Overthrow Of The Overlords

Return to Stories That Are In Progress

This was a story created by Ali, in response to an idea inspired by Nate and Nichole. You will see why. Anyway, a lot of the ideas were brainstormed by Ali and Nichole. The story needs a bit of editing, which will happen later on…but I wanted to post to get everyone's ideas and attention

This is also unconventional, but please! do not contribute to this story!! This is only asked because most of the ideas are "mapped out" already for what's going to happen. Notes and critiques would be interested; of course, suggestions for future plans would also be appreciated. But any hijacked writings/add ons WILL BE DELETED. Sorry for this, but it's for literature… and FOR SCIENCE!!!!!!1

CHAPTER 1: Meet the Overlord

Nate Hillman stood, looking over the vast land below him. His balcony installation on his Skullcrusher Mountain fortress had been a great investment the previous spring. Sure, the area he had picked for his Jonathan Coulton-inspired lair was too cold for the use of a balcony 80% of the year…but he didn't care. He thought it looked very intimidating and refused to believe that he subconsciously wanted the balcony to recite Shakespearean soliloquies.

His gaze over the deserted land was broken when his cell went off. The tacky music commonly played by ice cream trucks rang out across the valley. Nate scowled. How dare someone call him in the middle of his intimidating staredowns at the nothing below. Taking the phone from his pocket, Nate first checked the caller ID.

He scowled again.

"What do you want, Ali?" He growled into the phone upon answering.

"Always so mean," Ali tsk'd. "Does Lord Hillman need more happy pills?"

"I don't take happy pills, Ali. You know that."

"But you're always so grumpy now-a-days. Maybe you should look into —"

"Just tell me why you called." Nate snapped, losing patience with his subordinate.

"Oh, right," Ali responded. "I have something rather urgent to tell you."

A look of fear crossed the overlord's face. "Is something wrong with Snuggles?"



"Well, technically speaking…"

Nate let out a sigh of relief. "OK, so if there's nothing wrong with Snuggles, why are you calling?"


Nate paused. "What?"

"His name's Tobias now."

Any patience Lord Nathan had with Ali suddenly disappeared. "WHY WOULD YOU RENAME MY DRAGON!?"

"Well, I didn't do that, sir," Ali defended herself. But he's become property of Evil High Pharaohs Corp."

"…..that weird friend of yours?"

"Her name's Nichole, sir."

Nate growled. "What right does she have to take Snuggles from me?"

"Tobias," Ali automatically corrected.

"I DON'T CARE WHAT SHE BLOODY NAMED HIM!" Nate shouted, his voice echoing to the canyons beneath Skullcrusher Mountain. "He's my dragon and she can't just come in and take him!"

"Actually, she can, sir." Ali chose her words carefully. "You see, her organization just secured one-sixth of the globe. Which, by the New U.N. standards, means she has the right to Evil Overlord."

"But I still own one fourth of the world."

"True, but she's declared a Duel with you for your portion of the globe."

"Why wasn't I notified earlier about this?" Nate growled, his words barely audible through his gritted teeth.

"She sent you an email about an hour ago before her minions arrived, but your computer's being fixed. So I sent you a fax five minutes ago. You should have received it."

Nate tossed his billowing cape around and headed back inside. He reached his desk just as the fax began printing. "Damn old machine," he muttered to himself. Pressing a button on his business phone on his desk, he barked out to his secretary. "Diana, how come we haven't gotten that new fax machine yet? You told me we were supposed to get one months back!"

A timid and uncertain voice replied through the intercom speakers. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hillman. I'll get on that right away."

"You better, or it's your head!" Nate slammed his fist on the table as he threw himself into his desk chair and waited for the fax.

"You know, you really should be nicer to that poor girl." Ali said from the other end of the cell. "I'm pretty sure she's terrified of you."

"I'm an Evil Overlord. I'm not supposed to be nice." The word 'nice' fell from his lips as if he was spitting out a vile poison.

"You still don't have to act so gruesome to her all the time. Image isn't everything."

"I'm this way to everyone."

"Not to me."

