25 November 1982, 12:05 pm
A phone rang.
"Could you get that, baby? My arm's so far up this turkey I feel like I should be asking what it wants for breakfast," said Angela.
Her husband's voice came down the stairs. "Such a dirty girl. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" he replied. Angela listened to him pick up the receiver but she couldn't hear the conversation over the sounds of cooking. She finished stuffing the turkey and poised her hand over it just as her husband came down the stairs.
"Angela, I need to talk to you about something."
"Just a second. This takes some concentration." Angela waved her hand over the raw turkey and suddenly its color changed from pink to softly brown and the familiar aroma of Thanksgiving filled the kitchen. "Okay, now what's going on, baby?"
"Honey, I have some bad news. Um, we should call your parents. We're not going to be able to make it," he said.
"What the hell are you talking about? Is this one of your 'I'm ShadowSeraph and I need to save the world' kicks? Because it's Thanksgiving and I'm taking a goddamn holiday for once in my life. Besides, I just zapped the turkey."
ShadowSeraph stiffened a little at the mention of his work name. "Look, Sister Smolder," — and here he returned the favor — "we don't have any choice. That was my contact and they're moving today. I'm sorry, honey. But we may never get another chance."
"Goddammit. Fine. Look, would you do me a favor and call my parents? I'm sorry . . . I just don't need Mama lecturing me on how I need to relax right now."
"Thank you, honey. I promise that we'll do something nice for Christmas. Like maybe get the phone turned off so no one can bother us," he said.
"Who's watching Erik while we're out?" she asked.
"That's been arranged. Our agents are going to keep him safe until we get back," he said.
"Hopefully this won't take too long. I hate leaving him alone," said Angela.
"Hello, lovely and lethal light of my life. Are you ready to go?" asked Robert as he walked into the bedroom.
Julia smiled and playfully tossed a shoe at him. "This is what you get for alliterating at me." He caught it without looking, and then held it up to examine its spike.
"Sweetheart, is that a hypodermic needle hidden in the heel?"
"A girl's gotta have her secrets, Robert. If I told you everything, you might get bored and leave me."
"Julia, I could spend every second with you for a thousand years and it would still be agony just to look away."
She smiled and got up to kiss him, softly. "Robert, if you weren't so handsome I don't think I could forgive you for being such an incurable romantic. Luckily I still have a secret left."
"Oh? And when will I find out what it is?"
"In due time, Robert dear. Let's go. My parents are expecting us."
The bunker was nearly bare; ShadowSeraph and Sister Smolder sat on metal folding chairs in front of a small table. Their contact stood in front of a chalkboard on which he had outlined a strategy of attack; he was lit by a single long fluorescent bulb that flickered occasionally. Guards armed with machine guns stood outside the only entrance to the concrete-walled room; the entrance was behind the chalkboard and off to the left, clearly visible to the pair of heroes. Sister Smolder insisted on never sitting with her back to a door.
"ShadowSeraph, Sister Smolder, thank you for cancelling your plans. I would not have asked you here if it weren't for this unprecedented opportunity.
"We believe that the targets are going to be outside the Fortress of Doom today. Apparently, they are spending the holiday with the Contessa's parents, and as such they will be undercover. They won't have their usual defenses with them — giant killer robots tend not to be welcome at Thanksgiving dinner.
"I pray that you are successful. The cost of obtaining this information was . . . substantial. As you know, the pair are rarely separated from their forces, and we don't know when they will be this vulnerable again.
"I don't think it's necessary to repeat the list of crimes that the targets have perpetrated. The president herself ordered this assault; doctors don't expect her daughter to recover from the attack two weeks ago. We're working with the Ruskies on this — the Kremlin agrees that it's in our mutual national interest to strike now. You'll be leading a team of CIA and KGB agents. Any power you need is at your disposal.
"You have every piece of information we have on their intended route and most likely plans in that information packet. We understand that you will wish to formulate your own assault plans; I believe I've given you every bit of pertinent information we have. Do you have any questions?"
Sister Smolder spoke up. "Since it's Thanksgiving, do we get time-and-a-half for this?"
Julia reached up to the doorbell but then drew back and bit her lip. Robert wasn't used to seeing her betray even the slightest hint of nervousness; the only time he had ever seen her break her composure was the first night they had met each other. "Julia, my darling, you aren't worried about this, are you?"
