Some Days Are Better Than Others

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Some Days Are Better Than Others

Rewritten - 26/12/11

by Tychonaut Jemima

 

The downside to super-hearing is you can't ignore the phone when it rings, no matter how deeply asleep you were. I blearily reached out for the phone resting in its cradle beside the bed, kicking my legs to untangle the sheets from around me. The glowing numbers on my alarm clock tell me it's 8.00am. And a Wednesday.

"Hello? Oh, hi momma...no, no, I was just sleeping... no momma, I'm not taking 'that tone' with you... yes, I know it's gone past time to get up but I was out... no, not at one of those night clubs, I was assigned to patrol the graveyard shift... yes, I realise you wouldn't have known that because I never call... no, I didn't know Wyvern calls his mother every day... yes, I know he has good prospects... no, I didn't know he was single again... yes, I saw Doc Silver yesterday... no, momma... yes momma, I know you want to see a new Britannia born before you die..."

In case you were wondering, Doc Silver is a mystic adventure hero and, given he saw me in the freaking nude, hopefully also a real medical doctor. He wasn't actually able to help me so it is still technically impossible for me to be pregnant due to on-going complications with 'down there'. Oh, and piece of free advice for you. You have no idea what cold hands are until a man encased in a skin of solid metal has touched very sensitive, if unwanted, parts of your anatomy.

"No, momma I haven't called him yet... yes, momma I know he's a mage... momma, doesn't it concern you at all that his name is Doctor Odd?.. No, I didn't know he said he was the 'Sorcerer Superior'... is that as well as being a Master of the Mystic Arts? uh-huh... and what university did he obtain his masters in mystic arts from then? You can't tell me can you? And does anyone other than himself call him that?.. ah-huh, thought so..."

The other reason I'm not keen to go see Doctor Odd is that freaky porn star handle bar moustache he has. There are certain sorts of probing, mystical or otherwise, that this girl draws the line at without someone springing for dinner and movie first, if you catch my drift.

"Yes, I went to that appointment with Mister Improbable you set up... no, my regenerative powers ate up all the nanites within minutes... yeah, he still thinks that the mystic arts are the best chance I have of changing things 'down there' given my vulnerability to magic... what? no, momma... but, momma you aren't lis... momma, if you would just... no momma, I'm not talking back to you... I'm sorry, momma it's just that I'm tiiiiiiiired, I only got home at six... okay, yes momma. I know it's not over... Yes, love you too. Say hi to dad for me."

Switching the phone off I toss it onto a pile of clothes on the floor. I lay there for a few minutes face down on the bed until my bladder reminds me that all that coffee I drank to stay awake last night eventually has to go somewhere.

~O~

I really did try and go back to sleep after that but well, London in the morning isn't the quietest place in the world even with double glazing and sound proofing on the walls. Add to that my enhanced senses and the fact that my moving about woke my cat up and she wanted to play and it seemed that sleep would not be coming easily for me that day. By mid-morning I could be found slumped on the sofa watching some moronic daytime talk show, though I do have to say that the host is doing a sterling job keeping a straight face while some idiot is babbling on about how his wife has been replaced by a shape changing alien. I mean, Puh-leaze, that is soooooooo 2009.

I'm spared from suffering the 'unmasking' of his wife as an alien by an image of Doctor Dastardly cutting into the broadcast signal. A quick flick of the buttons on the remote tells me that this is happening across all channels. Unfortunately I don't get to hear what he has to say because as he starts speaking my Round Table signal device starts sounding out the assemble beep.

I wonder if I have a clean cape?

~O~

Two hours later and I'm crammed in the back of a converted military transport aircraft and trying to catch some sleep until we reach the not so secret lair and defeat the devious Doctor Dastardly's deadly dishonest designs.

Or something like that.

I'm tired and Unicorn's mission briefing was very, very dull. The way I figure it, we turn up somewhere and we punch someone. I'm a Majestic Class Superhuman, which puts me somewhere close to Superman if he were real. The 'who, what, where and why' are largely irrelevant and the 'how' usually involves me pounding the crap out of someone. It's totally old school I know but it worked for great-great-grandma Britannia, so who am I to change it?

Unfortunately, any hopes of getting a few more precious minutes of sleep however are dashed by the arrival of Amazon as she nudges me into an upright position on the row of seats I was lying across. I mumble a few obscenities at her as I wipe the sleep out of my eyes.

"Hey Goldilocks," said Amazon passing a silver hip flask as she sat down next to me. "This should wake you up."

"What is it?"

"Vodka and Red Bull. It should give your metabolism the kick it needs to get going."

"And if it doesn't?"

"You being this cranky in the same flying metal box as 'My Little Super Pony' should be interesting," said Amazon, giggling quietly to herself.

I unscrew the flask and take a deep drink, feeling the kick from the red bull within a few seconds as my enhanced metabolism processes it. I take a further drink from the flask before passing it back to Amazon and stretch some of the kinks out of my muscles.

"Thanks."

"No probs," said Amazon with a smile.

Unlike my own body, which due to the nature of my powers merely makes me look athletic, Amazon is built like a brick outhouse. She frankly looks like she could bench press a tank where as I look like I'd struggle with a heavy bag of shopping. Ironically, I'm actually the stronger of us. Despite the 'Amazon' tag, she is outfitted more like a Romanised version of Joan of Arc with leather thigh boots, a roman legionnaire style leather kilt and a push up leather sports bra under a tailored chainmail shirt.

