"All right, listen up!" Pippi called everyone's attention. "And not another word from either of you two, Senna and Indy…"
Javert nodded at this.
Indy narrowed her eyes at her friend, but did her best to comply for as long as she could manage.
Pippi continued. "We don't have much in the way of provisions along with us, and after everything that's just happened, getting some rest and nourishment is next on our agenda. Otherwise, we'll be in rather poor condition to face whatever else to come our way."
Madonna Gale nodded vigorously. "Yes, I'm famished."
Pippi nodded. "We'll need to find food and a good source of drinking water around here as quickly as possible. Or - take another trip. Even I'm fading, and inspector Javert is the only one here who is familiar with this place enough to get what we need, and I don't want to put this all on one person.
Javert looked at Pippi out of the corner of his eye. "Meaning what?" he countered.
"Exactly what I said." Pippi replied.
"Save your pity," Javert said, narrowing his eyes slightly.
"Consider it saved." Pippi said, giving him a knowing look. "But let's be practical. You had a near brush with death from hypothermia, and may still be healing from internal injuries, and with all due respect, you look as pale and peeked as the rest of this company."
"Except for me." Matrix quipped, grinning at Pippi.
She grinned back. "Yes, Matrix, but you are another sort altogether."
Pippi, still calm and candid as ever, continued. "The one who needs our mercy, Mr. Javert, is Mira. You saw what happened to her. This is why I think Bez and Capri should be the ones to go, and bring back some provisions for us. Especially something nourishing, easy to digest, and hydrating, for Mira."
"Oh, that's right, we must absolutely take care of that self-conceited, creepy-haired Mary Sue while the rest of us all die of thirst and malnutrition around her!" Senna sniped.
"Senna, enough!" Pippi suddenly snapped in an unusually harsh tone that startled several present.
Indy promptly moved toward Senna, giving her hair a vicious yank. "We won't die of hunger, Senna, or at least I won't!"
"Because YOU'll be the main course!" Indy blustered.
Bez snickered, miming the action of sharpening a knife. "Mmm-mmm, and I'll help carve 'er up!" She added.
Indy subsided to grin back at Bez.
Senna looked helplessly at Pippi. "Aren't you going to yell at her? She pulled my hair!"
"No, Senna," said Pippi sternly.
Senna could see the contempt on Pippi's face. The message was clear, Pippi probably thought Senna deserved it.
"You got a huge neurosis about hair, Senna, like you think ours is stupid and yours is sacred!Oh please!" "This comment set off a collective snicker from the group, some of them all out chuckled. Indy's bluntness, plus the mental image of Senna trying to bow to her own hair was too much. And don't call me Indy!" the Who woman snapped in conclusion, throwing a dirty glare at Senna.
Javert looked puzzled. "I thought that was your name…?"
Indy subsided and looked at Javert. "It is - but it's short for Indianna."
"Oh, Indy's just out to give me a hard time." Senna mumbled.
This time, Indy exploded. She grabbed Senna by both ears and roughly twisted them. "Call me that again and I'll - "
"You're pathetic! Indy continued ranting. "You can sure dish out a whipping, but you can't take a few little cuffs!"
Javert, at the end of his patience with these two mortal enemies, approached Indy. "Time out. I see we will have to keep you two separated and watch you continuously so you don't kill each other and drive the rest of us mad!" As he spoke, he physically pried Indy from Senna.
"Thank you, Inspector Javert." Senna said as sweetly as she could manage, while looking up at him with big doe eyes.
"Don't thank me yet, girl." Javert hissed, then turned his back to Senna.
Bez laughed. "Boy, did she pick the wrong guy to try sweetening up."
"Dang straight." Matrix said with a grin.
"Clueless or what?" Ameh scoffed.
"Oh, this gives me an idea." said Capri. "I'd like Indy to come along with us when we go get the supplies."
"Uh, eh?" Indy looked puzzled at Capri.
"Some of us, obviously including you, have a bit of adrenalin to work off, and we could use another set of arms to help pack up the stuff to bring back here." Capri explained.
"Want me to come as well?" asked Gretel.
"No, thanks." said Capri.