"Of course I am, Robert. This is the first time I've seen my parents since our wedding. And I'm not positive that you made a good first impression on them."
"Nonsense. I didn't harm a hair on their heads even though I sustained quite a few bruises trying to tie your mother up."
Julia smiled. "Hey, where'd you think I learned to kick like this? My family's got good genes, Robert."
Robert smiled back and rang the doorbell. "I'm sure they're thrilled to see you again, dear. And they better be happy to see me, too. I spent all morning making these candied yams."
Time seemed to pause for Julia as she waited for her parents to answer the door. I hope Papá doesn't make a scene. Please, Madre de Dios, let him act civilized.
The door opened. It was Julia's mother. "Mamá! I'm so glad to see you! It's been too long!"
"Julia, sweetheart! Come in, come in. I know you live off in Nepal now, but I never see you! You should know, I plan to spend the whole day guilt-tripping you. And you, Robert! You are just as handsome as you were at the wedding. I'm so glad to see you again."
"I assure you, Mrs. Quevedo, the pleasure is mine. It's clear where Julia got her good looks."
"Such a charmer he is, Julia. You two, come in, take your shoes off, sit down. Do you want anything to drink?"
Julia's father sat in front of the TV watching a football game. He looked up as Robert and Julia sat down, but grunted and went back to the game.
"Pedro! Where are you manners? That's your daughter and son-in-law!" scolded Mrs. Quevedo.
"Julia, ¿estás segura de que sea hombre verdadero? Se parece a un maricón." Julia, are you sure he's a real man? He looks like a queer.
"Papá! I know that you and Robert didn't get off on the right foot, but I'm your daughter and you will be civil." She turned to Robert. "Look, sweetheart, I'm sorry. I think you hurt his pride a bit when you and him met."
Mrs. Quevedo was bustling in and out of the kitchen carrying armloads of plates to the table. Julia felt a sudden pang of nostalgia for her childhood; her mother had always been every inch the mother, and Julia had not expected her to let a little thing like a visit from her supervillain daughter and son-in-law to change anything. She found herself regretting that her new life had meant a complete break from her old one. It was nice to be a normal family for once.
"Mamá, where are Joey and Danny? They should be here."
Her mother sighed. "Julia, José and Daniel don't know about you and Robert's . . . situation. We thought it was better if they didn't show up this year. I'm sorry. But it's easier this way. Anyway, everything's all set. It's time to eat. Come to the table, you three."
They sat and said grace, and passed around plates of turkey, and mashed potatoes, and beans and rice. Conversation began, and even Mr. Quevedo managed to have a conversation with Robert about football. "So, Julia," said Mrs. Quevedo when conversation paused. "When are you and Robert going to give me a little grandbaby?"
"Well, mamá, papá, I have something to tell you. Robert doesn't know yet either. I wanted to wait until I was sure. I have good news for you all." She patted her stomach. "I'm pregnant! I just took the test this morning."
"Julia! That's wonderful! I'm so thrilled! I've been waiting for this. I thought for sure when you decided to go to grad school that it meant you'd grow old and gray and never find a man and have some grandchildren for me to spoil."
"And it's like I told you, Mamá," said Julia, laughing. "How was I going to find a man if I didn't have a career of my own? I never would have met Robert if I hadn't been in the lab that day."
Robert turned to Julia and took her hand. "I see you meant it when you said you still had your secrets. I guess this means we're going crib shopping." He bent to kiss her; as their lips touched, the lights went out and the room was suddenly lit only by the twilight leaking through the curtains.
It was beginning to get dark as Sister Smolder and ShadowSeraph dropped silently onto the roof of the house from the ladder of the helicopter that hovered high overhead, high enough that it could hardly be heard even in the silence of the autumn evening. At virtually the same instant that they touched down, the light streaming out of every window on the street suddenly blinked off, and the streetlights as well. It was cloudy that night, and twilight was thickening as the seconds passed. ShadowSeraph sent hand signals to the black-clad troops who had assembled in the street in front of the house. Other equipment wouldn't work; military jamming equipment had been set up to make radio transmission impossible.