Apart from being a teammate, Amazon is also a good friend and usually my partner in crime when I'm not taking the whole 'cape and cowl' thing so seriously. Ask her about the time she threw up over the Prince of Wales after rescuing him from the super villain 'Count Otology'. Trust me, you don't want to take on a super villain whose sole power is to cause nausea, dizziness and disorientation. The results are... icky.

"How was the graveyard shift?"

"Dark. And quiet. A couple of burglaries and a warehouse fire that the fire service needed some help with. How's the day shift?"

"Less fun without you," said Amazon with a snort. "I'm expected to behave like a responsible member of the community."

"How's that working out for you?" I mumble, stifling a yawn.

"Not well. I'll probably end up of the graveyard shift with you before long or, God forbid, monitor duty."

Monitor duty was like one step up from being a mall security guard. You field telephone calls from the emergency services, other superheroes and the government all the while sitting in front of a bank of screens that are already being monitored by an A.I. that beats you at chess and always bugs you to play 'Global Thermonuclear War' with it. In the event something actually happens it's your job to push the oversized red 'emergency' button. That's it.

"Amy...hypothetically assuming for a moment that I wasn't listening during roll call. I know Merlin, Ivanhoe and 'International Velvet' but who's the guy in red over there?" I ask pointing to the red clad figure two rows over.

"Red Gauntlet. Glasgow's finest evidently. He's been on the trail of Dastardly for a while now, hence his inclusion in the squad. His powers are from the supersized red gauntlet on his left hand. It allows him to manifest crimson coloured energy constructs."

"Great. Basically, a 'muggle' then?"

"Pretty much."

I'm not proud of it but there is a little snobbery in the superhuman world between those that generate their own powers internally and those that use technology to externally generate powers.

"Abbey...what's with the domino mask?"

Abbey, short for Abigail. That's me. Or at least it has been for the last eighteen months.

"Merlin is still trying to fix my helmet from that mood spell. I got tired of not having a poker face when fighting villains."

"It works with the rest of the outfit. Bow at the back is cute too." 

"Don't tell my mother but between you and me...I'm kinda enjoying the freedom not wearing the helmet gives me."

"Wouldn't want you to betray five generations of tradition, eh?" said Amazon with a smirk.

"Yeah. Though y'know...masks are kinda kewl."

"How's the CPD-9's going by the way?" asked Amazon, rolling her eyes at my valley girl impression.

The form CPD-9's (Civic Property Damage - Causation No.9: Superhuman Conflict) were required for insurance purposes following any superhuman conflict resulting in significant property damage. Yeah, the comic books totally underestimate the amount of paperwork involved in fighting crime.

You may think the hard part is mutating, discovering a lost mystical artefact, building a power suit or being bitten by a radioactive wombat but it's not. The hard part is dreaming up a code name that doesn't land you in copyright court, designing and making a costume that doesn't make you look like a professional wrestler and finding a super team that offers comprehensive personal liability insurance. Thanks to 'double-g' grandma the first two were covered for me, but the third is the reason I joined the Round Table.

Trust me, 'Do I have insurance cover?' is the first question you will ask yourself when you hypothetically demolish a major urban shopping mall in a significantly sized hypothetical northern English city by miscalculating the direction in which the hypothetical Martian tripod death machine will hypothetically fall after you've hypothetically ripped off one of its legs.

Hypothetically.

Just like as a hypothetical consequence, your probation period as a member of the Round Table would be hypothetically extended for another six months and you'd be assigned to the graveyard shift, which would hypothetically really, really suck.

"Slowly. It's like you need to be some sort of super brain to follow them," I reply rolling my eyes. "And they are in triplicate."

"So ask the liaison officer for help," said Amazon gently nudging me in the ribs as she passes the hip flask back to me. "I can see it now...your eyes meet of a pile of red tape like two star crossed public servants..."

In reply I just blush and turn to look out of the window. Our liaison officer is Detective Sergeant Anderson if you insist on being formal about it, otherwise known as 'Deliciously Scrumptious' Anderson (how scrumptious? truly scrumptious! Think young George Clooney before he went grey) and Amazon knows I fancy him something rotten but have repeatedly lost the nerve to say anything.

"You know he's single now?"

My head whips around quick enough that I almost get whiplash from the French plait my hair is in. "He's what now?"

"Single. Free. Eligible. Back on the market. He recently broke up with his girlfriend..."

YES!!! Do you know that happy dance Snoopy used to do in the cartoons? I'm mentally doing it!! This news can only be undeniable proof that there is a Patron Saint of Horny Single Women! Time to break out the silk sheets, champagne and chocolate body paint!

"Just don't hang around letting him know you're available too girl," said Amazon lowering her voice to a whisper. "You've got competition..."

"Who?"

With a subtle cant of her head, Amazon indicates to the back of Unicorn standing up a few rows up from us.

"I caught her flirting with him yesterday during the clean up following our encounter with 'The Ghastly Ghost' and, well..."

"Well?"

"She was dissing you something fierce, girlfriend," said Amazon affecting a cheesy ghetto accent as she passed her flask over to me again. In response, I take a long gulp of its contents before speaking.

"You realise this means war..."

~O~

The robotic archers were new.
 
Or rather, they weren't covered by the cliff notes version of the briefing so maybe they weren't necessarily 'new' new but they were definitely 'new' to me. Anyway, I'm in DC pin-up mode (you know the one - chest out, shoulder blades back gripping that imaginary pencil, tummy in and bum out while my hair and cape were blowing imposingly in the breeze) and I'm effortlessly brandishing a reinforced steel blast door in one hand that I had just wrenched from its hinges to let us into the Citadel of Science and feeling fairly confident that this is going to be the image that the Round Table's PR team lead with tomorrow. As team leader, Unicorn carries a small recording device which is used for PR, evidence at court cases and training and I make sure she's looking at me before I discard the door.

