Caitlin vs. Susan
Vsssh. Vmmm. Vmmmm-bmmmm-vmmm. Vsssh vsssh pssht. crackle crackle vmmm. Vsssh. Vmmm vmmm bmmm.
Red and blue light flared across the chamber of the Puzzle of Worlds, as Caitlin and Susan fought in titanic battle. Sweat beaded across Caitlin’s forehead, and her heart raced like a baby jackhammer that had eaten too much sugar and was running rings around its little jackhammer playroom and keeping its frustrated jackhammer babysitter from studying for jackhammer college finals. She (Caitlin, not the little baby jackhammer of our extended metaphor) had known the fight was going to be stressful, but she hadn’t imagined it’d be nearly this bad. As red plasma flashed past her face, coming way way too close, Caitlin had to admit that she was, to use the technical term, in deep doo-doo. All her fights thus far, against random minions and incompetent assassins, had only been as prelude to Susan’s symphony of evil.
Even fighting Vladimir the Marauder hadn’t been as bad, for one big reason; Caitlin had been able to use the sword she’d practiced with all through her sad childhood. Lightsaber-fighting was a whole new ballgame. For one thing, the plasma blade was practically weightless, where her old blade had the comfortable heft of tried steel. When Caitlin swung the lightsaber, her arm still gave its accustomed push to the blade, which meant that it swung wide of the mark, throwing her off-balance and leaving her vulnerable to a serious counter-strike from Susan. The only reason why Susan hadn’t yet delivered the counter-strike, at least not in a serious way, was that she was merely toying with Caitlin, and the princess knew it, and she was seriously ticked. But she couldn’t do much about it. Had she known the proper forms of lightsaber combat, she might have stood a fighting chance, but she didn’t know diddly. (About lightsabers, that is; she did know Diddly quite well, as Diddly was the name of a pet skink of which she was quite fond). Susan, on the other hand, had spent decades of Character Hell-time in traveling through Star Wars fiction and mastering every sequence of every form, from the energetic gymnastics of Ataru to the impenetrable defense of Soresu to the sheer kinetic power of Djem So. She could counter Caitlin’s wide swings and desperate charges with one hand, which she did, not without a goodly amount of taunting.
“What, no witty banter?” Susan called, after Caitlin’s twentieth mad charge failed. “C’mon! Witty banter’s sort of a tradition in these things! I’m going to be really disappointed in a minute!”
Caitlin was too busy fending off her enemy’s leisurely counter-attack to respond substantively, but she shot a quick look towards her shoulder-angel. “Hey, you, quick, banter ideas! Now!” she hissed, in between a rapid flurry of defensive circles.
The shoulder-angel had been pacing very rapidly back and forth in mid-air, wringing its tiny hands and lamenting the fact that it couldn’t do anything to help. Now it squeaked in angelic excitement. “Okay! Yes! Banter! I can do that! Um um um…hey, about a Bible verse!”
“Great! Which one?”
“Oh dear, let me think…you’ll want something wrathful, fire and brimstone-y, um, let’s see….ooh! Ooh! I saw this in a Youtube video once! It’ll be perfect!” The shoulder angel whipped a flashcard out of thin air and gave it a flick; golden light flashed and neat words appeared on the card. Caitlin was in such desperate hurry that she snatched the flashcard and read the words without stopping to consider what she was saying.
“You want witty banter, Susan? Fine! I’ll give you way more than banter! Psalm! 38! 7! For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there…is…no….” Caitlin paused, and turned very slowly to face her shoulder angel. She didn’t have to worry about an attack from Susan, as the Mistress of Character Hell had doubled over in gales of hysterical laughter. Caitlin spoke very quietly. “Maybe you should recheck that reference.”
The shoulder-angel looked to be near tears. “I thought…I thought I had the right one…I didn’t mean…”
The princess had no time to console her distraught angel-friend, for at that moment Susan recovered from her giggling fit and decided that it was time to stop playing around. She straightened up and snapped her fingers, and the air swirled around them like milk and ice cream in a blender, producing a metaphorical milkshake of chaos. When the swirl cleared, they were standing on a balcony which overlooked the vast Plain of Minions. Suspended on the high wall behind the balcony was a massive JumboTron screen. “Maybe I should provide the banter!” Susan announced, her voice magnified and echoing across the plain. Crowds of minions stopped their endless combat and trooped closer to see what was going on. “Or perhaps I’ll just skip to the Dramatic Revelation!”
She waved towards the JumboTron, and its black surface buzzed with white static, looking very much like chalk scribbled across a really big blackboard. Then the white cleared away, and a colorful scene appeared. Caitlin gasped. It was her mother. Queen Maralyn. The queen was fighting smoothly and easily against a squad of minions, her sword flashing in the midday sun. Some distance away Caitlin saw her father fighting with Vladimir the Marauder. Then she saw Vladimir break away, and run towards Maralyn, who had her back turned to him, unaware of her impending danger. Caitlin drew in a breath, knowing what she was about to see…and then to her complete shock, she saw Susan materialize out of thin air on that long-ago battlefield and run Maralyn through before the queen even knew she was there. Caitlin, her face terribly pale, turned towards Susan. “Oh, yeah, should’ve mentioned that before, I guess,” Susan said. “See, I did send Vladimir to kill your mother, but when it actually came to the point, I thought, hey, this is really something I should take care of myself, you know? That’s a sign of a good leader, one that doesn’t just delegate things to subordinates. Especially not when my subordinates are all crappy imbecilic minions. I mean, take the stormtroopers for example. Precise shots my foot; those people couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if they were standing right next to it. And let’s not even mention all the guards from fantasy worlds who don’t even know which end of their sword to stick at the hero. Honestly. So, to recap, I killed your mother. Bam, dramatic revelation. Surprised?”
