|DTNIV: Renamed and Edited
||[Jun. 20th, 2010|03:05 am]
Well, I've said I'd do it a hundred times and now I finally have: Death, Thy Name is Volleyball has been renamed. The new title I have chosen is Those Assets Feminine. It was a phrase King Scar used to describe Nala in the Broadway version of the Lion King during the song "The Madness of King Scar". Personally, I dislike the song; it takes far too much of Scar's awesomeness away by using the "Pity me/I only want love/I feel so bad about being evil/I have the hots for the hero's girl" route of villainy. At least its not really canon...but, hey! I liked that phrase! =D
I'm also super proud of myself for having literally just finished the rewrite of Chapter One as well as a previously unwritten prologue which actually explains Bowser's motivation. Hooray for spontaneous creativity! And to think I had planned to go to the store today. Haha, silly me for thinking my Muses were above crashing plans after four years of being AWOL. Ah, well, can't complain!
It's late so I don't entirely trust it to be without its glitches. At least not enough to replace the chapter currently on FF.net with it yet (not that it wouldn't be an improvement, glitches and all). However, I will post it here in case anyone is interested. Feedback would be great, but I won't hold my breath. ^___^
Without further ado (and so I can sleep already), here is the first chapter of Those Assets Feminine:
Disclaimer: I own nothing but this brain of mine, and it is a tentative ownership at that.
Those Assets Feminine: Prologue
The King of Darkland's trophy room was large even by his outlandish standards. Sharing the high ceiling of the neighboring throne room, it took advantage of this space to display the accomplishments of the King from top to bottom. Rows and rows of shelves lined the walls in perfect symmetry, each one laden down with medals, plaques, and trophies of various metals all bearing the name Bowser Koopa. Well, all except for that one bronze trophy with the spelling error that had yet to be noticed, but it was kept far to the back with the other unimportant awards and would probably read Browser Koopa for the rest of eternity.
The room was rarely frequented and then only by the King himself. To him, it was physical proof that he was as awesome as he always believed himself to be. It was his quickest and favorite way of boosting his ego whenever he was down, particularly after a defeat at the hands of his nemesis. Other than that, and the few times necessary to make additions, it sat in silence until the next time its owner needed it. Today just happened to be such a time.
The serenity of the room was destroyed as Bowser kicked the wooden door open with enough force to send a few ribbons fluttering to the floor. Behind him, the two guards standing watch by his throne chose that moment to scramble for a safer location. He didn't notice.
"That little PUNK!" the Koopa raged. With another savage kick, he slammed the door shut behind him. More ribbons joined the fallen. "How DARE he insinuate...I shoulda ripped him in HALF...!"
Smoke streamed from Bowser's nostrils as he stalked further into the room, snarling to himself in dangerous undertones. The light provided from the few lit torches was sufficient only to see where he was going, but he was not in any mood to waste time lighting more. The trophies themselves glittered faintly in the gloom. The King stopped abruptly as one particularly large golden cup caught his eye.
"See?" he shouted at no one, yanking it down from its place of honor. He squinted at the writing on its base. "1st Place - Star Cup - Bowser Koopa. Hah!"
"What are you cackling about, Your Hiding-in-the-Darkness?"
Bowser's grip on the cup tightened in surprise at the unexpected -- though familiar -- voice. He winced as the soft metal crumpled beneath his hands. "Kammy, you old hag!" he growled, turning to face her and waving the damaged trophy in accusation. "Look what you made me do!"
Though she couldn't actually see what had been done to the cup, Kammy Koopa did not hesitate to bow her head submissively. "A thousand pardons, King Bowser," the Magikoopa apologized.
Bowser sneered. "Whatever. What are you doing here?"
She stepped closer so that he could more easily see her in the dark. "I wanted to ask you the very same question." Bowser was silent, busy trying to smooth out the dents in his Star Cup with his fingers, so she added, "Something is bothering you, Your Perturbedness."
He snorted derisively in response and, with a careless flick of his wrist, tossed the cup over his shoulder at her. A pained "oof" and the clatter of metal on stone told him she hadn't seen it coming. "Fix that," he ordered before stomping away to examine more of his achievements. He hadn't gone far when a pattering of footsteps filled his hearing. Kammy soon appeared beside him, puffing slightly.
"Fixed it yet?" he grumbled at her.
She ignored the question. "The minions are nervous, Your Awfulness. They heard your roaring all through the castle. What happened when you went out today?"
Bowser contemplated remaining silent. Not only was he loathe to admit he was overreacting to a comment made in jest, but he also knew that being kept out of the loop drove the old witch crazy. Seeing her get hopping mad might make him feel better. In the end, he decided to give in to his need to rant at something with ears and a tongue that could be trusted to remain silent.
He growled lowly. "It's stupid. I just -- hey, lemme ask you something first."
"Anything," Kammy replied, though her tone was wary.
"What do you think of all this?" Bowser made a sweeping gesture with his hand at the awards glimmering like jewels in the torchlight. He glanced at Kammy as she peered about, apparently squinting through her glasses. He rolled his eyes. "Can you even see anything, Blindy?"
"Yes," she replied tersely.
"Well, what do think?"
"I think you have accomplished an awful lot for someone barely your age, Your Amazingness."
Bowser nodded, grinning at the praise. "Yeah, I have! Especially when you think about all the time I spend running a kingdom while those other dopes spend all theirs actually practicing."
"Well, you more than make up for that, Your Cleverness." Kammy turned to smile at him warmly, but froze when she caught sight of his face. Quick as she could, she removed her glasses, rubbed them on her purple robes, and then replaced them to look again. Bowser's expression of severe offense remained. "Uh...did I say something wrong?"
"What do you mean I 'more than make up for that'?" the incensed Koopa King demanded. His claws had curled into fists and it seemed to be taking all of his willpower to keep from frying her while she was standing so close to his baseball awards.
"N-nothing bad, of course, sire!" she gulped, taking a careful step back. She bumped into a glass showcase almost immediately and winced as it rattled. Bowser quickly advanced, forcing her to brace herself against the case to keep a proper distance between them.
"You're trying to say I cheated to get them, aren't you?" he hissed.
