[Writing] Taking Out the Trash

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[Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:11 pm

I was hit with a burst of creative thinking recently, but unfortunately it's not pointed at anything else that's currently in progress. ()^_^ I was reading a chapter of Xomniac and the Cross-Brain's One Piece fanfic "This Bites!" recently that focused on wedding sabotage and the whole thing dissolving into chaos. Cue inspiration.

So, I decided to write a Muffinville story (canon or not, I haven't decided) that focused on someone pegging Circe with one of her own love potions then trying to marry her. When Callista receives an unexpected invitation to a wedding to take place in a month's time, she immediately starts making plans to sabotage the whole thing. I don't know how long this creative burst will last, so if it wears off before I'm done I'll just post what I have.

See you when I get there.
Last edited by AmbushCat on Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash (Placeholder)

Postby Ookalf » Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:50 am

Oh, huh. Feels a little weird, having something like this written involving one of my characters... Still, I look forward to hearing more!
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash (Placeholder)

Postby AmbushCat » Sun Mar 01, 2020 5:33 pm

Kinda felt the same way when Whatevr wrote stuff that referenced Ambush's Umbreon Swift some years back. It was a bit of an odd feeling, but not altogether unpleasant.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Mon Mar 16, 2020 1:25 pm

What I have written thus far is mostly piecemeal, taking place at different points, but I've been able to cobble together a chapter out of some of it. Since I'm toying with the idea of posting this at DeviantArt, there's a fair bit of world-building involved, so it might get a little bit wordy in places.

Enjoy. :)

Taking Out the Trash
Chapter #1

Location: In the skies above Muffinville
Time/Date: January 13, 2020, 8:15a.m.

On some level, Callista Wilson-Metallium always did like being stuck in a routine. Wake up, eat breakfast, go shopping, eat lunch, wander the city at random, go home, eat dinner, and either watch sports events, browse YouTube or play video games until it was time to get ready for bed. Granted there were a few wrinkles in that routine---the odd PFL match, her communications with her friends, her weekend trips back to her homeworld, the completely random deaths and regenerations, the plethora of superpowers waiting in the wings---but on the whole, she'd gotten what she'd longed for for decades: a peaceful and quiet life.

Though there are limits to that. There's such a thing as being too quiet, after all.

As Callista's Pyro-GX traveled to her base of operations for this universe, she pondered what the 'quiet' life meant for Muffinville. The city was essentially a collection of worlds combined into one location across a thousand square miles and multiple dimensional sub-levels, with countless millions from all walks of life and all sorts of realities walking its streets. Name anything, and you could find it there. A resurrected and restored Egyptian mummy working as a bank teller? Sure enough, there one was. A millenia-old phoenix lady with her own construction business? That's her, dozing on a park bench. A hundred curses in existence since time immemorial coalescing into a human form? There it is, signing up for ballet lessons while eating Skittles.

But even in what was effectively one of the melting pots of the multiverse, there were those who made life in general... interesting. Whether they were causing problems, fixing them or getting caught up in them, there was no shortage of activity. Transformations, with magic being the root cause, were the order of the day. "The only constant is change" was Muffinville's slogan, and its permanent residents took pride in that fact; only one out of 1,300 managed to keep their birth species, basic appearance, and gender completely intact for their entire lives.

And due to most of those involved moving on with their lives or taking off for parts unknown, that rambunctious activity had sharply died down. There was still no shortage of oddballs, of course, but the more active and/or notorious of them were no longer around. Some had left before Callista had ever arrived on the scene, granted, but some had lingered for a while after. It was those people that she missed, because for better or worse they made life entertaining.

Callista's mind continued to wander even as her ship flew past Muffinville's city limits, heading some miles away. For decades, she had served as the leader of an interdimensional peacekeeping force of her own creation: the Super-Cats' Infinite Defense. Shortly after she first arrived on the continent, she got the idea from someone of creating a "safe zone" where violence and involuntary transformations were completely forbidden, giving those who didn't want them a break.

Calling in some favors, she had an Eclipse-class Star Dreadnaught partially submerged, allowed an associate to claim most of its weaponry for himself, had the engines removed and the back end sealed off, convinced a powerful chaos deity to ward the ship as needed, and converted the ship's bridge into a restaurant and arcade. Over time, the Mungojerrie became one of the most heavily-visited locales not located in Muffinville proper, and Callista continued to use it as her base of operations for this universe.

It's pretty much the only place on this planet where I'm guaranteed a break, she groused mentally, feeling a headache starting to set in as the desire to go shopping grew. Just because the heavy hitters are gone doesn't mean I'm not prone to dying in unlikely ways.

Callista broke out of her thoughts long enough to note that she'd reached her destination. Bringing the ship to a stop in mid-air, she carefully lowered it into a parking space reserved specifically for herself. There we go, she said to herself, shutting off the ship and opening the hatch. Now, let's see which department store I haven't victimized in a while---

A thump as something perched on the front of the ship. "Yoo-hoo! You've got mail!"

Callista looked up, her musings interrupted as a large envelope was placed in her hand. "Thanks, Mrs. Hooves, but I was under the impression that your vacation started today."

Mrs. Hooves, who was essentially a gray-feathered harpy with blonde hair and crossed eyes, shook her head. "Turns out it wasn't until next week. Guess I was a little bit too eager to show my friends and family back home the new me..."

"Eh, I'm sure you'll get your chance," Callista commented. "This everything? No junk mail or anything like that?"

"That's it. Have a good morning, Calli, and good luck in your next match!" Mrs. Hooves waved before taking to the skies, making the overly-stuffed mailbag she was carrying look weightless.

Callista chuckled and climbed out of the ship. Once upon a time, I would've thought fictional ponies turning into human-esque harpies would be strange. Now it's just another day in the life.

...

After Callista got herself situated in her suite and prepared for her daily shopping raid, she gave the envelope a lookover. "No return address," she muttered to herself. "But it was intended for me specifically right at this location, as opposed to my home universe or my Spamville apartments... any thoughts, Kaoru?"

--"Not a one,"-- replied the familiar voice in her head. --"But you might as well look at it. Even if it's malevolent, this is the sort of thing the ship's wards were designed to repel."--

Callista shrugged. "True, that," she uttered, tearing open the envelope.

The card inside it was beautifully decorated with images of ivy and flowers around the edges, a bird clutching a ribbon in its talons at the top, and the words 'Please Join Us' etched in cursive in the middle. Eyebrows raised, Callista opened the card to view its contents...

/--------

You Are Cordially Invited To
The Wedding and Reception Of

Marc and Circe Maddhouse

Date: February 22, 2020, 3:00p.m.
Location: North Maddhouse Recreation Center #2, Conference Room #1, Muffinville

Please RSVP by February 5th, 11:59:59p.m, at [number redacted]. Gifts are welcomed, but not required.

We hope to see you there!

--------/

"..." Callista's blood chilled, and for a few moments she tried to convince herself that the person referred to in the card wasn't who she was thinking of. "It's not like she's the only 'Circe' in Muffinville, just the most well-known," she stated. "There's that small-time computer programmer, or the furniture saleslady..."

--"Maybe it was from one of your diehard fans? From someone who watches you fight in the PFL, maybe?"-- Kaoru suggested, though it was clear she wasn't too sure herself. --"Not like it's the first time this has happened..."--

"As good a guess as any." Callista started to breathe a little easier. On a lark, she closed the card and turned it over to see if there was anything on the back. "If that's the case, then I'll just turn them dow---"

Image

Embossed on the back of the card was a stylized letter 'C', given a blue, yellow and orange gradient effect. The both of them recognized the emblem immediately. "Doris Sturm's helmet logo," Callista murmured, eyes widening. "She must've designed the card herself, but that means---"

--"CALL!"-- Kaoru urged at the top of her mental voice. --"CALL CALL CALL NOW NOW NOW!"--

Callista slammed the invitation onto her table and picked up her phone--not her smartphone, but the landline phone she kept around as a backup. Entering the number she was given, she stood back and waited.

Finally, a click. "Hello and welcome to Circe's Manor, this is Willow. How may I direct your call?"

"No need for that," Callista snarled through her teeth. "Tell the bride-to-be that I'll be at the ceremony. With all the bells in the ever-loving world on." Without waiting for the secretary to confirm, she slammed the phone back into the receiver with enough force to rattle the wall.

No sooner than she did that, her smartphone immediately started blaring 'Monster Dance'. Callista promptly answered the call, blood still boiling. "Yes, Ambush Cat, I'm perfectly aware."

"Got an invitation too, huh? Wonder what's going on over there," Ambush drawled in an obviously fake Southern accent. "I'm assuming we're going to sabotage the wedding?"

"I thought I was supposed to be the telepath," Callista admitted with a chuckle as she put a temporary rein on her temper--only to be interrupted by 'Believe in Wonderland'. She fiddled with her phone for a few moments. "Hold on a sec. I have to set up a conference call... ...anddd there."

"CIRCE'S GETTING MARRIED?!" Aldonza Karate shrieked, forcing Callista to keep her phone at arm's length. "TO THAT SLEAZEBALL?!"

"Try being a little louder," someone complained in the background, an 8-bit video game faintly audible. "Princess Zelda hasn't woken up yet."

"Sorry, Mini-Lina," Aldonza apologized contritely before getting back to business. "But in all seriousness, what's with all this suddenly? This is entirely out of character for her."

Fast-paced techno lit the air before it was abruptly silenced, signalling another addition to the conference. "Not to mention it's the exact opposite of her stated preference," Zapana Zquor said as she joined in. "Anyone else here thinking that something's messing with her mind?"

Another short song, this one vaguely dangerous in nature. "It's Muffinville," Missy Coco cut in, childish voice reeking with arrogance. "Could be anything. Could be an alien parasite on drugs, for all we know."

"...You know, I wasn't convinced before, but now I am. You received an invitation, too?" Ambush asked in his normal voice, for once on the receiving end of a surprise. "Last I heard, you were on business relations with her and nothing more."

Those listening could hear Missy rolling her eyes. "Trust me, I'm just as shocked as all of you. Figured you'd be talking about it, so I dialed in."

More music as some nearly-quiet smooth jazz rolled past their hearing. "...Would this be a bad time to ask everyone why this invitation landed on my desk out of nowhere? I'm not even in the Muffinverse right now."

"ELLEN?!" Ambush's voice did a 180, switching from a male feline snarker to a female human mother. "Why are you calling?! You're supposed to be at school!"

"...I am at school," the soft-spoken bibliophile informed her. "...In-between classes. And that doesn't answer my question."

"Strange things are afoot in the multiverse, kid," Callista groused. "Is your brother Pepsi Man at the moment?"

"And for the life of me I still can't believe that's a valid question," Zapana muttered, getting chuckles from the rest of the conference.

"... ...No, thank Stacy," Ellen muttered, ignoring the peanut gallery. "...What's the plan?"

"For now, just grab some soda pop from the vending machine and get it over to Elk. In-between his usual chaos and the school closing early for repairs, you shouldn't have problems getting to the portal and making the rendezvous at the Mungojerrie."

"Brainstorming session, I'm guessing?" Aldonza asked.

"Yes. Everyone, I want us to meet up at the restaurant's VIP area by 11:30a.m., local time. Get lunch there if you have to, but do try to get to the meeting on time, alright? That'll give you enough time to get there, and me enough time to quell my bargain-hunting urges."

One by one, everyone gave their agreements---

More music, this time sounding the slightest bit mysterious with a bit of hope. Aside from Ellen, everyone's emotions spiked. "Oh, come on!" Callista complained, her feelings echoed across the conference by facepalms or growling.

...

In her quarters at Circe's Manor, Claire de Loon regarded her phone with bemusement. "Am I... missing something?"

/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

Time: 11:30a.m.
Location: The Mungojerrie VIP Party Room

The ship's VIP area was normally reserved for catered parties planned well in advance. Given what Callista had gathered everyone together for, she figured this didn't come anywhere close to qualifying.

Everyone who had been on the conference call was present:

Callista herself, the shopaholic and retired fleet commander. She'd be the first to admit that being the adopted child of a powerful mazoku had made her the slightest bit insane.

Ambush Cat, the multiverse-walking black Maine Coon and proud human mother who swapped identities and forms as easily as he breathed. If he wanted to go somewhere, or scare someone for kicks, there was no stopping her.

Aldonza, the mixed-breed fox caninoid to whom 'boredom' was an alien concept. The airways were her highway, and she had no shortage of connections around the world she called home.

Zapana, the middle-aged wolf caninoid who loved fights and fire almost as much as she loved her music. Compared to her fierce and bitter temperament as a child, the former super-soldier was incredibly mellow.

Missy Coco Shanelle, Callista's dark-minded child double and head-by-proxy of the rabble-rousing Brotherhood. The fact she was present at all would've been a source of worry for almost anyone, given her track record for chaos, but these were far from normal people.

And finally, Ellen Harrison, Ambush's notoriously emotionless daughter and the one most likely to keep her cool under stress. Callista had a hunch that she was going to be the room's only voice of reason, since almost everyone present was very strong-willed, quirky, or both.

There were several unexpected additions to the gathering, of course. First off, Claire was one of Circe's maids, and a fiercely loyal one at that. She claimed when she called that she had a legitimate grievance, but Callista figured they'd handle it at the meeting instead of discussing it over the phone.

The other was especially surprising. The resurrected Viridi, familiar to players of the Kid Icarus series as the Goddess of Nature, had walked in right before the meeting started and claimed one of the seats as if she owned the place. She gave everyone aside from Ellen an angry glare, though the one she gave Missy could've evaporated the nearest ocean. Callista silently hoped they could keep their animosity to themselves until the meeting was over, if only because the ship's wards wouldn't have stood for their violent bickering.

Lunch was just wrapping up as Callista called the meeting to order; she noticed Zapana finishing the last of her venison burger as she spoke. "Alright, one and all. You already know why I've called all of you here--most of you, I mean." She gestured to Viridi. "Why in Michigan are you here? This doesn't have anything to do with you."

"Like blazes it doesn't," Viridi replied, shaking her head. "You're planning on eviscerating Marc Maddhouse for his travesties, right? I want in."

Ellen clasped her hands on the table. "...I'm guessing they took the term 'flower girl' literally?"

"Well yes, I admit I'm a natural choice for the role, but still!" Viridi slammed her fists on the table. "That's not my problem. The problem is that Maddhouse is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with humanity, and I want him gone!"