Caitlin yelled one single incoherent cry and charged at Susan, who nonchalantly struck a blow with her lightsaber that smashed through the hilt of Caitlin’s blade, just barely missing her fingers. Caitlin’s blue blade vanished, and now red plasma was pressing close to her own throat. “Give up yet?” Susan asked, smiling viciously. “Or maybe you’d like to consult with your little shoulder-friends there?”
The princess’s shoulder devil wanted to fight to the last, but the shoulder angel (who had unaccountably vanished during the JumboTron replay) now reappeared and whispered something urgently in Caitlin’s ear. Caitlin sighed, dropped the smoking fragments of her lightsaber hilt, and raised her hands.
Susan accepted the surrender with all the grace and magnanimity befitting her position as ruler of Character Hell. “AWWWWW YYYYEEEEEEAH! Uh-huh! Uh-huh! It’s my birthday! It’s my birthday! That’s right! Who’s rad, who’s bad, who’s never been h-”
Susan paused in her jubilant celebration. “Um. What was that?”
She glanced up. How peculiar. The JumboTron seemed to be tilting very slightly towards her. She assumed it was probably an optical illusion of sorts-
*snap snap wrench CREEEEEEAK skrench tilt*
Susan backpedaled frantically, but she banged up against the rail of the balcony, and she had nowhere else to go. The JumboTron ponderously wrenched free of the wall and tumbled towards her. Then it paused, hanging in mid-air, and Susan glanced over to Caitlin, who still had her hands raised. The princess smiled. “So, my shoulder angel went off and did some research real quick. I think I underestimated the power of the light side.”
“Heh, heh…” Susan said. “Look, that thing about killing your mother, that wasn’t really personal, you know, just-”
“Please don’t say it was just business. It wasn’t just business to me, and you sure seemed happy about it then. So give me one good reason why I shouldn’t drop this thing on you right now.”
“I’ll let you out of here!” Susan pleaded. “I’ll send you right back to your own world!”
“Not quite good enough.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll even send Colin the Mime-Assassin back with you! And hey, since your mother’s still on Earth, the fictional one anyway, I’ll send her back too! You’ll have her back again! Good enough?”
Susan snapped her fingers for the last time, and a hole opened up in the wall. Beyond it shone the green fields and forests of Caitlin’s own kingdom. The princess started tiredly towards the hole, put one boot through it, and then glanced back. “Just so you know, I’m guessing this light-side telekinesis thing doesn’t keep going once I cross over.” She stepped all the way through before the surprised Susan could utter a word of protest. “Oops.”
Susan dived over the rail, just in time to avoid getting squished by the falling JumboTron. She fell a long way, but fortunately for her, she managed to summon a burst of dark-side energy just in time to slow her fall to a moderately gentle glide that landed her with a bump on the plain. Her loyal minions, untold masses of them, surrounded her. Susan smiled. She hadn’t lost yet.
Then Caitlin remembered something, and hopped back through the portal into Character Hell, running to the edge of the balcony and calling down. “Oh, boys? And girls, and, er, metal things…whatever. You all did catch that part about crappy imbecilic minions, right?”
“Yeah,” said Charles, who had pushed his way to the front of the crowd. “Yeah, we caught it.”
“Oh, that,” Susan said, coughing nervously. “Um. Look. That was just…oh, please, you’re not going to do the turning-on-me-thing now, are you? So cliche! The Lion King did that years ago! Honestly, don’t you idiots have even the slightest particle of imagin….a…. ” Her voice trailed away, as it had suddenly occurred to her that insulting the massive horde of heavily armed underlings surrounding her probably wasn’t the most wonderful idea ever.
“Let’s just say we’re following tradition,” Charles said, and closed in, ranks of Stormtroopers, Orcs, robots, patrol-soldiers, droids, rats, and hyenas, following behind.
Caitlin didn’t stay to watch. She dived back again through the portal just before it closed, landing on the fresh-smelling dirt of her own proper world. Caitlin breathed a happy sigh. It was over at last.
Then she shot a look upwards towards the cloudless sky. “Excuse me? Author? What, no happily ever after?”
An echo-y voice, er, echoed down from the heavens. This isn’t the end of the Caitlin Chronicles, silly. Just this one story arc. Maybe you don’t live happily ever after. I don’t even know yet.
“Yeah, but after all you put me through, getting turned into a zombie penguin, getting killed, getting killed again, going to Character Hell, nearly disappearing from all existence, I think I deserve a bit of consideration, don’t you think?”
Well….okay, fine, have it your way.
And they all lived happily ever after.