Kammy nodded eagerly with a sigh of relief. "Yes, that's exactly what I am saying! And cheated so cleverly that no one -- not even the judges -- noticed what you had done! I remain very impressed, sir."
The Koopa King stood glowering at her for a long moment. Then, he backed off and permitted her to step away from the showcase, which she gratefully did. One of its sharp corners had been jabbing her in the neck.
"I didn't cheat to get all of them," Bowser muttered almost too softly for her to hear.
She tilted her head curiously. "No?"
"NO!" His outburst sent Kammy leaping back in alarm. She struck the showcase yet again, this time nearly tipping it over. Only Bowser's quick reflexes saved it -- and her -- from a horrible fate.
"You keep breaking my stuff, hag," he growled, "and I'm going to throw you outta here on your ugly face."
"Yeah, all right." He took a deep, calming breath. This was not the place to start losing his temper. And over something so trivial, too. "No, I didn't cheat to get all of them. Just...a lot of them. Most of them, even. Maybe. Probably."
Kammy took advantage of his distraction to carefully sidle away from the showcase, ducking under Bowser's arm where he was still holding it in place. Why had she followed him in here again? "But, you won them in any case, sire. What does it matter how you got them, so long as you did? Especially when you put just as much effort as anyone into your...creative problem-solving?"
Bowser shrugged. "It doesn't."
"I don't understand. If it doesn't matter, then what is the issue?" Bowser had begun walking again and Kammy hastened to keep up with him. The aisles of the trophy room were fortunately designed for someone of Bowser's girth with additional space for anyone he might care to show off to. As far as Kammy knew, only the royal children had been invited in, and then only once. She had tried to warn Bowser of their destructiveness, but he had been so proud...
"Have you fixed that trophy you made me squish yet?"
The sudden topic change momentarily confused her. "What? Oh. Yes, I fixed it and put it back onto its shelf. But you--"
"How about your head?" Bowser continued indifferently. "Did you fix that?"
She bristled. "Excuse me, Your Rudeness?"
He chuckled. "I meant after I beaned you with the trophy. Or don't you remember?" Actually, she hadn't. Now that he had reminded her, the bump on her head began to throb again.
"I'll take care of it later," she muttered.
He shrugged. "Suit yourself."
Kammy shook her head. She'd known him long enough to know when he was being evasive; even if she hadn't, he wasn't exactly subtle about it. Bowser was many things -- boorish, impatient, irascible, occasionally brilliant -- but he was never subtle. He was, however, extremely stubborn. If she wanted to get the truth out of him, she'd have to be patient.
Bowser led the old Magikoopa around the trophy room in silence, hands held up and close to his chest to keep from knocking anything over, and examined the adornments on the walls. Along with his awards, and the empty spaces where new ones would go, were portraits depicting him in the winner's circle. Each portrait was lovingly detailed and he could remember the exact occasions they were portraying; the rush of victory, the looks of dismay on the faces of the losers, that one time that creepy Birdo tried to steal a kiss; it was all crystal clear. He could also remember how he came to receive them. Was it true what that minion had said?
He broke the silence. "Honesty time, haggy. Do you think I'm skilled?"
Kammy blinked in surprise. "Of course I do! Of course you are!" There was a pause. "...Skilled at what?"
"Anything. Everything. What all these lousy trophies are supposed to prove I'm skilled at. Do you think I deserve them?"
"Most definitely," Kammy replied firmly. Her eyes narrowed. "Why? Who’s been trying to tell you otherwise?" Bowser went quiet again, compelling Kammy to feel the need to rip her hair out. Then, to her great surprise, he answered.
"Okay, keep in mind that the guy was joking when he said it. I'd have known if he wasn't, and then I'd be instructing the clean-up crew to get the quicklime instead of wandering around in here with only a moldy old crone for company."
"All right." He paused, and then continued, "You remember how I was supposed to go down to the training field to inspect the progress of the new troops? Yeah, well, I did and they were looking pretty okay, so I stuck around and kind of kidded with them, you know; got 'em comfortable with me so I could catch them off guard and see what they were really like."
"Most wise," Kammy praised, though her quirked brow said otherwise.
Bowser didn't notice. "Hey, what'd you expect? This is me you're talking to. Anyway, we got to chatting about tennis and it turned out that one of the guys played in the first match before it went annual. Remember that? The one I didn't go to?" He waited for Kammy to nod before going on. "So I asked how it went, he said he lost, I ribbed him about it, and then he said 'we can't all cheat like you' or something stupid like that. And I..."
Kammy waited for him to continue. When he didn't, she prompted, "And you...?"
"I kinda just...stared." The Koopa King lifted a random trophy from the back of the nearest shelf and passed it from hand to hand distractedly. "For a while, anyway. Then I just laughed and gave him a good punch on the shoulder before getting outta there." He frowned. "I hope it bruised."
"Knowing you, Your Brutishness, his whole arm is most likely numb." Kammy smiled and was pleased to see him flash a grin in return. "So, you're upset because he knew you’d cheated before?"
The grin vanished. "You don't get it, do you? It's not about the cheating! I don't care who knows about that; so long as they can't prove it, what's the big deal? What ticked me off was that the little punk was, I dunno, implying that the only reason I ever win anything is because I don't play fair. Like there's no way I could ever best anyone without some sort of trick." He snarled at the remembered slight and impulsively crushed what he was holding into a shapeless hunk of metal. He glanced at it with a look of disgust before tossing it to Kammy. "Fix that."
She pulled out her wand and did as he asked. "What do you intend to do?"
"For now I'm trying to keep from going back out there and punting him into the lava moat. After that, I don't know what there is to do." He chuckled mirthlessly. "I guess it all really depends on how successful I am with staying indoors, huh?"
Kammy shook her head. "I didn't mean about that idiot Troopa, Your Misunderstandingness. I meant about you."
Bowser grunted. "What about me?"
"You're obviously doubting yourself if you're taking a bad joke so seriously."
"I know! It's stupid, right?" Bowser exhaled in frustration. "That's why I came in here, to remind myself how awesome I am. I dominate anything I put my mind to! But then I got here and I realized just how many of these things came from less than 'righteous' means and I thought, if I’ve got the skills, then why do I need to cheat so much?"