At ShadowSeraph's signal, the troops split into groups of three or four that crouched around every entrance to the house — front and back doors, the garage door, and ground-level windows. When each group was in its assigned location, ShadowSeraph raised his arm to point straight above, and suddenly the dusky light disappeared entirely, and an inky blackness seemed to suffuse the area. Sister Smolder grabbed his hand; she knew the darkness only extended a few feet outwards from the house, but with her husband's powers activated, it was hard to imagine that this sudden night had any boundaries at all.
Julia pulled back from Robert and stood up. "Mamá, Papá, I want you to hide. They're attacking us; go into the basement. They won't look for you but I don't want you caught in the crossfire. Hide behind anything you can find. Just don't be seen. Quickly. They're going to be in here very soon."
"Julia, it's just a power outage. Don't worry so much," protested Mrs. Quevedo.
"I can't take that chance. Do what I said. Hide. You don't have much time."
The house was suddenly pitch black. The dim light seeping in the curtains had disappeared abruptly. "Hurry, Mamá! They're going to come in the windows!" She heard her parents slowly feel their way to the basement and she turned to where she thought her husband was standing.
"Robert, do you have any guards nearby? We need to alert them now."
"My radio isn't working. That means the transmitter I'm carrying is out; they should be here in fifteen minutes if they don't receive a signal from it. We have to hold them off until then."
Crashes sounded from multiple directions; Julia heard the front door splintering at the same time as crunching sounds signaled that attackers had jumped in, landing on the shattered glass in front of the now empty windows. Icy wind blew into the house and the curtains could be heard flapping against it.
Sister Smolder held onto her husband and they leapt off the roof onto the ground below, seeing their way in the electrical green of their night-vision goggles. They followed the soldiers through the front door and saw Robert and Julia, holding each other, standing at the table. Something was in Robert's hands — probably some tiny explosive he carried with him. She cursed silently; Robert was nothing if not prepared for disaster. But she and ShadowSeraph had the advantage of numbers; thirty trained assassins had surrounded the targets, and without Robert's many toys, the two were nothing but ordinary human beings.
"Stop," she commanded; the soldiers had formed a circle around the targets, making escape impossible. She raised her hand to release a blast of heat at them.
A flash of light appeared in her goggles, and her eyes were dazzled by the sudden green glow. She couldn't see anything.
"Hold on, Julia. Cover your eyes," whispered Robert as he threw something. It was a special device he had made in his laboratory when he learned of ShadowSeraph's powers. It was nothing but a tiny grenade that would release a flash of light bright enough to overcome even ShadowSeraph's supernatural night. When he opened his eyes, he could see the enemy troops wrenching off the now-ruined night vision goggles that had just rendered them temporarily blind. The unnatural darkness was gone — the distraction had been enough to make ShadowSeraph drop the darkness that had hidden the attackers.
Julia had already counted their attackers; thirty black-clad figures, plus two people the von Wickeds had a long acquaintance with. They were all rubbing their eyes in an attempt to speed the recovery of their vision. It was enough distraction that she and Robert could escape, perhaps. She immediately created several scenarios in her mind and decided on one.
"This way," she hissed, launching herself towards the back door. She landed foot-first, the heel of her shoe on the heart of one of soldiers that were blocking her path to the empty jamb that had held the back door. Her aim was good, and she had managed to push the battle's first casualty into a group of four others, and she leapt over the group as they tried to untangle themselves. She didn't have time to think about Robert; he would either follow her or escape some other way. The important part was drawing the battle away from the house. Her parents were not going to be brought into this.
By the time the spots in Sister Smolder's vision had diminished enough that she could tell what was going on, the targets were nowhere to be seen. One of the soldiers was dead, but the others were regrouping. "They left through the back door. We don't know where they're going," reported one of them.
"Honey, if we follow them it's out into the city. That means risking other civilian lives; I don't think they'll be too polite to take hostages," said ShadowSeraph.
"We need to try to overtake them while we can. I'll go on ahead; I'm faster on foot than you are. Follow along and call in backups if you hear a signal," she replied.
She ran ahead, following the footprints in the light snow. They led to the street and then up the path to another house. The door was open, swinging in the wind. She cursed again. Her husband was only a few steps behind her as she darted in.
