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No Way Out For Cowards

This story is fictional, but it deals with real feelings toward a couple of cowardly robbers who committed a mugging of a 90 year old in June 2009.

It takes place after the robbery but before the cowards are charged.

21 year old Renee Nicole Lemire and her pal 39 year old Kari-Lynn Klopp, had just brutally beaten and robbed an elderly woman of her purse. Now, it was all over the news, and there had been eye witnesses.

They had temporarily ditched the stolen property in a special hiding place and planned to retreive it later when things had calmed down.

As they stole away into a well-treed alley way to discuss further plans and gloat over their depraved actions and how they hadn't been caught so far, they were unaware of the fact they were not alone.

Suddenly, they were tackled by two pairs of women.

"Indy and NT," a tall red-haired woman directed, "You hold that one while we deal with her pal here."

"What the -- let go of me!" screamed Renee as she was being dragged away from her friend by the one giving directions and her friend.

"Stop your squallin!" the other woman barked back, giving the girl's hair a yank.

"Help!" Help!" cried Kari-Lynn as she was held fast by two shorter brunettes.

"Shut up!" the smaller brunette spat.

"Yeah, said the other, robbing an elderly lady and breaking her hip, and this twit has the nerve to holler for help now!" This was followed by a violent shake. "Sick, inhuman pieces of crap, you and your pal are!" She continued, glaring the robber full in the face.

Blood-curdling screams could be heard from Renee Nichole as she was being tied up by the two taller women.

"What are you doing to my friend!" Kari-Lynn screamed.

"The same thing that's gonna be done to you very soon!" came the reply.

"NT, Indy, we'll take that other one now!" someone said, and soon the tall red-head advanced toward the two brunettes.

Indy and NT released Kari-Lynn to the woman, and watched and geered as Renee Nichole was being tied up.

There was more screaming, whining, cussing and crying from both robbers as Pippi and Capri tied up the last one.

"What are you gonna do, scalp us?" asked Kari-Lynn, looking right at Capri.

The tall fairy only rolled her eyes at her. Then a smirk formed on her face. "Thanks for the idea. I haven't got a pair of scissors or a knife with me, so it'll have to be done the primitive way.

"OMG NO!" cried Renee Nichole.

In a few more moments, both girls shrieked and cried again as Capri took a couple of handfuls of hair and pulled as much of them out as she could. First one girl, then the other.

It was only one pull of hair out from each girl, but it was enough to let them know these people felt anything but kind toward them and it was best not to say anything to get themselves in further.

"Ouch." said NT, looking on. "But you disgusting wenches actually deserve it!" she added angrily. "At least she isn't crippling you! You filthy sadists, cowards! Bullies! You should be ashamed of yourselves!" NT ranted on at the top of her lungs.

"I might have some scissors here in my - purse - Pippi emphasized the word to rub it in what the robbers had taken from the lady they had beaten.

"Straight up!" Indy cheered her friends on. "So, how's it feel getting ganged up on, huh?"

"Indy, they're all yours." said Pippi, taking out what could've been some sort of paging device.

Indy tore off a long branch from one of the trees and strode toward the bound robbers and let them have it. "You unconsionable - " she began shouting and hitting each robber alternately and with every word. "Depraved, deplorable, disgusting, inhuman - " and she yelled out a great many other things as she continued hitting at them with the branch.

Their protests and cries only seemed to infuriate Indy even more. Finally, she was out of things to shout at them. She stopped, put down the branch, and burst into tears. "How could anyone - I hope you ROT!" With that, she turned and stomped furiously away, with tears of outrage spilling down her cheeks.

By now, Pippi had put her pager back, then she had a small pair of scissors in her hand, which she held up. "I'm not so sure I should do this," she said, looking at Capri.

The fairy approached Pippi and whispered something in her ear.

The two whispered back and forth for a few moments, then Pippi nodded and approached the robbers with the scissors. They screamed cusses and insults at her while she worked, cutting off their hair, but she didn't so much as reply. She only continued her task while scowling at them.

Once she was done, she moved off and invited NT or Capri to take over.

"Hey, we never did anything to you!" Kari-Lynn retorted, and she couldn't have said it at a worse time.

NT was approaching, and she was as outraged as Indy had been.She also had issues with bullies who used the "I never did anything to you!" line.

"You stupid, stupid idiots!" she screamed, throwing a rock that narrowly missed Kari-Lynn's head.

They gaped in terror.

The smaller fairy continued her tirade as she picked up a couple more stones and threw them at the two robbers, first one, then the other. "It's not about ME, you fatuous louts!"


"The person you beat up and left for dead didn't do anything to you!"

"Aaaaa! Ouch!"

"And why is it you ignorant bully types always think I should only get upset if something is done to ME? Where is it written other than maybe your little moron rule book that one must care only about what's being done to herself?

Kari-Lynn got the idea to try making NT feel badly for what she had done. "Let him who's perfect, cast the first stone!"

That didn't get the desired effect.

"Oh, please!" NT retorted in disgust. "If you're even acquainted with that passage, you shouldn't have robbed that lady and crippled her and left her for dead! Don't try to use something on me you obviously don't believe in yourselves! So now you're hypocrites as well as scummy!"

"Yeah," said Capri, coming in just behind NT. "We're not acting like we think we're perfect. We're showing you first hand how much you're despised and that you deserve what you get for half killin a defensless old woman for no reason! What kind of human being does that? No one! COWARDS! Gutless, mindless cowards who should get what they've got coming!" Trembling with fury by now, Capri elbowed NT aside and took her place nearest the robbers. "Now, it's my turn!"

In a few seconds, the bindings had melted away, and so did everything else as the two robbers were plunged into somewhere else.

"Am I too late?" a very short, blonde fairy came hurrying into the area, just in time to see Capri send the two robbers into a fierce unknown.

"No, Ameh, you're just in time." replied Capri.

The robbers felt themselves being whirled downward in a sickening spiral. Strange, flashing, multicolored lights shone and seemed to whiz past them as they went.

Eventually, they stopped falling, and found themselves on something soft, they couldn't tell what it was. All around them was pitch black, and completely silent. The only thing that let the girls know they were still even alive was their own breathing and heartbeats.

"What the pluck!?" Kari-Lynn whispered.

"I think we've been blinded!" said Renee Nichole stupidly.

"How are we gonna get out of here?" Kari-Lynn mumbled, trying not to show how badly she was losing it.

Renee Nichole only cussed.

"Yeah," said her companion, "It's not like that old crone was gonna live long anyway..."

"Or that she was any use on the planet, it's not like we didn't try to solve the overpopulation problem a little and so what if we got her money, what was she gonna do with it anyway? Spend it on meds?" said Renee Nichole.

"As if you wouldn't." Kari-Lynn shot back, referring to Renee Nichole's crack addiction.