Kammy considered this. "Insurance?"
The corner of his mouth quirked. "Thanks, but I think it's a little more complicated than that." He sighed then and it was not out of frustration nor anger; to Kammy's ears, he sounded genuinely depressed. This was not good. Not for the King and definitely not for the kingdom. She'd have to do something before anyone found out that Darkland's ruler was feeling even an ounce of self-doubt.
She cleared her throat. “Would you accept some advice if I offered it, Your Highness?”
He snorted. “Ain’t that part of your job as advisor? To advise?”
“Is that a yes?”
“It’s a maybe.”
Better than nothing. “Perhaps the only way to regain your confidence in your ‘skills’ is to enter some contest and win it strictly by the rules.”
The Koopa King considered this carefully, tapping his chin with one claw. “That makes sense, I guess,” he murmured somewhat ruefully. “But – and this is completely hypothetical – what if I don’t win? I don’t want to look like a moron in front of everyone! Then they’ll really believe I’m some kind of loser.”
The Magikoopa didn’t seem phased. “Then enter a contest that doesn’t receive much press, and threaten anyone who wants to change that once they realize who you are.”
“Bah!” Bowser scoffed, teeth gritted in annoyance. “You know how crafty those lousy reporters are when they’ve got a celebrity in their sights. No, the only way I’d ever not be recognized is in a completely different univ—”
Kammy, who had been reading the recently repaired trophy in her hands, glanced up with a curious expression. “You trailed off there at the end, Your Forgetfulness.”
“Shut up, hag! Can’t you see I’ve got an idea?” Bowser snapped, but his voice lacked venom. In fact, his whole demeanor had lightened up considerably. Kammy was instantly suspicious.
“Am I going to like this idea?” she asked, squinting against the torchlight reflecting off his grinning fangs.
The Koopa laughed. “Who cares? I love it and that’s all that matters! I’m gonna enter a contest, kick the collective butts of whoever opposes me, and remind myself that I’m the King of…of…hey, what’s shaking this time of year, anyway?”
“Uh, only team sports, I think, sir.”
“Team sports? Rats! I don’t want anyone important to know what I’m up to.” He frowned, deep in thought. Suddenly, he brightened again. “Wait, wait, wait…I got the perfect team in mind!”
Kammy stared after him as he rushed past her toward the exit. “Hold on! What about your royal duties?”
Bowser lingered at the door. “No time! Just postpone everything until…uh, actually? You might not even notice I’m gone at all.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how this is gonna work.” He waved a dismissive hand. “Tell ya what: if I’m gone for more than half a day, just put everything on hold. If not, then forget about it. And don’t mention this conversation to anyone! Not even me, y’hear?” He turned to resume leaving.
“One more thing!” Kammy screeched after him, freezing him in his tracks.
The Koopa whipped around. “What?” he demanded, starting to grow annoyed. In answer, she held up the bronze trophy she’d been reading.
“Did you know there’s a spelling error on this?”
He made a face. “Seriously? What’s it say?”
“ 'Browser Koopa’.”
“Huh. Well, just slap some whiteout on it or something. Bronze-out. Whatever. I got a team to assemble!” He was out the door and halfway out of the throne room before he suddenly remembered something. Hurrying back, he called to Kammy, “Say, do we have any ham? That would make this a thousand times easier.”
She blinked. “…Ham, Your Weirdness?”
“Yeah. Or bacon. Anything porky, really.”
“Try the pantry.”
“Right. Thanks, hag.” He turned and left once more. Kammy waited for a while, but this time he did not return. Glancing back down at the trophy in her hands, she made a face of confusion.
Those Assets Feminine: Chapter One
Several Weeks Later
Saturday was Queenie’s day of rest and relaxation. The pet shop she worked at was closed for the weekend, cartoons were playing all morning, and she could stay in pajamas until noon. What more could she want?
“How about a trip to the mailbox that doesn’t require vaulting a fence?” she mumbled to her cat grumpily as they peered out the window together. Down in the front yard where the mailboxes were set stretched Styx, the demon-dog who seemed to love everyone in the apartment complex but her. He hadn’t bitten her yet, but every day he came closer and closer. It was as though he studied her moves each time they crossed paths and prepared for them. Considering the look of wicked intelligence she’d seen on his doggy face, she didn’t put this past him.
Almost as if he knew she was watching him from two stories up, the Rottweiler suddenly lifted his head and bayed at her. Shrieking for reasons even she wasn’t sure of, the woman tumbled back into the house and shut the blinds. Styx’s barking immediately ceased.
“That dog is evil, Shulamith!” Queenie informed her disinterested cat. The American Curl, who had heard this all before, gave a yawn and turned her face to the wall. Queenie snorted. “Hairball. Ugh, it’s too early for this. I need some coffee if I’m gonna be battling for my bills today.”
Fifteen minutes later and with a fully-prepared mug of coffee in hand, Queenie felt strong enough to face her enemy. Setting the mug down to cool on the kitchen table next to the front door, she crept down the stairs and tiptoed to the mailbox. Styx was nowhere in sight. Sighing in relief, the brunette climbed over the fence carefully, stuck her hand into the box, and gripped the stack of envelopes inside. The bundle was larger than usual and had been crammed by force into the box by her surly mailman; it refused to come loose. Struggling not to panic, Queenie shimmied the stack from side-to-side, easing it out. Just as she had almost pulled it from its prison, an ominous growling sounded directly beside her.
She froze. Turning her head as slowly as she could manage, she looked down and came face to face with the demon-dog himself. His lips were peeled back and she could see every one of his admittedly pearly white teeth.
She gulped. “St-Styx? Easy, boy, I’m—” She cut herself off mid-sentence, snatching the letters free with a heart-stopping Rrriiip! sound before turning on her heel and leaping over the fence. Styx was right behind her and only missed getting a grip on the hem of her house robe by mere inches. Queenie did not stop to see how close he’d gotten. She took off running for her house and did not stop until she was securely locked in.
“Whew!” she wheezed, slumping to the ground wearily with her back against the door. She would seriously have to have a word with her neighbor about that dog. But how does one tell an eighty year old woman that her protector is nuts?