Julia held a knife at the throat of the woman who appeared to be the family's matriarch and faced the door, while Robert stood with a gun in front of the others, who were huddled in the corner. She had moments before Sister Smolder arrived, and she wanted to be ready to negotiate. The fat woman, who appeared to be in her sixties, whimpered and her body sagged against Julia's; her legs didn't seem to want to keep her upright. The door swung open, and Sister Smolder stood facing her.
"Put her down, Julia. Let's settle this ourselves."
"So you can finish off your attack on my Thanksgiving dinner with no messy civilian deaths to cover up? I don't think so, Sister," spat Julia.
"You don't need to hurt them. There's no reason for this to involve anyone else."
"Listen to me. You have a choice, Sister Smolder. And you too. I can hear you outside, ShadowSeraph. Do you think I'm so foolish that I wouldn't notice your breathing out there?
"In eight minutes, Robert's robot guards will be here. You and your CIA henchmen don't have the strength to take out a single one of them. Or are they KGB? Funny how you government types don't seem to mind the Commies so much when it's in your interest to make nice."
"I don't believe you. There's no way to send out a signal."
Julia shrugged. "You don't have to believe me; it's going to happen either way. The question is whether you'd like to try to attack us first. You might even manage to take one of us out, but now that we're fighting nice and fair, face-to-face, I doubt you could. Trust me, though — if you do, this woman will die. And Robert will take out as many of her family as he can before you finish him off. Or you can go back to your own family — I believe this is little Erik's first Thanksgiving, isn't it? We can all go back to what we were doing, and let this family go. Your mission has already failed, Sister. The question is how badly you want it to end. Robert's guards have weapons beyond anything the United States could imagine — do you want those let loose? Let's keep this petty squabble a private matter? I'd rather not have to hurt this woman" — Julia sunk an elbow into her ribs and she let out a soft moan — "and I'd certainly not like Robert's troops to decide to avenge his death. But it's not really my decision."
Sister Smolder raised her arm and aimed at Robert; Julia smelled burning clothes and flesh. She tossed the woman to the floor and leaped over her, sweeping Sister Smolder off her feet while she grabbed the arm that the superheroine was using to aim the heat wave. She turned the knife in her hand, and the blade was at Sister Smolder's throat. Julia had no choice; the woman was going to kill Robert unless she was stopped. The blade went through flesh effortlessly, and blood spurted out as she pierced the carotid artery.
"Robert, are you all right?" she asked, turning to help him up.
"I'm fine, Julia. It's a nasty burn but it's nothing that can't be fixed." They walked towards the door together, and ShadowSeraph walked through it, his face already etched with dread. His eyes fell upon the form of his dead wife, with a pool of blood expanding on the floor underneath it.
"Oh my God, you've killed her," he wept, and he fell to his knees, taking her hand in his.
"I'm sorry. I didn't want to do it," said Julia. "And I don't want to kill you either. But I don't have much choice anymore." She knelt behind him; he didn't offer any resistance as she pulled his hair back and bared his throat.
He steeled his face, and once more Julia's blade severed flesh. His body went slack and he lay beside his dead wife. Within seconds, ShadowSeraph was dead.
Robert and Julia waited in the front yard of her parents' house. The distant pulse of helicopter blades could be heard as they stood, watching the sky.
"I'm sorry I had to do that. They were decent people," said Julia.
"I know. But we didn't have any choice; they were doing what they thought was the right thing. The government was using them, and it used them up."
She shook her head sadly. "I hope their son is safe."
They fell silent again. They entered the helicopter as soon as it touched down, and didn't speak to each other for the entire flight back to their temporary base.
The Von Wicked Chronicles
by Excalibre and Evil Catullus
I remember when it was me who made you want to take over the world and enslave humanity
Latex. High heels. Knives. (Excalibre's writeup)
It's not my fault that I'm so evil
I was a teenage Overlord
Lady Deathblast's Lover
This little light of mine
The Thanksgiving battle
My funny villaintine
Robots and comic books
This wicked life
The education of little overlords
All things truly wicked
Darkness lights its own way
How it all began
Sometimes I think you love that doomsday machine more than you love me.
They are mine. They are dead.
There is a crack in everything
Hell hath no fury like a villainess scorned