So, after a little more discussion, the group split and got smaller as Bez, Capri and Indy set off.
Capri led her two companions to a shady place where they weren't likely to be seen, and then transported them first to the Nautilus where they got a pack of food and drinks ready.
"Gah, what a time." said Capri.
"Yes, sheesh!" said Indy.
"Well, between you two, and me, I don't know what to do about that evil Senna brat, much as I'd like to wring her vile little neck." said Capri. "But I think you did right by both her and Javert, Bez."
Bez smiled. "Heh! Thanks." She shook her head, expression darkening. "What're the odds we'd run into such polar opposites though? Javert and that Senna worm..." Reaching subconsciously to her Burner, she added, "I'd love to give her a good thrashing."
"Join the club. That chick is one sick - " Capri was cut off by Indy,
"She's a sick Tonya Clone and it should've been her in the river instead of Mr. Javert!"
Capri blew out a breath. She was getting the feeling Senna was bringing back some very unpleasant memories for her companions besides just the natural horror of seeing what was done to Mira. "I have no idea how she ended up there let alone getting Mira there as well, but that wench better tread very lightly from here on in." She finally said.
While Capri, Bez and Indy were away, the others tossed around the idea of collecting water from the river or maybe a well if there was one near by.
At this, Pippi recollected something in the Les Miserables story about a well in the woods that Mme. Thenardier had sent Cossette to on a Christmas night. She mentioned the possibility, but Javert told her that it was quite a hike to get there from their camp.
The river was of course closer, but it was turbulent, and the bit of bank they had seen was steep, and likely a bit perilous for just anyone to navigate, especially when not in top condition.
Once they had enough food and drinks for the whole company, Capri transported them back to join the others. But she touched Indy's shoulder. "We'll leave this stuff here, and I'd like to go back home for a bit, check on NT and see if Ariel has anything else we might need. Indy, I'd like you to come with me."
Indy agreed, and once again, Capri lead her away and out of site to do another transport home.
While they were away, Bez set to getting food to everyone. "All right, soup's on!" She hollered. "Come 'n' get it!"
Everyone sorted through the various food items, and soon were off enjoying a well-deserved meal. Senna approached for some food. Bez gave her a withering glare that stopped her in her tracks.
"What, I don't get to eat anything?" She whined haughtily. "Sure, that's fair! I starve and that egotistical brat Mira gets treated like a queen!"
Bez rolled her eyes. "Would you shut up?" She growled. "You'll get what I say- and you'll like it. Understood?"
Senna pouted and didn't answer.
Bez scoffed and roughly threw a dense, foil-wrapped package at her. "There's your grub."
Senna wrinkled her nose at the package. "What is it?"
"Basic meal unit." Bez said matter-of-factly. "All the nutrients you need to stay alive, compressed into cube form."
Senna nibbled the cube and threw it to the ground. "I'm not eating that!" She wailed.
Ameh sneered at her.
Bez regarded her silently for a moment before a dark smile crept over her face. "Not hungry, eh?" She bent to retrieve the cube, taking a large bite of it as she straightened. "These things really don't taste half-bad, when you get used to them." She took another bite, pausing thoughtfully. "But I suppose you've never been in a position where such Spartan rations are regular- even a luxury." Her eyes glinted dangerously. "I have. Unless you want a first-hand taste of what that's like, I suggest you grow a spine and get over yourself." She tossed the half-eaten cube back to Senna. "Besides...you'll need the strength. You'll get your dues...from all of us."
"Straight up!" Ameh called out.
Bez turned away from Senna, who, after examining the cube with distaste, lobbed it at the back of Bez's head. No sooner had it hit Bez then she whirled around, knocked Senna's feet out from under her, and pinned her to the ground.
Ameh, Gretel and Madonna started a chorus of guffaws.
"Strike two." Bez hissed. "Strike one was that crap you pulled when we found you. You get one more strike, and YOU'RE OUT." She said the words with such furious conviction that even Senna momentarily considered her position.
However, as soon as Bez had released her, she went back to sulking.
It wasn't long before Capri returned, but with a different person.
"Oh, look who's back!" Ameh exclaimed, grinning. "But where's Indy?"