With a nod to the others I enter the dark tunnel behind the door, letting my heightened senses adjust to the reduced light. A noise from up ahead catches my attention and I pluck an object out of the air from in front of me. It looks like some sort of arrow, which for a citadel of science seems surprisingly low tech. Straining my hearing, I search out for a heartbeat to indicate a nearby archer but hear nothing. The next second I'm staggering backwards out of the tunnel with three arrows sticking out of my stomach, which is a bit of a surprise given I'm nigh invulnerable.

I'm already starting to feel light headed as I'm knocked to the ground by the first of a dozen or so perfect looking people sporting fixed expressions and all attired in matching black bodysuits. Digging deep, I push past the pain and throw a handful of my assailants off of me before grasping one of the arrow shafts pulling it free from my stomach. After I stop screaming, I hold the arrow up to my face. It's not the bloody point of metal that gives away what the arrow is tipped in but rather the grey discolouration rapidly creeping up my arms. The arrow is tipped in iron. 

 

Iron.

Dammit. I have two weaknesses, just two. Unfortunately, they are the same two weaknesses all Britannia's have had since double-g grandma, which is a complete vulnerability to certain types of magic and iron, due to the Fey origins of our powers. However, the real disadvantage of being a fifth generation superhuman, each of us with identical powers and weaknesses, is that anyone in the business who does anything beyond basic research knows my Achilles heel. I just never thought it might actually be the death of me. After all, I am the fifth woman to wear this gaudy coloured outfit which kind of suggested that everything works out for the best even in those 'kryptonite' moments y'know? Besides, I don't want to die. I can't die. My mother would never forgive me if I died without a daughter to pass the mantle of Britannia on to someday. I need to get the other arrows out so that my accelerated healing powers can kick in. I get as far as grasping the second shaft before I pass out.

 

~O~

When I come too, which in itself was the best thing to happen to me all day, I'm relieved to notice that I am no longer doing my impression of a human pincushion. It's not all good news however as the iron collar around my neck is burning my skin something fierce. Sort of like a really scratchy starched shirt collar. I give the chain attached to it a tug but all that does is demonstrate that the other end of the chain is securely anchored to the wall and prove I'm not strong enough to shift it until I'm free of the superpower interfering iron collar. Great. To escape the iron collar I need to be free of the iron collar. As much as I hate to admit it, I really need help from the rest of the team. 

My surroundings are dimly illuminated by some candles and in the darkness I can just make out the forms of my teammates similarly shackled either side of me. Although from the gleam of the chain on closest of them, Amazon, not all of them are in literal irons.  A shuffling noise from the inky black darkness in front of me draws my attention and then a different noise.  I think I can hear organ music. Is that? Yes, I think it is! And it's Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor' if I'm not mistaken. Y'know, the one that goes 'da-da-daaaaaaa *pause* da-da-da-da-daa daaaaaaa...'

And ooooooooh.... a circle of red led lights have appeared in the centre of the floor in front of us and... yes, a large rotating church organ is rising from with the circle of light. I bet that's Doctor Dastardly in the top hat and suit with the little black cape playing the organ. I think I'm going to cry. This is just soooooooo perfect old school villainy. I've finally reached the big leagues. *sniff* Nothing could spoil this moment.

 

~O~

I was wrong. Something could spoil the moment.

Out of curiosity do you know how long Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor' is? I can tell you. It's EIGHT AND A FREAKING HALF MINUTES. And he played every single freaking note of it. He lost me somewhere around three and a half minutes. So sue me. I'm a product of the MTV generation. Anything beyond four minutes is a symphony.

Anyway, his entrance was deeply disappointing. They say never meet your heroes. The same it turns out goes for your anti-heroes too. You see in person Doctor Dastardly is a bit...underwhelming. Yes, THE Doctor Dastardly. The Doctor Dastardly who was a charter member of the League of Death. The Doctor Dastardly who made the shortlist for the 10 Most Evil Britons in history and trust me, there have been a lot of evil Britons so competition was stiff. The Doctor Dastardly used as a bogeyman by mother's against children who won't eat their greens. I expected the menace of an Anthony Hopkins's 'Hannibal Lector' or Lawrence Olivier's 'Dr. Christian Szell'. Instead, I got 5 foot 6 inch version of Jack Lemmon's 'Professor Fate' from The Great Race crossed with Terry Thomas's Sir Percy Ware-Armitage from 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines'. Much like Tom Cruise, I'd always got the impression from seeing him in action that he was taller. Still, he does bring some old school class to proceedings. I mean, that's an honest to gosh morning suit he's wearing, tails and everything, and how many people ever wear a top hat these days.

Doctor Dastardly is currently about ten minutes into his exposition about how he will rule the world. You know the spiel. Blah, Blah, Blah...at my mercy...blah, blah, blah...finally I will have my vengeance...blah, blah, blah... she'll regret turning me down now...blah, blah, blah...you will all be crushed before my might...blah, blah, blah...apostrophes will be outlawed...blah, blah, blah...nothing in the world can stop me now... *yawn* Aaaaaaaand, cut to the chase...

Throwing his arms back, Doctor Dastardly bellows his distinctive catchphrase. "Pull the lever, Max!"