"'Dead... or insane'," Aldonza quoted, voice dropping to an eerie whisper. "'Or perhaps one, then the other...?'"

Viridi blinked. "I don't know whether to be creeped out or not, but that impersonation was spot-on. Have you been playing her game recently?"

Aldonza shrugged and smiled. "What can I say? I've been on a horror binge."

"Okay, cutting off that train of thought before it gets too Seinfeldian," Callista interrupted sharply, shivering. "Ignoring the fact that no one of importance in Muffinville ever stays dead from non-natural causes for very long... Claire, what about you? What's your issue?"

"The issue is that I want to see this marriage dissolved just as much as you do." Though Claire didn't exactly plead, enough anxiety crept past her decorum to indicate the depth of her emotions at that point. "But my hands are tied. Given her overall lack of relatives in this world aside from..." She paused, trying to find the word she wanted. "What's Ookalf's relation to Lady Circe?"

"I've always just thought of him as her older brother," Zapana stated after a moment. "The truth is more complicated, but the truth gives me a headache just thinking about it, and it's outside the scope of this meeting anyway."

"Is this some bizarre application of Occam's Razor I'm not familiar with?" Missy asked with a smirk.

Zapana pointed at the little criminal mastermind in confirmation. "Bingo."

"...And here I was just trying to get a rise out of you," Missy complained, slumping a little in her seat. "You're no fun."

"R...Right," Claire continued. "Anyway, as I was saying, Ookalf is Lady Circe's only real relative in this world, discounting the Muffin Continent's penchant for magic-centric trouble. As such is true, I've been handpicked to serve as one of her bridesmaids."

A chorus of 'Oohs' echoed through the room. "Guessing you have no idea what a bridesmaid is supposed to do beyond stand around and look pretty?" Callista said, feeling that they were in the same boat considering their respective pasts. She'd never been part of a wedding party before, so how could someone derived from her be expected to know?

...Well, technically she had been part of a wedding party before, but that was in a whole other time and place.

Claire's nod confirmed that. "I checked online, but there are some parts of it that aren't very clear. And considering that we want to spoil the entire event..."

"I can't offer anything," Zapana admitted, shaking her head. "My homeland didn't follow the same customs, and I've never been able to pick up any of the details involved since I arrived on Earth. It's just never interested me."

Ellen didn't say anything, letting that by itself speak for her. Missy and Viridi likewise shook their heads.

"My cousin Dulcinea still works part-time on Circe's staff, and she was one of the bridesmaids at my wedding," Aldonza suggested. "Talk to her when you get the chance. Maybe she has some advice. Who's the maid of honor? Do you know yet?"

Claire frowned. "Not yet, no. I'll find that out."

"What I'm curious about is this Marc Maddhouse guy. Who's this oddball, and why is everyone dead-set on hating him?" Zapana asked.

A disbelieving Viridi gave her a strange look. "You've seriously never heard of him?"

"Unlike everyone else here, I don't turn up in the Villes often unless it involves cleaning up Callista's rampages or having the odd fight with Aldonza-chan." Zapana examined her claws lazily. "I'm not required to know the ins and outs of Muffinville's worst and darkest. Only reason I'm even asking about him is because I heard Aldonza calling him a sleazeball seven miles away."

"Seven miles? Isn't that outside your range?"

"If people are whispering, Viridi, yes." Zapana tapped her left ear for emphasis. "But if people are noisy, my range expands greatly. If Callista were to try singing Celine Dion right now, for example, I could travel to the farthest point on the ship and still need to seek medical attention."

A blushing Callista chucked a crumpled McDonalds wrapper at Zapana's head, missing by a few inches. "Oh, just stow it already. We're getting off-topic again."

Ambush picked that moment to speak, a rotating satellite dish sticking out the top of his head for no discernible reason. "To answer Zappy's question, Marc Maddhouse--as my pseudo-daughter stated---" He ignored the glare Viridi fixed him with. "---embodies all of humanity's worst traits. He gives that Tarukane creep from Yu Yu Hakusho a run for his money (or lack thereof) in sheer ugliness, and he's proud of it. He's lied, stolen, and cheated his way to the top of a corporate empire that matches the Brotherhood for sheer resourcefulness..."

"No small wonder that I wouldn't mind seeing him crash and burn," Missy hissed, her hair temporarily taking on a darker hue as she spoke. A plushie of herself popped up over her shoulder, nodding sagely in agreement.

"...he lures in potential employees with large salaries, then uses blackmail to keep them in line..."

Ellen withdrew a playing card from her holster; a cursory glance at the girl's thoughts told Callista that it was the King of Spades. "...A waste of paper."

"...thinks nothing of wrecking ecological havoc for financial gain..."

Viridi's face turned a bright red, but she was able to resist the urge to scream angrily.

"...has the old-fashioned 'stay in the kitchen' perspective when it comes to women and treats them like flash drives..."

Claire didn't have the Goddess of Nature's self-control, jumping out of her chair and slamming her fists onto the table. "I will reduce his bones to TOOTHPICKS!" she screeched, hair turning jet black in a flash.

"Down," Callista warned, reaching over and gently pushing the maid back into her seat. It was clear that she wasn't doing much better, though, as she'd shifted to her Delcatty-based hybrid form out of sheer revulsion. In her subconscious, she could hear Kaoru giving her hammer some test swings.

"...looks down on the hard work of his employees, seeing them strictly as a means to an end..."

Aldonza's eyes glowed a soft green.

"...is perfectly alright with experimenting on others for grins..."

Zapana's fists slammed together, a flash of purple fire manifesting on contact.

"...and owns the world's largest collection of easy-listening music."

Everyone stared at Ambush in confusion, their anger temporarily forgotten. "(...)What does that have to do with anything?" they chorused, though Ellen's standard hesitation prevented it from being completely simultaneous.

Ambush shrugged, the satellite dish retracting back into his head. "Nothing. I just felt like throwing it out there."

Most everyone present sagged in their seats at this, while Missy flat-out facefaulted. "I noticed you didn't list any grievance that would earn your wrath," Aldonza commented as she sat up straight. "Why?"

One of Ambush's eyebrows raised; it promptly vacated his face and vanished through the ceiling while yodeling. "I most certainly did. Weren't you paying attention?"

"Which one was it?"

"His ugliness," Ambush confirmed, ignoring the weird looks he got from everyone in reply. "All that other stuff is awful, sure, but my beef with him is that he's ugly. Looks like a raisin subjected itself to reverse-wrinkle cream."

"Reminds me more of a mutated Stunfisk," Aldonza complained. "Uggh."

"Or an entirely glitched-up 'Team Fortress 2' mod," Claire piped up, her hair back to its normal teal-silver.

"Or the illegitimate love-child of Deadpool and Cruella de Vil," Missy uttered.

"Or two houseflies mating," Viridi added.

"Or the antagonist of It during the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark?" Zapana tentatively suggested.

Viridi nodded approvingly. "See? You're getting it."

Callista, who had shifted back to human form, gave Ellen a pleading look as everyone else traded increasingly absurd comparisons. "I can't take this anymore. Mind arbitrating this meeting in my stead?" she all but begged.

Ellen sighed softly, but nodded. "...Go ahead and lay down. I'll send you the minutes later."

Upon hearing her confirmation, Callista wasted no time in vacating her seat and fleeing the room towards her suite, feeling violently sick the whole way. The final comparison she heard as the door slammed shut behind her, comparing Marc to a fusion of Quasimodo and a half-melted Wicked Witch of the West, didn't help her mood any.

--"Or Cthulu's pet Sharpei."--

"SHUT UP, KAORU!"

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/


Voice Credits

Luci Christian as Callista and Claire de Loon

Elizabeth Daily as Kaoru Matsubara (I've heard Kaoru's official English voice before and I wasn't too impressed with it, so for the sake of imagination I focused on the original Buttercup's voice instead.)

Moneca Stori as Aldonza Karate (best I could think of, sadly)

Grey Delisle as Zapana Zquor

Candi Milo as Amber Harrison, Cam Brainard as Ambush Cat

Tracy Grandstaff as Ellen Harrison

Brina Palencia as Missy Coco

Hynden Walch as Viridi

Tabitha St. Germain as Mrs. Hooves and Willow the secretary

Lisa Ortiz as Mini-Lina
Last edited by AmbushCat on Sun May 17, 2020 1:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby Ookalf » Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:36 pm

A fine start! I'm eager to see where things go... Also, maybe I should have said this before, but if you end up having any questions about any of my characters or want any advice writing them for this, feel free to ask me whenever.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Tue Mar 17, 2020 9:30 pm

Thanks. :)

I'm contemplating including Ookalf himself in some capacity, but I don't have a solid grasp of his characterization just yet.

--EDITED 3-18-2020, 4:42p.m. CST--

For that matter, I think I may end up having the fish-lady Marsha playing the role of the maid of honor, so I'm going to have to go back and look at the Manor threads for insight on her personality.

...

...

...Madison. That was it. Excuse me. ()^_^
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:27 pm

...Huh. We actually have a second chapter. This is lasting longer than I thought it would. :|

As a side note, Ookalf, it occurred to me that I should've asked your permission to use your character before starting the story. I think I owe you an apology for that.

Also: Before I forget, I've obtained permission from -name redacted- to use his character.

/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

Taking Out The Trash
Chapter Two

Time: 2:19p.m., January 13, 2020
Location: Callista's suite, Mungojerrie residential area

--"Oi... Hey, Callista. Wake up."--

Callista opened her eyes as Kaoru's voice yanked her out of a sound sleep. She groaned, still feeling queasy as she sat up, and glanced at the nearest clock. "Lovely," she growled to herself. "And death is still warmed over. Why'd you wake me up?"

--"Heard the mail slot opening. I'm guessing the meeting's over and Ellen's dropping off the minutes, so let's go and grab 'em."--

"Mmmf," Callista mumbled intelligibly, collapsing back onto the bed. "Give me another twenty minutes, and not the paper vari---"

Callista's body abruptly blurred out of visibility as Kaoru shunted her over to her subconscious, assuming control while changing her appearance to match. "Up and at 'em, you big baby," the former Powerpuff Girls Z member grumbled as she got out of bed, not feeling any of the same queasiness that her host had been experiencing. "That whole meeting reeked of importance that you gave it. You don't get to weasel out of it."

More disconcerted mumbling. --"...Fine, whatever. Just go and get the stupid minutes."--

Kaoru put words to action, retrieving the paper where it had been left. Sitting down in the living room, she unfolded it and started to read, starting from after Callista had departed.

/------------/

11:40a.m.: ...The one-upmanship of ugliness ended with Missy the winner. Conversation shifted over to a discussion about the timing of the group's intervention. Group tried to figure out whether to strike well in advance of the wedding, thus rendering it null and void, or wait and get involved on the day of the event. Claire, Missy and Lady Viridi were in favor of the former, while Mom, Aldonza and Zapana were in favor of the latter.

...As such, it was left up to me to cast the deciding vote. Weighing all the pros and cons, I decided it would be best to wait until the day of the wedding before bringing all of our resources to bear. If we struck beforehand, there would be nothing stopping the prospective bride and groom from simply rescheduling the wedding for another day and giving themselves time to recover. Some disappointed complaints from those not affiliated with the Infinite Defense, but eventually all agreed.

12:05p.m. ...Impromptu silliness break. Aldonza lost a battle in Pokémon Sword to Viridi, 6-4, while everyone else gave the situation the MST3K treatment. I settled for wondering to myself why I got school cancelled for the sake of something like this.

12:23p.m. ...On the advice of Aldonza, Claire decided to get in contact with Circe's part-timer Dulcinea to inquire about the duties of a bridesmaid right then and there. Following that, she called her co-workers at the Manor to find out who the maid of honor is supposed to be. It was discovered that due to the sheer number of maids whose loyalty and dedication to Circe had become top-notch over the years, the bride-to-be decided to just pick a name out of hat. As such, the fish-woman Melanie was chosen.

12:50p.m. ...Mom stated that she needed to bring her Shadow Gang up to speed and prepare them for a long-term mission, leaving the meeting early. Missy and Viridi got into an argument concerning whether or not it was viable to have a loose cannon like Mom doing her own thing, but I was able to calm them down by stating that if I trusted her to do what was right at the appropriate time, then so should they.

1:00p.m. ... ... ...Doris Sturm called us to make a correction: the fish-woman's name was Madison, not Melanie. Cue much laughing and groaning from the peanut gallery.

1:02p.m. ...Everyone present gave the duties of a bridesmaid some thought. Zapana suggested that Claire should get as involved with the wedding preparations as possible, under the excuse of proving that not being the maid of honor was not an excuse to slack off. In that event, she'd be able to find an excuse to get those at the meeting as close to the couple as possible at the ceremony.

...Of those present, you, Aldonza, Mom, Missy and I were invited as guests. Viridi is, as stated earlier, the designated flower girl. Zapana never received an invitation at all, most likely to avoid any of her group hugs. While the situation seems somewhat suspicious, all of us were in agreement that whatever happens, we would make the wedding party as a whole regret letting us know about the ceremony. That means pushing things as far as we can without them pushing back.

1:25p.m. ...Viridi motioned to adjourn the meeting, with the promise that we'd stay in contact if anything changed. Aldonza seconded, and there was a unanimous agreement.

1:26p.m. ...Meeting adjourned.

1:29p.m. ...This isn't part of the meeting proper, but Missy and Viridi got into a fistfight almost immediately after leaving the ship. With allies like these, we don't need enemies.

/------------/

Kaoru put the minutes down and shook her head. "As long as I live, I'll never understand why your faction is so laid-back and casual about having admitted villains and advocates of genocide sitting in the same room as you."

--"No need for animosity if it's not the topic of the day,"-- Callista weakly responded. --"If they're actively doing those things at the time, then of course we'd go after them. But if they're just there to hang out and/or we're on the same side, then don't bother ruining a good day."--

"Still strange," Kaoru said with a slight shake of her head. "I know I would've been suspicious and angry if Mojo or the Gangrene Gang showed up at my house just to hang out."

A few seconds passed, during which Kaoru got the impression Callista was smiling. --"I like to think we're masters at figuring out whether to drop Bowser into the lava or just go-kart with him somewhere."--

"...Forget I said anything. So I'm guessing for the time being, the situation's in Claire's hands?"