Suddenly, the ground shifted beneath them, and they fell down, down, down, screaming as they went.

Finally, they found themselves alighted gently side by side on what seemed to be a wooden bench of some sort. It seemed to be held in mid air by a hinge or cable running through the center and enabling the bench to be repositioned upright, backward, frontward, or upside down. The back of the bench was not tall, it only went up to the small of the girl's backs, and the seat was definitely not wide enough to consider lying on to take a nap. Furthermore, it felt smooth and slippery.

"OMG that was scary!" said Renee Nichole.

Kari-Lynn nodded, still catching her breath.

It wasn't completely dark, there was light coming from somewhere beneath them.

To their horror, they saw the light flickering, and felt the heat.

There were crackling sounds, and the distinct smell of burning wood as well.

"OMG, that's a fire!" Renee Nichole squealed in fright. In her panic, she nearly rocked the bench over backward.

They both shrieked and held on for dear life, just managing to escape falling into the enormous fire below them.

The fire crackled noisily and threw up a burst of heat.

"Pluck it, Renee!" Kari-Lynn yelled.

The robbers sat for several minutes, breathless and petrified.

Suddenly, they felt a slight jolt and heard someone else landing on the same bench, but several yards away. There was more movement as the figure edged closer. She was a pretty little blonde girl with big blue eyes.

She bounced up and down on the bench when she spoke up. "Well, this thing sure doesn't feel very stable, one more person landing here might cause it to give - " she began casually.

She was interupted by a "Don't do that!" from Renee Nichole.

"Well, you're sure in trouble," the stranger taunted, "You can't jump down because then you'd end up in the fire. You can't climb anywhere because there's nothing to climb to. You can't go along this bench because it just goes on and on. You can't sleep here, you might topple off and into the - "

"We know that!" cried Kari-Lynn. "How did you get here, and can you help us?"

"The same way you did, I guess. And why should I help you? Even if I could, it's not like anybody'd miss you." she sneered. "You're dead meat however you look at it, your lives are ruined and you have only yourselves to blame."

"Oh come on! You said we can't stay here, we'll die!" Renee Nichole pleaded.

"Not my problem." came the blunt reply, and the small woman moved away from the robbers again.

Renee Nichole actually started crying. "How are we gonna get out of here?"

Kari-Lynn only cussed and bit her lip.

Suddenly, the most dreadful thing happened. The bench gave way!

The robbers hurdled down toward the fire, screaming harder than they ever had in their lives.

Down, down, down they went, expecting to land in the fire any moment to be burned alive!

Then, their fall slowed, and once again, they landed.

To their amazement and relief, they realized they had not fallen into a fire. But where were they?

Kari-Lynn opened her eyes, and screamed as a fresh wave of terror came over her.

The creature that stood before her was easily the most terrifying being she had ever seen. It regarded them solemnly, yellow eyes glittering coldly.

“Is it working?” A voice from no where asked.

“Of course it’s working. I invented it.” Both voices were female; the second voice was lower and had a clipped edge to it.

“So that automatically means it will work?”

“Yes. Matrix, plug us in.”

Two women appeared next to the horrific creature. One was tall and had hair the color of dried blood. She wore a distinctly military jacket. The other was short, with shoulder-length light brown hair. The tall one looked at them with a disgusted expression.

“So.” A tall man with shaggy black hair appeared next to her. “You two are the ones.”

Neither of them answered.

Bez followed Kari-Lynn’s gaze and smiled mirthlessly. “I see you noticed Thande. He wasn’t too happy when we found out about you two.” She advanced slowly towards them. “Now, I believe we hold you at a disadvantage. We know who you are, and you don’t know who we are. Normally I would say get used to disappointments, but I suppose even you lice have the right to know who is punishing you.” With an elegant gesture she indicated her quartet. “That’s Sigma Notrahn,” Sigma scowled at them. “and that’s Matrix,” Matrix studied the pair, an oddly pleased expression on his face. “Thande you’ve already met,” Thande’s tail lashed irritably; his crest rose slightly. “and I’m Bez Marshall.” Her features hardened. “Now. Sigma, Matrix, Thande…I believe we have some things to say to these two. Who’d like to go first?”

Thande's crest rose to its full height.

Bez smiled cruelly. “Lucky you. Thande gets to go first!” As an after note, she hurriedly snapped “You two are so ended.” She stepped back.

Thande advanced steadily, halting a foot away from them.

“Oh sweet mercy, let me go, let me go!” Renee sobbed. “Please, please, please-I’ll do whatever you want, please!” Thande watched impassively as her sobbing grew more violent. “I’m innocent-”

“INNOCENT?!” Thande roared. The sound was shattering, echoing off into the distance. “You dare claim innocence?” His entire form quivered with rage; his tail slashed the air furiously. “You are cowards! Worms! Filth!” Kari-Lynn had begun to cry loudly. Renee continued to beg unintelligibly. “You are dishonorable, useless, godless maggots!” He remained silent for a moment, and then spat violently on the sobbing pair. “You are unworthy of compassion.” He was again silent. Matrix looked at Bez, communicating a silent message. Bez nodded and stepped forward. She touched Thande gently on the arm. He glanced down at her and stood back. Bez regarded Renee and Kari-Lynn coolly.

“It takes a lot to make Thande snap like that. Like, for instance, breaking every rule of the Hunt.” She smiled coldly. “Perhaps you didn’t notice, but he is perfectly suited for hunting and killing-” She put a cold emphasis on the word.. “-anything he pleases. However, he follows a strict, honorable code, unlike you curs. For instance: he doesn’t steal.” She slapped Renee harshly. “He doesn’t torture.” This slap landed soundly on Kari-Lynn’s face. “He doesn’t attack someone who can’t fight back..” Another to Renee. “He doesn’t gang up on someone.” To Kari-Lynn. “And most importantly, he’s not a despicable slime-bag like you two whelps!” She clenched her fist and delivered two, brutal punches to the women. Kari-Lynn had subsided to blubbering at the beginning of Bez’s tirade. Renee was sucking in shuddering gasps of breath as she tried to calm herself.


“But-but-but?” Bez cut her off in a mocking tone. “But what? But I didn’t know I’d get caught? But I didn’t know someone gave a crap? H’m? Spit it out, criminal.” Renee began to cry again. Bez rolled her eyes. “Sigma? Matrix? Who’s next?” Matrix stepped forward.

“Mine’s quick.” He walked up to the pair. “I thought this over carefully, and came to the conclusion that you two could think of a far worse punishment for yourselves than I could. So, I put these together.” He held out his hand; in his palm were two small circular devices.

“What are those?” Kari-Lynn said, attempting to sound derisive. Matrix smiled.