"Wah-ha!! Wah-ha-ha!!! Wah-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

Now that's what I call a diabolical laugh! It's deep, resonant, has great projection and has that fine balance between being comical and creepy. Again, that's old school class.

And on cue (that's what the henchpersons are for after all) the lights come on to reveal a lab that looks like it would be right at home in the 1931 Universal Pictures 'Frankenstein' film. Electricity eerily crackles between metal poles and those globe things with the lightning inside that cause bad hair days are dotted around the lab. This is serious mad scientist stuff. And in the centre of the room is the biggest ray gun machine thing I've ever seen. It's currently pointing into the darkness through a hole in the roof. It must have cost a fortune. I really hope he's in receipt of some sort of grant for this mad science...ness. That may not be a word in hindsight.

It's a tragic commentary on the failings of capitalism but so many of our best and brightest new mad scientists fail because they can't get access to start up investment capital from either private investment or public sector grants. I don't know about you but I'd invest in mad scientists if I had money to spare. Just think of the military and medical spin-off applications every time a new energy source or laser is invented to destroy Middlesbrough. The unintentional benefit of mad science is often that 'one small step for a man' can also be 'one giant leap in reducing mammary bounce through new spacesuit fabrics that translate into material used in women's undergarments'. And trust me, those spin offs are important. Particularly in my line of work where preventing that sort of bounce is significant if you wish to avoid embarrassingly painful post-fight soreness.

The consequences of an increasing number of mad scientists chasing a decreasing pot of funding is that while established mad scientists can cherry pick their offers, the lesser known ones often have to turn to other sources of funding for their mad science. We've all heard the celebrity voiced appeal adverts on the television, y'know the ones that go...

<em>"Did you know that during the course of this advert, three mad scientists will be assaulted by gaudily clad 'superheroes' in the name of truth, justice and the American way? Take Professor Fright. During the last month alone she has been assaulted five times by superheroes and the last time resulted in her being left with three cracked ribs and a dislocated shoulder. This just isn't right. And it doesn't have to be this way. For just two pound a month you can help Professor Fright fund the construction of her terror ray to enable her to scare Captain Heartland and the greater Kansas City area into submission. For five pounds a month, you can help pay towards unethical experimental research into two new life forms she can use to give Captain Heartland. And for ten pounds a month you get to adopt a mad scientist of your choice and receive regular updates on how their attempts to rule the world are progressing. Remember, if you give to one thing today, make sure its mad science."</em>

I'm already reaching for the phone... *sniffle*

Anyway, back to Doctor Dastardly. His designated lead henchperson, Max, is advancing towards the Doctor with his trademark shuffling gait. Max is a truly motley looking individual, though I have heard it suggested he is the cunning behind Doctor Dastardly. In his arms the diminutive henchperson is struggling to carry an oversized gun with thick long hi-voltage cables running from it. 

Great. Now I'm going to be ray gunned.

"Ah dunnae kinn abit ye but 'at disnae look guid tae me," calls out Red Gauntlet from my far left.

"You'll never get away with this as long as there is breath in our bodies Doctor Dastardly!" shouts Unicorn. I really wish she wouldn't give the villain permission to kill us at moments such as this.
 
"I think that can be arranged, my dear..." he sneers as he pulls himself to what passes for his full height, puffs his chest out and dutifully strokes his moustache to underline his dastardliness. Max dutifully snickers in support of his boss.

We're in the traditional face off segment of the encounter now, where each side gets to make their villainous and heroic statements, much like you see in American courtroom dramas actually. Hopefully, 'Champion the Wonder Horse' can keep this section of the dialogue going long enough for someone to get these freaking iron chains off of me.
"You're already defeated Doctor Dastardly! You just don't know it yet! Your shackles may restrain my body but they don't restrain my mind. And while my mind is a powerful weapon, my teammates working together are an unstoppable weapon!"

With a mental flourish, which is rather like a physical flourish just with less hand gestures and more eyebrow wiggling, her energy lance scythes through the chain holding me to the wall. Doctor Dastardly stops for a second, a look of confusion crossing his face which I guess means he forgot about Unicorns telekinetic energy lance. Taking my chance, I leap into the air intending to close the distance between us using my flight. All the records I've read indicate that other than his gift for inventing diabolical contraptions, he has no powers so it should be a fairly simple 'tap and out cold' job. For a few seconds I sail towards my target before like Wile E. Coyote that great British invention, gravity (Patent Sir Isaac Newton, 1665), pulls me crashing to the ground. I'm still wearing the freaking iron collar. Lying face down on the ground the only sound I can initially hear is the snickering from Max.

"You look tired my dear," laughs Doctor Dastardly as I climb to my feet, wincing from the gravity induced bruises. "Max, why don't you help the young lady have a peaceful rest... or is that rest in peace?"

A metallic clack rings out as Max pulls back a trigger on the ray gun and then the world goes white.

 

~O~

"C'mon girl, wake up!"

I force my eyes open and try and ignore the spots dancing before them. I can vaguely make out the form of Amazon standing over me. She's holding something in her right hand and after a few blinks my eyes focus enough to see it. It's a broken iron collar. More precisely as I feel my neck, my broken iron collar.

"Take a few minutes to get your strength back and then you can return the favour," she says with a grin as she points to her own collar.

My voice comes out as a dry whisper when I speak and I have to swallow a few times to generate some moisture in my mouth.

"What..."