--"Ugh... yeah, pretty much. Not much we can do for now but keep our eyes and ears open for updates and changes. Trust Claire to do what she needs to do, trust Ambush not to get into too much mischief beforehand, trust Viridi and Missy not to take matters into their own hands, and trust the others to play their parts. If we're going to play things Ellen's way, we'll need to be as precise as possible."--

A several minutes-long silence.

"Sooo... any objections to me going back to town and hitting the gym, Calli?"

--"Go ahead. I'm still not feeling well."--

Kaoru rolled her eyes as she got up and headed for the exit. "I'm not surprised. How many times do I have to tell you that 'massive appetites' and 'heavy nausea' don't mix before you get the hint?"

--"I can't stop eating that much any more than either of us can stop hating dresses,"-- Callista rebuked. --"If you're not used to it by now, you never will be."--

"Oh, just cram it."

And for them at least, life went on.

/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

Time: 2:35p.m.
Location: Harrison residence, Spamville-verse

All of her life, Ellen had been a mystery to many.

She was eleven years old going on twelve, though she had the physical appearance of a 16-year-old. This was due to her mother's freaky genetics: all of the Harrison kids, except for her brother Echo, had aged up five years in the span of six months before proceeding to grow up normally. There was more to her than just her presence in the 11th grade five years ahead of time, however.

Each kid had inherited one or two of their mother's traits. In Ellen's case, she had inherited all the caution that came from being a cat taken to the extreme: she never faced danger head-on unless there was no other way, she took her time formulating what to say before opening her mouth, and she was the utter picture of calmness, silence, and calculations. Those last two characteristics, combined with her perpetual half-lidded stare, soft-spoken voice and near-inability to smile, gave her a reputation as a creepy and borderline frightening individual.

Most days that was exactly how she liked it, as she treasured her peace and quiet above all else. That wasn't to say that she was incapable of caring, or that she was anti-social in the fullest sense. For all of their quirks and insane behavior, she loved her family as a whole and was fiercely protective of them. She valued her friends highly, and their opinions just as much. And if there was something wrong with them that she knew about, she worried about their well-being.

To all outward appearances, Ellen was completely in control. Inwardly, she was worried about the well-being of the sorceress with whom she was an unlikely friend. Something was wrong with her, and she was going to do everything in her power to fix it.

Even if it meant calling in the big guns.

Ellen sat down on one side of her bunk bed, listening carefully. Their Gaw housekeeper was laughing at a 2nd-season Seinfeld episode in the basement. Echo, the only full-blooded feline in the family, was playing with a glittery cat toy elsewhere in the house. Her mother, who had finished giving her subordinates the instructions for the mission she'd referred to, was snoring on the couch as she waited for her other kids to return home from their respective schools. Elk was who-knows-where, but that wasn't unusual for him. Her father was at a seminar, but promised to be home in time for dinner.

She nodded. "...As good a time as ever," she murmured, concentrating her next words. "...Godpapa? A few words with you please, Raleigh?"

"You have summoned me, mortal," declared someone who hadn't been in the room--or even the neighborhood--a half-second ago. After a few moments, the person dropped the drama and straight-up smiled, his sharp eyes twinkling a little. "Ellen. Nice to see you again. How's the family?"

That Ellen wasn't taken back by his appearance spoke volumes on how well she knew him. The man was decked out in a sharp black suit and fedora, his hands covered with thin white gloves. To the average anime connoisseur, he was the image of a murderer. To those with narrower reference pools, he moved like a smooth criminal. This was Raleigh, both one of the longest-lived and one of the most dangerous beings in the multiverse... and the one person that the Harrison kids trusted with their lives as much as their mother.

As such, Ellen didn't hesitate to stand up and give him a hug. "...Better nowadays," she said. "...Mom's been in much higher spirits recently, so I don't think there's any danger of her going off the deep end anytime soon. Eebon, Elk and I will be graduating next year... and on that note, I'm inviting you and Ebony to our collective graduation party at that time."

"Accepted," Raleigh confirmed. "I'll make sure Ebony knows. And how about Ezekiel?"

Ellen let go and sat back down. "...He's gotten the hang of his mutation about as much as he can by now. Secularly he's not the greatest, but he's still doing well enough to pass." She frowned. "...Now if I could get him to stop hugging me and everyone, that would be ideal. All of the weird looks I'm getting because of him are getting tiresome."

A smirk. "Ah, the trials of being an older sibling. Now then, I'm assuming you didn't call me here just to catch up?"

"...You're assuming correctly." Ellen gestured at a small chair next to her closet. "...I'm going to need you to be Rei for this, because in the words of Roahm Mythril, 'this is a bit of a thing'."

Raleigh nodded, his form shifting like water. He shrunk nearly a foot and a half in height, hair changing from black to a light brown and his overall appearance much more feminine on the whole. Where before he could've been mistaken for Kuroudo Akabane, now she came off more as a Sakura Kinomoto cosplayer. The triangle marking on her forehead, as well as the bat-like wings and pointed tail, gave away her non-human status. "Now then. What seems to be the problem?" Rei asked, sitting in the indicated chair.

"...Well, it started this morning when I was still in class..."

/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/

Ellen explained everything that happened from the point she'd received her invitation to the end of the meeting. While she was speaking, Echo caught wind of Rei's presence and shadow-walked his way past the closed door to greet her. Afterwards, he perched on Elk's bunk to listen in on the discussion.

By the end of it, Rei was in agreement that something needed to be done. "Nice of Mr. Maddhouse to come out into the open like that. That will make things easier for everyone."

"...Guessing that you're acquainted with him," Ellen said, cupping her chin in one hand. "...And that he's not human. Not like that's any real surprise."

"Almost but not quite, Ellen. I am acquainted with him, just not the same iteration. The one I know is a Moblin business tycoon who likes to stick his nose where it doesn't belong." Rei's tail twitched as she spoke. "I put up with him because he keeps attention focused on him and away from my agents whenever they have to work in the area, and he has at least some decency. In contrast, Muffinville Maddhouse looks to be a complete waste of human life."

"...That we agree on. If my hands weren't tied with this marriage business, I would've suggested having Thunderball nab him for his bounty," Ellen griped, referring to a lightning-happy bounty hunter she was on good terms worth. "...As it is, we're going to have to rip his empire apart piecemeal if we're going to slow him down."

"Want any help?" Rei asked, wringing her hands eagerly. A pair of miniscule fangs could be seen poking past her lips as she spoke. "This feels like a good time to unwind."

"... ...If corporate destruction and espionage is your idea of 'a good time', godmama, I don't want to hear what happens to people who make you angry," Ellen stated dryly, though she wasn't as perturbed as her words would've made her out to be. "...If you and yours want to help out then I have no issues with that, though really I just called you here for advice."

A meow from above got their attention. "How widespread is this 'empire' of his?" Echo asked, his voice slightly lower-pitched than one would expect from something the size of a Maine Coon.

"...I don't have the exact numbers," Ellen answered in the negative. "...I didn't think to check before I left the Muffinverse. If the fact that he owns at least two recreation centers is any indication, I have to believe he's all over the place in terms of business holdings. Might even own some of the stores that Callista likes to raid."

Rei looked thoughtful for a few moments before nodding. "In which case the more people you have helping you, the better. Echo, you've mastered your shadowportation, correct? Do you feel confident in lending a paw?"

Ellen's eyes widened, though there wasn't any way to tell without a powerful enough magnifying glass. Surprised as well, Echo's eyes seemed to dilate before he recovered. --"I don't know how good I would be,"-- he said, resorting to the telepathy he reserved for longer sentences, if only to put less stress on his throat. --"I'm just a housecat with a few odd tricks. I don't have Auntie Ebony's training, nor do I want it. And I've been shedding recently, so wouldn't Maddhouse find out someone's been investigating him if I started poking around his offices?"--

Ellen's bedroom door opened, revealing a fairly groggy Amber standing behind it. "Normally I'd be against you going out to help," she uttered before pausing for a yawn. "But admittedly, you do have a few advantages to work with. The biggest one is that I have notoriety and you don't. If they find your fur scattered around, they're more likely to think that it's me having a look-see. And even if they don't believe that, the simple fact of the matter is that you don't have a reputation. Just how many black Maine Coons are there in Muffinville, anyway? Thousands? For that matter, how many of them can shadow-port?"

"It also helps that you wouldn't be pursuing Maddhouse's interests directly," Rei suggested. "More likely you'd be poking around his lawyers' offices. If he's been escaping justice despite all of his crimes, then it's likely their fault. Incriminating them and forcing them to confess where the authorities would hear them would deprive Maddhouse of a powerful resource, and he'd be required to rely on an attorney that's more incompetent, has a moral compass, or both."

Echo thought about this for a bit before squeezing his eyes closed and shifting his posture a little. When he opened them again, they were just wide enough to give the 'you unworthy insects' visage that cats were well-known for. "I'll want backup in case I'm found, but count me in," he spoke aloud.

"...I'd have been disappointed if you didn't want it," Ellen remarked, getting up from her bed as she heard the front door open. "In any event, we can talk about this later. Right now, there's one other issue I want to bring up."

"What would that be?" Rei asked curiously.

Ellen not-so-subtly edged her way around the bed and into a corner, as far away from Rei as she could. "...The fact that you haven't been here for dinner in at least a year," she said as she moved.

A small sweatdrop appeared on Rei's temple as she vacated her chair, half-expecting what was to come. "Ah. Well, in all fairness I have been busy all over the place---"

"GODMAMA REI! You're here!" someone squealed, making Amber jump out of the way of the door in surprise.

Ellen's remaining quadruplet siblings--the black-furred felinoid Eebon and the half-insane catboy Elk--as well as the family's youngest, the currently-a-catgirl Ezekiel, were gathered outside the room. All three of them were struggling to keep themselves contained...

...and they ultimately failed miserably. "Our dear godmother has gone without our parents' cooking for all this time, gaw," Eebon declared playfully, with just a hint of drama. "We can't let this go on another day!"

"Mashed potatoes!" Ezekiel squealed again, the widest smile ever on her face as she clasped her hands before her. "Green beans! Chicken parmesan!"

Elk pointed at Rei. "Catpile on the succubus goddess, Second-Class!" he hollered.

As one, the trio hit Rei with a diving tackle and crashed against the carpet. Ellen and Echo joined in a second later, and the air was filled with purring and/or amused laughter from all parties involved (aside from Ellen, obviously).

Amber shook her head, but even she was smiling. "My cooking's not that good," she muttered bemusedly, getting her phone out and texting her husband to let him know that they'd be having company for dinner.

And for them at least, life went on.
Last edited by AmbushCat on Sun May 17, 2020 1:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby Ookalf » Tue Mar 24, 2020 11:30 pm

AmbushCat wrote:...Huh. We actually have a second chapter. This is lasting longer than I thought it would. :|

As a side note, Ookalf, it occurred to me that I should've asked your permission to use your character before starting the story. I think I owe you an apology for that.

Eh, it's no big deal. At least you're not doing anything too outrageous with her so far.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Fri Mar 27, 2020 4:57 pm

Well, thanks anyway. :)

After this chapter, I'll probably need to hold off on working on this for a few business days. An acquaintance of mine at DA asked me to take care of some stuff for him.

/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/

Taking Out the Trash
Chapter Three

Location: Callista's home universe, Infinite Defense Headquarters, Dining Room
Time and Date: January 13, 2020, 4:06p.m.

Universes away, in a three-story mansion that stood near the edge of a Michigan golf course, Aldonza Karate sat in a chair and stared out at nothing. She wasn't in the mood to deal with the typical chaos of Muffinville or Spamville, not after the events of the morning and early afternoon, so she had retreated back home entirely in order to find someplace to vegetate.

The handful of those whose duties lay with the space division were off working, while most of those who were employed around the county were also away. The rest of the staff were either on call in case a serious crime was reported or lazing around the property doing their own thing, leaving Aldonza alone. And for once, the social butterfly was happy with that.

"This is irritating as $%&#ç," Aldonza growled at nothing and no one. "I've tried my best to be a good friend to her, or at least a decent one, for what? Eight, nine years? And then she falls in love with the worst possible person ever. And here I thought I understood how the brains of humans worked. For all that talk about wrecking the wedding and totalling Maddhouse, we never really talked about the root cause of it all. Just what on Earth drove her to accept the proposition? Why did my contacts not tell me anything about it? Something about all of this smells rotten." She sniffed the air, and was briefly taken back by what she detected. "...Kind of smells like bourbon, actually."

"That's because it is bourbon," Zapana's voice drawled. Aldonza looked up to see the wolf nursing a bottle of the stuff as she sat down next to her. "And before you ask, you can't have any. This is property of yours truly."

"Wasn't going to, Zapana-chan," Aldonza denied. "I'm just a tad irritated at what's been happening, but not so much that I'd want to ruin my insides."

"Good thing my insides are already ruined, then," said Zapana before taking a swig, tapping her arm with her free hand as she did so.

Aldonza knew what she was referring to. When Zapana was still a pup, she was abducted by a delusional madman and had a serum injected into her blood as part of a process to turn her into his loyal super-soldier, which ultimately led to his death when he underestimated the scope of her rebelliousness. That serum had permeated her body and organs, strengthening them to the point where not only was it impossible for her to get drunk, but she could never suffer the ill effects of such. The day she reached legal age, she'd grabbed a can of beer and never looked back... but as she'd said from time to time, what had been done to her was irreversible.

Now if only we could prevent Circe's life from being ruined the same way. "I'm worried about her," Aldonza stated. "Something's wrong with her. Terribly wrong."

"You've said that something like fifteen times in the past six hours," Zapana said, annoyed. "I'm pretty sure everyone knows about it by now. When are we going to stop griping about it and actually do something about it? ... Oh, wait; we can't, because we specifically agreed to hold off on it until the wedding day. So--and I'm saying this as a friend--kindly shut up already and focus on how we can prepare ourselves in the meantime."

"Yes, but how?"

"Simple. Based on what everyone's said about Marc, and judging from what Circe's state of mind probably is, it's likely that it's all going to devolve into my specialty." Zapana grabbed a paper plate that someone had forgotten to throw away, crumpled it up tightly until it was about equal in size to one of her claws, then utterly incinerated it between her fingertips. "And that means getting ready for a hoedown la throwdown."