"Hehe!" the now restored NT giggled, coming toward the group with an armful of provisions which she set down near Matrix and Mira. "Indy's, well, back home, stuffing face." She produced an Ipod and turned on a video she had taken with it. She handed the Ipod over to Gretel and wasted no time taking out a bottle of something from the pack for Mira.
The video showed a kind looking dark-haired woman, holding and feeding a very contented looking baby with bright eyes and a mop of dark hair. It was Ariel and Baby Indy.
Javert, thankfully, didn't catch this, he was sitting some distance away, quietly looking at nothing in particular.
Several people looked at and were bemused by the video.
"I still do not remember exactly what happened or what I all missed," NT said quietly. However, it was clear Capri must've filled her in on some of it, for she went to see if Mira would take a drink right away. She did see Javert sitting a ways off, and tried not to let on any sign of recognition, excitement or anxiousness. She just continued looking at what she was focussing on for the moment.
Capri took Pippi and Bez aside to explain that since Indy had been the last person to see NT in her normal state before the music dimension had effected her so bizarrely, Capri thought she'd try turning Indy into a baby, with a touch of Baby NT's hand. Magic and dimensional radiation reactions might work once again to put NT right. Capri would unenchant Indy later. And anyway, it was good for keeping Indy and Senna far apart.
With Matrix's help, NT got Mira to drink a little, and then go back to sleep.
Gretel eyed the cube meal still lying on the ground. She went, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pocket, though not before smelling it out of curiosity. It too, was something out of the ordinary, and since Senna defiantly wasted it, Gretel might as well take advantage and satisfy her curiosity. Besides, it might come in handy later on if Senna decided to gripe about being hungry.
NT stayed near Mira, because Senna was intent on lurking close by, and there was no telling what the brat might do if everyone had their backs turned at some point.
Most everyone took time to eat and have a rest.
Senna hadn't remembered NT from the very brief meeting in the the magic world just before Tonya's take-down. She walked up to Mira while NT was right there, and hissed in her ear, startling her awake "I'm sorry about the whip, Mira,"
NT narrowed her eyes, and hastily finished the bit of springroll she'd been eating.
Senna continued sharply. "I should've used a scourge!"
Suddenly, NT sprang to her feet and took a fierce hold of Senna.
"Scourge?" she hissed, glowering at Senna.
"Hey I wasn't talking to you." Senna protested.
"Scourge…" NT repeated, still staring at Senna.
"I'm just letting off a little steam okay?" Senna tried again.
"Scourge." NT said, tightening her grip and twisting one of Senna's wrists, still glaring the whole time.
"Ouch!" Senna complained.
NT wasn't as loud and blustery as Indy, but she was by no means any less disgusted. "I know about what you did to her already." she said firmly. "If you could get your hands on a whip, I don't doubt you could somehow manage to get hold of a scourge as well. But you make one move in that direction and you'll get into a pile of trouble - with me if not anyone else!" NT hissed with a frightening ferocity.
"What's the big deal? I was just - " Senna tried to make light of it and throw NT off that way. But suddenly she winced and cried out as if in pain.
NT positively glowered. She looked as if she was about to strangle Senna right there and then. Her voice rising considerably, she continued. "The big deal is that you actually caused serious pain and injury to - "
"I just wanted to humble her a little!" Senna squirmed.
"Spare all your lame excuses, Senna, you do NOT, EVER torture someone and think you are in the right to defend the act!"
For once, Senna didn't mouth back. She was feeling inexplicably very uncomfortable, physically, and wishing someone or something would come to whisk her and Mira away from this unnerving group of fierce people who clearly detested her.
NT broke the silence. "Where did you get the whip in the first place? How did you even get here? I'm not letting you go until you give me an answer."
Senna fought, but NT held on. They struggled for a while, Senna making the most commotion, NT remaining grimly silent. Finally, NT had Senna backed against a tree.
"I got the whip from this Bamatabois guy? I paid him to get it from the jail." Senna finally said.
At this, Javert took an interest and quietly drew near.
"Bamatabois?" NT said accusingly. "You're mixed up with that creep - I might've known."
"Don't look at me like that! Senna protested.
"So how did you get here?"