"Happened?" asked Amazon. In response I just nod. "You my friend got barbequed by Max and I mean barbequed... all black and crispy. You had me worried for a few minutes."

I hold out a hand noting the flakes of blackened skin falling away to reveal rapid new skin growth. It's still slightly pinker than normal but already whitening out.
 
"Yeah," said Amazon noting my look of concern. "I guess the iron mustn't have been pure enough or something because it didn't totally negate your healing power. By that point me and Ivanhoe had already tried to break free and we both got a dose from Max."

"Are you..."

"We're both fine. A little crispy around edges but fine."

"Where...are we?" I ask, noticing my voice returning to normal. I wipe away some flakes of blackened skin from my throat.

"Dungeons or something," replied Amazon, looking around the darkened cavern. "Something about being fed to his pet."

"Great," I reply with a smile, flexing my hands. "Now let's get you out of your collars and deal with Fido."

Amazon and Ivanhoe both have slightly different collars, both more high tech than my own. However, a small application of pressure and both come apart in a number of pieces relatively simply. Satisfied that I'm pretty much healed I take the opportunity to take a good look around. The dim light in the cavern shows bare rock walls shrouded in shadow and a hard earthen floor. The occasional human bone a testament to the reason why Doctor Dastardly is renowned for high productivity amongst his work force.

"I've seen worse places," states Amazon as she dusts herself off. She winks mischievously at me and inclines her head towards a large metal portcullis. "Want to bet that's where Fido is?"

"Is that a control panel by the bottom of the portculis?" I ask, pointing to a grey metal box projecting slightly from the rough stone wall.

"Looks rather out of place... this is a supervillain lair... I think that's our way out," groans Amazon. "Great. Well, I guess there is no avoiding Fido."

"You up for a bit of doggy training?" I ask Ivanoe, sporting my best evil grin.

"Indeed! Let us have at the beast!" cried Ivanhoe pulling his sword free from his scabbard. "For I shall slay it!"

And yet again, he fails to make freaking eye contact with me...

Amazon's already got the panel open and is messing with innards of what does seem to be some sort of door control.
 
"Do you know what are you doing down there?"

"You sound just like my first girlfriend," giggled Amazon.
 
A low rumble reverberates around the cavern, causing Amazon and I to exchange nervous glances.

"That doesn't sound good..." she mutters searching for the source.

*POP!*

"OW!" moans Ivanhoe as something bounces off his back.

*POP!*

This time I get to see the cause of the noise. It seems that the walls are dotted with small round holes in them and something just popped out of one. The latest projectile again hits Ivanhoe in the back.

*POP!*

"What the.." He's cut off as something hits him in the face. His arms flail wildly as he spins around.

*POP!*

"OW!" I cry as something tears into the back of my uniform. Okay, I draw the line at that. Do you know how long it takes to make one of these outfits?!? The himation alone takes me three days to turn from cloth to outfit.

*POP!*

"Not that I'm complaining but what happened to Sir Whine-a-lot?" asked Amazon as she stands up, dusting her hands off. Behind her the portculis slowly starts to slide upwards.

I shrug my shoulders in response. Glancing around the pit I can see the back of Ivanhoe a couple of metres away from us. His arms are still desperately grabbing at his head.

"Ivanhoe?"

*POP!*

*POP!*

As I approach Ivanhoe, I can make out some muffled noises coming from him. Reaching out for his shoulder, I gently turn him around to face us. Amazon gasps as Ivanhoe's face comes into view in the gloom.

"It's a face hugger!" she screams.

My heightened senses can see better in the dark than Amazon, so I get a clearer view of the thing on his face that his hands are desperately trying to pull away.

"Actually...I think it's a totally not. It kinda looks like a... hedgehog."

And I think it's an unhappy one because it's attempting to bite him. It's gripping his face with its little paws and seems to be attempting to remodel his nose.

*POP!*

With both hands I grasp the creature on his face, only to let go quickly when the spines on its back draw blood from my hands. Ouch! Sonova.. that hurt! The spines are iron tipped...

*POP!* *POP!* *POP!*

As I reach forward to grasp the hedgehog again, I'm knocked sideways by Amazon colliding with me before she crashes into Ivanhoe ending up in a tangled heap on the ground. I can see now that her back is covered in hedgehogs as she flails around on the ground attempting to rid herself of them.
 
A sharp pain from my left ankle reveals a hedgehog attempting to bite through my skin. Luckily, the bite heals as soon as it happens indicating that my powers are most definitely back to full strength now that I'm free from the iron manacle. A not so gentle nudge with my boot moves it away from me. If this is all Dastardly's got, I sooooooo think I can deal with the Erinaceus Europaeus pretty quickly and get back to the main event. I just hope no footage of this ever gets out. Chickens, reptiles, most sorts of fish you can deal with and face no bad publicity. However, you end up fighting cudly mammals and generally lead to letters to the papers.

I carefully pull the hedgehog from Ivanhoe's face, avoiding the spines, and turn to see if Amazon requires assistance.

"Are you--" before I can say anything more however, a roar reverberates around the chamber drowning me out.

From the darkness beyond the gate, a figure slowly lumbers into view. At first all I can see is a patch of white before the rest of the creature becomes more distinct as it emerges into the dim light of the pit. It's got to be at least 2 metres tall from the tips of its vicious talons to the top of its white bonnet. Wait... white bonnet?!? The white apron and gingham blouse are also a lovely touch for a monstrosity of science. And it's the biggest freaking hedgehog I've ever seen...