“I’d hate to ruin the surprise.” He walked behind them. “Oh, and I’d not struggle too much. No telling what you’d injure.” He deftly clipped the devices to the bases of their skulls. He joined Bez, Sigma and Thande. “Three, two, and…”His smile broadened. For a moment nothing happened. Renee laughed nervously.

“What, are you going to bore us to death?”

Matrix smiled.

“Oooh, I’m-” Her eyes widened. “Oh, no, no, no, no-” She began to scream frantically. Kari-Lynn glared at them.

“What are you doing to her? Tell me, or-” Kari-Lynn gasped and began to whimper. Bez looked at Matrix approvingly.

“Well? What do they do?”

Matrix beamed.“Waking nightmares. Obviously, I could concoct something terrifying, but letting their own brains do the work makes it much more personal.” Bez smiled.

“Excellent work.” She turned to Sigma. “Have you figured out what you want to say?” Sigma nodded

“It’s pretty quick.” Bez nodded. “Good. Matrix, how long do those things last?” Matrix shrugged.

“I can deactivate them any time I want.”

“Great. Let’s let Sigma tell them off.” Matrix nodded. Renee and Kari-Lynn were abruptly silent. They began to shiver. Sigma walked up to them calmly. She looked at them for a moment. She punched them both soundly in the throats and swore fluently at them. This completed, she stepped back and stood beside Matrix. Bez nodded. “Well, you said it would be quick.” She looked at the group. “I see that Thande has calmed down. Well guys? What now? I vote we stay here. I have a feeling the people that brought them here aren’t finished with them. And, for that matter, neither am I.” She started as an idea came to her. “Matrix, do those things go both ways?” Matrix frowned.

“How so?”

“Can we show them our nightmares?” Matrix smiled.

“You should be able to. I’ll just make a few adjustments to them-” his eyes flashed electronically. “-and we’re good.” Bez smiled cruelly.

“Yup. We’ll hang here until someone else shows up. Maybe we’ll have a nice little chat with them about the demonic duo. Until then, I have some lovely little dreams for these two. Matrix, is there any way we could watch?” Matrix nodded.

“I can rig a holographic projector to show it in real-time.” Bez laughed.

“It’s like the movies but better! If no one minds, I’ll go first.” She turned to Matrix. He walked to her side.

“Do you have the dream in mind?” Bez nodded. Matrix touched the base of her skull. She felt a slight pinch.

“When will it start?”

“Whenever I want it to.”

“Well? Go.” The quartet watched with interest as the dream began.

Renee looked around, blinking confusedly.

“Huh? Where…” She sat in a small boat, rocking on large, deep blue waves. There was no land in sight. She sat back in the boat, frowning. Where had Kari-Lynn gone? She smiled, laughing suddenly. This was great! It was so peaceful. She closed her eyes, enjoying the inhuman, utter silence. She let her hand trail in the water. She could stay here forever.

Something cold and clammy brushed against her hand. She opened her eyes, supposing a fish had swum by. She looked over the edge of the boat, hoping she could still see it. She stared at the water for a long time, studying it for a flash of motion.

At length, a small splotch of white caught her eye. She smiled as it slowly came nearer, closer and closer to the surface. She looked up for a moment; she had just received the feeling that she was being watched. She shook her head and looked back down at the fish.

Sheer terror rushed through her; a perfectly human face, its eyes closed, still somehow managing to stare up at her from the water. The boat rolled over another wave; the eyes opened. Renee tumbled backwards into the boat. A pair of white hands clamped onto the edge of the boat.

Renee wanted to scream, tried to. No sound would come out. Slowly, unbearably slowly, the white hands dragged the body aboard the boat. She stared dumbly at the waterlogged impossibly alive person less than a foot away from her.

It stared back at her and slowly raised a dripping finger. “You.” It said coldly. Its voice was distorted, sounding like one of a host of voices. “You did this.” Renee heard the soft sound of water rippling, but didn’t dare look away to see the hoard of nightmares approaching her boat. “You…will join us.”

Renee tried to scream again, this time succeeding. As the sound shattered the unholy silence, the creatures advanced on her boat, clambering over the edge, or failing that, tearing chunks of it off.

The boat began to sink; the people laid their clammy hands on her, sinking with the ship.

Renee struggled, screaming. They pulled her down into the depths of the ocean, deeper and deeper. Her lungs burnt for air.. Just as she was about to loose consciousness, she saw another pale, haunting face. It smiled.

The party watched the two criminals as the nightmare finished for both of them. Sigma looked over at Bez.

“With all due respect, you have strange nightmares.” Bez nodded.

“That I do.” The pair were shivering, a look of unabashed horror on their faces. Matrix started.



“I think we have company.” Bez smiled.

“Ah. This will be interesting.”

As the newly arriving party approached, Ameh, the girl who had taunted the robbers on the bench was heard saying, "Very funny, Capri." She turned momentarily to give the tallest member of her group a mock dirty look.

"Eh?" asked the tallest member of that group as she came into view. "All I did was bench 'em above that fire."

"I thought that was your idea, Ameh," said Pippi.

"Oh, no," Kari-Lynn moaned, "It's them again!"

"And who else but?" Capri advanced, glaring at Kari-Lynn and Renee for only a moment. Then, she addressed Bez, Sigma, Thande and Matrix.

Smiling, she said "I'm Capri Monroe, this is Ameh Chase," indicating the small blonde, "Pippi Longstocking," she indicated the red-headed woman who was the tallest next to her, "That's Indianna Who," Indy was not yet used to magic transport, so she was a bit staggery on her feet, and Pippi steadied her. Indy was of average height with shoulder-length brown hair. "Where the heck is NT?" said Capri.

A small, pale young woman with very dark eyes and hair came shyly out from behind Indy and Pippi.

"That's NT Dawson." said Capri.

NT nodded and smiled bashfully as she looked at all of the strangers, except for Kari-Lynn and Renee, who received a scowl.

"From the looks of it," Pippi said smoothly, "we're not the only ones sickened by what these two have done." Her tone became firm and clipped on the last few words, and her eyes narrowed. "When I found out about it, I wanted to break things."

"I hope you put them through what we just saw coming in here," said Ameh, "I normally wouldn't want anyone to experience something like that - but - there are exceptions. And man that looked scary!"

"Haven't we been punished enough?" Renee pleaded, looking at Indy, who hadn't yet said anything.

"Uh, no," she flung back, "I'm still too demn mad at you - can't understand how in the world you could've done it in the first place!"

"Please, get us out of here, we won't ever do it again, it was just one stupid mistake!" Kari-Lynn sobbed, trying to appeal to Capri. "Those freaks are gonna kill us!"

"One stupid mistake?" Pippi stepped forward before Capri could even respond. Her usually kind face now showed ice cold, barely controled rage.

"Oh, please!" Indy shouted out, "Getting yourself locked outa your own house is a stupid mistake!"

"But we didn't think everybody would - " Renee trailed off miserably, realizing she'd only gotten herself in even deeper trouble.