"...Sad thing is, you're probably right." Aldonza leaned back in her chair and stared up at the ceiling. "For all we know, he might have had something to do with this whole mess to start with. I mean, it's obvious that Circe wouldn't have agreed to marry him if she were in her right mind. A good fight might shock her back to her senses."

"It ought to, Aldonza-chan." Zapana followed Aldonza's lead, her expression turning melancholy. "It certainly did for me."

"Look at it this way." Aldonza's tail snaked over to Zapana's shoulder and gave it a few reassuring taps. "If we hadn't had that big blowup over the freeze gun incident, we wouldn't be friends now, right?"

This succeeded in putting a smile on the wolf's face. "Both of our lives are completely messed up, because that's not how friendship is supposed to work." She checked a nearby clock, jerking out of her seat in surprise. "Lost track of time... I gotta get to the multiplex. What are your plans tonight?"

Aldonza straightened in her seat. "I'm assigned kitchen duty during the dinner hour, and I was planning on watching the Pistons game later. What about you?"

"Unfortunately, I'm going to be working late tonight. One of the ushers is out sick, so I'm going to have to cover for him. But before I go..." She favored Aldonza with a smile. "This is the part where you say 'thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I really needed that'."

"I don't need to," Aldonza answered, smiling in return. "You said it for me. See you in the morning down in the battle arena?"

"Sure thing. Sayonara."

As Zapana hypered off, Aldonza re-directed her thoughts back to Circe. This time, instead of frustration and irritation at the day's events, she felt nothing but a quiet determination. Be patient with us. Just a little over a month. Whatever's happened to you, we'll put a stop to it. Wait for us, okay?

And for them at least, life went on.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

Location: Circe's Manor, outside Muffinville proper
Time: 7:22p.m.

Loud, pulsing music permeated much of the Manor.

The announcement of Circe's upcoming marriage in recent weeks had drawn a mixed bag of emotions among her staffers. Those who knew of Maddhouse or were familiar enough with their mistress' personality were suspicious and unsure, with some having warning bells going off in their heads. Others who didn't know of the potential dangers of such a union were thrilled that she was planning on tying the knot, and there was much gossip to be had.

One maid in the latter category had excitedly suggested to Circe that a bachelorette party just had to be thrown. It took some time and a fair amount of convincing, but with some reluctance she'd agreed. The end result of this was that one of the Manor's larger dining halls and some adjoining rooms had been rearranged to accomodate the party, and thus decorated accordingly. A stage large enough to accomodate a song-and-dance troupe had been constructed, the kitchens were locked in overdrive, the dress code was less of a concern, and the ones in charge of the party were making sure everyone was enjoying themselves without going too far.

An attempt to surprise Circe with a catgirl jumping out of a large cake backfired, however. The catgirl in question, the largely apathetic Abby Dubious, fell asleep at some point and failed to respond on cue. When she finally woke up and dug her way out the side of the cake instead of exiting through the top, she was booed and heckled by most of the onlookers. Circe herself found it more amusing than anything else, calmly dismissing the attempt and telling those responsible not to worry about it.

Abby, of course, didn't care.

As the party went on, even those who were suspicious decided "why not" and opted to join in. Claire was not one of them. The conservative maid stayed as far from the proceedings as possible, throwing herself into her work to keep from dwelling on the goings-on. What with everything that was taking place, she couldn't bring herself to enjoy any of it. "Feels like I'm the only sane person around here," she complained to herself as she finished vacuuming a stairway. "Everyone's hanging around in there, having a good time, and they either don't know that things are going south or don't care..." She grimaced as she heard one of the songs being performed. "And I've always preferred the Backstreet Boys over *NSYNC anyway."

Switching off the vacuum, Claire went to transfer its contents to the nearest wastebasket she could find...

"Not much of a party person, Miss de Loon?" someone asked. Claire gave a start, but relaxed when she saw the maid leaning on the railing up on the second floor.

Doris Sturm had more seniority than most of the staff, and was also the most identifiable. She had kept the appearance of the fictional reploid Pandora during her last transformation, turning herself into a gyroid. The downside of that decision was that her armor and helmet were permanent parts of her being, rendering them impossible to remove. Since she couldn't fit into a regular uniform as a result, she designed a new emblem--the same one that would later be placed on the wedding invitations--and had it emblazoned on the back of her helmet to identify herself as part of the staff.

Oddly enough, she was currently sipping some sparkling water. How she's able to drink despite being a living machine, I'll never understand. "It's not the party I dislike as much as the circumstances surrounding it, Miss Sturm," Claire answered, setting the vacuum aside and making her way up the stairs.

Doris nodded. "I hear you. It certainly came out of nowhere. Seeing someone's eyes turn to hearts in a cartoon is funny. Seeing it in real life? Not so much. It's too creepy for words."

"I see..." Claire murmured before deciding to raise a question that had been bothering her. "I have to ask, since you're helping her directly on this. How's Lady Circe's general temperament? Is everything... well, most everything... alright with her?"

"If you mean 'has she been any different', no. ...Wait, that's not quite true," Doris admitted, shaking her head. She took a few steps to the side to allow Claire some room on the railing. "It would be more accurate to say that her treatment of us as individuals hasn't changed. She still treats us with as much respect as we deserve, and there's no more changes in her speech patterns or emotions than usual. But when it comes to anything pertaining to Mr. Maddhouse, you might as well be talking to a wall. She's rather thoroughly convinced that he can do no wrong."

"You've already tried to talk to her, then?"

Doris chuckled bitterly. "I was on hand at her Shop when Marc proposed to her. You should've heard the fuss that her pet mouse raised... anyway, I tried to talk her out of it both before and after he left, but Lady Circe was hearing none of it. The only reason they didn't get married right then and there was because I was able to at least convince them to have a proper public ceremony, and those events require plenty of time to prepare." She sighed. "Really should've tried harder to talk her out of it..."

Claire gave Doris's hand a consoling pat. "You did what you could. Your efforts mean that we still have a chance to stop her from making a serious mistake."

Doris regarded Claire suspiciously. "None of us have been able to talk sense into her, no matter what we say. Do you know something that I don't, Miss de Loon?"

"...Before I answer that, is there anyone else in the immediate vicinity?" Claire inquired cautiously.

Doris's eyes shifted through the color spectrum; Claire recognized this as the sign that her internal hardware was blazing away. "The party is active 450 feet away, and Lady Circe is present there. Any maids still at work are elsewhere in the building, and those left are in their quarters. No one on the first and second floors is within earshot. We're clear."

Claire nodded. "Good. I took the liberty of getting into contact with the Infinite Defense this morning."

"The Infini... oh. Miss Metallium's old faction." Doris downed the rest of her drink and placed her glass on a nearby shelf. "She and those friends of hers should've gotten their invitations today..."

"They did, and they weren't pleased about it. They and the heads of the Brotherhood and Forces of Nature intend to sow chaos on the wedding day and make things as problematic as possible in the hopes of dissolving the marriage."

It was a rare thing to see Doris, whose electronic brain could formulate responses to any statement in less than a heartbeat, stunned into silence. "...I was under the impression that those two groups hated each other's guts."

Claire idly wiped off the railing with a dust rag. "That they do, but apparently their hatred for Maddhouse supercedes that. Missy Shanelle doesn't want competition as an antagonist. Lady Viridi already viewed him as a blight on the earth, and being tapped as the wedding party's flower girl didn't help matters any."

Doris processed this before turning to regard the 1st floor below. "I have to assume Lady Circe knew that when she told me to send an invitation to Shanelle. They're business associates only. Our lady even told me when I was temporarily assigned to Brotherhood HQ on cleanup detail that she didn't like her. Is there something I'm not seeing? If she's so dead-set on marrying Maddhouse, why is she making it possible for high-profile people to join forces against him?"

"I can't claim to understand any of that." Claire steeled herself before speaking. "What I do understand is that I'm going to do everything in my power to assist the alliance wherever I can."

Doris immediately turned to Claire, facing her with no small amount of fury. There was a fair bit of 'evil' and 'violence' in her due to the current nature of her existence, though most days she was good at keeping them under wraps. "It's one thing to express discontent with what our Lady is doing," she hissed, eyes glowing as she summoned her staff out of thin air. "It's quite another to actively work against her wishes. I cannot let you do that."

Claire summoned all of her decorum and willpower, not backing down in the face of Doris's anger. "Answer me this, Miss Sturm. As someone with a CPU for a brain and heart, what sounds most logical to you: to willingly support Lady Circe as she goes through with a decision that means the complete loss of who she is, of who we are... or to work against her with the intention of keeping her best interests alive, to ensure that she is able to strive towards them another day?"

There was still rage in Doris's eyes, but it was faltering. "Miss de Loon..."

"You've heard the rumors about Maddhouse's treatment of women," Claire stated emphatically, her own anger filling her voice. "As of today, I can confirm that the rumors are true. I heard the words straight from Ambush Cat's mouth."

Doris's weapon immediately vanished back into nothingness. "So... to clarify...?" she asked hesitantly, the glow in her eyes dimming.

"I am loyal and dedicated to my Lady," Claire stated with absolute confidence. "I always have been, and always will be for as long as she and I live. As one of her maids, it is my duty not only to do all the work that is expected of me, but to protect her against any discernible threats to the best of my ability. And the scum that is Marc Maddhouse is very much a threat."

Save for the distant party, the hall was silent for about six seconds before Doris chuckled softly. "Someone told me once that if you'd been part of the first wave, you'd have been the Manor's head maid. I'm starting to see why that was said; you're shining like a searchlight right now."

"A-anyway," Claire stammered, blushing at the compliment, "since I've been selected as a bridesmaid, I still can't openly sabotage the ceremony. What I can do for now is to push things in the right direction simply by doing what is asked of me. Does Miss Madison know who's going to be handling the catering yet?"

Doris shook her head. "I don't think so. I think she and I are both under the assumption that us maids would be taking care of it."

Claire smiled. "Good. I have an idea as to who to get, but I'd like to run it by her first before I make the call. Is she at the party?"

"Yes. Thankfully, I don't think she's drunk any booze yet."

"Even better. Bring her out here, if you could." Claire's eye twitched as she remembered the cleanup Doris had interrupted. "...Well, as soon as I get the vacuum cleaner put away."

Doris's laughter echoed behind her as she went back downstairs to finish her task.

...

And for them, at least, plans were made.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

Location: Viridi's suite, The Mungojerrie
Time: 11:35p.m.

"Three to go! You're slipping, nature girl!"

"Let's see if you're still saying that to my Shoooryuken!"

"Rrrghh...! Back in the game, Belmont, back in the game--%*#$!"

After being successfully resurrected by Ambush Cat years before, Viridi had claimed one of the ship's empty suites for her own use. The interior had been redesigned so that it had a similar feel to her long-destroyed sanctuary from ages past; though it could never truly replace what she'd lost, the suite felt more and more like home with each passing day.

That wasn't to say there weren't a few technological odds and ends, however. The massive television and Nintendo Switch in the living room were two of them. Even stranger was the fact that Viridi and Missy, two vicious archenemies, were seated on cushions side by side and settling their frustrations in Smash Ultimate instead of the battlefield. Given what time it was, it was essentially a warped sleepover.

Viridi's chief lieutenant, the also-resurrected Phosphora, was sitting on a vine-turned-hammock in one corner of the room, watching the scene with no shortage of amusement. Missy's secretary, a meek sheepgirl who looked borderline exhausted, was far less enthused as she poked her head into the room. "How long have they been at this? I thought they were going to stop an hour ago!"

"That used to be the plan, Bahija, but it ain't happening now," Phosphora confirmed with a nod. "This is the tiebreaker round to decide whether or not they play their final match on Dracula's stage. After that is a best-of-three to see whether Missy plays that match as Luigi or Bayonetta, and another best-of-three to see if I'm allowed to join in for it. I'm sitting off a loss right now."

Bahija facepalmed heavily as she walked in. "I had the feeling that proposing that ceasefire would be the worst decision of my life..."

"They hate each other," Phosphora said with a shrug. "They still wanted to fight, and this is the next best thing. Chances are after their 'final' match, they'll get into another argument over whether the victor won fairly or not, and have another few rounds to decide who was right."

"And I'm going to have to put up with this for over a month?!"

"Sure will." Phosphora gave Bahija a challenging smirk. "You have a problem with that, muttonhead?"

Bahija's hands tightened at the implications of those words, and a little bit of her normal self shone through. "Fine. One game after they're done, sparky. And if I win, you have to not just promise to stop playing when the rest of us have to sleep, but to keep that promise for the duration of the ceasefire!"

"And if I win, I get to shave you bald and turn your hair into a sweet throw pillow." Phosphora held out an open hand. "Deal?"

Hand met hand and slammed themselves together. "Deal!"

...

...

Over an hour later, Bahija once again found herself thankful that triggering her Jusenkyo curse also restored her hair.

/-/-/-/-/-/

And for them at least... ah, forget it.

And so a month passes...
Last edited by AmbushCat on Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Wed Apr 01, 2020 9:50 pm

STATUS UPDATE: I've finished the DA-related stuff that I was asked to handle, and I'm resuming work on Chapter Four. I want to say that I'll have the next chapter up by Tuesday or Wednesday, since this one's probably going to be a little bit longer.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Thu Apr 09, 2020 7:04 pm

My desire to write's trying to dwindle. That's not a good sign. Anyway, I'm going to start including music links from here on out, in case anyone's interested.

Konoko and Ritsu both show up here with KonokoHasano's permission.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

Taking Out the Trash
Chapter Four

"Sister? Big sis, where are you?"

No response. Only footsteps leading away.

"Sister? ...Wait, where are you going?"

A silhouette. An umbrella?... No, just a wide hairstyle. It said nothing, did nothing to respond to her cries.

"Don't leave me here! Please...!"

At last, a response. The vague humming of a lullaby reached her. She didn't know the song, but she did recognize the source. 'Pan's Labyrinth', wasn't it...?

"Please, sis... wherever you're going... at least say good-bye...!"

The silhouette inclined its head in her direction. It smiled sadly, not interrupting its lullaby, and slowly shook its head before continuing on its way. Clouds of mist came together, obscuring the figure from sight...


/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

Date/Time: February 22, 2020, 7:15a.m.
Location: The Mungojerrie, Callista's suite

Callista laid awake in bed, glaring up at the ceiling and trying her hardest not to cry. "That dream again," she hissed quietly, shaking her head. "That... s-s-s-s-s-s-stinking dream again. And the longest day in my life's going to be right on the heels of it."