And it looks familiar. Though when I've met a freaking giant killer hedgehog before I can't recall right now. As it pulls a viciously spiked rolling pin from its apron, I remember where I've seen a hedgehog dressed like this before. In that moment, I know I've lost this fight. A memory of a beloved childhood story read to me by my mother comes racing from the recesses of my mind. A memory of a hedgehog dressed in an apron with a bonnet and a gingham blouse...

I can't hurt Mrs Tiggywinkles...

~O~

"Oh for God's sake, will you stop crying!" snaps Amazon, stepping over the still form of a giant member of the Erinaceus Europaeus family.

"I CAN'T HELP IT! YOU KILLED MRS TIGGYWINKLES!!!"

Fortunately, it turned out Amazon hadn't been read Beatrix Potter as a child so she could hurt Mrs Tiggywinkles. Unfortunately for Amazon, I was squealing like a six year old who had lost her favourite teddy bear every time she hit Mrs Tiggywinkles and I'm still sobbing my heart out about it.

"I DIDN'T KILL HER! I JUST BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF HER!"

"DON'T YOU YELL AT ME! AND LIKE THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!?!"

I glower at her intently through tear filled eyes for a few seconds in between the occasional sniffle or sob. The downside of wearing a mask is that the material is soaked under my eyes.

"Besides, she might not have actually been a Mrs..."

"What?" Okay, so maybe there isn't such a thing as a hedgehog wedding but I don't think she should be using technicalities to excuse her conduct.

"It's just I got a good look at her...'down there'... during the fight and well...it wasn't what I expected...." Amazon at least has the good grace to blush at this point and intently examine her boots.

"Wait... are you telling me you just fought a crossing dressing hedgehog?"

"Ummm...maybe? There is a history of cross dressing wolves in nursery rhymes...and you can't tell me the ugly duckling isn't a trans parable..."

~O~

Entering the lab from the animal pens it's clear that things haven't been going much better for the others. The room is awash with little red highlanders suggesting that Red Gauntlet is back in the game and holding his own against Doctor Dastardly's rent-a-henchman.

In the centre of the lab, dominated by a large telescope like device pointing upwards through a hole in the roof, is Doctor Dastardly's lead henchperson Max is trying to pin down Unicorn with the ray gun which seems to be spewing forth some sort of lightning, which when it's not barbequing me is actually quite spectacular. Unicorn's hopping around like she's running in the Grand National on the defensive, so he's not having much luck, though kudos on the property damage as the lightning splits and spins off in unpredictable directions. I search the room a bit before spotting Dastardly on a gantry looking down on proceedings, directing his forces through some sort of radio headset that would have looked high tech in maybe the 1940's.

"I see Unicorn and Red, but where's Merlin?" asked Amazon. 

I'm in the process of trying to spot Merlin when I see a flash of green from underneath a pile of matching black bodysuits.

"There! Amazon, help Merlin! Ivanhoe, see if you can distract Max to let Unicorn go on the offensive. Dastardly's mine," I grin, cracking my knuckles. A couple of steps later and I'm airborne coming to a landing a couple of metres away from Dastardly.

"Give it up Doctor, you know you can't beat us."

"You're looking a bit anaemic girl!" snarled the Doctor, pulling an old looking flintlock style pistol from his belt. "I'm prescribing you a course of iron!"

It's at moments like this I wish I could do the Keanu Matrix thing and limbo under a bullet, nor in this case iron ball. Instead I'm slumped against the wall clutching my shoulder in pain and trying to staunch the bleeding.

"Silly little girl," laughed the Doctor, preening his moustache in triumph. "You aren't anywhere near ready to take me on. If you ask me, your mother retired too soon."
I watch as he turns his attention to the floor for a second, clicking a button on the microphone horn resting on his chest.

"Max, watch out for the idiot in the knight's costume, he's trying to flank you. Drones, focus your attack on the magician and that Amazon woman! They cannot be allowed near the device."

"Things not... quite going to... plan?" I gasp.

"A minor setback at best," laughed the Doctor. "Between Max, my robots and my human henchmen you will be defeated and even if you aren't..."

The Doctor pulls an old style pocket watch from his pocket and examines it before looking back at me with a truly unhinged evil grin. "Even if you aren't defeated, it won't matter in three minutes twenty seconds anyway because the device will be charged enough to bring a large section of the moon crashing down on this planet."

See, this is why the briefings are largely irrelevant. Unless you are dealing with one of those 1990's style dark types, most villains will explain their plan with the smallest of prompting.

"I'm sure it won't come to that. The governments of the world will see sense and pay up within the next few minutes. No one would put mere money before the lives of billions!"

Oh dear. He really is living in the past.

"You haven't really been keeping up with current political events have you Doctor?" I ask shaking my head. "What do you think politicians do every day?"

"Such cynicism in one so young," he sighed, pulling another flintlock style pistol from his belt. "I have to admit that you've rather been a disappointment full stop to be honest. Your mother would have dealt with this encounter with far more grace, more elan. Perhaps your death might coax your mother out of retirement. Anyway, any last words?"

"Yes actually. Do you know one of the problems with iron balls? They don't deform on impact like softer metals, which means..." I remove my hand from my bloody shoulder to reveal a small ball in the palm of my hand. "that I can dig all of it out. And if there is no iron in my system that means..."

I grasp his pistol, twisting the barrel upwards. "I have all my powers."

I rise to my feet and using the lapels of his suit lift him bodily off the ground.

"I'm a twenty-something single woman with mother issues and I'm having a bad day. I'd really suggest you surrender now."