"I've known you longer. And besides, you have no soul. Why would you even care if I was nice?"

"Hmm," Ali replied thoughtfully. "Good point."

"Mmm-hmmmm," Nate muttered as he lifted the freshly finished fax from the printer tray. As his blue eyes scanned the paper, his disposition returned to outrage.

"Nichole is declaring a Duel on me!?"

"I told you that part," Ali muttered.

"But she's stealing my dragon! And all my DNA research on dragons?! She can't do that! And either way, she's screwed! Snuggles won't respond to anyone who's not me."

"Or me," Ali added off-handedly.

"And without a proper scientist who's had years of research, Nichole can't possibly think of harnessing any of the dragon's information! So what's she gonna do?" In his panic, Nate had discovered a loophole. He started to feel much more secure in his conquest of Nichole's organization. He even began laughing.

But the maniacal laughter Nate had worked on for many years to perfect was interrupted by two words from the other end of the phone.

"Keep reading."

Nate, still convinced that Nichole had hastily caused her company's and her own demise by his hand, continued reading the document; if only to reassure his suspicions.

He was wrong.

His laughter suddenly faulted. His smile disappeared. The man who ruled one-fourth of the globe even gulped in nervousness.

After several minutes of painful silence, Nate finally coughed out a response. "She's taking you?"

"Yeah," Ali replied, sounding relaxed and carefree as she spoke. "And with me and the genetic information, Nichole's thinking of starting up her own dragon army."

"But you have a contract with me." Nate pointed out. "You can't leave."

"Actually, I can." Ali replied. "There's a loophole in the contract, Nate. Since that was achieved, the contract is broken and I can leave. I'll see you 'round, governor."

And, with that, the connection went dead.

CHAPTER 2: New Digs

Two Weeks Later…

Ali sighed in content as she sat in her office chair and put her feet up on the table. Relaxing her arms behind her head, she smiled as she looked around her lab. Yup, she had done pretty well for herself. True, her current lab was smaller than her previous one; although not wholly unsurprising since her new employer had half the property. But the scenery at this location was a definite improvement.

All in all, living on Oahu Island was a great sacrifice for a smaller lab space.

As the complementary drink steward came in with her every-three-hours Shirley Temple, Ali began to wonder what she should do to keep herself occupied. Nathan still hadn't taken his revenge on Evil High Pharaohs Corp., but Ali was not too concerned with that. She had been Nate's Resident Mad Geneticist since his beginning rise to power nearly a decade before; so she knew most of his tricks. Before she left, she had also misplaces the blueprints for Nate's Velociraptor-with-a-Jetpack-and-Scissors into the shredder.

Quick Divergence to SkullCrusher Mountain…

Papers from various files flew up in the air in a frenzy as Nate searched on his hands and knees. "WHERE ARE THOSE VELOCIRAPTOR BLUEPRINTS!?"

Back in Oahu…

As Ali sipped her Shirley Temple, she relaxed. All in all, she didn't think her new employer had anything to worry about.


The phone rang in Ali's lab just as she had begun to settle into her work. It was minutes to midnight but Ali found that she did her best work at night. It was also the perfect arrangement for her, since having a soul had been the only reason she needed to sleep. Having that pesky soul removed allowed her to work at night and spend most of her days learning how to surf.

"Moshi-moshi," Ali answered. Although Nichole had a great attachment to the Ancient Egyptians, she also required everyone in her employ was to answer their phones in the traditional Japanese style.

"Have you checked on Tobias lately?"

Ali smiled. "A good evening to you, High Pharaoh."

"Good evening." Nichole replied begrudgingly. She knew Ali wouldn't answer any of her questions until Nichole continued the polite repertoire.

"And, no, I haven't. I shall do that now." Hopping from her swivel chair, Ali left her secure lab and down the hall to the higher secured dragon keeping room. After her card was scanned as well as her fingerprint and eye, Ali entered the room. A twenty foot dragon lay against the far wall, sleeping and moaning every few breaths. Ali placed a hand on the dragon's scaly skin as she approached. "He's still fully sedated. Based on the initial amount given, he should have been up and about several hours ago."