--"Which dream was it this time?"-- Kaoru inquired. --"Your stepsister leaving, the evil lemon meringue pie, the tap-dancing graphic calculator, or your fleet's central computer having a rap battle with Seto Kaiba's?"--

"The first one."

A mental wince. --"Ooooh. Yeah, that would do it. You feeling well enough to get things going yourself, or should I take over?"--

Callista was about to tell her to go ahead, then thought better of it. She blinked a few times to dispel the tears that were still trying to form before climbing out of bed. "Yeah, I'm good. It's been a few months since I last had it, so I figure I was overdue for it anyway. Guess I've just been feeling wistful recently... anyhoo, plans: breakfast, a quick run to the PFL's souvenir store to quell that perpetual itch in my skull, and then straight to the Manor. Claire ought to have something in her wardrobe I can wear to the wedding."

--"Almost fifteen closets across three universes, and you still don't own anything formal,"-- Kaoru said. Callista got the impression she was shaking her head. --"Didn't that whole 'prom' incident teach you to be prepared for those things?"--

"What happened at the prom stays at the prom," Callista bit out, "and I refuse to walk down that road on principle."

--"Once a guy, always a guy..."--

"And don't you forget it! ... But you know me. I hate formal stuff. The odds of me enjoying one of those events is about the same as a repeat of the Spanish Flu showing up back home."

Their banter continued even as they left the ship twenty minutes later. To the few onlookers who saw them leave, it started like any other day... and in the long run, for all of its build-up and the trials that would befall the participants that day, that's what it would shape up to be.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

Time: 8:00a.m.
Location: The Hasano Estate (The Place the Leaf Resides), unknown Muffinville sub-dimensional residential area

Knock-knock knockity knockity knock knock.

An eldritch being sat up from its breakfast, fairly resembling a Gardevoir in appearance and dress yet somehow not. "Hmm? Someone's a'knocking early today," it murmured to itself, quickly finishing its bite of toast before getting up to answer the door. I haven't ordered any packages recently, and the mail carrier shows up at 9:30, so who could it be?

Its question was answered when it opened the door, an unfamiliar young woman with a large pointy hat and jeweled purple dress standing there. Close behind it was one of the Harrison kids, the currently-a-male-human Ezekiel. "Hi, Konoko," the woman stated. "I realize this is short notice, but do you mind babysitting one of the kids today? The rest of us are... kind of busy, to put it mildly."

Immediately Konoko pieced together who the woman was. She didn't carry herself the same way Ambush/Amber did, but she was obviously associated with the Harrisons. Add to that the mental waves that told her she was speaking to a Pokémon, not a true humanoid... "Shiver," she greeted her. "Fully solid illusion. Nice work."

The disguised Mismagius smiled at the praise. "Thanks. So, about that job offer...?"

I don't have anything pressing to do, and I haven't spent much time around their youngest... "Sure. Come on i---"

"HUGS!"

As soon as Konoko agreed, Ezekiel launched himself at her in a flying tackle-hug. The 'Vampevoir', as Callista liked to call her, staggered backwards a step but was able to stay upright. "Oof... wow, you're getting big." She directed her next words to Shiver as she put him down. "Real energetic, isn't he?"

Shiver sagged a little. "Every day like you wouldn't believe. Like I said, we're going to be pretty busy today, so we don't have much time to look after him. So if you could babysit him until about... seven this evening, that would be awesome."

"Until seven, huh? What's going on today?"

Shiver winced. "That's going to take a while to explain. May I come in?"

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

"...And that's about it."

Konoko sipped from a cup of coffee as she finished processing everything she'd been told. So, a wedding between the truly depraved and the ex-villainess-to-be. I can see why they're behaving this way. "Out of curiosity, did Echo's investigations turn up anything?"

"Only enough to put the bozos away for decades, and Maddy away for the rest of his sorry existence times infinity." Shiver downed the remainder of a glass of fruit punch. "It looks like the bulk of his employees either don't know who they're truly working for, feel that they have no choice, or have blinded themselves to the truth for the sake of their next paycheck. It would be nice to notify them all at once, but Callista's going to be occupied too. And unlike her, our boss doesn't have the benefit of being data incarnate, so we don't have their contact information or access to Maddy's e-mail accounts. We're going to have to go about things the slow way."

Maybe... or maybe not. Konoko nodded. "I see. ...Well, I never received an invitation, but since you brought Zeke on by I don't mind too much. He's much more entertaining anyway." She regarded Ezekiel, who was fully hooked on the handheld Oregon Trail game she had lent him, with a fond smile. "Our families don't see each other too much anymore. Maybe I should invite your bunch over for dinner sometime."

Shiver stood up. "I won't say no to that, but in the meantime I've got a job to do. I'll be by to grab Ezekiel at seven."

"Fair deal. I'll send Ambush the bill," Konoko agreed impishly.

Shiver's smile was full of teeth as she caught on. "Boy, will she be surprised," she giggled, turning transparent. Waving good-bye, she turned and phased through the walls, leaving the Estate behind.

...

Konoko stared out at nothing for a few minutes before deciding. Nothing wrong with expediting the process, and maybe this will get her out of the house for a little bit too. She's been complaining that things have been boring lately. Raising her voice, she called out: "Ritsu? Ritsu, could you come in here, please? We have a visitor."

Konoko's third-youngest daughter (second-youngest, technically) was fairly normal in appearance. Between her pigtailed brown hair, two pronounced front teeth, thin glasses and tool belt, there didn't seem to be anything truly unusual about her. But as with the rest of the family, there was no shortage of strangeness. The fact that she was a were-rabbit was just the tip of the iceberg.

Ezekiel perked up when Ritsu entered the room, all grins. "Hi, squirrel rabbit! How you've been---whoa!"

Konoko caught Ezekiel in a telekinetic grip before he could give Ritsu the same tackle-hug that she'd received, much to the girl's obvious relief. "Thanks, Mom. I needed that," Ritsu admitted. "His greetings are a little too enthusiastic... what was all that talking I heard about, though? Anything to do with why he's here?"

"You could say that." Konoko gave her a shortened version of the story she'd received from Shiver. "I'll need to call Ambush and let him know, but he should be alright with a certain someone helping him ruin Mr. Maddhouse's day, wouldn't you say?"

It took a moment for what she was being asked to do to sink in, but once it did, the fit of mad laughter Ritsu experienced would have done Washu Hakubi proud. Ezekiel joining in just made it sound ridiculous, however.

/-/-/-/-/-/

Time: 10:10a.m.
Location: Circe's Manor, Claire de Loon's quarters

"...I see. So that's it, then. Thanks for notifying me, Mrs. Hasano. Tell Miss Ritsu I said 'thank you' for her work. ...Yes, I realize that you aren't technically 'married' anymore, but as far as I'm concerned your husband is alive, and that's good enough for me. ...Trust me, I thoroughly understand. I know how those kids are. Thanks again."

Claire shut off her smartphone and set it aside. "That looks to be everything that needed done," she said to open air. "Here's hoping that everything gets settled without it dragging on."

"Just about everything's in place," Callista stated, voice a bit muffled. She was somewhere in Claire's walk-in closet getting dressed, and to avoid anyone walking in on her by accident she'd temporarily fused the door with the wall. "I'll be present as a guest, of course. Zapana's replaced Maddhouse's disc jockey for the reception on short notice... the less said about the poor idiot when they found him, the better. Aldonza's handling the catering... nice job setting that one up, by the way. Ambush is ready and waiting to 'erase' any evidence of the marriage, plus trigger a mass resignation... I'll need to save some of that wedding cake for the Hasanos later. Ellen's the organist... where she learned to play the organ, I'll never know..."

"According to her, her 8th-grade music teacher was apparently a harsh taskmaster," Claire clarified, sweatdropping. "Just between you and me, I think she was trying hard not to swear when describing him."

"...Right. Anyway, both Missy and Viridi are waiting in the wings with their forces, and their respective lieutenants are going to hit all of Marc's corporate offices after the wedding gets under way. Primary targets will be all communications satellites and cell phone towers in the vicinity of the recreation center... we can always pay to get them replaced later." Fabric shuffled around a little. "I've always thought it was stupid not to keep a landline phone around as a backup."

"You're nervous, aren't you?"

Beat. "What gave it away?"

"You're rambling," Claire stated, "in part about things I've known for at least two weeks and in part about things that are fresh in my memory regardless. You don't need to invoke 'as you know' with me, Miss Callista."

"This is the first wedding I've been to since the early-to-mid 1990s," Callista growled. "I have every right to be nervous... and why in Muffinville do you have most of this stuff in here when you wear the exact same outfit every single day? Seriously, I'm seeing a copy of that for each day of the month!"

"Most of those other dresses are gifts that were given to me by my friends for various occasions, and I've just never gotten around to wearing them," Claire explained. "A few others were given to me by certain individuals who didn't realize that I didn't swing their way, and I didn't have the heart to throw them away. And there should be a pink number in there sent to me by an actual male suitor who tried to woo me last year."

"I'm not see---oh. There it is." Callista had an amused sort of disbelief in her voice. "Why is it ripped to shreds?"

Claire allowed herself to become indignant. "Because he was trying to lure me away from Lady Circe's service, of course, and whenever someone tries to court me I have that posted outside this room as a warning. If I had to choose between being a mere servant and being a trophy wife, you'd know which one I would pick."

Callista snorted softly. "He sounds like a real winner, huh?"

"He had some of the same viewpoints that Marc does about women, albeit not to the same degree. But to his credit, he gave up the chase gracefully when he decided I wasn't worth pursuing. Truthfully, I can't imagine Marc doing the same for Lady Circe even if things were tactfully explained to him."

"Yeah, I can't imagine Circe stooped over a stove cooking dinner for him," Callista cracked, channeling her inner Groucho Marx, "if only because I can't see the stove."

"Don't insult her, please. And don't misunderstand me either, mother," Claire said, shaking her head but deciding that Callista was under more stress than she first thought. It was hardly the first time one or both of them had insulted the other when something was eating at them, after all. "It's not the 'stay in the kitchen' viewpoint I took offense to. I enjoy housework immensely, and working here at the Manor is simply that scaled up by a hundred. No, it's what Ambush meant by Marc 'treating women like flash drives' that has me so nettled."

Even through the sealed door, the air seemed chillier. "Brrr... tell me about it. Feels like my scars are trying to tear me to pieces just hearing it."

Callista hadn't always been... well, Callista. Previously she'd been Curtis Wildcat, a male human turned mutant felinoid. A few months after arriving at the more hectic ends of the multiverse, he'd made a wish--of sorts--on a magic crystal left behind by a temporarily deceased goddess, regaining his humanity. The cost of this wish was a permanent gender-swap with a side order of manic bargain-hunting, turning Curtis into the self-proclaimed Shopping Queen she was now.

Some months later, while in another universe on a mission for Raleigh, Callista was physically assaulted in a Cracker Barrel restroom by an escaped convict. Only her purse, a powerful shape-shifting weapon with its own security system, prevented her from being raped in addition to that. The encounter left her with scars both within and without that never fully healed, which in turn gave her three things: a zero-tolerance policy regarding perverts and sexual predators, a very dim view of romance in general (and exposed skin in particular), and a self-enforced vow of celibacy.

Since Claire possessed a decent chunk of Callista's memories (though without the scars), Ambush had made the entire situation personal for them both by notifying them of Marc's habits. The sense of justice that lingered in their hearts refused to put up with the present circumstances any longer.

"Claire?" Callista nervously continued, the closet door becoming unsealed. "I need a second opinion on this. Are you decent?"

"Haven't started getting ready yet, Miss Callista," said Claire. "I'm just waiting on you."

"Don't feel that you have to wait on my account. This is an important day for you too, remember?"

A quietly annoyed sigh. "Just step out of the closet and let me see what you picked, alright? I don't have all morning to banter back and forth about this."

"Fine, fine," the manic shopper acquiesced, opening the door and stepping back into the bedroom.

On first glance, she'd made her choices well. In keeping with Callista's standards of modesty, the sapphire-blue dress was conservatively cut and showed off nothing, going clear down to the top of her feet. Decorative buttons in the criss-crossing shape of her personal logo were pinned to both shoulders, and her low-heeled shoes glimmered in the light. Her ever-present purse, being permanently bonded to her being, was still on her shoulder. A topaz ring rested on one finger, and tiny little diamond earrings cut in the shape of a cat's face completed the ensemble. A few gray hairs could be spotted in her brown locks here and there, if only because she felt like reflecting her true age a little today.

Claire frowned. "You're wearing your jeans beneath all that, aren't you?"

"You used to be me," Callista reminded her, feeling a bit cantankerous. "What do you think?"

"I'm thinking your paranoia's going to give everything away." The maid gestured at her appearance in the mirror. "It's not easy to find if you're not looking for it, but if you are then your default ensemble's pretty obvious. At least try to hide the signs so that no one thinks you're expecting to fight?"

Callista sighed but complied, placing one hand on her dress's left shoulder. "Menu. Edit parameters. Save," she intoned, less for her sake than to make what she was doing a bit clearer---

Reality shifted around her, temporarily obscuring her from sight in a cloud of zeroes and ones. When they faded, any and all signs that her casual clothes were beneath her dress were gone. They were still there, of course, but at the same time they weren't. It was as paradoxically simple as it was complex.

Claire smiled. "That's better. You're looking just fine." She glanced up at her clock. "If that's everything, I need to assist Lady Circe and then get ready myself."

"Do what you have to do," Callista stated as she turned to leave. "See you at ground zero?"

Claire's smile gained a dangerous edge. Her voice and hair stayed the same, but it was clear to Callista that her darker side had taken control, something she couldn't help but grin at. "Oh, you'd better believe it."

Callista grinned in return, started to open the door...

...then paused as something Claire had said earlier finally sank in, her jaw falling open. "Wait a second. Did you call me 'mother' a few minutes ago?"

Claire smiled playfully and waved good-bye, not saying anything.

/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

Time: 2:43p.m.
Location: North Maddhouse Recreation Center #2

A human-sized dinosaur with a laser cannon on its head landed in a parking space sized just right for it. Missy, who'd traded in her blue suit for a purple one (complete with a paisley dress tie), dismounted from it and patted the side of its neck. "Stay here until it's time to go," she instructed the lizard. "If you see anyone suspicious heading your way, you're welcome to blast them. ...Y'know what? Blast them anyway. Making them jump never hurt anyone... other than them, of course."