"I'll bet you didn't." Pippi spat back coldly. As she continued, her tone of voice became steadily more impassioned until it became a snarling shout. "You didn't think she'd live, you didn't think there would be any witnesses, you didn't think it would get all over the news, you didn't think you would have everyone with an ounce of humanity who found out, asking for your heads to roll!" She shook her head, and drew back, trembling with suppressed outrage.

"Yeah, they still haven't got it yet - if only we could make them see," said NT.

"Yeah, like what was done with the water as we arrived," said Capri.

"Oh, no, not again!" Renee moaned.

"You bet!" Bez snapped. She turned her attention away from Renee to the others. She smiled dryly. "Well, I can see that this is going to go quite well." She gestured elegantly at the three people behind her, pointing as she stated the names.

"Matrix," A tall man with shaggy black hair and dark eyes smiled cheerfully and waved.

"Sigma Notrahn," A shorter woman with light, shoulder length brown hair smiled at them reservedly.

"I, Bez Marshall," She bowed in an exaggerated manner.

"And that big lizardy guy over there is Thande." Thande did not respond. Bez scowled playfully at him. "Lighten up, Scaly!" She shouted.

Matrix and Sigma stepped forward. "Hiya!" Matrix said. Sigma nodded politely.

Bez frowned. "Sigma, your acting strangely. In a way, it's worse than the state you were in when we found you."

Sigma started and frowned. "That was uncalled for."

Bez shrugged. "At least you talked back then."

This piqued NT's curiosity, and it showed in her expression for a moment. But she knew better than to ask, especially in the presence of the likes of Renee and Kari-Lynn.

Sigma slumped slightly. "Whatever. If no one minds, I'd like to take the next stab at them." She darted a fiendish look at Renee and Kari-Lynn than uttered an unspoken "Literally".

"Oh you can't be serious!" Wailed Renee. "Come on, we're sorry! Give us a break!"

Sigma's expression hardened. "Did you give her a break? No! So why should I give you 'a break'?" She looked over at Matrix. "Matrix, I have a dream for them. Set this thing up."

Matrix turned to Sigma and touched the base of her skull. "Starting in, three, two..." The group of nine watched with interest as the new nightmare began.

Kari-Lynn glanced nervously around. She was alone, that much was obvious. All around her it was pitch black. She stumbled forward, groping through the darkness. She kicked something and bent down to investigate. A flashlight.

Something moved in the shadow. She straightened sharply. "Hello?" She called out weakly. She turned on the flashlight, sweeping the beam out.

On the very edge of the beam's scope, something skittered further into the darkness.

Suddenly terrified, Kari-Lynn backed away hurriedly. Something moved to her right; she spun around, the beam catching a fleeting image of a dark, slimy creature. Kari-Lynn's breathing was heavy and shaky. Her hands trembled. She walked forward slowly, listening for any sound.

The silence was almost painful in its sharpness. Then she heard a sound that made her blood run cold.

Behind her, something was breathing raggedly. A steady drip, drip, echoed into the shadow.

She turned, very slowly. For a moment, she was confused. There was nothing there. A steady stream of drips from the ceiling was all she saw. A horrible thought struck her. Slowly, she looked up.

The creature's ghoulish, toothy face stared down at her, mouth upturned in a grotesque parody of a smile. It shrieked hungrily, dropping down from the ceiling.

Kari-Lynn screamed, turning and running in a terror-blinded craze. The beam of the flashlight wagged haphazardly from side to side, showing occasional glimpses of the pursuing creature. Her legs ached, her lungs burned. She could run no more. She stopped, gasping in deep, fearful breaths. The quiet seemed to possess its own life, silently oppressive and cruel.

Kari-Lynn looked around.

The ground gave way violently beneath her. She landed crookedly, coughing as a blackish dust swirled around her.

She felt around for the flashlight, taking hold of it firmly. She clutched it tightly, closing her eyes as she caught her breath.

Slowly, she became aware of a new sound. She opened her eyes hesitantly. She held out the flashlight, letting its beam sweep the other side of the pit.

The creature sat there, patiently watching her. Smiling.

Kari-Lynn looked at the flashlight then back at the creature. She turned it off and discarded it. Then she waited. She heard the creature move, could almost feel its presence. Its breath was ragged against her cheek. She waited for the end to come. She did not have to wait long.

Bez looked proudly at Sigma. "I'm not too surprise you'd have that kind of nightmare. But Sigma, I didn't know you had it in you. A rather quiet form of terrifying."

Sigma shrugged. "I'm full of surprises."

Bez smiled dryly and turned to the others. "Well? What'd you think?" She glanced spitefully at Renee and Kari-Lynn. "I'd say they need another heavy dose of terror. Who wants to administer the next dose? H'm?"

"Holy crap," said Capri, eyes still wide. But she smiled a moment later. "They have it coming, though."

"Yeah, I should do mine before I lose my nerve." said NT.

When that was agreed upon, Matrix touched the base of NT's skull, and her nightmare began.

Renee found herself at the house of a friend, helping get things ready for a party later that evening.

She joked and laughed as she started down toward the basement to look for some extra containers, chairs and whatever else to take up to the front room and kitchen.

She opened the basement and took a step down and paused to admire it. The basement had a couple of big windows and the sun shone in through them onto the floor and few pieces of furniture, all of which were bright colors, and the wallpaper even had wonderful designs and patterns. It looked like a wonderful place for little kids to play, or someone could go to sprawl out on the couch and relax or watch TV. It was not the sort of place that could make one feel stuck in the basement, or so Renee thought...


She bent her head and raised a hand to get something out of her eye.

Without looking up, she took another step down, then shuddered as she clumsily straightened herself up to maintain her balance. She hadn't remembered the rest of the steps being so steep after the first one.

NT clenched her jaw.

Strange sounds started echoing faintly somewhere in the distance. "Bah, neighbor kids," Renee thought, but they sounded a little off.

She took another step down and lifted her head at the same time. "What the pluck!?" Her own voice echoed eerily and repeatedly.

Kari-Lynn was at her own house, looking in the cupboard for something. When she opened a cupboard door, there were no shelves, there was no nothing, just darkness. It felt cold, and she thought she could hear wind. That made no sense at all

"Huh?" she said. Her voice echoed into the cupboard. "What the pluck's going on!?" Same echo. "Weird!"

Renee could only just make the outlines of what had been the basement with all its furniture, only now it all seemed to have expanded and the view was fuzzy.

A wail was heard somewhere up front, with the same eerie echoing, just like that of the echoes which are often used to depict thought and especially nightmares or slipping in or out of consciousness in movies and on TV.

NT shuddered.

The staircase into the basement had been walled on both sides, but now on the left, there wasn't even so much as a railing.