"That's odd," Nichole commented. "Do you think it had anything to do with Corporal King?"

"Ah, yes." A smile slipped across Ali's mouth. She'd forgotten about the little snack Tobias had shortly after he arrived. "Since Tobias is still digesting the corporal's remains, he should be awake in another four to six hours."

"Four to six? You don't know?"

"Well, dragon digestion's not an area of science that's been widely studied; especially since I am the only person clever enough to create dragons in the first place. I can't study every basic habit of theirs in a single trial basis, pharaoh. It takes time."

"Alright, alright. No need to get snappy."

"Sorry, pharaoh," Ali grumbled.

"Can you at least give me an estimate of when Tobias will be able to travel?"

"My guess? Roughly…"

Back at SkullCrusher Mountain

Nathan was going through the process of interviews. After casting another applicant out into the dark dungeonous halls of his castle, Nate rubbed his temple and heaved an exasperated sigh.

"This is so degrading," he whined to the almost empty room. Getting up from his chair, he stood by the window and looked out on his beloved abyss below. "I mean, whoever thought the ruler of one-fourth of the globe would be conducting interviews for gods sakes? This shouldn't be my job!" His blue eyes gazed back to the eight-inch solid oak doors that led to his office. "It's humiliating." Addressing a tiny man who stood in the door, he barked, "Who used to do this job anyhow?"

"Uhm…your previous Mad Geneticist…sir." The drone answered timidly.

Another sigh. "Perfect job for her, too. Always used to love smiting the non-eligible." Nate sat back down in his chair. Looking for an adequate replacement for Ali was going to be a hard job indeed. The Mad Geneticist Academy shut down shortly after Ali and her best friend had graduated. There was always some speculation that Ali was apart of the destruction, but since she had begun her employment with Nate, no one had dared question her. There was always a rumor of an accomplice but the only suspected person had gone underground. They had been suspected of a number of government and overlord coups, but had never been caught.

Nate had almost given up hope when the door opened and a resume was tossed onto the overlord's desk. Shocked into speechlessness, Nate looked up at the auburn-haired woman standing in front of him.

"I heard you had a job opening."

Back at Evil High Pharaohs Corp.

"Well, that doesn't seem like too long of a wait," Nichole commented. "Alright, I'll let you get back to work. Contact me if you have any breakthroughs."

"Aye, aye, miss." came the reply before the phone disconnected.

CHAPTER 3: Nichole and Other Fiendish Folk

Nichole Pelletier was a dangerous complex specimen of a human being. While other girls were playing with dolls, dress up or giggling about boys' cooties, Nichole had sat in the sandbox and plotted the destruction of the world. She had been able to get away with it as a child, but as she got older, she found her habits were always met with much more scrutiny. Why was it so hard for people to understand that a 20-something year old needed to sit in a sandbox and plot? It was ridiculous.

In more recent years, Nichole had grown weary of people's casting looks; so she had created her own personal sandbox that she had set up in her lair in Hawaii. That's where she was sitting on that day when she thought back on how she had become an Evil Overlord.

Her rise to power (or, more specifically, her desire for power) had started with a simple message via a popular social networking site. The message had been from an old friend:

Nichole, How've you been? Good, I trust. I've been well. I got a job working as a Mad Geneticist. It's pretty awesome right now. Scenery's not much to look at, but I spend most of my time in my lab anyway.

Just wanted to check in. Hope you're well. Would love to hear from you soon. Love, Ali

PS I'm working for someone who's gained enough power to be decreed an Evil Overlord. You should do that, too, so we can see each other more often.

That had been all the suggestion Nichole needed. Well, that, and her constant mentality of "if I can do it, why shouldn't I?"

Getting to power hadn't been that difficult, either. She gained enough power through her fanfiction minions and was one of the quickest rises to power in the U.N.'s history. Getting Ali to betray Nate hadn't been all that hard either. All Ali had needed was a promise of surfing lessons and she was there. It also didn't hurt that Ali no longer had a soul; so betraying a good friend didn't concern her the way it would have beforehand.

