Miranda and her forces set out, fully expecting to take Santa by surprise.
They were the ones surprised at the sight of someone coming out from behind a huge snowbank.
"Who the hex is that?" Miranda demanded irritably. Since it wasn't one of hers, she naturally assumed it was an enemy.
"Who knows, probably some visitor." said one of her henchmen.
"Let's keep an eye on her just in case." said Miranda. And then she gaped as more people could be seen. They weren't close enough to be recognized as individuals, but the various shining weaponry showed them to be on the way to battle.
"Oh, I can't believe it!" Miranda whined. "Which one of you told them we were attacking tonight!?"
"Nobody!" said one henchman quickly, and "Not me!" said the other at the same time.
"YOU!" Miranda rounded on the one who said "Nobody", assuming he was the one to let it slip. "You traitor! Just wait, when I'm done with them, you'll be among their dead for betraying me!"
"I didn't - "
In the meantime...
"Wha? Someone's coming." Gretel whispered to no one in particular.
"Who's there?" Diane demanded. "Show yourself - " and then as the figure came closer, Diane gaped. "Carma?"
Nutcracker stared in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
Carma came running to meet her friend. "when word got around that Santa was in real danger, all festivities were canceled, and I'm here to join you - if you want. It's better than busting a couple of heads back there anyway - sheesh, those spoiled royals were getting on my last nerve!"
Carma was a slight person, similar in size and build to NT, but she had curly black hair, a slightly darker complexion and a surprisingly low, somewhat husky voice.
"Haha! Welcome! Okay, intros again," Diane grinned, "Everybody, this is my friend, Carma Davis. We have Misters Keller and Shaw, Bez and her crew, Pippi and hers, and who are you again?"
"Right. Whew, just try to keep everyone straight." Diane chuckled. "But at least you know Santa over there, and Jessica Claus."
"Yeah, pleased to meet you in person." Carma smiled broadly.
"Likewise, but when did Jessica get here? She's supposed to be - "
Santa's sentence was cut off by a sudden loud boom.
Everyone startled and looked around.
At first nothing could be seen.
Looking behind him, Santa became alarmed at what he saw.
Not only Jessica, but NT was also there.
"Go back, you two," he warned, "You might get hurt!"
"I'm not leaving you." Jessica said.
"At least take NT back," said Santa, "She shouldn't be - "
"I don't wanna fight, but gotta be here for my friends." NT said.
Get out of here, NT, this is no place - " Santa was cut off.
There was no time for further discussion.
An overpowering, sickly stench filled the air.
Many people, including probably the enemy who threw the orb, choked and gagged. Some people became incapacitated altogether.
"We got 'em! Now, move in for the kill!" an all too familiar, harsh female voice demanded.
"Not so fast, stupid brat!" Ameh shot her gun several times and the smell began to clear after a few moments.
Before it had, some of the enemy began advancing toward Santa's group.
Another orb was thrown, and this time, it burst into a shower of spikes, some of which imbedded themselves in the snow, some into trees, and some rained down on various warriors.
Indy cussed loudly as she flinched and narrowly escaped getting a spike in her eye.
Diane deflected the volley of spikes with her own orb. This, produced a sort of massive sponge-like shield blocking any further spike attacks and sucking up the others.
"Oh, these stupid stupid stupid freaks!" Miranda shouted, stomping her feet. "You!" she jabbed at an enemy, "Give them yours!"
another battle orb was deployed. It produced a river of some kind of slippery liquid that rolled over Diane's shield, which then melted away. This liquid then flowed around, turning the ground so slippery that most people had trouble keeping their footing.
The enemy who threw that orb fell, but not before getting shot in the head by Elsa's gun. He lay dead in the goo.
Soon, the air was filled with shrieks and groans. This was because while the liquid was merely slimy slippery when in contact with things like footwear and weapons, it was loaded with some sort of toxin that caused a terrible burning sensation on contact with skin.
The few who were lucky not to have their skin in contact with this stuff, saw with horror what it was doing to their comrades, and now was the time to use long-range weapons on Miranda's forces.
Thande's spear shot through the air and hit its mark, killing another of Miranda's cronies. He loped forward to retrieve the spear, and as he wrenched it from the corpse, he skewered another minion with his tail-scythe. The man had been foolish enough to attempt attacking Thande from behind. Thande flicked the body disdainfully in Miranda's direction and let out a ferocious roar, daring her or any of her minions to attempt an attack.