Dismissing this for another time, the 20-year old seized the rim of the kitchen table and used it to haul herself up. She had quite forgotten about the mug of coffee sitting at its edge until it toppled over.
“Yeouch!” she yelped and jerked away from the scorching liquid, dropping the mail in her haste to blow on the burns. This violent motion sent the mug crashing to the floor where it shattered against the kitchen’s hard linoleum.
Cursing in both pain and aggravation, Queenie stooped down and picked the soggy envelopes out of the spill. Lukewarm coffee immediately began dripping past her fingers.
"No! No no no!" she chided the liquid, dancing in place worriedly and looking around for a place to dump the mess. The kitchen sink was piled with yesterday's dishes; a no-go. Thinking quick, she stepped over the broken ceramic and scurried into the bathroom where she dropped the mushy papers into the sink with a 'plop'. Face scrunching in disgust, she separated the first one from the clump and held it up to her nose to read.
"Uh," she muttered aloud, squinting to read the runny ink. "Department of... of... ah, curses." Peeling the letter open revealed her new driver's license. The smile she sported after finally getting her card quickly turned into a grimace at the sight of her picture. Shaking her head, she wiped it clean on her robe and placed it face down on the sink while she ruffled through the rest of her mail.
"Hm, credit card bill; we'll just pretend this got ruined. Phone bill; darn, I needed that. A 'Have You Seen Me'; nope, sorry. Yeesh, that's dated fifteen years ago! This would be... uh, wrecked. Trash, trash, and--"
A sudden loud BREORP! sounded from the vicinity of her living room, making her jump in alarm. When would she ever get used to that noise? It was the predecessor to the arrival of her three Muses and, while usually a cause for delight, never failed to give her a minor heart attack.
Queenie had only become a Student Artisan a year ago, but even she knew that Muses didn't generally appear unless called upon for inspiration. She had quickly learned that the Muses she had selected were not about to limit themselves to anything general. She'd given them a means to travel and they were intent on using it whenever it suited them.
Wondering why one was coming uninvited this time, she left her remaining mail for dead and zipped into the living room. There, taking up most of the living space, stood a familiar golden presence.
"All hail King Ghidorah," she greeted the old Godzilla villain cheerfully, arms spread wide to give him a hug. She quickly changed her mind when she was met with three pairs of bared fangs.
"What have We told you about that?" the dragon scolded with a warning hiss. "Keep your hands to yourself and We will do the same."
King Ghidorah, having three heads, always spoke in the "us" and "we" sense rather than "I" or "me." It certainly took some getting used to, and caused not just a little confusion, but Queenie was slowly learning how to tell when he was only referring to himself.
"Easy for you to say," she snorted, crossing her arms over chest so he would stop his feral display. "You don't have any hands."
"Which is why you can trust Us to uphold Our end of the bargain," Ghidorah replied with a purr of self-satisfaction. Despite herself, Queenie couldn't keep from smirking along with him. He could be such a pain, but it added so much to his character.
While Ghidorah's middle head maintained his smug expression, the left and right were busily looking around the living room. "Where are the others?" Lefty asked.
Queenie shrugged. "Dunno. Are they supposed to be here?"
"That is what Koopa said," Righty supplied, peeking behind the couch. He cut her a glance from the corner of his eye. "He also said you would have ham."
"Lots of ham," the middle head agreed with a hearty nod.
Queenie rolled her eyes heavenward. King Bowser Koopa would say something like that to get the golden dragon to comply with whatever he was asking. In addition to being rather conceited and evil, Ghidorah was also a glutton, something that was not entirely his fault. The dragon usually fed off of life forces and not by consuming solid food by mouth. He was capable, of course, but only did so when he desired a certain flavor or, in this case, when sucking a person's essence was out of the question. It was only natural that he would need a greater amount of physical food than he would of energy.
It was also only natural that food would be the perfect bribe. Vague memories of Bowser's attempt to use Yoshi eggs to get King Ghidorah to help him attack the Mushroom Kingdom caused Queenie to shudder.
"Um," she began, edging closer to Ghidorah as though about to impart a secret. He watched her approach warily. "Bowser's not planning – anything – is he?"
King Ghidorah made a shrugging motion. "Most probably. We did not care enough to ask many questions. Where is the ham?" Without waiting for an answer, he left Queenie standing anxiously in the living room and sauntered in the direction of the kitchen, undoubtedly heading toward the refrigerator.
She let him go without a word, busy fretting over what Bowser could possibly have planned. As an Artisan, even just a Student Artisan, she was responsible for what her Muses got up to whenever they were using their new teleporting abilities, such as Bowser recruiting King Ghidorah when he would otherwise have never met him. She was only lucky the Koopa King had had a change of heart when he realized Ghidorah would not stop with the Mario Brothers; once unleashed, the demonic kaiju wouldn't be satisfied until all of Mushroom World was destroyed. Then, he'd still demand his Yoshi eggs.
A roar of surprise came from the kitchen. “Queenie! What happened to your floor?”
The woman started at Ghidorah's outburst. Her floor? She nearly tripped in her haste to see what he meant. With Muses like the sort she had, everyday destruction was a given.
Visions of a gaping hole in her floor flashed before her eyes as she skidded into the kitchen. There, the golden King of Terror was making use of his Anti-Gravity ability to hover over the wreckage of the now forgotten mug and was trying to shake cold coffee from the bottom of his feet and tails.
Queenie let out a sigh of relief. "Oh, is that all? Heh, oops. I probably should have warned you about that, huh?"
"It would have been nice," Ghidorah muttered icily.
"Sorry, I dropped a cup of coffee this morning,” she explained. She placed a hand over her mouth, struggling not to let him see her chuckle. He looked so disgusted! “Did you step in anything sharp?"
King Ghidorah drifted toward the living room. "What is sharp to you means nothing to Us. Our hide is stronger than any pathetic human skin. Have you not noticed, in Our true size, We have crushed skyscrapers with no more than a 'that should not have been there'? Ugh, We just do not like stepping in filth. "
Queenie did not reply. She had just noticed the space demon was preparing to lower himself onto her clean carpet. Her freshly cleaned carpet. "Don't do that!" she shrieked.