A smile touched Nichole's lips as she settled more comfortably into her sandbox. Things had been pretty easy for Nichole; and they looked to get only easier.

At SkullCrusher Mountain

For Nate, things were getting more difficult. Day by day, he began to realize just how much work that Doctor Who-adoring fiend had done around the fortress. His hounds were always howling, his plants were wilting and his balcony didn't have the luster it once held. He had begun to wonder if he didn't subconsciously miss Ali; but he cast that thought quickly from his mind every time it dared appear. There was no rhyme or reason for him to miss her.

Suddenly, an explosion resounded from the genetics lab two floors down.


Nate groaned. OK, he thought. Maybe I at least miss the QUIET laboratory.

He also missed his dragon. A pang clutched his heart as he thought about Snuggles. Nate hated thinking about the horrors that awaited his beauty in that other fortress. As he went down to inspect the noise, images of bows and flowers decorating Snuggles made Nate want to vomit.

Back at Evil High Pharaoh's Corp.

Ali's eyes burst open. A blanket of cold sweat had found a home on her body as her eyes swept frantically around her surroundings. She started to calm down as her new lab became familiar to her. As soon as she had calmed, however, a wave of exhaustion passed over her. She groaned. It had been a month since her Soul Removal Surgery and her body still nodded off once in a while due to habit. It was hard to trump a three decade habit of needing sleep. Her doctors warned her it would be a side-effect.

Whenever she did fall asleep, she always had the same recurring nightmare. Ali was prone to those as a child, but had grown out of the subconscious need for them. This nightmare, however, was nothing like she dreamt when she was a young girl. This nightmare was a memory of her surgery.

The Soul Removal Surgery had only just become available when Ali signed up for it. The pamphlet had been catchy: Tired of always being tired? Sick of the need for sleep? Want to get rid of those pesky desires for guilt and conscience? Have your soul removed! Who could resist an advert like that? Ali had done research beforehand on the surgery. It had gone through decades of testing and experiments, but had not had a lot of clinical trials. The few human guinea pigs that had volunteered, though, showed amazing results. She didn't buy into the fake blurbs on the medical experiment's website; after all, that was all P.R. But even the research papers and cases she found in the back-neck woods of the internet sounded promising.

The surgery had gone well, but the side effects weren't something she was pleased with. She was assured by everyone that they would degrade over time. The frequent memories of being awake during surgery and having her soul oozed from her person was not something she wanted to experience every day.

But as she slept less and less, she found those memories dwindling. Even two minutes after she had awoken, the memory of the event began to fade. Sitting upright in her chair, she ran her fingers through her hair, re-did her disheveled ponytail and looked at her still awake monitor.

A smile spread across her face.

Trying unsuccessfully to contain her glee, she jumped from her chair and raced out of her lab to the highly secure room down the hall. She hurried through the safety protocols and ran inside. Still sitting against the far wall was the very awake and alert Tobias. Ali smiled at him and bowed.

"Good morning, love. Are you hungry?" The dragon let out a soft groan in response and blew out a small bit of fire from his mouth. Ali's grin widened. "I'll find you something to eat," she nodded. Turning on her heel, she went to see what minion she could expend from the employ at E.H.P.C.

CHAPTER 4: Monsters and Minions

Nate pounded on the lab door six times before there came an answer. A debris covered Jen answered, grinning from ear to ear.

"Can I help you?" She asked cheerfully.

Nate glared down at her. "What are you doing?" He growled.


Nate paused. Arms folded over his chest, he went through all the mental steps of Keeping Up Appearances as an Evil Overlord. None of the intimidating attempts seemed to work with Jen, though. Then again, she was rumored to have overthrown those many government and Evil Overlord positions in the past…

"You're making me a dragon? Ali never made this much noise when she was figuring out how to make me one."

Jen laughed. "Of course not. That's because I'm not making you a dragon."

Nate's eyes were drawn so thin that one could barely see his pupils. "What are you doing experiments for, then?"

"Monsters!" Jen's eyes glinted.

