The Virginia was cruising through the rift at speed factor 7. I arranged a bouquet of my favorite flowers in the Captain’s Quarters when the door chimed. “Come in,” I bid. Scorpainia came in.
“We’ll be in Mario’s universe in two hours,” she reported.
“Appreciate it,” I reciprocated. She then turned to leave. “Hey, wait!” I called. “Don’t you want anything? Tea? Sandwich?”
“No thank you,” replied Scorpainia. “I have…other things to attend to.”
“…Okay,” I shrugged. The door shut when Scorpainia left. She’s never been this dodgy before. Then again, she DOES have a lot on her plate…as did I. At that point, I made a decision. I knew the consensus was that we wouldn’t tell the new guys about Megumi’s emotional collapse, but my conscience was kicking me ever since we made the decision. Now may not be the best time, but better than during battle. I headed to Liam’s quarters and knocked on the door.
“Aye?” he called.
“It’s Emily,” I answered. The door opened and I saw Liam with grease on his face.
“What can I do for you, Captain?” he asked.
“May I come in?” I asked.
“Sure, go ahead,” he bid as he stepped aside. I looked around and saw various tools out while a machine was on a workbench.
“You settled in quick,” I mused.
“Aye, that I did,” chuckled Liam. I then sighed.
“Okay, I gotta say this or I won’t say it at an appropriate time,” I declared. “Liam, we didn’t tell you our entire history. We left a part out.”
“Oh?” asked Liam.
“When we picked up Hongo and the others,” I explained, “ we left them in the dark about Vortech. It came to bite us in the ass and Megumi went through an emotional breakdown. We have a history of keeping secrets, I’m sorry to say. The general vote was not to tell you new guys, but it doesn’t sit right with me. If this changes anything…”
“Honestly, you proved me wrong by telling me this,” interrupted Liam.
“…Huh?” I quizzed, utterly confused.
“I thought you were just using your parents to cover up why you were involved,” replied Liam, “that you were forced by X-PO. The fact that you went with your gut just now proved me wrong. I have a habit of making assumptions and it fractured a few friendships in my life.”
“…I honestly expected you to leave us right now, but I’m glad I was proven wrong,” I sighed in relief.
“No more secrets then?” quizzed Liam.
“No more secrets,” I assured.
“Then perhaps you can clear something up for me,” directed Liam. “Where did you get this ship?! Was there a sale at the shops?!”
“I take it Death spun the ‘Spoils of War’ yarn?” I asked. “Nothing like that. The Horsemen were building the Virginia as a last-resort during the Vortech Wars. We didn’t need it, so they just gave it to us for us to take the occasional joyride or have a pleasure cruise. We still maintain the weapons just in case we need them. Given what’s going on, we may need them soon.”
“So, what did you do for a living again? Before you got your Vortex Driver?” asked Liam.
“I did Let’s Plays on YouTube,” I replied.
“…I went into the wrong line of work,” muttered Liam. Just then, Majel came onto the screen.
“I hate to interrupt,” she began, “but junction J-7 is out again. I think I need a 9 volt in there.”
“Hold on,” I replied. “I got this.” We headed into the hall and found the junction. I then took out a tool and fired a lightning bolt into it, making it glow again.
“Thank you!” bid Majel.
“You got a tool that can shoot lightning?!” yelped Liam.
“Yeah, don’t you?” I asked.
“…No!” replied Liam.
“You don’t?” quizzed Majel.
“…And you do?!” squeaked Liam.
“Of course, I do,” boasted Majel. “One of my weapons can do that.” Just then, something chimed. “Hold up, I’m picking up a vessel off the starboard bow,” muttered Majel.
“Can you identify it?” I quizzed.
“It almost looks like the Tarlaxian scout ship, Tranzek, but the mass and shape aren’t exact,” reported Majel.
“Let’s see it,” I directed. Majel showed us the vessel. It looked like a mean version of a science vessel. “All hands, to your stations!” I called over the comms. We all made our way to the bridge while R9 and Liam headed to Main Engineering. “All stop,” I ordered.
“Answering all stop,” reported Tanisha. The Virginia stopped and took a scan of the vessel. The results came up on screen, matching what Majel said earlier.
“On screen,” I commanded. The vessel appeared on screen and shocked us all.
“Is…that the Tranzek?” asked Mikhail.
“It looks like they glued debris onto it,” muttered Scorpainia. The upgraded vessel then moved off.
“After it,” I ordered. We followed it until we arrived in Mario’s world, in orbit around Mario’s planet. How did I know it was Mario’s planet? The Comet Observatory was in orbit as well.