"Kill him you stupid henchmen!" Miranda barked.
A nervous minion deployed an orb. It unleashed a swirling mass of smoke and fire that rushed at Thande, simultaneously trying to suffocate and scorch him.
He snarled and lunged into Miranda's troops, bringing the cloud with him.
Now, Santa finally convinced Jessica to leave the scene.
The sight and smell of that fire scared NT, who shrieked and retreated from the battle. She had managed to get rid of a great deal of acid goo from the surroundings, but couldn't get to everyone.
Then, to everyone's alarm, Ameh appeared to go completely mad, shooting her gun not just at the enemy, but after a brief pause, she began shooting at the allies!
"What the heck's she doing!? someone exclaimed.
"Ameh!" Pippi took hold of her friend and was about to wrench the gun away.
A moment later, Pippi couldn't move. Ameh had frozen her to the spot, and continued shooting.
Others around her were still writhing on the ground from the agonizing effects of Miranda's toxic orb slime, so no one could reach Ameh to stop her from continuing to shoot.
"Hang on everybody, I think it's gonna be okay!" Carma said as she struggled to get to her feet. She noticed that no one Ameh was shooting at now, were falling.
Ameh took aim at her and shot.
Then, all trace of the goo on Carma disappeared altogether, and the color came back into her features. "Good shot, Amelia!"
"Thanks, Carmen!" Ameh replied, and unfroze Pippi.
"I'm sorry about that, Pippi, no time to explain."
Ameh shot until all the horrid goop was gone and everyone had recovered.
"You stupid, stupid morons! Why aren't you-"
Miranda was cut off by a shout from one of the heroes.
"Charge!" The tiny elf ran toward the front-line, brandishing Bez's spare Burner as though he were a sharp-shooter. He was far from fighting shape, but he wasn't about to let a friend go into battle without assistance.
At first, Miranda was too shocked to react. "No!" She whined, at length. "I killed you! You're dead!"
"Surprised?" Criter snarled, joining Dingy in his charge.
Miranda let out a rather undignified splutter of surprise. "No! I killed you too- you're both DEAD! Kill them, you stupid worthless idiots! Kill them, kill them, kill them!"
Before a minion could act, Bez called out in a jeering tone. "Hey, now, don't leave me out of the party!"
She ran forward, accompanied by Ameh and Pippi. They shot repeatedly at any enemy they could see, throwing the battle into full swing.
Miranda cussed a blue streak and rushed for Ameh herself. "Should've known you'd be here! You always stick your stupid nose in where it - "
"Shut it, pig!" Ameh shot at Miranda, and this time it was an actual bullet that went through Miranda's neck and knocked her off her feet.
Everyone waited breathlessly, and then, to her minions' glee and her enemies disappointment, Miranda slowly sat up.
"Oh well, it was worth a try." Ameh muttered bitterly.
"You stupid freak!" Miranda snapped. "It's not that easy to kill a vampire! And now you've made me REALLY mad, you stupid, ugly, stupid freak!"
"what else isn't new with you!?" ameH jeered back.
Miranda snatched a handful of orbs from her pocket and mumbled a sinister string of gibberish at them. The gray battle orbs lifted from the hands of her minions and pulsed a ghoulish rainbow of colors. All at once, they began multiplying, splitting and growing like viruses.
"Holy crap, is she made of these things?" Diane muttered.
"Now KILL THEM!" Miranda roared.
The frail sense of order that had previously permeated the battle shattered as the orbs, seemingly of their own volition, descended malevolently on the heroes. They deployed in huge clumps, and no matter the efforts of Diane to neutralize them, there always seemed to be more orbs than one could count hovering in the air, taking the place of any that was destroyed.
Nutcracker stabbed and shot at as many orbs as he could, causing them to collect at his feet like a pile of fallen fruit.
"Dear God, where is she?" Pippi breathed, looking around.
"Where's who?" Ameh asked.
"Watch out!" Gretel whacked an orb with a blade of a dagger, just preventing it from landing on Pippi's shoulder.
That orb fell harmlessly to the ground and fizzled out completely.
Just then, Gretel got blasted by another one that gave her a bloody nose.
She snarled in pain and stabbed at the minion she thought had thrown it. In turn, she was hit with another one that hurt worse than anything she'd ever experienced. Pain and the adrenalin rush took over, and Gretel slashed and shot at any enemy she could manage to see a clear path to.