The raptor nodded, turning to growl at an onlooker who had gotten too close. Paying it no mind, Missy made a face at the limousine that was parked next to it and headed on into the building.

The recreation center was on the large-ish side to accomodate as many as possible. There was no less than eight conference rooms, one reserved for the wedding and two more for the reception, and all of them were capable of seating hundreds. There were basketball and tennis courts, batting cages, an ice skating rink large enough for hockey games, several rooms loaded with exercise equipment, a few saunas, and even rooms filled with dartboards, billiards and assorted gaming tables. Had Missy been anyone else, she would've wanted to obtain a membership here in order to use all of its facilities to the fullest.

It's almost a shame that this place is going to be razed by the end of the day, Missy thought with a twisted grin. But only almost. She spied the guestbook posted near the door to Conference Room #1 and made a beeline for it, shoving aside a hapless guest that was too slow to get out of the way. A lot of these I can get anytime I want. Why should I go to those places when I can make the places come to me?

Come to think of it, that doesn't sound like a bad idea...

/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

"...So I walk up to the guy and tell him, 'I'm not playing your games until you tell me what the matter is'. Everyone listening just about falls over like it was the funniest thing they ever heard."

Aldonza's laughter could be heard everywhere in the room, making Zapana shake her head in annoyance. The two of them were in the rec-center's kitchen facilities, Zapana just to hang out and Aldonza to whip up a feast worthy of a reception. The fox blurred around the kitchen, utilizing no less than thirty recipes at once, counting desserts. The average human would've needed an entire staff and hours more time to accomplish what she was doing, but to a Kittenoan packing superspeed, it was as easy and quick as fixing a sandwich.

Zapana for her part stayed out of the way, easily keeping track of her friend's progress. "So orphaned jokes aside, how are things going with you? They buying your act so far?"

"So far, so good," Aldonza confirmed. "Everyone on Marc's side of things believes I'm a bog-standard Violet airhead who just happens to be really good at cooking. I'm still amazed that they're not more observant. I mean, it's not like I haven't trashed massive swathes of landscaping in our fights before."

"People can be remarkably short-sighted sometimes." Zapana glanced about the kitchen for any sign of alcohol, then slouched in disappointment when there was none to be seen. Her ears twitched. "And speaking of remarkably..."

Aldonza got the hint and slowed herself down to the point that anyone could follow along with her actions. Ten seconds later, the groom himself poked his head into the kitchen.

Marc Maddhouse was just as ugly as advertised, though much of that was due more to scarring and long-healed burns than weight or genetics. His hair was nicely combed and his tuxedo was in order, but those were the only really 'nice' things about him. His attitude when he spoke could be best described as 'smarmy'. "I'm just double-checking to make sure all the food's going to be ready, chef. Will you be finished on time for the reception, or am I going to have to order 'take-out'?"

Aldonza nodded, smiled, and flashed him the 'OK' gesture. Satisfied, he left the kitchen to take his place before the ceremony could begin.

...

Zapana gave her best friend an odd look as soon as she determined that Marc was out of range. "Weren't you the one who told me that gesture's considered obscene in Spain?"

"Not my fault if he's never seen 'The Pod People'," Aldonza said, waving a hand dismissively as she blurred back out of visibility.

Zapana snorted quietly, but left the kitchen without issue to attend to her music equipment and trusting that Aldonza would stick to her role for now. When it came time to party, she wanted to be ready.

/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

I feel like a Chihuahua surrounded by Rottweilers and Dobermans.

After she sat down to wait for the ceremony to commence, Callista took her time to survey the room. The vast majority of the guests were with the groom's camp, and almost startlingly, around ninety percent of that number were male. The remaining ten percent gave every indication to her telepathy that they had been transformed into girls against their will and continued to hold a grudge, looking as if they could bite through metal. At a guess, Marc hand-picked the ones who would love nothing more than to do away with Muffinville's 'change' slogan. It's hardly fair to the city's male residents who don't care one way or the other what form they have, but these people have no regard for their opinions. Earth only wishes it could meet this sort of extreme.

On the bride's side, Amber had her family with her aside from her husband, Ezekiel, and Echo. The vast bulk of the guests were members of Circe's staff who approved of the wedding from the get-go, though Callista also recognized a short and muscular, four-armed gray-haired lady from her side-job as a PFL competitor. She noticed that Missy was sitting nearest to the door, glowering at anyone who dared stare at her for too long. Things seemed about right.

...Though she dearly hoped Missy didn't start yelling "Death to the fuku!" at any point. Really wish I knew what she was thinking when she picked that suit in particular. Even when Himitsu isn't around anymore, he's still driving people insane.

"Callista Wilson-Metallium?"

The shopfreak looked up and to her left to regard the stone-faced guest that addressed her. "Yes, sir?"

The guest glanced from side to side, then lowered his voice until it was almost inaudible. "Don't tell anyone, but I'm a closet fan of yours. Sign something for me after the wedding?"

Callista nodded minutely, just enough for him to catch it. Outwardly the man scowled on his way back to his seat, but it didn't take much to sense his happiness or the reasons for it. Much as I hate having fans chase after me, this might actually turn out to be a boon.

With nothing to do for another five minutes or so, her thoughts continued to wander. Unlike her home Earth, Muffinville didn't have any specific standards for weddings. Pretty much anything would do, as long as it looked official, and the standards of those getting married either sunk or rose to match depending on their circumstances. Callista allotted Doris Sturm some points for talking Marc and Circe into having this instead of going the 'Vegas' route and, not having seen any sign of the gyroid since she'd arrived, made a note to save a portion of the wedding cake for her as well.

First one I've been to since my oldest sister got married in 1994, she mused. I wasn't even invited to Aldonza's wedding, but then again that was a Kittenoa affair, so I didn't mind.

--"The first one I've been to, period,"-- Kaoru commented. --"I didn't know they were so... grandiose."--

I was going to say 'ostentatious', but yeah. 'Grandiose' works. How are the Copycats faring? Depending on how things go, I might need the Dark one's help today.

--"They're both ready and waiting. They just need the proper conditions."-- Kaoru whistled. --"Maddhouse sure has a way of uniting enemies, doesn't he?"--

Deep in Callista's subconscious, the darker facets of her personality given physical form paced and growled. --"Well, duh!"-- she uttered menacingly. --"I hate Maddhouse more than I hate Bright Eyes over here. I wouldn't miss this for the universe!"--

Her lighter side, by contrast, stood still with her arms folded. Her voice was much calmer and borderline melodious. --"I won't say I hate him. Let's just call it a severe dislike. You know the drill: reach the appropriate state of mind, and we'll help you."--

That's all the confirmation I need, you two. Thanks. Callista noticed Ellen enter the room from a side door, and heard the crowd settling down. Stay frosty, y'all. Looks like we're ready.

...

Ellen was... remarkably sharp. Her dress was a very light purple, almost white, and on first glance appeared to be made of overlapping metallic scales that reflected the room's lighting every which way. Lavender eyeliner and hexagon-shaped amethyst earrings decorated her face appropriately. The only thing throwing off her appearance was a bandage around her upper arm, lightly stained a dark red and looking as if she'd sustained a recent injury there.

Glad she's taking things seriously. That high-octane control over paper she has is pretty creepy, but unless Maddhouse has higher connections than we thought, no one in his pocket can harm her.

Ellen took a moment to bow to the guests as if she were a concert pianist, getting raised eyebrows from most of them, then seated herself before the organ someone had hauled in. Wringing her hands and taking a deep breath, she settled down and began to play.

Most of those in the room did double-takes. Her mother--whom Callista noticed was decked out in a pearl necklace, a knee-length black dress and opera gloves that made her look dignified, plus a feather boa that didn't--hustled over to the organ. "Look, I know we all hate the man," Amber snarled in a tone that was inaudible to all but the first few rows, "but I don't think the Funeral March is what we need to hear. We need something more upbeat!"

Ellen regarded her mother for a few seconds before complying. "Try to find a middle range," Amber interrupted before she got too far in. "'Happy Organ' is a little too upbeat."

Ellen sighed softly. "...I can't have any fun," she murmured, shifting melodies and tempos even as a few of those in attendance chuckled. The song that she finally settled on was a rendition of Pachelbel's Canon in D, and Amber finally stalked back to her seat, muttering about 'uppity stoic teenagers' under her breath.

With that bit of levity out of the way, the procession finally began.

...

...

Events proceeded as normal, with a few outliers.

Marc went down the aisle first, with his best man not too far behind. Callista immediately had to shut down her telepathy temporarily, as the thoughts she was registering from Maddhouse were making her want to retch. The slight burning she could feel from her scars told her that she'd acted almost too late, and it took most of her willpower not to shift to her hybrid form and scream in anger.

And in addition to that, he seems a little bit too familiar...!

For some reason she hadn't detected anything from the best man himself, immediately making her wary of him. She pegged him as someone to watch out for as events continued apace.

...

When Viridi took her turn walking down the aisle, scattering flowers as she went, it was with a surprising amount of dignity. It made sense to Callista, since as the Goddess of Nature she was supposed to be able to show manners when the situation called for it. This was a veneer, of course, but a good one.

As Viridi passed, one of the flowers she tossed 'accidentally' landed on Callista's shoulder. They traded brief but meaningful looks as they passed, Viridi disguising hers with a sneer before continuing on her way. Shrugging, Calli placed the flower in her hair; to almost anyone it would seem like a bit of whimsy, but what they wouldn't know is that it had a purpose of its own.

...

Claire seemed... exceedingly outside of her element when she passed by, sweat on her brow and her face red. Callista wasn't sure if it had anything to do with the turquoise get-up she was in, given that her fairly wide maid's uniform was synonymous with her, or if she was just very nervous about what she knew was coming. Take it easy there, girl, she transmitted. Don't let things get to you. We're all here.

This seemed to ease a bit of her stress, though not all of it. Claire's walk was a little less stiff, which Calli took as a victory. The rest of the bridesmaids continued their course, unknowing of what just happened.

...

When it came Circe's turn to walk down the aisle, Callista silently approved of the wedding dress she was in. Given that it had been Claire who chose it, it made sense that it would be significantly more modest than what was on the market in Muffinville these days. I don't even need my Censors for this, she thought. Nice.

Though she did wonder at the statement Claire and Maxine (Madison, she forcefully reminded herself) had been trying to make by giving her the 'Princess Leia' hairstyle. ...Well, whatever. Not my problem.

...

Finally, Ellen's performance came to a graceful end. She stood up, gave the audience another bow--which actually garnered a light round of applause that time--and nodded at the priest, who had taken his post at the podium while the procession was ongoing. With nothing more to do, she sat down in a seat Amber had saved for her nearest to the wall.

The priest himself seemed nearly skeletal, was dressed in black, had short spiky hair and a slight reddish tint to his eyes. To Callista's eyes, he had no sense of humor and seemed completely unmoved by Ellen's antics. Just to make sure he wasn't going to be a problem, she took a moment to check his mind; satisfied with what she found, she relaxed a fraction and clasped her hands together.

Seemingly happy to get this under way, the priest began his speech. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to..."

...

...

...

With no obvious effort exerted despite the distance between them, Callista mentally connected herself to Phosphora and Bahija. Showtime, folks. Let's begin.

The confirmation phrase? the both of them asked.

The flower in Callista's hair glowed softly, providing proof that she had the authority to issue orders on Viridi's behalf. And since Bahija was an obsessive masochist when it came to her, they knew she would go along with it anyway... though the tone of voice Callista used when giving the code phrase still made them shiver in fear.

Pecking Order.

/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/

(EDITED 10-30-2020: Found out that the Hasano Estate had an actual name and made a minor edit accordingly.)
Last edited by AmbushCat on Fri Oct 30, 2020 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Tue Apr 14, 2020 11:31 am

Status Update: The next chapter's likely going to be facing a delay. Aside from the chaos that's going to ensue at the wedding, which I haven't entirely planned out ('tis the nature of chaos anyway) and which will cover almost everyone's perspectives, Rune Factory 4's the most distracting game I've ever played. ()^_^

...That, and they're working on the office roof over my head. It's noisy as all get out.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Tue May 12, 2020 11:06 pm

Status Update: I finished most of Rune Factory 4, and my last major goal can wait for the time being. Work on Chapter Five has resumed.

It occurred to me that I don't have much characterization for Marc set aside beyond "utter douche". No idea what his combat abilities are or anything like that, which will be problematic since I have him set to fight Callista before story's end. Before I get much further, I'm going to have to sit down and figure that out.

I'll also need to find some decent background music for the prior chapters, but that's a lower priority.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Thu May 28, 2020 12:34 pm

At last. I wanted this to be longer, but I figured I'd delayed long enough. I want to say there will be at least two more chapters after this, plus an epilogue. Here we go.

/-/-/-/-/-/

Taking Out The Trash
Chapter Five

Time: 3:07p.m.

A pair of complicated man-made satellites hung in orbit over the Muffin Continent, a fancily-designed logo in the shape of a face decorating them on one side. They hung silently, doing their work every day as they had for years. That long-running performance would not last too much longer.

A gigantic dark blue dragon, as tall as a sports stadium and as long as an entire town, approached from the planet below and spat volleys of magic missiles at them. The projectiles struck with surgical precision, each one targetting specific points and destabilizing the satellites permanently. As they fell from orbit, the dragon shone brightly and vanished back down to Muffinville in a teleport.

The crews of the nearby fleet of spaceships ignored the dragon's presence, doing nothing aside from making a note of it for their records. They knew why it had been there, and though they despised it, they despised the source of the satellites even more.

...

The brilliant glow on the planet's surface receded, and a bipedal figure strolled forward without any hurry. Massive clawed feet on a body of grass-green, white and teal, with fur, feathers and scales protecting her from many types of harm. An arrogant sneer worthy of the elite, and a thin blue aura about her that echoed Muffinville's penchant for change. She knew who she was, and she was proud of it.

As one of the satellites crashed straight into the cell phone tower before her, her only response was to smirk. And as flaming debris and broken metal smashed into her, she continued marching forwards--tearing her way on through with nothing but the force of her walk, extinguishing the flames nearest to her with a snap of her fingers. As she left the destruction behind, she scooped up a handful of snow off the ground, then waited a few moments before shoving it into her face.