"A friend who found me in some other place, brought me and then Mira - at my request."
"Who is this friend?"
"She said her name was Angelica. I didn't see her again after Bamatabois showed up and we got Mira. It was like one minute she was there, and then she wasn't."
NT nodded. "I don't know if you and Bamatabois can get arrested in this place for what you did, but you should be." With that, NT finally let Senna go. She walked away from Senna, back turned.
Bez had been watching the spectacle from afar and had noticed Javert's interest. She trotted over to Matrix.
"Well, this is painting a pretty picture." She said sarcastically.
Matrix nodded. "We've got that Bamatabois crumb and this Angelica to watch out for...and to catch."
Bez nodded. "Hey, Javert." She called.
He looked over at her and waited for her to speak.
"So, Bamatabois...we need to nab him, and you know the area the best. However, I'd say Angelica is our chief concern, since she seems to have some sort of magic powers, if she can disappear and transport people." Bez raised an eyebrow. "So, ya itchin' to bust some baddies, Mr. Inspector?"
Javert looked at her curiously and Bez let out an exasperated sigh. "Oh, you and Thande are two of a kind." She said. "If we ever need to split up, you two are so paired up."
Several others who caught the exchange, nodded and burst into chuckling.
"Anyway," Bez continued. "I have an idea." She turned to the others. Based on their facial expressions, NT had filled them in.
"Shoot." Gretel prompted.
"So, guys." Bez said, addressing the group. "I'm still not magic savvy, despite hanging out with you magicky guys. So, excuse me if this is a silly question: is there any way someone can perform a magic trace on Senna and Mira? Like, trace the transporty stuff back to the one who did it? And to Bamatabois, since he was transported too? 'Cause if we can do that, we can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak."
"Oh, where is my head?" Capri exclaimed. "Yes, there is! I'll get on that shortly and see what if anything I can find. Also, the first time we met Senna was when she got herself stuck in yet another world thanks to Nick. Angelica must've been the one to get her out of there and into this one."
"And we hadn't time to explore that place because of Tonya's holding Indy hostage." said Pippi, "But I remember coding Senna's world into my own transporter. If I could get us all there - "
"Then I could try to pick up what traces there are." Capri finished.
"Yes!" NT exulted.
"But first," Capri continued, "I'll do a trace right here in a bit."
"And I suppose you're gonna turn her into an empress," Senna said sullenly, "and me into a toad while you're at it?"
"Don't give me ideas, young lady." Capri snapped, shooting a fierce glance at Senna.
"You probably can't and are just talking through your hat anyway," the quarrelsome Senna continued.
"You're saying this after all that's happened?" Madonna rolled her eyes.
Capri gazed sternly at Senna for a few moments. "You really wanna learn first hand how I don't make idle threats?"
"What does this Angelica look like anyway?" asked Gretel. "I mean, what if we've run into her already during our explorations and don't even know it?"
Madonna shuddered at this idea. "And what if she's in on what's been happening with Criterion?"
"Well, the chances of that are probably very slim," Pippi said, trying to keep speculations from running completely wild, "because there isn't a shortage of depraved outfits in any society really."
"When I saw Angelica, she looked a bit like her," Senna pointed toward Ameh, "but with longer hair, and a lot taller. She had a real angelic face."
"Like a Mary Sue." NT sniped quietly.
Pippi suppressed a laugh.
Senna opened her mouth but couldn't think of a retort, so, sullenly shut it again.
"What is this - Mary Sue you keep on about?" Javert asked.
This question was so unexpected coming from him that all fell silent for a long moment.
Finally Madonna spoke up. "I think it's a rather unflattering term for somebody who is considered a little too perfect."
"Like her!" Senna jabbed a finger in Mira's direction.
"I have not met anyone who could be considered too perfect." Javert said flatly.
"No one has." Gretel replied just as matter-of-factly.
"Other than her," Senna said, rudely pointing at Mira again, "and her," this time she pointed at Pippi.
"Uh, hardly." Pippi laughed openly, giving Senna a condescending look.
"You are too!" Senna shrilled. "You've got a ridiculously long name and you - "
"And you didn't give yourself the longest string of internet handles?" Ameh snapped coldly. "Girl, please!"