NT was forced to stay on the outskirts while she made her way toward Miranda to confront her, up close and personal.
Back at Miranda's base, all should have been quiet and empty.
But it wasn't.
A young man who had lost all courage after being stabbed by Gretel's dagger, and then witnessing the fires that started scorching things and people around him, fled.
Now, he sat, cowering and shivering behind a couple of large storage bins to conceal himself while trying to think of what he was going to do and where to go next. It would be bad for him no matter what the outcome of the battle. If Miranda was victorious, she'd drain him as a traitor unless he simply bled to death first. There was nothing to treat his wounds and no one to go to for help now. If Santa won, maybe he wouldn't kill him, but someone else might.
Another figure was tearing through the base, going in and out of various buildings, and the rooms within. Shelves were roughly dismantled, drawers thrown open, contents rifled through to be looted or tossed. Bins were emptied and upended. Doors were thrown open, closets looked into, also looted.
The robber entered the last building, the one in which Miranda's ex-minion was hiding.
He watched in disbelief as everything around him was ransacked, and certain things were collected, some of these were destroyed, others simply taken, apparently as a kind of booty.
Ah, hahaha, stupid Miranda," the robber said triumphantly, brandishing an orb, "You are so ended."
Then, the bin the minion was hiding behind, was shoved and kicked until it was pushed over. The contents were looted, and then the bin was forcefully shoved away, revealing him.
"What in bleeding' heck are YOU doing here!?" The robber stared at him, wide-eyed.
"what?" The minion exclaimed in shock. "Miranda said you were - " He didn't get a chance to finish what he was saying.
"This place's going up in flames! Get out, now!" she warned him.
He ran for the door, and she was soon after him.
"Clear out of here!!" she repeated urgently.
He turned back in time to see her point an orb at the buildings on the base, then smash the orb itself. It was not the same orb she had been so triumphant about, this one looked like a small ball of fire until it smashed and everything started going up in smoke.
Then, she called out "Run!" and took off.
Back at the battle, The heroes were split into several groups as they attempted to fight off the orbs and attacks of frenzied minions.
Thande had managed to use the smoke and fire cloud somewhat to his advantage, setting several of Miranda's minions on fire before dispatching them.
Diane was eventually able to dispel the curse, but not before Thande had taken a nasty scorching from it.
"Look out! Carma cried,warning others of another wave of orbs, and deflecting those that came her way.
"Matrix!" Sigma cried out, dodging an exploding orb to make it to his side. "Where're the elves? And Indy and Pippi, and-?"
Matrix fired a sharp blast at an approaching orb, shielded Sigma from the resulting shrapnel, and replied. "Sigma- I think Criter has the elves with him, and the others-"
A particularly vicious attack from a minion distracted the pair, and the two didn't get another chance to talk until the battle was essentially over. By then, it hardly mattered anyway.
Criter was indeed with the elves, who were proving to be quite useful. Miranda's minions had a habit of underestimating them, which let them get in easy shots.
Dingy blasted a minion and managed to shove Elsa out of the path of an electrified orb before it crashed into the snow directly where she had been standing.
"Heya, you better watch your back!" He said, an almost teasing tone in his voice.
Elsa didn't get a chance to respond, as an orb exploded above them, unleashing a horde of small furry leech-like creatures on them.
"Those creatures began crawling everywhere until they caught Diane's eye.
She diverted the ones she could so they bunched together and began making their way toward Miranda herself.
Nutcracker made short work of any he could reach, stabbing, stomping, squashing them. He was faced with a terrible decision when a minion shot a bullet through his shoulder at close range. He whirled around and knocked the gun out of the enemy's hands and then ran him through with a dagger.
That enemy crumpled to the ground, groaning.
Nutcracker paled, but there was no time to acknowledge the sick feeling that welled up inside him. The battle kept raging on, and it was either do what you had to live another day, or die.
Pippi could only dodge andkick or bat away orbs that came at her or friends who were near. Several orbs she managed to destroy by stamping them to shattered bits.
Keller and Shaw had been separated by a battle orb that left Shaw temporarily paralyzed with pain. Before Keller could react, a pair of minions cornered him. They were so consumed by battle-fever that they didn't recognize him at first.
"Hey, wait a minute!" One growled, snatching Keller by his collar. "This is one of the guys who jumped ship! Martin, take a look at 'im- 'e's Keller, right?"