The change from 'draconian ex-warlord' to 'mild-mannered sheep girl' was instantaneous. Bahija tapped a microphone that was pre-clipped to her uniform's collar. "Missy? It's me. Satellite communications are down and the corresponding towers are totaled, so he's not calling for outside help anytime soon. I'm heading back to HQ."

Bahija switched off the mike, wiped off what snow was still on her face, walked away---

"GYYYAAAAAHHH!"

---and screamed as a fiery spark that she'd missed hit the back of her neck. Panicking, she dove into the nearest snow bank to smother it. "Turned back too soon, turned back too soon!"

/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/

Location: Aryu-Madd Tech, Inc. Main HQ

It was no secret to the company's higher-ranked executives that Mr. Maddhouse planned to marry a sorceress that day, much less one with Muffinville's largest 'Maid Corps', as some called it. Neither did they not know that he intended to drain Circe's business ventures and estate dry, disposing of anyone who didn't fit in or gave any indication they weren't interested in a merger. They fully supported Marc come what may, they benefited from it, and they sent the careers of those that didn't down in flames.

That was assuming, of course, that the white-collared grunts ever found out what their bosses were doing. In most cases they didn't, which was all to the good; a business can't run without employees, after all.

So it was with some trepidation that a snappily dressed blonde secretary entered the 15th-floor office of her immediate superior and placed a report before him. "Mr. Kloch, I realize that you probably don't want to hear this..."

"You're right. I don't." Her boss waved her off. "I'm making sure our stocks are in order, so if you don't mind..."

"This transcends the stock market, sir," the secretary answered icily. "Looking at this for ten seconds isn't going to kill you or the company."

The boss growled in severe irritation, but he turned from his computer and grabbed the report to read it. His eyes narrowed. "What... is this? Is this your idea of a joke?"

"This is no joke, sir," the secretary informed him. "As of five minutes ago, 95% of all employees in the corporation, counting our subsidiaries, have handed in their resignations en masse and cut all ties with us. This includes 98% of everyone here in this building: the only ones left are Mr. Maddhouse; Mrs. Aryu, who is presently incapacitated; the board of directors--counting you--and a handful of workers and managers with no common sense, ethics, or morality whatsoever."

Mr. Kloch's eyes started twitching, and he got up and stormed over to his window. Sure enough, the parking lot was nearly deserted. Not counting the executives and the secretary herself, he could only count four or five cars within his field of view, and the last few stragglers were just turning onto the road. "What in the name of... wait. Mrs. Aryu was 'incapacitated', you said?"

The secretary nodded. "Yes. I found her two blocks down the street cocooned in enough rope and chains to turn her into a volleyball, a mask laced in Carolina reaper extract around her nose and mouth, and a fifty sheet double-sided, legal-sized, single-spaced report detailing everything she was complicit with attached to her bindings. In a seven-point font, no less."

Mr. Kloch's face turned beet red, and he slammed his fists on his desk. "We need to end this emergency before it gets worse! Call Mr. Maddhouse and inform him of this immediately! Never mind that wedding of his, just do it!"

The secretary shook her head, withdrawing her cellphone and pointing to a disheartening symbol in one corner. "I've tried. None of my calls are going through. And believe it or not, that's not even the worst part of all this."

"If that's not, then what is?!"

The cellphone dropped to the floor, and the woman smiled dangerously as she pointed at the ceiling. Her voice shifted from cold and businesslike to 'Valley Girl'-esque as an electrical spark grew on her fingertip. "I'm not even your secretary, little shrimp."

Mr. Kloch's eyes widened. "Who--"

...

Anyone who was looking at the building was forced to avert their eyes as a gargantuan lightning strike lit up the tower from the inside out. Storm protection meant nothing against an attack of this magnitude and direction.

A bolt exited out the 15th story a split second later, just in time to escape the tower's implosion and collapse. It came to rest a few blocks away, depositing a collection of sizzling figures--scorched and trembling but alive--atop the trussed-up volleyball that was Mrs. Aryu. Lady Viridi, Maddhouse's headquarters has sunk into its hindquarters, Phosphora reported, taking a moment to get her hair in order. That makes all of them, so I'm taking a break.

Her message sent, the "Lightning Flash" entered the doughnut shop she was in front of. Several people were seated on stools at the counter. One was Ritsu Hasano, who was typing at blinding speed on a holographic laptop; Phosphora greeted her with a high five and a thumbs up. The other was the woman that she'd impersonated, who was staring at nothing over a jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee. "So, no hard feelings about making you lose your job? I mean, that's gotta hurt, doesn't it?" Viridi's greatest ally wondered.

The ex-secretary shook her head. "Are you kidding me? That out there's the most gratifying thing I've seen in years."

...

...

Phosphora scratched the back of her head. "So, ah... I guess I owe you a new cell phone. Sorry?"

Ritsu continued typing with one hand even as she facepalmed with the other.

/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/

Aldonza finished wheeling the last of the food into the reception area, setting it in its proper place and making sure it was still covered. At the far end of the room, she could see Zapana was wrapping up her equipment testing; faintly she could hear the priest giving his speech, signifying that the ceremony was still in progress. Four, three, two, one, ze--

Fox, it's time, Viridi's voice told her. Be ready to do your part.

Aldonza stooped down behind the table, opening a hidden hatch in the wall that she'd been told about well ahead of time. Always am, she answered gleefully, pulling a bottle of A&W root beer--of all things--out of the compartment.

I don't get why Callista keeps soda pop in completely random places, Viridi wondered. How long ago did she set this one up? Five years? Six?

Seven, Aldonza told her. Right after the place was first built.

Seven years ago. That should have been long enough for any drinks kept there to lose any flavor or value they had. Last I checked, that uber-brain of hers couldn't see the future, so there should have been no way she could foresee herself resorting to these measures now!

It's Muffinville. Aldonza gave the bottle a good shake, just enough for the root beer to fizz, then gently placed the bottle near the wall where she could hear the speech. It's Callista. More to the point, it's us Kittenoans. Deal with us long enough, and you'll realize that we have a habit of making raspberries in the face of local reality, she transmitted as she retreated out of the room, taking up a position outside of the ersatz ceremonial hall.

Really wish I could say I wasn't beginning to understand that...

Aldonza didn't bother answering as her extra-long tail unraveled from its cinnamon roll-like position, pointing itself at the door she was facing. She focused, tapping into the superspeed that her mutant genetics afforded her and applying it to her brain and reflexes. If she was going to react to what was about to happen, her timing was going to have to be perfect.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/-/

Half-listening to the priest, Callista let her mind wander to other topics. If anything happened she trusted Kaoru to alert her, but for now she didn't care about what was being said. In light of the circumstances, much of it was hogwash anyway.

Despite her infamous prudishness and the rumors surrounding her, Callista was not against the idea of having a family of her own. If anything, the concept of "family" was a big thing to her: in her mind, only the ever-present urges to raid the nearest department store--or refrigerator, for that matter--held more importance. However, actually getting married was completely out the window. Unlike Amber, she didn't feel like she would be able to fulfill anything that would be expected of her as a wife, as the habits that her transformation ingrained in her rendered her too free-spirited and off-kilter (plus the antics of her adoptive family rendering her somewhat insane). Mentally she was too scarred to even consider having children the natural way. In addition, having any of her worst traits passed onto prospective kids filled her with a quiet terror.

That wasn't to say she didn't have at least a little experience raising someone. Several years past, a human-like robot programmed with the basics of her personality (plus an odd speech quirk) had turned up in Muffinville. Callista was quick to obtain her from her original owners and take her under her wing. She gave the robot a visual makeover and a new name to differentiate the two of them, gave her a home, took the time to teach her what it meant to live, and kept tabs on her as time passed; last she heard, the robot was the owner and head cook of a small but busy hamburger joint elsewhere in the city.

However, it wasn't quite the same as having a child of her own flesh and blood, of having someone that depended on her for life and sustenance.

Her eyes turned to Claire, who had addressed her as "mother" earlier that day. Near the start of the last decade, Callista had gotten a little too eager on a shopping trip and accidentally transformed herself into a maid as a result. After a time, the Infinite Defense split off everything that constituted that part of herself and placed it in a clone body while filling in the gaps with a portion of her personality, reverting Callista back to normal. The eager-to-please houseworker with the floor-length lampshade-esque dress would take the name "Claire de Loon" and seek out part-time employment with Circe, eventually becoming a full-time member of her staff at the Manor.

Claire calling her "mother" was done on a playful whim, but Callista couldn't shake the thought that it was more real than she realized at first. She massaged her forehead, shaking it slowly. I've been focusing way too much on myself these past thirteen years...

Kaoru interrupted her before she could get further. -"Oi, Calli. You awake? The priest is getting to the quote-unquote 'good part'."-

Callista brought her head up, eyebrows furrowed. Just like old times, she thought, the words shielded from Kaoru's hearing. Her hands tightened as she registered the tail-end of Aldonza's conversation with Viridi. Rock it and roll it.

The time for pondering and mental soliloquies had finally passed. As the Detroit Pistons used to put it, it was time to go to work.

/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/

"...Do you, Marc, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love, cherish and deeply respect for as long as you both live?"

Marc's smile was equal parts eager, ambitious, and dangerous. "I do."

"Do you, Circe, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, cherish and deeply respect for as long as you both live?"

By contrast, Circe's smile was almost alien in the eyes of those who knew her: genuinely happy, with the faintest tinge of mist in her eyes. "I do."

"And so it is, with all the power vested in me by the city of Muffinville, I now pronounce you... dumb and dumber."

...

Both Marc and Circe started at this statement, eyes widening before they fixed the priest with a withering warning of a glare. "Mind repeating yourself?" the former said slowly, one hand reaching for the hem of his tuxedo.

The priest's face split into an unnaturally creepy smirk as some in the audience began to murmur. "Dumb and dumber, moron and dolt, fool and foolish, and all sorts of synonyms to describe just how thoroughly and utterly finished you two are as human beings. You," he stated, addressing Marc, "have about as much regard for life as people do for garbage. And you," he said as he turned his eyes on Circe, "look like an escapee from a fairy tale gone horrendously wrong." He directed his final words at the both of them. "Letting you two kiss would be disastrous, and letting this ceremony finish would be a crime."

Both bride and groom were furious, but it was the latter who acted. Gritting his teeth in anger, Marc yanked a pistol out from beneath his coat, aimed and fired---but the bullet met no resistance, passing through the priest and burying itself in the wall behind him. The priest did not drop his smile. "So to be frank? You two have been had~."

And before everyone's eyes, the priest faded into smoke... only to be replaced by a happily grinning Gengar that hovered in mid-air. The ghost Pokémon opened its mouth wide and draped his blanket-sized tongue across the both of them, earning gasps from most of those who saw it, then cackled and vanished from the physical plane.

Marc shuddered and fell to his knees, his gun falling from his hand as the paralyzation from the Gengar's Lick attack kicked in. "%$&@#... that was no clergyman! Who let him in?!"

"I recognize that laugh," Circe answered, grimacing as she fought off the paralyzation before it could take hold, though she still needed the help of a bridesmaid in staying upright for a moment. "Vacuum... Ambush Cat, you son of a...!"

Circe's curse was cut short by an explosion as the A&W bottle Aldonza had placed detonated. This wasn't the overly-fizzy type of explosion that one would expect from a carbonated beverage; this was an honest-to-goodness bomb blast that wiped out most of the wall between the conference rooms, showering much of the immediate area with debris. The bridal party, who was seated close to where the blast had gone off, panicked and tried to shield themselves to no avail. Only Viridi stayed put, smiling--

One of the room's side doors was thrown open, allowing a tremendous wind to billow forth. The debris was caught, impaling itself in the far wall instead of harming those that were on-stage. The wind was so precisely directed that no one felt so much as a breeze.

The room was silent before someone in the audience shrieked: "What in Xia's name is going on here?!"

"...What this is," Ellen spoke up as she stood up, getting everyone's attention, "is an intervention."

Amber was next, she and her other kids standing up as they took the cue. She didn't acknowledge the look Marc's best man gave her. "It's a chance to correct a mistake."

Claire followed suit on-stage, wincing at the betrayal she could see in Circe's eyes. "It's time to do what's right, not necessarily what gets approval."

A brief flare of green light, and Viridi had warped next to her adoptive family. "It's an opportunity for a good old-fashioned cleansing."

Sinister laughing pierced the minds of all present. "It's utter chaos waiting to happen," Missy chortled as she sat on the shoulder of the person next to her, stonewalling any attempts to get her off.

Feedback erupted from the reception area. "For the lack of anything clever to add, it's a disease and we're the cure," Zapana chimed in over the speakers. "Pictures of you, anyone?"

"It's time to par-tay," Aldonza announced as she sauntered into the room, flashing a victory sign at Maddhouse's mounting fury. Her deliberately airheaded voice reeked of mockery. "Like a boss!"

"But above all else? It's time to take out the trash." Callista pointed directly at Marc as she stood, the full ramifications of her presence finally sinking into everyone's heads. The smile she sported showed all of her teeth. "You listening, Infinite Defense? Let's bruise his ego."

/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/

Panic quickly rose in those not involved with the sabotage. Some were in attendance to see the culmination of yet another plan by their head honcho, others were there out of respect for their Lady, and everyone wanted to enjoy themselves during the reception. An attack headed by the adoptive sister of the Purple One was not part of their itinerary, though they should have expected something like this to happen. Life in Muffinville was rarely, if at all, uneventful.

Thankfully, a solution didn't take long to present itself. "Ladies, gentlemen, and whatever the blazes the rest of you are!" Zapana called into the microphone. "We've got food over there, music over here, and violence where you are! If you value your lives--if you can even call them that--get in here and salvage what you can! Trust me, the food's delicious! Go, go, go!"

Most of the guests stampeded through the hole in the wall, eager to get away from the ensuing violence. Some did not: a chunk of Marc's loyalists stood up, either arming themselves with previously concealed weapons or preparing themselves for a fight in their own ways. Ellen was already moving to intercept them, and with the confidence with which she walked was any indication, Callista felt she could safely leave things in her hands.