King Ghidorah halted immediately, teetering to the front in his haste, before righting himself and glaring at the woman. "Why not?"
"You're going to mess my rug!"
Ghidorah glanced at the carpeting. "You worry about the most inconsequential things. Most people would kill to have Our footprints stained into their nest without it having to be demolished in the process."
Queenie answered with an unimpressed look and pointed toward the bathroom. Sighing in exasperation, the golden reptile redirected his landing there. Anything was better than dealing with her whining.
"And wash your feet in water, KG!" she called after him in the tone a mother takes with an unruly child. "I don't want you only using towels like the last time!"
"Most people would--"
"Just do it, please!" The sound of splashing soon reached her ears and, satisfied, she hitched up her robe ends and knelt to pick up the sharp remains of the coffee mug off the linoleum.
It was as she was pulling out the mop to clean up the actual liquid that twin BREORPS! were heard (startling her again) and her other two Muses finally made their appearances. Pushing stray pieces of hair behind her ears, she brushed herself off and went to greet them.
"There you are!" she cried at the sight of Bowser. He froze in the process of dropping onto her couch, a look of surprise on his face.
"Hello to you, too," he replied sardonically and straightened up as she approached him. Rather than the requisite hug she usually offered him, she jabbed an index finger into his chest with a 'thunk' as her nail struck his hard plastron. He quirked a brow. "Something wrong?"
"Just what are you planning, Bowser?" she demanded, looking like nothing more than an aggravated green hen in her fluffy house robe and unkempt hair.
He frowned. "Ghidorah told you I was planning something?"
"He didn't have to. If you had to resort to promising him ham to get him to come here, then obviously you want him for something and I sincerely doubt it's something good. Out with it."
"Later," Bowser snorted dismissively, lowering himself onto the couch. "I want everyone here when I tell you."
"Tell me what?" She glanced around the room. "Wait, where's King K. Rool?"
Bowser waved a careless hand in the direction of her bedroom. "He brought some food or something for that furball of yours."
Despite her aggravation, Queenie smiled fondly at this news. She had come into possession of Shulamith after she and King K. Rool had nearly killed themselves rescuing her from a research facility (at Queenie's insistence). Amazingly, the Kremling ruler had grown an attachment to the animal during the time they'd spent together; there was no denying the cat favored him over anyone else.
"What'd he get her?" she asked Bowser. He opened his mouth to reply, but a small mewing noise interrupted him as King K. Rool entered the room, the mackerel tabby in his arms.
"Just a felt fish stuffed with catnip," the Kremling answered with a nod of acknowledgement at Queenie. "She seems to go wild for the things." He ran his sharp claws along Shulamith's back affectionately. The cat expressed no fear of getting cut, indeed leaning into each caress with an expression of enjoyment. "She's grown."
Queenie laughed at the parental tones the Kremling used. "Like a weed. I’m thinking of entering her in our ‘Kitty Kweens’ contest at work next month. What do you think?"
“Hmm,” K. Rool murmured vaguely, aware he wouldn't be able to go with her, and gently placed "his" cat on the floor. King Ghidorah took that moment to exit the bathroom, cleansed of the sticky coffee.
"We see everyone arrived in one piece," he commented, curling his lip at Shulamith as he passed by her. She hissed in response. The dragon ignored her. "By the way, Queenie, you really need to invest in a larger basin. We got Our feet stuck in the thing four times."
Queenie looked at him quizzically. "I don't have a basin."
"Then what is that white bowl bolted to the ground and full of water?"
The woman exchanged a look of shocked amusement with Bowser, who quickly averted his face. "Does it have a lid?" When King Ghidorah nodded, she burst out into laughter and was quickly joined by the other two royals. Ghidorah despised such treatment and growled in annoyance.
"We hardly see how having a lid is funny!" he snapped.
"KG, that's not--," she struggled to explain around her giggles, "--that's not a basin! That's a toilet!"
"It's where -- oh. Um, never mind." Her face flushed bright red. Ghidorah either did not notice her sudden embarrassment, or he did not care.
"What do you mean, 'never mind'? You cannot just laugh at Us and then say ‘never mind’!"
"Well, it's... it's like..." Her awkward explanation was thankfully interrupted as a terrified Shulamith, with orange fur puffed out, streaked between Ghidorah's legs on her way to Queenie’s bedroom. The daikaiju yelped in surprise and leaped backwards, tripping over his own tails and landing flat on his back. The force of the heavy reptile's fall shook the building and almost drowned out K. Rool’s loud voice as he berated Bowser. Almost.
"You thick-skinned tortoise! You scared her!"
The Koopa monarch was not one to cower under insults and rumbled warningly. "I didn't scare your precious cat! She rubbed against my leg and I bumped her with my tail is all."
K. Rool twitched as though Bowser had just insulted his mother. "You struck her?"
"Did I say that?” Bowser demanded, growing irritated. “Tell me when I said that!”
Queenie, sensing disaster, quickly rushed in and seized the Kremling's arm before he got himself into trouble. "Kay, calm down. I'm sure Bowser didn't mean to hurt Mithie. Why don't you go comfort her? You know she’ll only listen to you when she’s all freaked out like this."
It was a credit to his anger that K. Rool did not object to her use of his birth name. Growling deep in his throat, he grudgingly stomped off towards the bedroom after his pet, stepping around the fallen King Ghidorah on his way.
"Oh, yes, do not bother helping Us up,” Ghidorah drawled sarcastically. “It is not as though We do not have arms or anything. Wait a moment: We do not."
Queenie lacked the strength to haul the heavy dragon to his feet, so Bowser was compelled to do so. To avoid the previous conversation from popping up again, the woman adjusted her robe and darted into the kitchen. "I'm gonna get some more coffee. Can you guys please tell me why you're here while I make it?" Bowser and Ghidorah followed, the former to explain and the latter to make for the fridge.
"Fine, but don't say anything about it to K. Rool when he gets back, all right? Leave that to me." Bowser grumbled as he took a seat at the kitchen table. The wood groaned beneath his exceptional weight, but held. “Drat that cat. I just hate repeating myself.”
“I won't say a thing,” Queenie promised with a secret roll of her eyes.