Martin squinted balefully at Keller. "That's him alright! He must've been the one that squealed on Miranda! Fightin' for Santa and all..." His eyes widened. "You know what this means, Darrow, right? It means, if we bring 'im to Miranda, we get a big fat reward!"
"Yeah!" Darrow said. "Let's bring 'im! I'm sure Miranda will want to drain him nice and slow..."
Martin guffawed. "That's a laugh. She'll devour him in a nanosecond."
The two gloated over Keller's capture for a moment too long. An expertly thrown battle orb splatted into Darrow's head, shooting a spike straight through it and into Martin's chest. Keller gaped at the corpses that only seconds earlier had been preparing to take him to Miranda for a slow and painful death.
"Hey, you okay?" Shaw said, glancing around the battle-field to ensure they wouldn't be taken unawares.
Keller blinked a few times in surprise. Shaw looked particularly haggard, as if he were still fighting off the effects of the orb that had downed him.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for the save there." He added.
Shaw smiled wanly. "No problem."
The brief moment of rest was interrupted by another minion attack, this one six strong, with a swarm of orbs close behind them.
Thande and Bez were having considerable trouble of their own. Thande's size attracted the attention of the orbs and minion's alike, which resorted to swarm attacks. The two stood back-to-back, dutifully defending the other.
Suddenly, the orbs inexplicably started going haywire. Another swarm descended on the scene, but instead of attacking the participants in the battle and exploding, they attacked other orbs. They shot and rolled at and over people to get at the other orbs, and where they made contact, the other orbs shrank away into nothing. This went on, the seemingly cannibalistic orbs devouring the battle orbs at an alarming pace. It looked bizarre to anyone who could afford to take a moment and observe.
"What the hex?" Miranda squealed at the spectacle. "Those stupid orbs! They're not supposed to do that - URF!" She was suddenly knocked to the ground by a violent push.
When she got to her feet again, she turned to see who it was.
"What the - N?"
"What the - what the - you stupid - stupid - " NT mocked her. "I see your vocabulary has been stunted along with your brain!"
Miranda got pushed again.
"NT, get out of there!" Pippi shouted.
"I never would've thought it of you, N!" Miranda snarled and got to her feet again. "You in a battle! and of course you'd mess about with the orbs!
"I never touched your precious orbs!" Nt hissed back.
"Whatever! you actually had the nerve to show up here!" Miranda shouted in disbelief.
"I told you I hate you!" Nt scowled at her.
"But I didn't think you actually would go to war!" Miranda shrilled.
"You just don't think!"
So what are you hoping to be queen of the world, leading this battle against me?" Miranda ranted.
Oh you are such a nimrod, Miranda! I'm not leading this battle, and it's you who want to be queen of everything, not me!"
The battle raged on,, the orb count kept dwindling drastically but injuries were continuing to be inflicted by other means.
Miranda fell back to her favourite tactic against NT, the personal attack. "You've put on a few pounds since I last saw you."
NT rolled her eyes at Miranda and aimed a well-placed come-back. "Hardly surprising, you dumb food-cop, since you left, I could finally get an appetite!"
Miranda glowered, insulted. "What's that supposed to mean!"
Figure it out, if you're so smart!"
The two began a physical battle, NT had the upper hand at first since Miranda had no inkling she could even fight seriously.
NT got in a few hair-yanks, punches to Miranda's face and stomach while saying only one more thing, "Meaning this: you make me SICK!" Then she went for Miranda's neck and went through the motion of trying to strangle her. She knew this wouldn't do Miranda any real harm, and much as she hated her, NT just couldn't bring herself to inflict any real injury.
But this token effort was enough to get the message across.
Miranda's eyes went wide at this, but she soon pried NT's hands loose, and then pushed her violently to the ground.
NT lay there, dazed.
"Hah!" Miranda crowed. "Now while they're all getting killed, I'll make a meal out of you!" she leered down at NT.
Glancing back at the battle scene revealed to Miranda that all was not going well with her battle orbs. They had all but vanished, and dead or wounded people among her forces littered the ground while others continued fighting on.
"What the hex!?" Miranda shouted.
Then, she was suddenly downed in a hail of bullets, and the shooter continued shooting until Miranda's body was riddled with holes and covered with blood.
Then the gun was tossed aside and everyone, especially Miranda witnessed something gruesome.
"No!" Miranda wailed. "This can't be happening!"
"You should've known better than try to take me on, Miranda!" Someone snarled, kneeling on Miranda and literally mugging her right there, rifling through what pockets could be found, taking out any remaining orbs, not even seeming to notice or care one way or another about the presence of blood.