Suddenly becoming frantic, Renee turned around to run back up the stairs, but it happened in slow motion. She couldn't seem to move quickly in this strange atmosphere, which had the same effect as being under water, except that she could still breathe, and didn't feel wet.

To her horror, she could barely see the entrance to the stairwell, and she knew she hadn't gone down that many steps! What the heck was wrong with this place?

Renee tried to scramble for the stairwell entrance, but every step she took, the entrance retreated up and away from her.

Kary-Lynn shut the door. A second later, she opened it again.

This time, all was normal, everything was there as it should be, and there was no cold wind, or strange echo.

She got up to clear her head, and walked through the kitchen. She noticed something on the floor, and decided to get a broom to sweep it up.

But when she opened the closet, there was nothing there but that dark, cold expanse.

"There it is again." she said into it.

She got an echo back.

Thinking this was sort of cool, she walked right into the closet, and felt nothing under her feet, but she didn't fall. It was like skating, only on air instead of ice.

Wow!" She laughed.

Her echo answered back a few times until it faded away.

Thinking this was fun, Kari-Lynn hooted and hollered some more.

NT shuddered violently, again.

A door slammed violently, or was it a thunder clap? Kari-Lynn couldn't tell. This made her feel a bit disconcerted, so she turned to walk back out of the closet.

But where was the freaking closet door!?

It must've been what shut, and now it was completely dark, and cold, and there was no way Kari-Lynn could find her way out.

Turning back to look down the staircase, Renee soon regretted that. She could see no end to the staircase. Turning back up toward the entrance, she could no longer see one. It was completely gone!

The strange wails, whimpers, calls, and unintelligible chattering continued getting louder and louder, but there was always some way off in the distance somewhere, and Renee could not see who was making these sounds.

Crashes, creeks, barks, and all manner of other sounds echoed eerily.

Transparent shadows floated around but never really came into view, and now the right handrail had melted away.

Renee was now standing on a never-ending staircase with nothing to keep her from falling off, she was being pushed by the water-like atmosphere so that she lost her footing on the stairs, and no matter how she tried to root herself to one spot, and close her eyes and ears, the place would not let her escape its terrifying grip.

She began to join the chorus of wails with her own cries, hoping someone would hear and help her. No one but her own echo answered.

She thought someone had landed close enough on the stairs for her to reach out and touch them, but as she did, the figure dissolved and let out a maniacle yell.

Was this it? Was this the end for her? Would no one come for her? Did Renee even exist any more, or had she become just another nameless, faceless phantom, doomed to be here forever, isolated in this vast mad echoing expanse like the others, ignored by all others? She hadn't been able to make out a single communication among all of these voices, everyone sounded as alone and mournful as she felt, and no one was answering them. Why were none of these voices acknowledging each other and answering back? Everyone seemed to be calling out for something, and no one was being answered except by their own eerie repeating echo.

For Kari-Lynn, other voices were heard, the same way as in Renee's experience.

Now, at last, she was genuinely frightened.

Cold wind seemed to blow right through her clothes, and there were strange sounds in the distance as well as close by, and she couldn't see a blessed thing!

Desperate, Renee came up with an idea. "Abracadabra!" she yelled.

About five Renees answered her.

Some voice made angry sounds that could've passed for cursing in the distance.

"Hello! Help!" Kari-Lynn shouted.

Several Kari-Lynns hollered back, right in her ear, sounding ten times louder than her original call had been.


Renee tried something else. She began singing a favorite song of hers.

She had only gotten through the first few lines and had to stop, because at least ten Renees echoed back. It took a long time for the din to die away.

Out of hope at last, she sat down on the stairs and started crying. She couldn't tell if this was madness or hell.

The staircase jiggled and gave way beneath her.

Sometimes Kari-Lynn felt herself being moved up as if on a lift, and dropped abruptly down. Frightening throbbing base notes similar to modernday train engines were sometimes heard, occasionally very near by.(This screwed up video by some messed up people comes about as close as it gets to replicating this soundscape. It's a minute or so in, and starts after the Islamic call to prayer is heard in the background.)

No matter how she called, stumbled around, tried to will herself back into her own kitchen, nothing worked.

This ordeal went on and on, and Kthe two were experiencing the feeling there was simply no way out, no matter what they tried, and how they wished things were different. No way out. This was a vast expanse of deep, dark, cold, uncaring space that swallowed up anyone it could suck in, and there was no return to where anyone had been before.

Renee hollered as she started floating down into the strange, liquid-like, haunted abyss. It no longer looked like the basement at all, except for that window, the only source of light, ever dimming as she floated further and further downward.

No more human contact for either Kari-Lynn or Renee. Nothing but this endless nightmare, their only companions being nebulous echoes of dismay reminding them how alone they were and always would be.

Then, it stopped.

By the end of it, NT was holding and rocking herself for comfort, looking even paler than ever, and breathing hard and fast from the fright.

"Oh...My." gasped Indy. "That was like - oh man." she couldn't think of a word to describe it. It clearly went off the charts for sheer freaky, eeriness as far as she was concerned.

Capri blew out a breath.

"Creepy!" said Ameh.

Pippi nodded. "Now I understand why she just about hits the roof whenever there are dream and thought sequences on TV." She moved to comfort NT.

Bez was silent for a moment. She smiled crookedly. "Impressive. Very impressive."

Sigma nodded. "It was..."She shook her head. "I'm not entirely sure, but I empathize.."

Bez clapped her hands together abruptly. "I'd say we've covered the basics: just about every facet of terror: the basic, the extreme, and the out-there." She frowned. "And yet, something is missing. What to do, what to do..."

At this, Thande unexpecedly spoke out. "Reality."

Bez looked curiously at him.

Matrix cocked his head.

"H'm?" Bez asked.

"Reality." Thande repeated. "These have been...illusions. Their fear disapates once they awake. They must not dream. They must live."

Bez nodded slowly. "I see your point." She shook her head. "Keep in mind, we have to keep these creeps alive for their meeting with the law. If we were to shove them into something like our nightmares for real...well."

Matrix frowned playfully. "Well, every device has its flaw."

Bez smiled. "Yes, I suppose you could look at it that way." Her smile became devious. "Then again, I think we have a way around this. Stop me if I'm wrong: someone can...in a way...create their own reality. If someone isn't in a stable mental state, and..."

Sigma smiled suddenly. "I see! By convincing the brain that what it is expiriencing is reality-"

"Exactly, Sigma! When the dream ended, they were aware that it was a dream. How would the expirience differ if that realization were to be taken away?" Bez turned to Thande. "Thande, you are a genius." She turned to the others. "You get the plan, right? I need someone to come up with a dream that would be drop-dead scary if you had to really live it: pure terror." She smiled wryly. "But nothing too lethal, got it?" She surveyed the group. "Brainstorm, people!"

"Well," said Indy, "I don't know if mine even rates in comparison with the ones shown, but it will be their reality soon."