"……..why are you making monsters? Why aren't you making me dragons like I told you to?"

Jen smiled warmly at Nate; but Nate could tell there was some villainy behind that sweet smile. "Oh, Nate. I don't do what you ask me to. What kind of Mad Geneticist would I be if I did that?"

After the initial shock of being told off by a subordinate wore off, Nate grumbled, "Ali did."

Jen raised her finger. "Ah, but Ali had a pre-existing contract with you before she became an Mad Geneticist. I didn't. Therefore, I get to use your resources to build myself a monster army! Isn't it awesome!?" In her overflowing excitement, Jen bounced back to her computer to continue with her work. Another small explosion went off in the far corner, hidden by Nate's view. The explosion was followed with a small 'ding' of a bell. "Good. My snippets are done!"

Nate just stared, dumbfounded, as Jen raced to check on her latest accomplishment. He heard a lot of cooing and shrieking coming from the far corner of the lab. Caution overrode his curiosity and Nate slowly shuffled back into the shadows, forcing more distance between Jen and himself.

Back at E.H.P.C.

The three-hour drink steward arrived with a new drink for Ali: Jones' Fufu Berry Soda2. And a note: Hitomi: Get up to my office immediately. Pharaoh.

Ali sighed. The note could mean that she was in dire trouble with her new employer. Or it could mean Nichole missed her and wanted company. She never knew. At any rate, Ali followed her orders. She put her computer under lockdown before she left her lab. She knew no one aside from her could figure out any of the information on the device; but she never wanted to take the chance.

Walking through the lair in Oahu, Nichole's office was a lot easier to find than Nate's. Even after six years of being at Skullcrusher Mountain, she got lost nearly every time trying to find his office. She had accused him of constantly moving it, but he continued to point out that her and direction were not happy bedfellows.

Ali definitely liked the Oahu lair better.

Walking in, Nichole gestured at one of her guards to stand close the door after Ali had entered. Nichole was sitting on her pharaoh throne, fingers entangled and staring down at her in a very Uchiha Sasuke-like demeanor.

After several minutes of no movement and unwavering silence, Nichole finally spoke. "Do you know why I called you in here?"

A grin tempted Ali's lips. "This is a trick. Like when the fuzz asks you why they pulled you over." Upon getting no response from Nichole, Ali's smile disappeared. She cleared her throat. "No, pharaoh, I don't know why you called me in."

Nichole reached into her pocket and pulled out a rolled piece of paper. "Do you know what this is?"


Again, no response. Not even a small smile. "This," Nichole removed the twine that was keeping the paper rolled. "is a list." The paper unraveled and the end fell from her hands. It traveled down Nichole's lap, down the steps of her throne, and about three feet after the steps ended. Ali stared. She resisted the urge to gulp. "Do you know what's written on it?"

Ali let out a nervous laugh. "I can guess…"

Nichole didn't let her. "Written on this paper is all the names of the people who were in my employ who are now M.I.A. Did you know that?"

"M.I.A.?" Ali asked. If all else failed, play the ignorance card. "What do you mean?" Ignoring her question, Nichole began to read off the names.

"Corporal Melinda Emerson. Corporal Deborah Jone. Ensign Jeffry Dressler. Glen Wilkerson, Library Assistant. Michael Peterson, Drink Steward. Wade Salomon, Red Shirt." Nichole threw down the piece of parchment in a fury. "Do you mind explaining this list to me, Ali??!"

Ali flinched involuntarily but soon regained her composure. "They were needed."

"For what?!"


A silence fell through the room. "Tobias?" Nichole repeated.

"Aye, miss," Ali nodded. "Tobias is a fragile creature. Well, he's picky, is what I mean. I've tried experimenting with different foodstuffs over the years but he really only likes eating people. And they seem to be better for his digestion. You can even look at the mythology and see—"

Nichole groaned as a sigh escaped her lungs. Facepalming, she rubbed the right temple on her forehead. "Ali, you can't just go and kill people."

"Why not?"

