward into Stan’s jaw, sending him stumbling into the fighter next to him and knocking down them and another. She spins it almost invisibly as they get up and reassemble. “Did you know you just crashed a fight club picnic?” she taunts.

They turn around to find ten fighters staring down the six of them. The Bremeloes let out a loud kiai and shift together into their fighting stances. Team Bremelo and the New Wine Power Pushers are about to fight a Team Challenge when suddenly the pain-inducing sound of a sonic disruptor array sends everybody to the ground writhing, their hands held tightly to their ears in vain. When the sound stops and they’re able to hear again, they climb to their feet to see the mad Prophet Byron Scofield, holding Ole-Ole Olson’s shovel like a sword and flanked by five security androids wielding automatic rifles. The sonic disruptors are part of their vocal mechanisms. Along with smoking jacket, “Spiritual Warrior” T-shirt, and jeans, Scofield wears a top hat.

Rebel Styles!” he screams.

Shira looks at him funny and says, “What the hell you talkin’ ’bout, massa?”

“Devil woman! Thou hast corrupted these people and led them on the path to Hell! Repent or burn forever! But you, Rebel Styles — you have to die!

She knocks off his top hat with her Go-Yo, then puts it away and quick-draws her Droid Mega. “I’m calling my lawyer, and then I’m calling a psychiatrist.” She thumbs the address book icon on the screen and then Angela’s entry.

The security androids drop their rifles to the ground.

Surprised at the sound, Scofield turns around and shrieks, “What are you doing? Pick those guns back up and shoot that woman! I command you!”

The robots put their hands to their heads and push upwards. With a sickening sound of ripping flesh, followed by the snapping of steel endoskeletons and electrical circuits, they pull their heads right off their bodies until they hold them high in their fully outstretched arms, dripping red lubricant and blue coolant. The now dead machines stand motionless and useless. Shira turns off the phone’s camera and holds it to her ear. “Did you catch that?”

The entire Team Bremelo group explodes in wild cheering. Stan’s gang stands paralyzed in shock, staring at the robot suicides. But Byron Scofield stares at Shira with an undisguised hatred and bloodlust. “Are you pleased with yourself, Rebel Styles? Your magic destroyed God’s property! Now you’re damned!

Shira stares him in the eye. “Haven’t you heard, massa? There is no God. And the Devil is his dick!

Scofield runs screaming at her and tries to brain her with the shovel. She dodges the shovel and hits his knee with the Go-Yo. Seemingly oblivious to the pain, he spins the shovel around in an attempt to cut her head off with it. She ducks and flings the Go-Yo up into his jaw, sending him flying backward. When he lands, the shovel escapes his control. He struggles to get back to his feet, but Shira runs to stand over him and knock his head with a downward blow from the Go-Yo. He falls face first onto the ground, unconscious.

A horrified Polly runs up to Shira. “Oh, no! Now we’re all in trouble!”

Shira laughs. “Oh no, we aren’t. There’s been a police report filed on the theft of five police robots by a certain deranged religious nut. Since he’s responsible for the robots, we won’t even be charged. If you don’t believe me, just ask my lawyer.” She winks.

The five bullyboys run as fast as they can back to their Hummer. Stan Green stares at Shira and does not move. He tries to wrap his mind around what he just saw, but cannot. He tries to speak, but cannot.

Shira stares back at him with a look that says he’s an idiot. “What are you looking at?”

He says nothing. He runs to join his comrades, then slips into the driver’s seat. He turns the massive vehicle on, and then they are gone.

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Copyright © 2010 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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[Revision 1.1, 1/7/11: Continuity error corrected after the restoration of lost scenes to Chapter 4.]

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