"What is that, Indy?" asked Pippi.

"Remember the one I told you about, where I ran away from this horrible internment camp thing, only to get hit by that van and unable to move off the road?"

"Oh, yes," said Pippi, "maybe if we combine that with one of mine - "

"They'll be headed off to something a lot like my bad camp dream, when they're in jail." said Indy.

"And they'll probably see some bloodshed." added Pippi, "Though whether they would be fazed by it or not is another question entirely.

Bez smiled. "Excellent.I believe that will come across as horribly real." She glanced menacingly at Renee and Kari-Lynn. "Now, Matrix, how are we to set this up?"

Matrix shrugged. "Shouldn't be too hard. I'll just need to access their brains-"

Renee and Kari-Lynn set up a chorus of wailing.

"Oh, NO-"

"We're going to die!"

"Shut up!" Sigma snapped. She turned to Matrix. "Proceed."

He smiled childishly. "As I was saying, I'll need to access their brains. I could do it the old fashioned way, but it seems unnecessarily messy. So, I'm just going to ask you two to hold still-" He strode over to them and clamped his hands onto their skulls. "You won't feel a thing."

For a few minutes the group stood in silence, watching.

Matrix nodded, removing his hands. "Alright, we're all set."

Bez nodded sharply. "Good." She turned to Pippi and Indy. "When your ready."

Indy nodded, and then it began.

It was an oppressive scene. Some sort of camp site, walled in all around by the ugliest entrail-colored high fence she had ever seen. Overgrown trees blocked out a good deal of light, but the sun still beat down mercilessly. If the trees had not been there, it would've been a wonder how any living thing could survive more than an hour in this.

In the opposite direction, which would've been probably northeast since this seemed to be in the late afternoon, there were rundown buildings that were an ugly grayish, light brownish color, with the most gastly shade of yellow shingles on one roof, and reddish orange on another roof.

What hit Kari-Lynn hard a moment later was a noxious stench that was probably coming from a stagnant body of water not far off, and possibly backed up sewage somewhere on the property as well.

All around and at varying distances were the sounds of working. Someone was hammering, someone else was chopping wood, still another was pushing a cart that didn't roll easily or smoothly on the uneven ground.

Kari-Lynn had a bundle of clothes in front of her that looked as grimy as the ones she herself was wearing, and she had no idea what she was supposed to do with them.

Somebody was heard off to the right, yelling, "Well, don't just stand there, get cracking!" This was followed by the unmistakable sound of a thwack and an outcry as another person was being hit with something.

Kari-Lynn shivered, and tried to make herself as small as possible. She sucked everything in, doing her best to be inconspicuous.

"Hey you!" The sharp voice sounded closer now, and there were hurried footsteps coming right toward her. "Whatcha waitin for, the rain to come and do your work for ya?"

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do - " Kari-Lynn muttered.

"Ya may be new here, but ya can't really be this ignorant!" the nasty-tempered woman sneered, "What's always done with a pile of dirty clothes? Ya wash 'em, idiot! Now get your lazy but going!"

Kari-Lynn felt a sting as a whip found its mark on her right shoulder.


"Well go on, the water's over that way!" The awful woman pointed a grubby finger that Kari-Lynn didn't see.

"I don't have eyes in the back of my head!" Kari-Lynn protested, and she didn't dare say aloud that this woman had just been stupid by pointing at something behind her head.

"That way!" the woman poked Kari-Lynn in the side hard enough to get the message across. Then she walked briskly off.

Since she was walking in the direction she had just indicated, Kari-Lynn thought it might be best to wait until she was out of site to start moving. In the meantime, she watched the woman's scrawny frame and frizzy auburn hair, clopping away in what looked like some kind of uniform and jackboots.

Kari-Lynn groaned and picked up the clothes that she really didn't even want to be touching in the first place, and trudged off, hoping there would at least be clean water around somewhere.

"Phew, what a stink!" she mumbled in disgust.

The sounds continued, the woman yelling orders at unfortunate workers and hitting them with her whip, the work itself, the occasional gust of wind.

In the meantime, Renee was having troubles of her own.

She was being forced to run laps around a small track in another section of the prison camp, and she never understood why. It was hot, her throat was partched and she was too tired to complain. Every time her knees threatened to give, some overseer would bark at her that time wasn't nearly up yet and she had to keep going.

When Kari-Lynn got to the water, she made a face in disgust and turned up her nose. No doubt about it, Just great, it had to be the stagnant pool.

"I can't wash anything in that!" she whined out loud.

"Then I guess the laundry just ain't gettin done." said someone coming up along side of her.

"Who are you?" Kari-Lynn asked, turning toward the person.

What a site. The girl had a mop of matted greasy hair that could've been light brown or mousy blonde, her teeth were crooked and broken off, and they looked like they hadn't been brushed for weeks on end. Her gray eyes were sunken in, she had a strange looking scar on one side of her face, and her clothes were filthy rags.

"Don't matter, they never call ya by yer name around here." She said, putting her bucket in the water.

"What are you doing that for?" Kari-Lynn asked.

"'s my job today. I'm s'posed t'get enough for supper and doin dishes and you know."

"What!?" Kari-Lynn was appalled. "You don't mean we're washing dishes in this stuff!"

"Of course. Ain't no other water source around, or if there is, the higher-ups that run this place sure ain't lettin any of us know. Oh well, cheer up, mate, it hasn't killed anyone yet and it won't kill ya either."

When she got her bucket filled, she picked it up and trundled away with it, leaving Kari-Lynn standing there with her mouth open in disbelief.

Renee didn't remember when she had finally stopped running and collapsed, but apparently she had, because now she was lying on a bed, in a very small, dreary looking room.

"We'll get 'er back on 'er feet soon enough," a harsh but cheerful voice was heard just behind the door which was soon jarred abruptly open.

"Oh, it's one of our newcomers," said a second person whose face was shrouded in some sort of mask.

"Yeah, we'll find 'er a proper job tomorrow. In the meantime," the first person chuckled, "Let's give 'er a little water to revive 'er, eh?"

The second person nodded.

Renee was almost ecstatic just to get some water to drink at this point.

That feeling soon gave way to something entirely different, Renee startled and sat up, screaming. She was freezing and soaking wet.

"Works every time!" the first person laughed, throwing the now empty bucket aside. "Now you can get back out there and - "

A loud bell rang.

"Saved by the bell," she said, reconsidering. "Nevermind runnin for now, it's roll call, inspection and then chow time."

The two escorted Renee out of the room and down a dingy hallway, and outside. They kept her between them, not allowing her any opertunity to bolt.

Inspection and Roll call was nerv-wracking. Someone came around, counting each person and telling them to straighten up if they slouched, wear a brighter smile and salute if they failed to do either, speak up when required to say anything etc. Failing inspection could mean having to go without supper, and anything to eat or drink until the next morning.