Pippi and Ameh could only look on in an odd mixture of shock, horror, and relief when they saw who Miranda's assailant was.
"OMG, that's - " Indy gaped
"Holy crap!" Carma winced. "Remind me not to get in trouble with her."
"Tell me about it." Diane shuddered at the gory sight, "But at least we'll get somewhere now."
The figure took out a knife and slashed Miranda in the throat before finally standing up and moving off, picking up the gun again with bloody hands. "Sorry you messed about with all those orbs yet?" The knife disappeared.
Miranda gaped, but slowly knitted herself back together and sat up. "No! Because this isn't over yet! There's more where that came from, Monroe!"
"Oh, like your little stash back at the base?" Capri taunted.
"Wha!? You didn't!"
Capri aimed her gun. "Move a muscle, Miranda, and you'll get more of this!"
A minion picked up an orb and threw it at Capri.
But it was only one of the orb-eaters, it had just finished consuming an orb and was now dying, melting away into nothing.
NT finally got slowly to her feet, nodded at Capri and moved off.
Capri continued confronting Miranda. "I found your stash, - including the one you meant for NT, the one for Santa, the one you used for producing that drug you almost nailed me with, your wishing orb, the master orb you use in orb production and management, and the one you used to bend people's minds and bodies to do your bidding!" She produced that one to show to everyone else there, then smashed it before Miranda could do anything about it.
Miranda let out a very undignified howl of rage.
Now, there came a change among Miranda's fighters.
Some turned and ran, others stared before beginning to express themselves. They could be heard uttering sounds of bewilderment and disbelief, and as they became disenchanted at the breaking of the enslavement orb, they also became very contemptuous of Miranda. They could be heard jeering, and saying things like "What was I thinking, letting her use me like this!?" and other similar things.
"I'll KILL YOU, MONROE!" Miranda screamed, and lunged for Capri.
Capri's expression turned especially threatening, "And THIS ONE!" She produced a glowing pulsing blood red orb from a jacket pocket.
Miranda had looked simply angry and hateful up until this point. Now, to everyone's puzzlement, she became absolutely petrified. "no!" she wailed.
The reason became clear with Capri's explanation.
"the orb you had for the purpose of - *destroying* *other* *vampires!*"
"No!" Miranda shrilled. "Don't do it, Capri! I lost control! I didn't mean to do it, I just got caught up in it all! But you're better than that! You can't kill me! It's not in you to -"
"DIE, MIRANDA!" Capri shouted as she activated the vampire-termination orb.
Miranda screamed as the orb began the process. First, it lit up like a miniature sun. Then, a stake came out of it and grew from miniature to regular size, and rammed itself through Miranda's chest. Then what followed was every gory scenario of vampire destruction imaginable, all happening in quick succession so that onlookers barely had time to register one thing before the other was already going on. From her head severing to combusting, all methods were programmed into that orb. It had been meant to kill any competition, any type of vampire.
Miranda in her haste had left it and other key orbs back at the base, the same base she led Capri right to during the ghostly encounters. Miranda had been so sure she would not need the vampire-destroyer orb, but she certainly hadn't counted on Capri coming back from 'the dead' to nail her with it.
While the battle was going on, it had been Capri who looted Miranda's base, foiling any backup plans she might have, and ended up finding a lot more - the means to destroy Miranda once and for all. It had been she who made the orbs eat each other and melt away.
Finally, Capri warned everyone to stand back while she gave what was left of Miranda the things she would've done to NT and Santa.
She moved far enough away to safely do what she needed to do next without getting injured.
Capri took out those orbs from her pocket and threw them among the vampire destruction in progress, setting off a spectacular firework display. Then she proceeded with particular savagery to smash every other orb in the collection until they and all the evil magic were gone.
The initial eruption caused several people to shriek and retreat, but they didn't leave the scene altogether. Everyone was concerned about their friends, and determined to see this thing to the end.
the firework turned multicoloured and changed shape, growing larger all the time.
Eventually, it could be seen for a giant version of Miranda that hung in the air, lighting up the sky like Burning Man.
This changed shape again as lines and curves which formed letters and eventually words, replaced Miranda from the head down.
Finally, the firework could be read as a message before it went out.
-- I, Miranda tompkins/Harlan, die as I lived, in a spectacular display of hubris and stupidity! --
After The Battle
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