Senna ignored Ameh and continued trying to convince everyone there why Pippi should be considered a Mary Sue. "Your hair is flaming red and long, you're said to be one of the strongest people, you blew absolutely everyone away in just about anything you touched when you were a kid, you were always helping and rescuing somebody, and you're such a goody two-shoes - "
Senna wasn't prepared for what happened next.
NT suddenly exploded. "Pippi is not a goody two-shoes! You are!" She advanced on Senna and grabbed hold of both shoulders. She started shaking Senna.
"Hey! Let me go!"
"You don't have a good bone in your body and if you helped anyone out it would be for self-interest!"
"I didn't say she was - " Senna tried, but there was no putting out the fire she just got into with NT.
"No one but you is pretending when we help anyone out!"
"I didn't say that!" Senna protested.
"YES YOU DID!" NT's voice was at fever-pitch now, and her face, crimson. "You called her," indicating Pippi, "goody two-shoes! That's an accusation of fake concern and self-glorification! She is no less sincere than I am, and if you doubt my sincerity about wanting to break your face at this point - "
Senna had become ashen by this time, and her face, scrunched up.
Ameh looked at NT, and then around at the others, concerned.
"Okay!" Senna whimpered. "I'm sorry I ever said that!"
"Then take it back!" NT demanded.
Senna cried out as if in pain, though it didn't look as if NT was doing anything to her.
Capri approached NT and ran a finger firmly down her spine.
NT was ticklish about this, and flinched violently, letting go of Senna.
"Chill out, I think she got the message now." said Capri.
"She hasn't taken it back yet." said NT, reaching out to take hold of Senna again before the brat could run.
"I take it back!" Senna said.
"Take *what* back?" NT demanded. It was apparent she wouldn't settle for a half-hearted apology or cajolery.
Senna flinched and let out a groan.
"NT, c'mon." Capri tried again.
"I'm sorry for - calling Pippi a goody two-shoes! I'm sorry for accidentally saying she was only pretending to be a big-hearted person! Somebody, please get her away from me!" indicating NT.
"You didn't accidentally accuse her of pretending," NT was proving relentless with Senna, "You did it all on purpose!"
Senna was looking for all the world like she was in a state of sheer terror. "Okay okay, I take it back! She isn't a goody-two-shoes! Please! Let me go!"
"And you lashed Mira on purpose!" NT continued to rail, giving Senna's hair a vicious yank. "If you suddenly started caring about Mira now, YOU would be the goody two-shoes! Because you'd be lying through your teeth!"
"All right! I give! I won't call her that again!"
"You won't call her *What* again?"
"Hey, earth calling NT!" Capri interjected.
Senna pointed at Pippi. "I don't even really know her. I was just goofing! I won't call her a goody-goody again! Please, somebody, get her away from me!" Senna shrilled, squirming in an attempt to get away from NT.
"She's done for now," said Capri as she took hold of NT, but she looked sternly at Senna, "I'm not through with you yet!"
"Wow, for all this talk about faking," sniped Madonna, "Senna's sure looking for all the world like the biggest victim. And she accuses us of acting?"
"She ain't acting this time." said Capri grimly. "NT, c'mon, let's talk magic."
NT looked puzzled, but nodded and followed Capri a little way off from the others.
Senna sat slumped over for a while, and eventually the color came back into her face. She lifted her head and looked around, wide-eyed. Finally, she shuddered and then appeared to recover. "If that's what NT's like when she gets mad, I'd rather have Indy." Senna mumbled.
"What just happened?" Gretel asked.
"I'm not sure." Pippi replied. "But Senna's about to find out a few things." With that, she approached Senna. "You doubt my strength?" she said coolly.
"No! I was just - trying to humble you after the way you laughed at me back in that other world."
"Like you're some authority on humility? Hah!" Ameh scoffed, glaring at Senna.
"Senna, you were the first to laugh at me, and you have made it obvious that the only way you can learn anything is the hard way."
"Tell that to Mira!" Senna ranted.
Javert scowled at her. "Shut your mewling trap for once!"