Everyone looked more or less the same, except for different facial features, pathetic hair styles, stature and body shape. They were all dressed in ragged, faded, dirty clothes, their hair was unkempt and greasy or frizzy, most anything that had once been a vivid color was now faded and grunged up so that it looked like everything else around the place. Black was no longer really black, and white wasn't white.

"Fifteen!" the person doing inspection and roll call was getting closer to Renee. "Stop twitching your face like that!" Apparently, Number Fifteen had a nervous mannerism or maybe it was just an involuntary muscle twitch that couldn't have come at a worse time, but she was told to clear and wash all the tables after supper was over.


Renee was Seventeen.

"Here," she said.

"Well I can see that!" came the disgusted reply. "Oh, you're one of those new people. You think that makes ya special or something?"

Renee just stood there, trembling in her wet clothes, how she wanted to cuss this woman out, who did she think she was, anyway?

"Well? What's the matter with you, you're shaking like a leaf!"

"Screw you!" Renee finally blurted out, and immediately regretted it.

"Seventeen, you will be on foot duty tonight!"

The others laughed derisively.

"What's that?" Renee sneered back, trying to out-attitude them all.

"You'll find out. Oh - and you didn't salute. No supper for you!"

"She should be so lucky." someone murmured.

"Nineteen, since you want to starve, you can join her. None for you either!"

The roll call and inspection continued, and Renee and Kari-Lynn turned to smile at each other when they thought no one was looking.

When it was over, everyone except Renee and Number Nineteen, was herded across a section of the camp and into a mess hall.

It looked as dreadful as any other building on the property. Inside, the walls were a sickly greenish purple color, and fading. A sour, puky smell wafted through the air.

Everyone lined up, got their dishes and cutlery, and finally their food before filing to one of the several long tables to eat.

The sickly smell grew stronger the closer they got to the food, and it remained strong as Kari-Lynn got her portions with dread.

The tables were untreated wood, like picnic tables. The chairs were the sort for indoors however, and were made of metal and hard plastic.

None of the food smelled good, and it looked just as bad. Slimy salads with watery, wilty lettuce, if the vegetables weren't actually rotten yet, they were at least on the verge, they certainly weren't fresh and considered good and safe to eat by most standards. There was something that looked like they might be instant mashed potatoes with some sort of thick white sauce or gravy on them, and the meat could've been anything, it too was covered in a red sauce of some kind.

Kari-Lynn began wishing she had also been punished with no supper as Renee had been. It would've given them a chance at planning an escape, and she wouldn't have to pretend to like this meal. Showing dislike was sure to bring on some other punishment. But what in the world could she do?

"So, here we are again," said someone taking her place across the table.

Kari-Lynn looked up and nodded. It was the woman she met by the edge of that disgusting water where the laundry was supposed to be done.

She watched the girl digging into the potatoes.

"How can you eat that stuff?"

"You get used to it after a while," the girl said through a mouthfull and continued shoveling it in.

Kari-Lynn tried, but she just couldn't bring herself to take a bite of the main course. The sauce on the potatoes smelled sour, not in a tangy way, but in the worst way. The meat smelled spoiled, even with the sauce on it.

She picked aimlessly at the salad, which didn't look any more appetizing. It didn't smell too bad, yet still not good either. Kari-Lynn figured it was probably the dressing, which as far as she could make out, was likely supposed to be blue cheese.

She shut her eyes and stuck her fork into the salad, picking up something that might have been a radish or small type of tomato.

But her eyes opened again rapidly as she felt her fork shake in her grasp, of its own free will, as if someone had just grabbed the other end. In fact, she had half expected the girl across from her to be the one snitching the morsel from her.

"Hey," she began, and then she suddenly dropped her fork, shrieking hysterically. She did not register the aghast choruses of "Eww!"s and revolted groans as a bit of Pippi's nightmare inserted itself into Indy's.

On the end of her fork was not a vegetable, and it wasn't the girl across from her trying to take it away.

It was an intact, living eyeball that rolled and glared at her, apparently upset at being stuck with a fork!

"Hey, what's the matter with you?" the girl across the table asked. "It's just a tomato, it can't hurt you."

"No! Don't you see!" Kari-Lynn squealed, "It's an eye!"

"Are you outa your head?" the girl laughed. "It's a tomato, see?" She reached across the table, picked up Kari-Lynn's fork and popped the vegetable into her mouth.

"OMG!" Kari-Lynn wailed, flopping back in her chair, ready to pass out.

"Hey you! Scarface!" someone who was apparently supervising the mess hall came hurrying over. "Steal from your neighbor again and you'll get tied to the rafters for a whole day!"

Scarface swallowed hastily. "I wasn't stealin anything, she doesn't want it!" she retorted.

"Huh, noobs." said the supervisor, looking at Kari-Lynn. "If you're tryin to set everybody into a panic so you can escape ya can forget it!"

Kari-Lynn only continued screaming incoherently.

"Shut up, you infernal brat!" the supervisor slapped her across the face. Looking at the other girl, "You're excused, go back to your bunk and stay there until someone tells you otherwise."

"But I wasn't finished - oh, nevermind," the girl mumbled as she stood up.

"What was that, Scarface?"

"Nothing important enough for your ears," came the cheeky response.

"Well, aren't we feeling plucky tonight."

"If you say so," and Scarface/27 hurried off before the supervisor could think of anything else derogatory to add.

Kari-Lynn barely registered any of this, she was so traumatized by the gross-out salad. She didn't even resist when the supervisor roughly lifted her out of the chair and started dragging her off to somewhere probably even more dreadful.

The next thing she knew, she was made to mow the grass. Not that there was a real motorized lawn moer to be had, or that there was a real lawn to speak of. She was given something like a giant pair of scissors and was told to cut the grass all over the camp ground.

Renee had been given a whitewashing job at the head building. This was the place where all of the people in charge slept, and conducted business.

When it was finally time to retire for the night, all of the administration came into the building and a few of them made snied comments about how artfully Renee had whitewashed a section of the wall. She wasn't nearly done, and they were going to make her continue the next day.

But that wasn't the end of her work for the day. She had almost forgot what the inspector said about foot duty.

"Now, you can get busy and wash our feet, cut our toe nails, and polish 'em, for whoever wants it." said a tall, big-boned woman with piercing green eyes and long, straggly gray hair. "Bex will be in here soon with the bucket and wash rag."

Renee's mouth fell open. She didn't want to get within ten yards of any of these people, let alone have to touch their stinking dirty feet! She didn't know how she survived that smelly, ugly ordeal, but somehow, she did.

Eventually, she and Kari-Lynn were shown to their bunks for the night, but they were not side by side or across from each other. The people in charge had deliberately made sure to keep these newcomers separated as much as possible.

