Fire and Water

May, 1992

I think I can consider myself lucky... I have found them! I peek around the corner, and yes! It's them! My... I mean of course, Stuart's friends! There's the dwarf, the mighty Sebek (still makes me nervous, seeing this obvious personification of Moby's chief god!), the obnoxious Baarley... that creepy guy from Orrorsh is no longer with them, but I already knew that, as I watched that heroic parade thing in Houston on TV - but they still have that Japanese bloke with them, and a gorgeous exotic-looking woman... but where is Stuart? I begin cursing my luck - I had so hoped to meet Stuart. I decide to withdraw again, but I think Baarley with his super senses has seen me. Rats!

I gotta go and try meeting them later, I suppose. I'd really prefer to have Stuart with them, he might be more sympathetic towards my plight than, let's say, Baarley… I can just imagine what HE's gonna do… I turn around and start making my way towards the other end of the alley I have been lurking in, when, suddenly, I run into a wall.

No, really, I wasn't looking when I turned, and, looking up now, I see... ah, bloody hell!

They have found me! It's me old pal Mammoth, the not-so-gentle German Giant I once considered something of a friend in the Syndicate of Sin....

I open my mouth to do what I can do best (apart from shape-shifting, that is), to try talking him out of whatever he's about to do, but unfortunately, he expects that and just swings his big fist to hit me. I try, unsuccessfully, to dodge that, and before the funny stars appear before my eyes, I manage to scream for help. If Stuart's not with his friends they might as well think it's he who needs help now....

The stars indeed do make their appearance, and I unceremoniously fall down in the dark alley - but Mammoth drags me up again, whacks me once more and grumbles in his thick German accent: "You betrayt us, you little rat! You vill pay for dis now!"

He drags me along, and when I try to start another sentence, he hits me again - I almost bite my precious honey tongue off. I resort to struggling instead, at the same time changing my appearance into blonde, blue-eyed Alterox to calm the stupid giant down.

"I'm no traitor! It's m-" - WHACK!

So much for my other plan. Obviously, Mammoth's instructions were pretty clear and he knows exactly it's me and not Stuart. I should have been more careful, but it's too late now. I wonder how they could find me that fast?

What am I gonna do? Go down gloriously? Where are Stuart's friends? Where's the Nile Super Heroes when you need them?

Hope starts letting me down, I think, as no one comes rushing to my rescue while I'm being dragged along to an as yet unknown location.

After a while that seemed to stretch into eternity, Mammoth hits me another time, probably just for good measure, and lets go of me, sending me flying through a glass door into the dark corridor of a large building. I'm a pretty good acrobat and try to tumble away, but my face still hurts like hell, so I only manage not to break anything (apart from the glass I have just been thrown through, that is...).

I try to get up again without cutting myself on all the glass shards lying around me, only to get kicked in the ribs, but not by Mammoth, who, frankly, isn't that fast. I get a close-up of the floor... white tiles? Where am I? When I look up, I see my other old pal Raze looking down on me, with an expression of utter hatred on his face... uh-oh. I'm in deep trouble now.

This time, I can manage a whole sentence: "I did not betray you! I dunno what they told you, but I did not-" Well, one and a half sentences. I'm getting better.

"You traitorous piece of scum" - that was Barracuda, Raze's sweetheart, the Amazing Fishy Lady, emphasising her claim by kicking me from the other side.

Deeeep trouble.

"Ve vill kill you, Alti-boy!" Mammoth doesn't mince words. But instead of kicking me again, Barracuda drags me up and shoves me down the corridor, sending me stumbling along. Suddenly, I hear Raze laughing, and a crackling beam of energy hits me square in the back. It smells of ozone, and I only barely manage to stay on my feet. I HATE his lightning-throwing routine!

My skin tingling, I'm trying to get my brain properly going again, but Raze seems to like the effect of his lightning and decides to have another go. Boy, that hurts. I consider screaming a valid option, but instead just fall down again. How very unbecoming for a Super Villain, I think, as I hit the tiles.

Evil laughter surrounds me, sending eerie echoes along the dim corridor.

Raze starts explaining the Syndicate's evil plans to me, in true Nile fashion, but I suddenly think I do not want to be at the receiving end of these Super Villains, as I don't like this part of the tale one bit. But then, maybe I can try the same stupid stunt the bloody Super Heroes always try? Use the time the villains are explaining their plans to find a means of escape? Ah, the endless possibilities... but I can't bring myself to do anything heroic… I'm just not the type, I think.

"You have betrayed not only us, but also Pharaoh Mobius; the honour" - he laughs at me! - "of all Nile Super Villains and the trust of your other employers, and we're here to kill you now!"

Raze seems to be enjoying himself enormously, and Mammoth grunts an encouraging "Ja, genau!" at me. I can't see it, but Barracuda probably just smiles admiringly at her spouse, who likes being in charge. Ho-hum, pardon the pun. But I have to do something against that pain - it numbs me little mind.