"I'd listen to him if I was you." Pippi cautioned Senna. "But to help bring the point across and to humble you a little," Pippi threw Senna's crooked mission right back in her face, "You're coming with me." Pippi picked Senna up around her waist and flung her over a shoulder, then walked away with her. Senna's ear-grating squalling grew fainter and fainter as Pippi carried her away from the rest of the group.
"Oh, finally sweet relief." said Gretel. "That silly airhead's yowling gives a whole new meaning to cruel and unusual punishment." She put her hand to her forehead and sighed as if suffering through a terrible headache.
In the meantime, back at their private place, sheltered by trees, Capri kept hold of NT, even after the two had stopped to talk. "NT, do you remember when you were still under a year old and how your magic sometimes got a bit out of control when things really upset you?"
"Yes," NT looked at Capri questioningly.
"Well, it's happening again, so that means you're still not yet completely recovered from the last adventure."
"Huh? I didn't cause anything to move or - "
"No, but were you aware of what was happening to Senna?"
"Just her getting suddenly scared, and that was probably another victim act."
"You were blasting her with magic, and that's why she gave in.
"What!?" NT's expression became horrified and sheepish.
"Oh, no!" NT turned away from Capri. "I'm sorry," she breathed, "Whatever happened, I didn't mean - but she had no right accusing Pippi of being a phoney! And she wished she'd used a freaking' scourge on Mira"
"I know," said Capri, grasping NT firmly but still speaking gently. She maneuvered so the two were facing one another again, "and I'm not angry with you. I'm just cautioning you to be careful for a while, until you are completely back to the way you should be - and that if you lose control of your magic faculties again, I or Ameh will let you know, and help you regain control. But don't take it personally. Mira and Javert will take time to recover from everything that's happened to them, and so will you."
"But I thought I was completely back to normal."
"In appearance, yes." said Capri, "But you probably wouldn't be if I hadn't tried to help it along a bit."
NT bit her bottom lip and looked like she was fighting back tears.
Capri saw this and tried to reassure her. "Look here, it's not so bad as all that or as if Senna didn't actually deserve it."
"What did I do to her?, exactly"
"Never mind that, she's fine, or she will be very shortly. You didn't injure her, you only made her very uncomfortable. The quickest way I think you can help get your magic under control is by using it constructively. So, I want you to do a trace on Mira for other magic presences, and try to pick up Angelica's trace. I'm assigning Mira to your care, second in command to Matrix and Bez. Do what you can on your own with the magic trace, and be sure to follow any additional instructions or requests Bez, Matrix and Mira herself have for you, and if you find out anything via magic trace or from anything Mira tells you about Senna, Angelica, and Bamatabois that we haven't, let us know. And when you go back out there, don't even think of apologizing to Senna for the blasts. You weren't even aware you were doing it, and the same can't be said for anything Senna has said or done since we caught her here."
NT nodded, but still didn't look up.
"Now, c'mon, let's see what you can do for Mira." Capri urged.
In the meantime, Pippi stopped to look around, still holding Senna.
Senna couldn't struggle free until there was a moment when it felt as if she was about to be put down. She planned to break free of Pippi's grip then, but as happened so many times that day, things did not go as Senna planned.
Senna hollered as she felt herself being tossed high into a sturdy tall tree. Then as she landed snuggly among a bed of branches, she heard Pippi calling from below.
"Help! Get me down!"
"Oh, I couldn't do that, Senna. Because then I would be a goody two-shoes along with a Mary Sue."
"Pippi, please, have a heart!" Senna wailed.
"Goodbye, Senna!" Pippi called, and began to walk away.
Senna felt truly helpless and desperate. "The only reason I called you a Mary Sue is because you have - "
"You explained that back at camp!" Pippi cut her off tersely.
"Yeah but I was mad at NT for saying Angelica looked like a Mary Sue so I just thought I'd get even with her and with you all at once!" Whatever Senna hoped to gain by blurting out such an admission of her incredibly flawed character, it didn't impress Pippi.
"Of course, dearheart," Pippi said in a condescending tone of mock pity, "how typically big of you! Bye!"
Senna kept jabbering and wailing, but Pippi paid her no more mind and just kept on walking back to camp, leaving Senna high and dry.
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