Nichole was rather shocked by the question. "Because it's wrong? No, no. Not even that. Because they're my EMPLOYEES. I hired them for a reason and you're killing them!"

"But I'm feeding them to your dragon. At least they died a somewhat noble death."


Ali paused. "Because Tobias is cute?" She offered. Nichole sighed once more. She was beyond the point of losing patience with her old friend; now she was just overwhelmed.

"Nate used to have a program for this," Ali offered. Against her better judgment, Nichole found herself intrigued.

"What did he do?"

"Every few months he would set up an internship program. Of course, that was just a cover. But nobody ever told them. We had a great P.R. person who made out pamphlets, a catchy website and we even had recruiters go to high schools and the like trying to find people to come temp with us. Nobody ever told them what they were really there for. Everyone knew that if they ratted out the internship, they would be fed to my beautiful creation."

"And this worked?"

"Of course it worked," Ali sounded slightly defensive. "No one ever told the media what was going on. And either way, Nate owns a large portion of the globe; who would believe a story against him? Plus, he has 18 Charisma345."

Nichole frowned slightly, nodding her head. Perhaps it could work….. "Do you know how to set up a program like that?" Ali grinned.

"Leave it to me, your lordship." She then bowed and left the room to put the plan in action.

Nichole exhaled and stared up at her large wall scroll that was hanging on the far wall. "What happened to me, Gaara?"

CHAPTER 5: A Surprise Phone Call

The next day, the Doctor Who theme echoed across Ali's quiet lab. Ali glanced up from her piles of paperwork and looked across the desk to her lit up cell phone. She pushed her wheelie chair across the space to grab her phone. The caller ID surprised her. "Captain Awesome?" She stared at the phone for a few more seconds and just before the call was about to be dropped, she answered.

"Hello?" She asked, somewhat cautiously.

"Hi," came the awkward response.

Dead silence.

"So…Nate….what's up?"

"Nothing much. How's Oahu?"

"It's fun. Nice weather."

"I see."


More dead silence.

"Uhm…is there a reason you called?"

"Well, I..er..uhm…" Nate drowned in his own sea of explanations and speeches. "I gotta go. I'll see you later." Click

Ali pulled her phone away from her ear and stared at the dead connection. "That bastard hung up on me." All pseudo-awkwardness gone, Ali wasn't going to let her previous employer get away from running away like that. She called him back. No response. Again, she called him. No response. She called a total of six times before he finally picked up the phone.



(At Skullcrusher Mountain Nate pulled the phone away from his ear as Ali yelled at him.)

Nate started to explain when Ali, still annoyed that he'd hung up, pulled the phone away from her ear and hung up on him.

The two of them played this little war for a good hour or so. Eventually they took a break for a snack and when they came back, they tried to talk once again. That conversation seemed to go a lot better than their previous attempts. Ali got Nate caught up on the daily life of his once-dragon. Nate told Ali about Jen and how she wouldn't stop exploding things in the lab. Ali tried to be sympathetic but was lol-erskating on the inside. When things seemed to be alright between the two friends, Ali finally asked her previous employer the question she had been wanting to ask for a while.6

"So why haven't you visited yet?"

"Because I'm in the middle of planning your new employer's downfall." Nate explained. "Don't you pay attention, traitor?"

Ali groaned and rolled her eyes. "That's why you haven't visited? But it would be so much easier. She's right here. And of course I'm paying attention."

"You have a point that she's there," Nate admitted. "But how can I plot with her looking over my shoulder?"

"She wouldn't be looking over your shoulder. I would. Not that that matters, because I don't do the whole "ruler of the world"-thing. I work behind the scenes.7 Plus, I only go where there's nice places. So maybe if you had built your fortress somewhere where I could surf, I wouldn't have left!"

A subtle hint of shock found its way into Nate's voice. "If you had wanted to, I'd have let you surf in the giant squid tank. May have even trained the squid to make waves for you."

Ali was not impressed. "Can Dr. Kraken8 make heart-shaped waves?"

Nate sounded thoughtful. "I don't know. You might have to work a little harder to teach him that."