“We’re being hailed by the Observatory,” reported Mikhail.
“Let’s hear it,” I directed. Rosalina then came up on screen.
“I’m glad your vessel responded,” mused Rosalina. “Tell me, what brings you here?”
“I can explain the full story later, Ma’am,” I replied, “but our immediate priority is the vessel we were in pursuit of, the one orbiting the planet as well.”
“Then, perhaps we should work together and find out what’s going on with that vessel,” suggested Rosalina.
“A good idea,” I answered. “We’ll maneuver close and attempt to dock with it and pick up what the crew’s doing.”
“The crew?” asked Rosalina. “What crew? I’m not getting any bio-readings from the ship.” Scorpainia gasped. I turned around with a quizzed look.
“If…if she’s not getting any bio-readings,” stammered Scorpainia, “then…they’ve either taken their equipment offline or…or they’re…dead.” That raised a few red flags for us.
“Ma’am, we’ll still investigate this,” I affirmed. “That’s supposed to be a manned vessel. We’ll report our findings when we’ve finished. Saunders out.” The call ended. “Scorpainia, is there an airlock on that kind of vessel?”
“Middle of the port side,” replied Scorpainia.
“Tanisha, maneuver us alongside the Tranzek’s port side,” I directed. “Line our docking tube with the airlock
“God, I HATE parallel parking!” grumbled Tanisha. We used maneuvering thrusters only to get alongside.
“I just had a thought,” called Hongo.
“What’s up?” I replied.
“The vessel DID move, right?” asked Hongo.
“…Yes, we pursued it to this universe,” I confirmed, not sure where Hongo’s line of questioning was going.
“Then, that means they have some sort of power,” continued Hongo.
“…Then why aren’t they acting on us moving?” I asked.
“Well, if we’re parallel to the ship,” replied Hongo, “our weapons couldn’t effectively hit the vessel. I mean, they WERE attacked before we departed. Maybe…”
“Oh no!” I gasped, realizing Hongo’s theory. The thing that attacked the Tranzek may still be onboard!
“I’m detecting an energy spike from their weapons!” called Amelia.
“Hard about!” I shouted. “Raise shields!” Unfortunately, Majel couldn’t raise shields fast enough as the Tranzek hit us. The lights then came on. They were blood-red instead of the standard white. The enemy vessel continued firing on us. “Hongo, return fire!” I ordered. Hongo’s fingers danced across his console, firing on the enemy vessel.
“Direct hit!” reported Hongo. “No effect! The enemy’s shields are too powerful!”
“Majel! Shields! Now!” I commanded.
“Shield power’s dropping like cement!” answered Majel. Scorpainia activated the comms on her armrest.
“Engineering! What’s going on?!” she demanded.
“Things are happening all at once!” reported Liam. “I’m trying to…” He was interrupted by an explosion. “Damn it! we needed ‘at! I’ll caa ye back!” He ended the call.
“R9, where are you?!” I called.
“On my way to Main Engineering!” replied R9’s voice. Good. Liam needs all the help he can get.
“Hongo, weapons status!” I barked.
“They keep adapting to every shot we throw at them!” answered Hongo. “We can’t penetrate their shields!”
“Tanisha, move us so we can fire the graviton launcher!” I ordered.
“The graviton launcher doesn’t have enough power to fire!” countered Majel. “In fact, we’re losing weapons power all together!”
“I don’t care!” I snapped. “We have to hit them! We…” the enemy vessel got in front of us. “Ah hell! EVASIVE MANEUVERS!” Tanisha tried her best, but the ship wasn’t moving fast enough! We still got hit!
“We can’t fight in this condition!” called Scorpainia. “We have to retreat!”
“Tanisha, get us out of here! Floor it!” I ordered, thinking that Scorpainia’s suggestion was a good one. I then called Main Engineering. “Liam, divert all power to engines!”
“I’ll do what I can,” replied Liam, “but some of the engines are down! We’re not moving so fast!” Just then, the Comet Observatory moved between us and the enemy vessel. She appeared on screen.
“Get out of here! We’ll hold them off!” she called.
“You don’t have weapons!” I countered.
“No, but we have shields! Now go!” insisted Rosalina.
“Intruder on the bridge!” shouted Scorpainia. We all turned to see a woman wearing a demonic looking Kamen Rider suit. Hongo then struck his pose.
“Rider…” he began.