Obviously, it's no use arguing with them. Especially not when I get hit every time I open my mouth.

After another few moments of kicking and dragging me along, I finally realise where I am - an abandoned swimming pool. A great place to be with people who can use electricity on you, or who can breathe under water....

Raze gives a curt command and the next thing I know is being thrown by Mammoth across the room, with the dark water of the swimming pool fast approaching. With a mighty splash, I end up in a whole lot of cubic feet of brackish water, and instantly try to get to the edge of the pool, when Raze laughs rather evilly again, sending one of his lightning bolts into the water.

The water intensifies the energy; and this time, I don't ponder about screaming, I just do it. In my pain, I unconsciously switch back to Stuart's appearance, only to get his black hair dripping wet into my now brown eyes, making me swallow a mouthful of tepid pool water.

When I hear a splash behind me, I frantically start swimming, and fast, towards the nearest edge. I barely reach it, dragging myself over it, when Barracuda jumps me from behind, and we both tumble out of the pool... into another pool. She presses me down under the water, and at the last moment, I remember to hold my breath.

I have never liked underwater fights, and I start to panic. I kick, I bite, I struggle, and I can hear Barracuda laughing at me under the water while she pins me to the ground.

The ground? It seems we have fallen into the children's pool. Suddenly I remember I still got a stiletto in my boot, and I try to get a firm footing underwater while tugging at my contingency weapon.

I can't hold my breath much longer, and when I finally get a grip on the stiletto, ready to plunge it into Fish-Face, my lungs seem to burst. It doesn't help that Barracuda sees what I'm doing, kicking me hard in the ribs. I can't hold my breath any longer, and, driven by my panic, I manage to launch myself out of the water and right over the edge of the pool onto the tiles next to it.

I hit the ground.

Where am I?

What am I doing here?

I lose my grip on reality, staring at the wet tiles and my fingers clutching a black stiletto knife. I feel paralysed, hearing evil laughter all around me?!

Water is dripping from the knife, little drops, in slow motion... hitting the tiles... splat... splat....

Just in time, when Barracuda reaches out of the pool to grab my hand, I reconnect to my reality and remember what I'm doing here.

That was close.

Realising I will be stuck with Stuart's appearance for a while, as my shape-changing power freezes me in the same form as soon as I run into trouble with reality, I try a mad scramble backwards to get out of reach of Fish Woman, only to bump into the wall that is Mammoth again.

As a last-ditch action, I throw my stiletto at Barracuda, grazing her arm, and she lets out an annoyed scream. I shouldn't have done that, I realise, because it only serves to make Raze even angrier.

"Step aside, Mammoth!" he commands, and comes forward, facing me, while I'm still sitting dripping wet on the floor.

Yeah. Dripping wet. Electricity. I know the routine. I brace myself for the impact of that load of electricity, but this obviously wasn't enough, I think, while I'm rolling on the floor screaming in pain. Raze is so angry it seems as if he can't stop or doesn't want to, and I know I'm gonna die.

Not a nice feeling. I watched this Core Earth film last year, Star Wars III. I feel reminded of the scene with Luke Skywalker and the evil Emperor, only that I'm supposed to be evil, too.

I feel I'm drifting off into unconsciousness, getting killed without ever having had the chance to even start solving all my personal problems... It makes me unbelievably angry, thinking of all the possibilities lost to me.

I try to focus all my energy into a lunge at Raze while I'm still screaming in pain. Would make a pretty pathetic moment on celluloid, I guess. As I touch Raze's feet (I wasn't exactly very successful in lunging), he stops. Probably doesn't want to fry himself.

Instead, while I rejoice at still being alive and trying to take a deep breath, he offers his lover to finish me off.

"He's all yours now, Barracuda!"

I groan, while Mammoth propels me with another mighty kick back into the shallow waters of the children's pool, right into the arms of Barracuda.

I suppose that is it now.

I don't have any strength left to fight her. She easily drags me under water.

Funny, I think, I always thought dying was supposed to stop being painful at a point, but in fact, it doesn't. But at least the pain is accompanied by a great light show exploding before my eyes.

I pass out.

When I open my eyes again, the pain is still there. I can't be dead. Or am I? I'm not in the water anymore, I realise. I'm looking into the eyes of the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I contemplate this image, trying to remember when exactly I might have converted to Islam, the religion of my biological father, as I seem to be seeing one of the Virgins of Paradise.

But no, that can't be. I'm still dripping wet, and I still feel pain everywhere. I try a faint smile.

"Who are you, beautiful woman?" I manage to croak. Then I remember. She was the one I had seen with Stuart's friends, the one who looked so exotic and otherworldly. They have saved me.

And I realise I must now face a completely different challenge.


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