"MAX!!"

The gantry around me explodes in lightning as Max turns the ray gun on us.

"Her, Max! not me you fool!" screams the Doctor as I drop him to the floor.

The machinery lining the wall sparks and pops from lightning damage and I'm forced to duck as Max unleashes another blast from the device. The metal railings on the gantry flash with current as the energy snakes along it and the twisted remains of sections of the gantry groan worryingly.

"Behind you Max!" yells the Doctor.

Looking down, I spot Unicorn and Ivanhoe grappling with Max, an opening appearing when he turned his attention away from them to us. Relieved that I'm not likely to be barbequed again, I clamber to my feet.

"Give it up Doctor, you've no cha..."

I stagger backwards as the smoke clears from his pistol, clutching my shoulder again.

"Why does everyone always assume people carry one or two pistols?" he chuckled, dusting himself off as he sits upright. "I always carry three, just in case. No one ever seems to check beyond the second one."

"By the time you've dug that ball out, you'll be dead my dear," he said, pulling a sword free from a cane resting against the wall. "And by the way, your mother would never have been caught off guard like that. Time to diiiiiiiiiiiiiiii--"

With an ominous creaking noise, the gantry lurches the left, coming away from the stone walls. I desperately search for the iron ball embedded in my shoulder while the Doctor and I exchange horrified glances.

"Can you fly?" asked the Doctor, grabbing the railing for dear life as further bolts pull free from the wall, tipping us further towards the device in the centre of the room.

"Not until I've got this out of my shoulder," I grunt, my fingers slipping on the blood around the iron ball.

With a final terrible snapping sound the gantry breaks free of the wall, tipping the Doctor, myself and several tons of machinery towards the device.

"Oh shi--"

~O~

I gingerly emerged from the Citadel of Science blinking in the low late afternoon sunshine as I made my way towards the waiting cluster of emergency service groupies you get at a superhuman encounter. It had taken them best part of an hour to dig me out of the wreckage and then extract the iron ball from my shoulder. After that I spent a painful half hour waiting for the bones in my body to repair themselves. That's the downside of my regeneration powers, the healing hurts nearly as much as the injuries do.

Unfortunately, in all the chaos following my impromptu destruction of the device Doctor Dastardly and Max had escaped but we saved the world, so I'm calling it a win. What my mother will call it is an entirely different matter given she never to my knowledge failed to capture Doctor Dastardly in their encounters. 

To top it all off I was dirty, covered in blood (my own) and my uniform was ripped to pieces. My blue himation was little more than scraps of blue cloth that I had tied around me to cover the damage to the upper part of my chiton and attempting to preserve my little remaining modesty.

"You okay?" asked Amazon, falling into step next to me. "I was mopping up henchpersons but heard what had happened."

"I want to go home, take a long bath and forget all about today."

"You really do look like hell, girl," she grimaced, offering me her flask.

"I bet. At least there is no press here. This is not the look I want anyone to see," I reply gesturing to the tattered remnants of my uniform as I took a drink from her flask.

"Ummm..."

"Ummm?" I asked, narrowing my eyes as I looked at her.

"Our liaison got in ten minutes ago..."

"Oh? OH! Oh. My. God."

I start pulling pieces of stone from my hair in a panic. "I need a mirror!"

"Ummm..." said Amazon, gesturing with her head towards the throng of emergency services personnel.

My heart sank as I turned to see the jacket of a representative of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Superhuman Division) moving from the command post that had been set up towards us.

"No. No. No. No. Noooooo!"

"Britannia!" called out the figure, waving a hand towards us in greeting.

I waved half heartedly in response, before trying to brush some of the lines of dried blood off of my arm while trying nonchalantly not to look like someone who had just been dug out from under several tons of metal.

Okay now...deep breath. Try not to let his scrumptiousness make you hyperventilate and throw up like last time.

"Hey Amazon," said Detective Sergeant James Anderson, nodding slightly in greeting to us both. "Hey 'Tania, we must stop meeting like this."

"Um...hey yourself!"

AAAAARGH!!! Damn it! I thought that night school class on heroic entrances would have paid off but my mind just went totally blank. To my side I heard Amazon snort quietly under her breath.

"Are you okay?" he asked with concern looking at the blood encrusting my skin.

"Ummm... yeah. Y'know... ummm... healing factor."

"That's good to hear because you had me worried."

My brain momentarily stops when he leans forward and brushes some pieces of metal from my hair. Conscious thought eventually intrudes on my dreams as Amazon digs an elbow into my side. I'm vaguely aware that Deliciously Scrumptious has been talking for a few minutes and I guess my head must be moving occasionally because he seems to think I'm answering him. I wouldn't have a clue what he is saying though. All I could hear is Marc Cohn singing 'True Companion'.

Oh well...here goes nothing...

"I was um...wondering...if you would like to..uh... fill in the paperwork now while my memory is fresh and...um..maybe-we-could-also-have-something-to-eat-afterwards-if-you-haven't-already-eaten-that-is?"

Need to breathe. Need to breathe. Need to breathe. *Deep breath*

In response he gives me a sheepish smile and scratches the back of his head. Oh God, is that a good thing?

"I'd love to 'Tania.."

Oh. My. God. YES!!!! YES!!!! There is a God and he loves me!!! This is it!!! This is finally the day I have a good Wednesday!!! Goodbye Woeful Wednesday, Hello Wonderful Wanton Wednesday!!! And maybe afterwards we could kiss and stuff!!! Wait...he said he'd "love" to...was that an admission he loves me?! Oh. My. God. We are sooooooooo going to be married on a Wednesday. And that would make me Mrs Abigail Scrumptious! Where the heck do I get a wedding dress tailored at this short notice?