“You listening, Ghidorah?”
“We are hanging onto your every word,” came the sardonic purr.
Bowser nodded in satisfaction. “Okay, do you guys remember how I sometimes take part in sporting competitions? Like tennis and golf and whatever?" Queenie nodded to the heavyset Koopa as she placed a pot of water to boil. "Well, I'm entering another one."
The woman turned to look at him, grinning. “Hey, that’s great! What is it this time? Bowling?"
“I wish! It’s beach volleyball.”
King Ghidorah snorted, only his tails and wings visible as he dug through the refrigerator. "Volleyball; such a pointless sport. We have seen it on your television. It is nothing more than a bunch of fools hopping around, wasting perfectly good energy. Ridiculous!"
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll come to love it.” Bowser’s grin widened as the dragon instantly froze. In another instant, Ghidorah’s three heads popped over the door of the fridge.
“What do you mean by that?” he demanded, a note of hysteria in his voice.
“What? Did you think I was offering you free ham? You’re going to be on my volleyball team!”
Ghidorah puffed up like an offended snake. “If you think We are going to prance around on the beach like some sort of…of hippie, then you will find yourself incapable of thought sooner than you would like!”
A snort of laughter redirected the attention of the arguing titans to Queenie where she stood by the stove. “I’m sorry,” she giggled childishly. “It’s just…hippie? Seriously?”
Now it was Bowser’s turn to roll his eyes. “Oh, grow up, Queenie.” He turned his focus back to the reluctant kaiju. “Look, it’s not that big a deal. You’re ten feet tall! You won’t need to do any hippie hopping. The most you’ll have to worry about is the ball hitting you in the – Queenie! Shut up!” He turned a glare on the woman where she was bent over laughing, her hair in great danger of making contact with the stove’s burner.
“I-I’m sorry!” she wheezed, clutching her sides as the giggles wracked her body. “It’s just…your voice…hi-hippie hopping! I can’t take it!”
Bowser glowered. “Then take it somewhere else! I’m in the middle of a negotiation here!” He turned back toward Ghidorah where the dragon stood looking irritated. “See, this is the same reason I don’t let my kids help me run the kingdom.”
Ghidorah heaved a put-upon sigh. “Do We look like We care?”
“No, but I know what you do care about,” Bowser replied with a smirk. While Ghidorah watched with carefully veiled interest, the Koopa reached into his shell and pulled out a large bundle wrapped tightly in plastic packaging. Ghidorah’s eyes lit up.
“Yep.” Bowser held the package aloft between two claws. “Two dozen hot dogs. Pork and beef. You want?”
There was no need to have asked. Ghidorah’s six eyes were fixated upon the package, heads moving back and forth in time with the hot dogs like a cat watching a string blow in the wind.
“Give it,” he commanded sternly.
Bowser held it away in case the dragon decided to lunge. “Do we have a deal? On your word you’ll be on my team?”
“Yes! We give you Our dratted word that we will be on your stupid team!” The middle head suddenly shook itself as though breaking from a trance. “But We will not be doing any hopping of any kind! Understand? We will just stand there and ensure that everyone knows how much We hate you.”
The Koopa King shrugged and tossed the hot dogs to the waiting kaiju. “Fair enough, so long as you don’t let the ball pass you.”
King Ghidorah caught the package in the mouth of its central head with the speed of a striking snake. The others quickly convened around it, hunching over as though protecting it from being stolen. Transaction complete, Bowser turned his attention to Queenie.
“Done with your fit over there?” he called teasingly. The poor woman was sitting on the kitchen floor with her back pressed against her washing machine. Her breathing was ragged.
“Please, no more,” she mumbled weakly. “I can’t take it.”
“So you’ve said,” the Koopa chuckled. He nudged her with his foot. “Now, what’s it gonna take to get you to be teammate number two?”
Queenie beamed at this prospect. "Really? Oh, neat! I used to play volleyball in fourth grade! Was pretty good, too – ow!” She shied away from the sudden source of pain, which turned out to be one of King Ghidorah’s sharp wing spurs. He’d swatted her shoulder with it. “What do you want?" she asked bitterly.
“Cook these,” he demanded simply and dropped his hot dog package on her lap. It was torn and saliva-coated, with only about half of the dogs remaining. She grimaced, but rose to do as he asked.
“We'll pop 'em in the microwave for a bit,” she said, placing them on a plate and then into the appliance. It whirred to life at the press of a button. Ghidorah wandered over to watch them rotate, intrigued as always by the tools humans used to prepare food.
Entrusting them to his care, Queenie returned to her conversation with Bowser. “I’ll do it for a ‘please’ and a gold coin.”
“How about we nix the ‘please’ and go with two gold coins?”
She grinned and shook his hand. “Deal. So, is that all you came over for? I’ve got an empty schedule if you’d like to stick around and watch some cartoons."
Bowser scratched his chin. "Not exactly. See, I didn't want anyone…er, that is, I didn’t want my kids to know what I was going to be up to, so I sent our applications in through the mail. For the same reason, I gave your information as the return address. Have you seen anything like a response yet?" Queenie's face had gone suddenly pale and she didn't seem to notice her water was boiling. His brow quirked. "Queenie?"
"Uh, when do you expect it, exactly?" she stammered nervously.
"Today sounds about right. It takes around four business days to process and I sent it last week. Add a day or so for out-of-universe delivery, of course. Have you checked your box this morning?"
“Y-” She cringed. “No.”
King Ghidorah's left head pulled its face away from staring into the microwave to look quizzically at the pair. "Then what were all those letters in the bathroom?"
She started. "Wh-what letters?"
Lefty obviously didn't notice the silencing motions Queenie was making behind Bowser's back and promptly answered, "The ones soaked in coffee from, We are guessing, this morning's incident. We do not see how you could have forgotten when you finally received that card you have been dying for."
The middle head whipped around at the mention of her license. "Oh, yes, that card on the sink!” he cackled meanly. “We just loved the face you were making, Queenie. Did you have the sneezes or was the weight of the world too much for you that day?"
The Koopa King had blanched at the mention of "soaked in coffee" and quickly squeezed his shell through the kitchen doorway, making for the bathroom. Queenie gnawed on her nails as he left and glared at King Ghidorah's back, the dragon having resumed his eager watch over the revolving hotdogs.