A handful of Circe's maids that were in the audience, plus a member of the bridal party who looked both cute and psychotic, didn't take their mistress's wedding day being thrown into chaos very well. They turned their attention to Callista and leapt at her, screaming in righteous fury. This normally would've seemed laughable, but she knew that in Muffinville it was a 50/50 chance as to whether a given person was a serious threat. The fact that the psychotic one had donned a pair of gloves with knife tips sticking out of the fingers led credence to that.

As such, Callista morphed Shape-Shifter from a purse into a serving tray in order to deflect their attacks off her. When need be, she bobbed and weaved away from them or used whatever means she could to evade them without seriously harming them. They were quick, but compared to one of the Pokémorph Fighting League's regulars, they didn't have much going for them. Unlike Marc's faction, they don't know what's really going on. I don't know whether that's because Claire deliberately didn't inform them or else wasn't able to, but either way I need to take them out of the fight without hurting them.

Thanks to one of Raleigh's potions some years before, she had the full unlocked power of her brain at her disposal, with everything that entailed. There were likely stronger espers and telepaths than her in Muffinville, but she had never been inclined to seek them out. What she did have made for an extremely potent resource, and anyone who confronted her underestimated her at their peril.

This is how Callista was able to tap all of her attackers' minds simultaneously even as she continued to dodge. Tiring them out physically would take too long for the situation at hand, but she could fool their brains by falsifying the signals they received from their bodies, making them feel as if their energy reserves were much lower than they really were.

As the seconds passed, she could tell that her efforts were being rewarded. The attackers were stumbling around more than charging, and one in question made no effort in hiding a tremendous yawn. "Something... something's wrooong," the maid whined. "My eyes just... they just wanna shut."

"Y-yeah," the psychotic one mumbled, sounding increasingly exhausted. "I c-can't... stay awake. M-maybe a couple minutes w-wouldn't hurt...?"

"Good-night audience, see you next week," muttered a third, just before the group collapsed to the ground one by one.

Callista backed away a step, brushing some imagined dust off her dress even as Circe's maid of honor approached. "I'm really sorry about all of this," Madison apologized, scales glimmering a bit in the light. "I didn't think they'd be this high-strung. Want me to get them out of harm's way while you do... whatever it is you're doing?"

"Please."

/-/-/

/-/-/

Ellen stayed calm and collected even as two dozen well-dressed men (and two disgruntled women) bore down on her. "...You realize that you're not accomplishing anything by this," she warned. "...You're behaving as if I'm one of the lynchpins of this operation."

"You're the one with more brainpower than almost everyone else here," one of them spat, switching off the safety on his gun. "Don't give me that #$&%. We take you out---"

"---then my mother will give you all a fate far worse than any transformation you could undergo," Ellen interrupted, foregoing her standard hesitation in favor of an ultimatum. "So here's how things are going to work. You have two options with four total outcomes. You stand down and walk away, and we can all pretend none of you threatened me. Might even become friends of the family provided you rethink your lives.

"...Or, you could try to fight someone who was taught not just by one of the more knowledgable bookworms in fiction, but also one of the oldest people in the multiverse." Ellen's deck of cards flew free of its holster as she continued to speak. "If you lose, the least you'll give up is your dignity and pride. On the off chance you bested me, you'll have to deal with a parent who makes a hobby out of disproportionate retribution. And in the very miniscule chance you were able to defeat her..." Her eyes seemed to glitter a little. "...Then there's nothing saving you from the wrath of godpapa Raleigh. So I'm going to close my eyes for about three seconds or so. When I open them again, the lot of you had better be withdrawing. I'm not going to warn you a second time."

Her message delivered, Ellen shut her eyes---

The thunderous noises of guns being fired roared in her ears. Her eyes still closed, she manipulated seven cards to intercept the shots. Six of the cards outright stopped them, their composition adjusting to something tougher than diamonds and reducing the bullets' velocity to nothing. The seventh split the final bullet into quarters and caused the pieces to veer off harmlessly in four directions.

While her defense was ongoing, Ellen went on the offensive. Almost half of her remaining cards shot forwards, disarming her attackers of their weapons in a way that could only be described as total evisceration. The debris of guns and blades clattered to the floor, including a machete that had been precisely divided into six pieces length-wise. All the while her mouth was moving, whispering words at incomprehensible speeds.

One.

Three of the attackers were apparently skilled at ki manipulation, as they were able to snap off quick energy blasts straight at her face. Three of her cards deftly sliced through the projectiles in a flurry, reducing them to harmless particles without any impact.

Two.

All of the cards collected themselves in front of Ellen before proceeding to dance. The bandage around her forearm disintegrated, revealing not an injury of some kind but a thoroughly unmarred and completely inked-black crescent moon tattoo. The edges of the tattoo glowed and pulsed with each movement the cards made, explaining why she was able to keep perfect track of them all even with her eyes closed.

One day, she would accomplish this without the aid of magic... but for now, this would do just fine.

Three.

Several things happened in quick succession. First, Missy, Aldonza and Zapana started laughing their heads off while Viridi sounded like she was unsuccessfully retching.

Second, both Callista and Amber screeched indignantly from elsewhere in the room: "Ellen Harrison, what in Michigan do you think you're doing?!"

Third and finally, the screeches were echoed by those that had thought the little brainiac had been easy prey. A torrent of hastened footsteps later, and the rec center was emptier by twenty-six people. Only then did Ellen decide to open her eyes, satisfied with her work but unwilling to see the end result. Her tattoo stopped glowing as she returned her cards to their holster.

Both shopaholic and parent were quick to get into her face, their visages vermillion. "What was that all about? There are better ways to defeat opponents than by resorting to the modesty angle, you know!" Callista hissed, a pair of sunglasses over her eyes. The shades in question had been specially created by the Infinite Defense at her request, screening out anything the wearer deemed indecent. Given Muffinville's tendencies towards exposed skin and Callista's morality, this happened fairly often.

Ellen was unmoved by their rage and embarassment. "...I would rather the local law didn't get on my case for using 'Jerry's Revenge' to its fullest extent on those no-name lowlifes. I decided using the law against them was a much stronger deterrent than anything I could accomplish by violence alone."

One of Amber's eyebrows raised. For some reason, she wasn't as mad as she should've been; normally she would've still been steaming. "And that would be...?"

Ellen manipulated some scraps of paper that had blown into the room since the fight began, shaping them into a pair of floating boxing gloves. "...My presence in high school notwithstanding, I'm technically jailbait by virtue of being a 12-year-old. Muffinville's standards may be low, but not so low that they forego punishment for anyone who exposes themselves to a minor, let alone in public. Last I checked, anyone who does that--voluntarily or otherwise--pays a large fine and spends at least twenty years in prison." Her eyes met theirs. "...And they know that."

"I'm not sure whether to be angry or proud," Amber murmured, visibly conflicted. Next to her, Callista was clawing the air with her hands and making a strange noise that sounded like a gurgling balloon animal. The narrator knows not how this is possible.

"...How about 'prangry'?" Ellen suggested as she glanced at Circe, who had just finished curing Marc of his paralyzation and was finally getting her act together. "...You treat me to my favorite dessert tonight and tomorrow while setting my curfew to 5:30pm for the next week?"

Amber made a show of thinking about it before shrugging. "Alright, we'll go with that... but what would you have done if they'd just fought on anyway?"

Callista finally finished venting her rage with an "ARRRGGGHHH!" and stormed off, telekinetically throwing all of the chairs in her path aside and viciously tearing into a pack of fig bars she'd had on her person.

Ellen snorted quietly. "...That's what we have her for."

"...Fair enough."

/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/

The invited guests were hardly Marc and Circe's first line of defense. The former had no shortage of security guards wandering around both inside and out of the building, and the violence that broke out was noisy enough to warrant their attention. Though the group of guests that fled after Ellen had finished dealing with them distracted them for a few moments, they didn't take too long to recover and charge into the lobby...

...just to run headlong into an argument in the otherwise abandoned room. "...Anyway, Ivy-sour, I don't give a rat's keister what you think!" Missy shouted, gesturing repeatedly with her staff. "I get the first twenty while you can stuff your face with popcorn!"

"You dare deprive me of the satisfaction of watching that scum boil in their own misery?" Viridi barked back, a grass-green aura about her. The now-empty basket she'd been holding her flowers in was lying on its side, forgotten. "No! I'm taking the first twenty and raising you one, no questions asked!"

"I'll raise you infinity if that's what it takes to shut yer yap!" Missy snatched a falling rubber trout that had materialized out of the air and pointed it at Viridi fin-first. "You could use a good marvel now and again!"

"Come again, capcom? I can't hear you over the sound of your whining!" Viridi returned, sneering as her own staff appeared in her hand. "You want to have a smashing good time? I'm game!"

One suicidally stupid guard picked that moment to speak. "So, is this what they call 'puppy love' these days?"

His compatriots' jaws dropped, but Missy and Viridi didn't even bother turning to look at the guards, instead pointing their staves in their general direction. "Mega Brand/Bouldara!"

Dual explosions of earth and rock erupted from beneath the hapless guards, launching them and half the lobby across several miles of cityscape. Given the nature of Muffinville and the training they'd received, there was no question that they'd survive the trip. As Ranma Saotome and Team Rocket could testify to, however, it wasn't necessarily going to be a pleasant landing.

None of this put a dent in their discussion, continuing as if the guards had never been there. "Look, I don't care what you say. If you're going to best me on the field of onion, you'd better bring your A-game!" Missy stated. "First one to twenty gets the home field advantage, and I'll still end up winning!"

"Hmph! Not even in your dreams," Viridi huffed, folding her arms. "But I guess I'll humor you." Her voice gained an echo, signifying that she was getting someone's attention. "Had to show Missy what's what and who's who, but I'm ready. Where's the rest of Maddhouse's contingent?"

The sound of a hand saying 'hi' to a face echoed back across the connection.

"...What? What is it?" Viridi asked with genuine confusion, Missy mirroring her befuddlement.

-"Let's just say the idiot factory is experiencing nine kinds of malfunctions right now,"- Zapana griped, -"and the both of you are in the middle of it. Look at the entrance."-

The both of them did as instructed, taking in the aftermath of their combined attack. Starting six feet away, there was a jagged crater that reached into the parking lot. Everything between the two points had been blasted away. The force behind their actions had been tightly controlled, so it said plenty that the damage was limited to that when most of the property could easily have been wiped out. Missy's raptor steed picked that moment to poke his head into view from outside, snarling something questioningly.

"Did we do that?" the dumbfounded Brotherhood leader asked in her best Steve Urkel voice, arms hanging limp.

Viridi nodded slowly. "I... guess we did. I wasn't paying attention."

-"That joint attack of yours cleared out all of Maddhouse's guards... check that. There's still a few left down in the basement, and from the sounds of things they're getting something ready. That Machamp-lady in the ceremony hall looks like she's itching to battle someone, but aside from that the only ones left with a bone to pick are Marc and Circe themselves, and oh-ho-ho-boy are they giving me some wicked stares right now."-

"Then let's not give them any rest," Missy said impatiently. "Where's Aldonza and Claire?"

-"Claire's trying to locate something she can fight with, though I don't know how successful she'll be... Ellen was thorough on that front. Aldonza's getting the rest of the building evacuated."-

"So what about you?" Viridi inquired. "You just going to sit there and play your music?"

/-/-/-/-/-/

/-/-/-/-/-/

"These people just had their day thrown every which way," Zapana pointed out, watching as the guests and most of the bridal party helped themselves to Aldonza's cooking. The maids that Callista had lulled to sleep were just starting to wake up. "Might as well make sure it isn't a total loss for them. Wasn't aware you cared about any of that, though."

-"I don't. I just want to make sure I know where everyone is before we bring our armaments to bear. Unlike the screwball here, I honor any agreements I make with allies."-

-"I hope you suffer a volcanic eruption, Captain Planet!"-

-"What did you just cal---"- Viridi started to shout, remembering to cut off communications before the argument escalated much more. Not that it did any good, since Zapana could still hear them bickering.

Deciding to forget about them for now, Zapana toggled her microphone and addressed the guests. "So, how's the food treating everyone?"

"Delicious!"

"Definitely taking some with me!"

"Food, food, glorious food!"

Zapana made a note to direct their thanks to Aldonza when they had the time. "Excellent, excellent. It's a little too soon to dance, but how about some background music? Care for a listen, y'all?"

"Yeah, you know it!"

"Gotta be better than the garbage they play nowadays!"

"Make it good, wolf-girl!"

A smile. "BGM it is!" Zapana crowed, selecting one song in particular and starting it up.

A few seconds in, Callista was heard groaning from the wedding hall. "That song, Zapana? Really? Couldn't you have picked something better?"

Guess there's no accounting for taste. "You gotta admit, it fits Muffinville perfectly!" Zapana shouted back.

"...It's almost sad that I can't argue with tha---whoa!" Callista started to gripe, cutting herself off in order to evade a flurry of punches from the Machamp-lady. Hairless skin gave way to cream-colored fur, and purple ears, ruff and tail took shape as she shifted to her Delcatty-hybrid form. "Now's not the time, but if you wanna fight, come on and bring it!"

Zapana reclined in her seat, propping her feet up next to her stereo. Her fingers tapped one arm in time with the music. Nothing like a brawl set to a good time.
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Re: [Writing] Taking Out the Trash

Postby AmbushCat » Sat Jun 13, 2020 8:20 pm

STATUS UPDATE

Next chapter's in progress. That being said, where before I would've given the story a 'T' rating, I'm inclined to give this next one an 'M'. Two reasons for this.

#1: Marc Maddhouse. He's got zero redeeming qualities with everything that implies, and he's going to end up fighting Callista and Kaoru by the end of it. Make of that what you will.

#2: Callista herself. The next chapter will delve a little bit into what happened with her early on in Spamville and the stuff she went through on Raleigh's mission, and while there isn't anything explicit--those who know me know that I have more respect for my creations than that--it does involve discussing some questionable material. I'd rather not take any chances, so consider yourself warned.

As for when it'll be out, I don't know. I'm currently bogged down by multiple projects aside from this one. In no particular order: my playthrough of "The Hand of Fate" in-character as Touhou's resident portal-happy youkai; "Command & Conquer Remastered", which was released on Steam within the past few weeks; reference sheets for some of my characters to use at DeviantArt when I request commissions; and completing Marc's dossier for posting down in the character thread. And in addition to all of this...

I'm just plain tired.

Thank you for understanding. Ciao mein, everyone.
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SpamLady Supreme -- By Caprice, 8/16/2017
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