“Stay on weapons!” I called as I drew my i.d. tag. “This one’s…”
“Such bravado,” spoke the demonic Kamen Rider. The voice…made me freeze. I recognized that voice. It haunted and hunted me during high school. I saw the owner of that voice cast into Hell itself…and still I heard it from that Kamen Rider. “Something wrong?” taunted the Kamen Rider as her hand moved to her belt, a demon’s head. “You’ve boasted that you could defeat me anywhere, anytime. I must say, you fat hog, you haven’t proven that to me today.” She closed the belt’s demon mouth, making the eyes close and the suit vanish in smoke. As it cleared, the woman underneath was revealed to be…
“Hillbilly Heather!” I whispered.
“That name!” snarled my, once late, arch-nemesis, Heather Richards. “That was never my name! You spat that name at me and it stuck!”
“How?” I gasped.
“I always endure!” hissed Heather, guessing the context of my question. “After you cast me into Hell, I was put into the outer ring of Hell’s seventh circle, condemned to forever swim in a river of boiling blood and fire!”
“Violence against people and property,” I recalled from Dante’s Inferno.
“I was not about to let those centaurs keep me down,” continued Heather, “so I ignored the pain of the arrows, mounted one, and charged off along the riverbank. Some demons didn’t like that, so they pursued me. Shocker Rift then came after me to try and enslave me again, so I managed to rip a Combatman’s skull out of his head and beat him to death with it!”
“That doesn’t seem physically possible!” countered Pestilence.
“That’s what the demons screamed as I beat the Combatman to death,” replied Heather. “The skull then turned into my new belt but needed souls to power it. I simply helped myself to those that swam in that river with me as well as the demons, centaurs, and Combatmen, then transformed into the Kamen Rider you just saw so I could escape Hell. I don’t exactly like using that word ‘Kamen’ or the word ‘Henshin’, given that they’re impure…but the multiverse proved that it hates purity. So, better to burn it and start all over again! I escaped Hell, blindsided a Shocker Rift saucer, intercepted the Tarlaxian scout ship, and seized control. The debris flung around by Vortech’s Rift Loop made the ship into a superb weapon!”
“What about the Tarlaxian crew?” I asked.
“After I took over their minds,” explained Heather, “they became excellent extensions of my will!”
“You destructive, filth-spewing…!” I snarled.
“Don’t assume you’re alive for idle chit-chat, you stubborn sow!” interrupted Heather. “You haven’t yet taken my place in Hell because I want you to know that it was I who defeated you, I who conquered Hell itself!”
“What now?” I hissed.
“Now?” asked Heather. “Now I kill everyone on this ship, destroy it, and use its junk to enhance my own!”
“Don’t you want to take it intact?” I asked. “You don’t need to destroy it OR us.”
“What I want,” growled Heather, “is to peel the skin from your bones! I want to tie you to a cross and burn you alive! I want to hurl stones at your helpless form! WHAT I WANT……I want many things; you sack of fat and juices! But, every time I try to prolong your agony, you always come out on top! No, you will die by my hand and you will die quickly so I don’t have to see you a second longer! Take this thought with you as you fall to Hell! As I swam in infinite heat with the taste of blood flooding my taste buds, the only thing that kept me from succumbing to madness, as the rest of the damned had long since done, was my hatred! My singular hatred of YOU!” She called up her ship. “Fire!” she commanded. Just then, she saw, on screen, her vessel’s lights flickering. “Oh, for…WHAT’S GOING ON OVER THERE?!” she shrieked as she vanished in a ball of fire.
“Floor it!” I ordered Tanisha. As we scrambled to get away, I noticed Scorpainia standing as still as a statue. “Scorpainia?!” I called. “SCORPAINIA!!”
“We’re drifting too close to the planet!” reported Tanisha. “I don’t have enough power to get us out of the atmosphere!” That shook Scorpainia into action.
“Make the landing as steady as possible!” she shouted.
“Releasing landing struts!” called Tanisha. “Deploying air brakes!” The Virginia’s landing struts were built like skis, so we were going to slide a good distance. The air brakes slowed us down a bit and helped level our descent.
“Do we have enough power to maintain orbit?!” I screamed at the spider monster.
“Yes,” droned the spider monster.
“Then keep us in orbit while I repair things!” I commanded.
“Understood, Pure One,” replied the spider monster.
Like I mentioned, our descent was rough. The impact was lessened, but still hard enough to make us bounce around. We skidded a good mile until we came to the outskirts of Toad Town. The Toads gathered around, hoping for survivors. Peach, Mario, Luigi, Daisy, and Rosalina came up. Rosalina was explaining the situation as Peach directed the crisis teams to get us out of the wreck. We all managed to survive, albeit a little dizzy. My mind still focused on two things: Heather’s resurrection and Scorpainia’s freezing up.