“Oh, great going, KG!” she snapped. “Bowser is going to kill me when he sees those letters! You know how he likes to dominate any competition and reduce his opponents to rubble like... like...!"
"Like a kaiju vacationing in Tokyo?"
"Exactly! And I've denied him that? Oh, I'm deader than Minilla should be!"
King Ghidorah shuddered at the mention of the name of Godzilla's adopted son and whapped Queenie across the back of the head with a wing. "Never speak that name in Our presence!"
Any retort Queenie might have had was lost as Bowser suddenly thundered back into the room. In his claws were the soggy remains of the ill-fated post. He looked hysterical.
"This -- this isn't what's left is it?" he choked.
Queenie fidgeted uncomfortably. "I'm afraid so. But, maybe we can – uh – still make the words out?"
Ghidorah snorted in amusement. "Wishful thinking. The paper is falling apart already."
"You're not helping, Ghidorah."
"We were not trying to."
Sighing in defeat, Queenie turned back to the Koopa King as he was holding an envelope up to the light.
"Is 'Edison' a word?" he asked hopefully.
Queenie came alongside him and squinted at the letter as well. "Oh, that must be my electric bill. Darn, why am I getting so many bills today?"
"Stop yapping and start peering!"
She and the Koopa moved their operation to the living room floor while KG looked on in amusement. After five minutes of ruffling, they had found nothing resembling Bowser's letter, but they did discover the infamous license in the jumble and even got a hold of Queenie's bank statement.
She grimaced at the smeared figures. "Wow, I'm poor."
"Quit getting distracted!” Bowser growled at her angrily. “We need that response or we won't know if we were accepted into the games or not."
King Ghidorah yawned and levitated himself to drift over their heads. "We do not claim to know much about your land, Bowser, but does it not stand to reason that being the tyrant king of an entire species would guarantee you a position at any event?"
"You'd think that, wouldn't you?” the shelled reptile muttered ruefully. “Now move! You're blocking the light."
KG rolled all six of his eyes and lazily floated to the side. "This is getting very boring, very fast."
Bowser opened his mouth to snarl an acidic retort, but Queenie quickly jumped into the conversation before he could start another fight. "Well, then, why don't you go see what K. Rool is up to?” she suggested with obnoxious cheer. “He’s been gone long enough." The golden dragon paused to consider this for a moment, then dropped back onto his feet and sauntered towards the bedroom.
“Don’t you breathe a word of this volleyball thing to him, you!” Bowser called after him. “I want to approach this delicately with him. K. Rool’s not as much of a sucker as you two are.”
“Hey!” Queenie objected.
“Shut it! You wouldn’t have even heard me if you were looking for that letter like you’re supposed to be doing.”
Shaking his heads in mock pity, Ghidorah proceeded to the bedroom without acknowledging Bowser’s order. Let the fool fret over whether or not he would ‘breathe a word’ to the Kremling. He would regret recruiting the King of Terror as a teammate just as anyone else who ever partnered with him had. He chuckled evilly as images of Gigan flitted through his minds. That idiot had taken quite the beating from Godzilla before Ghidorah himself had turned on him…
Having reached the bedroom door, the tri-headed demon forsook knocking in favor of simply kicking the door open and waltzing in. “What is taking you so long?” he demanded as soon as he crossed the threshold.
King K. Rool was lying on Queenie’s full-sized bed, staring up at the ceiling serenely, with Shulamith curled on his large stomach like a furry donut. Ghidorah's outburst, however, made the crocodilian jump in surprise and the American Curl immediately sank her claws into him to keep from sliding off her perch.
"Eeeouch!” K. Rool yelped, seizing the cat’s paws in either hand. “Shulamith, let go! Confound you, Ghidorah, why don't you knock?"
King Ghidorah shrugged and sat himself on Queenie's desk, knocking everything asunder so his twin tails could comfortably drape over the other end. "We have learned it is always better to barge in on people when given the opportunity. Not only does it frighten them, making for some delicious energy signatures, but it also opens up all sorts of interesting scenarios! For instance, had We knocked, We would have never seen you get clawed by your surrogate daughter."
"Shulamith is not my ‘surrogate daughter’,” K. Rool grumbled, though he sounded less than sure of himself. Wincing, he pried each of her claws from his golden gut and sat up, stroking her fur to settle her nerves.
Ghidorah sneered at the obvious affection passing between them. “We could do without seeing that, thank you very much,” he commented curtly.
K. Rool snorted and set Shulamith down beside him. “You’d be wise to watch yourself, beast. One day you're going to barge in on the wrong scene and be witness to something that will scar you for life. Then you'll regret ever entering unannounced!"
"Oh, do not try to frighten Us, Rool,” Ghidorah laughed mockingly. “We have seen horrors beyond your imagination and are no worse for it. Indeed, We are usually its merry cause! Have you ever seen a child melt down in a dome of your own creation? We assure you it is much better than it sounds. And much tastier as well!"
King K. Rool made a face at this mental image. He was well aware of the dragon's way of breaking down a person's life force for consumption, but he had no intention of visualizing it. Rubbing one of Shulamith's curled back ears, the peculiarity of her breed, he raised an eye ridge at the lounging Ghidorah. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
Ghidorah seemed offended by the question. "What? Do We need a reason? Why is that always the first response We ever get? Is no one happy to see a Great Destroyer not trying to bite their head off?”
"I’d be happier to not see you at all," K. Rool retorted with a smirk.
King Ghidorah sniffed disdainfully at this – and then again, with more zeal. "Do you smell that?" he asked.
The Kremling monarch eyed the King of Terror suspiciously before setting his own nose to work. There definitely was a pungent odor in the air. "Yes, now that you mention it. It reminds me of... of some sort of meat product."
"Meat product?” The three-headed monster suddenly tensed. “Oh, no…"
K. Rool was about to ask after the dragon’s strange behavior when a loud "Ghidorah!" broke the silence. Lifting Shulamith into his arms, he got up and went to open the door. Turning back to the visibly fidgeting King Ghidorah, he smirked. "Is the 'Great Destroyer' coming or what?"