"As I said 'Tania, I'd love to...but... Unicorn asked me a few minutes ago if I'd go out with her to get something to eat and, well, I accepted. We've been spending a lot of time together while she's been helping me settle in and y'know one thing led to another..."

...

Wha?

...

"She..asked...you...out?"

"Yeah. I was shocked too. I mean, I'm not much to look at and she was voted, what, like the sexiest superhu--"

"THIRD. She was voted THIRD," I interrupt. "And it's not exactly fair! I wear a helmet and a volumous costume most of the time which really hurts my chances!"

"Really? Thought she said she was first... Anyway, maybe we could meet up another time? Oh, hey, there she is now. Hey, Uni!"

What?! He has a pet name for her too? But...I thought I was special. I thought only I had a pet name...

"Hi James. Are you ready hun?" She slinks up beside him and hooks her arms around one of his. How does she slink like that?!? And how does she manage to make that feline purr sound with her voice? Is it something that they teach to girls in special classes when they become adults that I missed out on? And the bitch hasn't got a hair out of place or a scrap of dirt on her uniform.

And get your damn hands off my imaginary boyfriend, you bitch.

"James, I was thinking, that as the our transport comes with a two-seater air cycle, let's skip heading straight back to base. We could be in Paris in fifteen minutes and we could go for an walk along 'la rive gauche' before stopping for something to eat at a charming little restaurant called 'Le Grand Véfour'. You know, Napoleon wooed Josephine there."

Wait...there will be wooing? Without me? I...I...I...

"And maybe we could toast with some champagne to the hope that this time Monday, you'll be Detective Inspector James Anderson?"

NO!! NO!! NO!! He can't be Detective Inspector! He can't! There's no 's' to make him 'scrumptious' in that!!! He'd...he'd...he'd be 'Drearily Interminable' or something...

Unicorn gently steers my former future husband away from me towards our transport only pausing to give me a finger wave over the soon to be ex-Deliciously Scrumptious Anderson's shoulders. The insufferably smug smile on her face can only be described as that of the cat that has got the cream. In response I just give her the finger. I know it's childish but it made me feel momentarily better.

~O~

I wander around aimlessly for a few minutes before sitting against a fallen tree trunk. As I sit down I hear the alarm chime of my communicator in my utility pouch.

"Hello? Oh...hi mother...no, mother I am always pleased to hear from you..."

And to prove that there is no limit to how bad a Wednesday can be, the first drops of rain of a light summer shower start to fall.

"Mother, you've what?!? How dare you make an appointment without asking me... no, I don't care what the Carib League members 'Windward' and 'Leeward' said about him at that gathering of Commonwealth superhuman's you attended last week...well, YOU can cancel the appointment with him them... no way! I'm not meeting Doctor Voodoo under any circumstances... MOMMA, HE'S CREEPY!.. yes, momma. I'm sorry for raising my voice momma..."

The rain has now increased in intensity to become almost a tropical shower. I'm rapidly being soaked to the skin and there are blood stains spreading across the remnants of my uniform which are going to be hell to get out in the wash.

"Momma...can I speak to daddy please? Yes momma... I know... we'll speak about this tomorrow momma..."

*sigh*

"Hi Dad...yes, I am crying a little.. Why? Well you see, it's a Wednesday..."

 

~O~

END

I wasn't happy with elements of this when I posted it at BC, so I removed it from there to do a large rewrite and didn't post it here. As with any sequel, there was always a risk it's not as good as the original and this was the case with this story. I've tried to stick broadly to the original story and keep the bits that I felt worked while removing or tweaking the bits that didn't. Hopefully you've enjoyed the revised story posted here in the (Mis)Adventures of Britannia.

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OMG this was absolutely awesome Jemima!

I so got this Brit vesrion of the tongue in cheek mixed with actual super hero that made Whately and Of Masks and Marvels so good. I loved this a lot. What I great colection of one liners and heroic bits and just plain fun. You've made a great universe here.

*Great Big Hugs*

Bailey.

Thank you Bailey

I confess to have had some nervousness in the reworking of the story without actually abandoning the original plot and it took better part of a year before it actually clicked and I felt it was good enough to be republished. I'm pleased to see that you liked the result. :-)

Indeed!

I think this is my first time seeing this. Yes, it is awesome!
Hugs
Grover

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Thank You

Awww. Thanks Grover. *blush*

Delightfully demented.

This read like something I'd have expected from Monty Python. One thing though... it's hard to read with tears of laughter blurring the page.

Catherine Linda Michel

Hopefully a little quirky too

Delightfully demented is good and Phython is a high compliment. Thank you Cathy. :)

God I <3 The (mis) Adventures of Britannia

 Jemima,I just love your stories involing the (Mis) Adventures of Britanna. They always make me laugh. Though I would <3 to see her get Detective Sergeant James Anderson and turn My lil super pony bitch into a pretzal xD.. Please keep up the great work.

More (Mis) Adventures will come

*blush* Thank you Tengu. There is a third story in the works involving my version of Solomon Grundy simply because the whole days of the week thing was too good to pass up. It's likely to be a while a way though because I don't want it to be repetitive but still keep the humour. Getting that balance is making my muse work hard.

 

As for DS Anderson and Unicorn, rest assured I'm not done with them. :)

 

Thanks again Tengu.