As Renee was crawling into the bunk, a girl in the one across commented on how nice and clean her hair looked, and that it was a dead giveaway she was new here.

Renee was surprised at this, hadn't all her hair been shaven off by that tall red-head when she and Kari-Lynn had been caught by that bunch? She raised a hand to touch her head, and sure enough her hair was all there.

She just smiled.

In another section of the dorm in her own bunk, Kari-Lynn began planning a sneak getaway. She was dead tired, but even so, didn't think she could get to sleep in this hot, smelly place. The bunks were nothing but long wooden shelves with blankets on them. These blankets had two purposes. You could crawl under them for warmth, which was hardly necessary in this heat, or you could sleep on top of them, as the only source of cushioning from the hard wood shelf where you would be lying.

Sleep came to them eventually, and for a time, was the only relief from the unholy stink of the place.

But sleep had its own terrors. Kari-Lynn started awake when dreaming of an alarm clock ringing, and when she went to shut it off, a bloody face glared at her from the display.

"Eww!" NT shuddered.

Renee dreamed she was taking part in a diving competition, only when she came to the end of the board to jump off, it was no longer a diving board, but a window out a skyscraper. Below her was a giant pool, of blood!

In that blood were swimming dismembered human remains! A disembodied arm stuck itself out of the writhing mass of carnage and waved at her. A head opened and shut its mouth and drifted away.

She didn't hear Indy, NT, Ameh, Capri or anyone else react as Pippi's nightmare once again inserted itself into Indy's.

Renee awoke in a cold sweat, and then it hit her, where she really was. She just had to get out of here somehow.

Both girls made it out of the dorm, lucky enough not to have awakened anyone, or so they hoped.

What happened next was extremely tense but seemed rather vague all at the same time. Someone else was out in the darkness, apparently thinking of making a break for it as well. Although Kari-Lynn and Renee were at opposite ends of the grounds, they both heard whispers in the darkness where others wanted to get away, and were told not to try it by fearful companions who said they were sure to die if they were caught, and end up on the camp dinner table.

This made Kari-Lynn and Renee absolutely sick. Not only was the food bad, Kari-Lynn knew, but had that mystery meat been a somebody rather than a something?

Wind blew, and it was chilly.

Kari-Lynn and Renee didn't know how long they stumbled around in the darkness, nearly dying of heart attacks every time they heard a twig snap or the flapping of wings as a moth or even a bat whizzed by.

Eventually, they bumped into something solid. It was the huge property fence. They had forgotten about it, how were they ever going to scale it?

Then they eventually found a couple of trees that were growing right up to the fence.

Why had anyone not thought to get out of this place long ago by way of these trees? It would be easy enough if they could just climb them and get over the fence that way.

That was exactly what they did.

Then, the daunting task of letting themselves slide down the fence. Renee hesitated for a moment, but then she thought she heard angry voices and a door open sharply from somewhere on the campground. Oh, no, the jig was up now. It was either let yourself down over the fence and risk hurting yourself a little, or letting yourself get caught and subjected to who knew what sort of awful punishment.

"After them!" "Get those two! Hey you, get back here!" the voices from behind the fence shouted angrily.

When landing on the other side, finally out of the campground, the girls started running for their lives. They weren't sure when night turned to day, but it apparently had, in short order.

They found themselves on city sidewalks, running aimelessly down them, past various streets, trying to make their way home.

Kari-Lynn thought she heard those dreaded campground voices in pursuit, but a glance back revealed nothing. She just kept stumbling on.

Renee crossed a road where there was no sign of traffic, until she was almost across. As she was about to step onto a curb, a white van zoomed past,hitting her with a rear-view mirror.

Renee fell to her knees on the curb, crying. She tried to move, to get up, but found she couldn't. Her knees were like jelly. She felt the inner workings of her arms and shoulders as she tried to use them to haul herself all the way onto the curb. But nothing really happened. She couldn't move.

Another vehicle, an 18 wheeler this time, rolled by, causing her to scream. She was sure it was going to roll over her toes. It hadn't, but the effect was devastating.

Kari-Lynn was experiencing something very similar, but closer to her own home.

"In this state, Capri returned them each to their own home towns to face arrest and charges.

"Thanks for helpin us out with these two," she said, smiling. "But I don't think I'm gonna be eatin cherry or grape tomatoes for a while, ugh."

Bez smiled, a playfully disgusted look on her face. "You're welcome." She shook her head. "I never much liked tomatoes, but that was disgusting." She turned to Pippi and Indy. "Congrats to you!" She moved her hand as though she were tipping a hat to them.

Indy laughed. "Yes, urgh that was so gross!"

Pippi giggled. "Thanks."

Sigma grinned. "You know, that was kinda fun. In a "we got the bad guys!" sort of way.."

"Yes!" Capri smiled broadly.

Bez's expression became proud. "Sigma, you're finally getting the idea."

"Wow." said Ameh, grinning in bemusement.

Matrix started slightly. "Guys, I think we have to go."

"Yeah, we should head out as well," said Capri.

Bez frowned. "Mmm? Why?"

Matrix frowned in a 'you know what' sort of way.

Bez's eye's widened. "Oh." She turned to the others."Well, then, I suppose this is goodbye. I was never much for big farewells, so: Indy, Pippi, Capri, NT, and Ameh, goodbye!" She smiled dryly and winked. "Maybe we'll see you around sometime.. Matrix, get me out of this thing." She offered a final grin and mock salute to them before disapearing.

"Yes, thanks - shoot, too late," Pippi grinned.

Matrix smiled and shrugged. "And I actually take orders from her." He waved at the group and disapeared.

Ameh waved.

Sigma smiled somewhat sadly.

"Seeya, guys!" She looked nervously about. "Bez wouldn't be happy about this, but keep in touch." She tossed a small device to Capri. "It's a Unicom." She grinned. "Feel free to call us up if the need ever arises!" She frowned thoughtfully. "I'm not sure if you can get it to work, but from what I've seen, I'm going to assume you can."

Capri nodded, and smiled at her. "Thank you."

Sigma smiled. "All right, Bez, beam me up!" She waved and vanished.

This left Thande alone. He stared silently at the group. He nodded respectfully to them and disappeared.

"Bye!" NT called.

"Woah! Thande, once again, you surprise me." Bez's disembodied voice echoed out. "I'll have to keep a tab on these people-and Sigma, don't think I didn't see that whole Unicom scene! There are only three of those in existence! Do you have any-crap, the audio's still on. Sorry 'bout that!" There was a soft click, and then silence.

Ameh giggled.

Capri stood for a moment, apparently moved. She looked like she wanted to say something, but couldn't think of how to put it into words.

Then she vanished, followed by NT, then Ameh, and Pippi took hold of Indy's hand, took out her transporter, and they too, were gone.


No Way Out For Cowards


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