Ghidorah flashed him a homicidal glare before leaping off the desk and walking out with his dignity solidly wrapped about him. Chuckling, K. Rool followed after, curious about what the smell was and why Queenie was so steamed about it.
The answer was in the kitchen and Ghidorah sent his right head into the doorway first.
"Um, yes?" he called tentatively. Queenie was standing next to the microwave and, once she noticed the target of her wrath was watching, she covered her nose and opened the smoking appliance's door. King Ghidorah jerked back as the odor overwhelmed his higher senses, nearly trampling K. Rool in his haste. Annoyed, the crocodile pushed him forward out of his way and went to inspect the exposed mess.
Queenie approached the space demon. "What happened? I thought you were watching those nasty things!" she scolded.
"We were! But, then you sent Us –"
"I sent you?"
Bowser watched in fascination as Ghidorah’s posture visibly straightened. He knew what was happening and shook his head in pity. Tugging on K. Rool's cape to get his attention, he gestured to the scene.
"This Muse-Artisan stuff is crazy, isn’t it? That guy could go up against some of the funkiest looking monsters with no fear, and then this brat can just come in and make him curb his killer instincts. Now that’s power! "
King K. Rool nodded. "Yes, but it’s not her power. I don't think she is even aware of it. You and I both know that, without the blessing of the Nine in the Realm of Higher Thinking, Ghidorah would have reduced her to three bite-sized pieces by now.”
Bowser tilted his head. “You really think so?” K. Rool made no comment, merely returning to his inspection of the microwave. Bowser did not press him further.
Meanwhile, Queenie's voice continued to rise. "All twelve of those dogs blew up! It looks like a massacre! How could you forget them?"
Restrained by the Nine or not, King Ghidorah was not a fan of being shouted at and quickly fanned out his wings threateningly. "You were the one who set the timer, foolish girl! Could you not have set it for a mere minute?"
"I've never cooked a dozen at a time; I didn't know how long they're supposed to be in there! That's why you were supposed to watch them!"
"We already told you that We would have watched them if you had not sent Us away!”
“And I already told you that I didn’t send you away! I only made a suggestion!”
The dragon sneered. “Excuses! In any case, they have already exploded so what do you want Us to do about it now?"
“Uh, I dunno,” Queenie retorted sarcastically. “How about you clean it?”
"Is that all?"
Insulted by her impudence, the gilded dragon used a wing to shove her out of his view and straight into a wall. He ignored her cry of outrage, his attention focused on the microwave. A dome soon surrounded the interior of the appliance and gathered the mess within itself. In a matter of seconds, the junk was vaporized and his creation flickered into nothingness.
Smiling smugly, the King of Terror turned back toward his audience. "There, yet another form of proof that We are superior to any other. Count yourself lucky, friend Queenie, that We kept our temper. You would do well to practice that yourself."
She blinked, dumbfounded. "Where did the mess go?"
"We transported it to Ourselves, of course. No need to waste its energy."
"Yes, We are."
Bowser grunted. "And you couldn't have shared?"
Queenie closed the now sparkling microwave's door and cleared her throat. "Thanks, KG. Uh, anyway, Bowser and I found the envelope."
"Envelope?" King K. Rool asked, glancing at the stained thing the Koopa was holding between two talons. His nose wrinkled. “What happened to it?”
Queenie grinned sheepishly. "It got into a coffee accident – oh, my God, my coffee!" The young woman fairly launched herself to the stove, snatching the pot from the flame and sticking it beneath the tap. Even through the cloud of steam that shot up it could be seen that the pot of water was empty and the bottom scorched, the liquid having been totally evaporated.
King Ghidorah laughed triumphantly. "How could you forget, Queenie?"
She scowled as he imitated her voice, and left the blackened pot in the sink. "With searching for ruined letters, fearing for my life, having hotdogs explode in my kitchen, and never actually getting any caffeine in me, how could I not forget?"
"Plus, you're still in your fuzzy houserobe," Bowser pointed out helpfully.
She gave him a dull look and an equally deadpan reply. "Yes. Yes, I am."
“Well, that’s pretty,” K. Rool muttered distastefully in the background. The others turned toward him. He was standing beside the counter examining something small. “What is wrong with your face in this picture, Queenie? Are you stifling a cough?"
The woman gasped as she spotted her driver’s license in K. Rool’s grasp. She quickly took a dive for it. Bowser beat her there.
"Oh, gross!” he cackled with revulsion. “I better not know this person.”
"Give that to me!"
The Koopa held it out to her with a friendly smile. As she tried to take it from him, however, he suddenly yanked it from her reach and tossed it to King Ghidorah instead. The dragon hovered in the air, out of her reach, and scrutinized the plastic rectangle.
"You must make copies for us, girl. We need only brandish it in battle and our hated foes will drop like flies."
Queenie was beside herself with mortification. "Ugh, sometimes I really hate you guys!" she whined.
The three reptiles laughed with glee at her suffering and continued to play getaway with the card. Queenie was quickly beginning to lose her patience when Bowser finally fumbled and she got a hold of the dratted thing.
She immediately shoved it into the safety of her bra. "Victory!"
Bowser sighed regretfully. "It's just as well. She's going to have to display it as ID at the volleyball competition anyway.”
While Queenie made a face of horror at the idea of showing her hideous picture, King K. Rool sighed in deep aggravation. “Envelopes? Volleyball competition? What is everyone talking about?”
The Koopa tensed as he realized he still had yet to say anything to Crocodile Isle’s crafty ruler. King Ghidorah, standing behind K. Rool, caught the fidgeting Bowser’s eye over the Kremling’s head. Smirks flitted across all three wicked muzzles in quick succession.
“May We tell him now?” he purred in tones of purest sugar.
Some italics may be off, which makes me pout. You know how much I've come to love them! Also, some of you may notice that I've changed a few things. Most notably is the way Ghidorah speaks; it was hard to differentiate when he was only speaking of him and his three heads at first, so I took a page out of Ermac's book and went ahead and gave him the "We" "Us" speech. We can tell when he's talking about the group when "We" and "Us" are not capitalized. Hope that makes sense. It is three in the morning.