Ali growled. "I work with DNA and dragons, Nate. I don't have time to teach a giant squid new tricks."9 As Nate chuckled on the other end and Ali glowered, a page came through the intercom. "Ali, can you please come up to the dining hall? Your dinner's getting cold."

Nate, having heard the page, asked: "She makes dinner for you?"

"Only when she wants to," Ali replied off-handedly. "Look, I gotta go. Bye, Nate." And with that, their conversation once again ceased.

CHAPTER 6: The Battle Begins

Ali and Nichole sat at opposite ends of a long banquet like table. It was long enough for them to have to raise their voices to talk to each other. But there was little talking to be had that night. Nichole was watching her servant, cup of red wine in hand. Ali obviously had something on her mind for she has been aimlessly stirring her soup for several minutes.

"Is something wrong?" Nichole asked, voice raised. The echo of the Evil High Pharaoh's voice startled the Mad Geneticist. She cleared her throat.


Nichole's eyes narrowed. "Don't lie to me."

Ali, not wanting to fight with Nichole, sighed heavily and told her the truth. "I got a call from Nate."

Nichole twitched. "Your previous employer? What did he want?"

Ali shrugged. "Just wanted to chat."

"Previous employers don't just call their ex-minions up to chat."

"I wasn't a minion," Ali replied defensively. "I was Head of his Dragon Genetic Engineering team."

"You were the only member on that team." Nichole pointed out.


Silence befell the two as they sat at the ends of the table, staring down each other. Nichole was the first to look away. This was an unusual behavior for her, but she knew it was unwise to make the person who was sacrificing minions to a hungry dragon upset. "I'm sorry, Ali. I didn't mean to offend you. But you have to admit, it's a little odd for an old employer to randomly call his..erm…ex-scientist."

Ali shrugged nonchalantly. "We're friends."

Nichole was still uneasy about the situation. It seemed just too convenient that Nate would call Ali without some ulterior motive in mind. She tried to let it rest and continue her dinner, but the thought kept plaguing her mind. No, he was definitely up to something.

And that something had to be found and destroyed.

In one motion, Nichole rose abruptly from her chair, turned on her heel and then stormed out of the room. Ali continued to stare at the table, lost in thought. She was only brought back into the moment when Nichole reentered the room and stood menacingly in front of one of the servants by the door. Crossing her arms across her chest, she tapped her foot impatiently. The minion she stood in front of hurriedly grabbed Nichole's cloak from the coat hanger and fumbled while putting it around her. He stuttered out several apologies, but the more he begged for her forgiveness, the less patience she had for him. Turning to look at Ali, Nichole shouted to her, "Isn't it time for Tobias' feeding?"

A smile finally found Ali's lips. "Yup." The minion shook as he stood, pleading for his life. Nichole scoffed.

"If one didn't wish to die," she said shrewdly, "one wouldn't forget his master's cape when she was trying to leave the room epically. Off with his head!" Throwing one corner of the cloak over her opposing shoulder, Nichole swiftly left the room. The minion pleaded for her to forgive him and begged her to spare his life, for it would never happen again.

While his back was turned, Ali snuck up behind him and hit him over the head with a shovel.

Nate was aimlessly looking through random emails and being, almost literally, bored out of his skull, when a video conference took over his screen. He jumped mildly in surprise before recognizing the face. "Uhmm….Nichole?"

"Nathan," she scowled. "I challenge you to a duel!"

Startled, Nate sat in silence. "Uh….why?"

"Because I don't trust you!"

At that, Nate had to laugh. "Don't trust me? You stole my mad geneticist and my dragon and you don't trust me. HA!"

"You called Ali!"

"…..you heard about that, huh?"

"Yes," Nichole growled. "And I don't trust you. So I've hired a hacker to hack to your system so I can challenge you to a duel!"

"Instead of just asking me why I called her?"

"You're the evil villain!" Nichole shouted. Nate was taken aback by that declaration. He had not considered himself a pro or antagonist yet. Who was she to assume? "Why should I trust your answer?"

Nate shrugged. "I suppose you have a point….. However, our lands might be adjacent but our fortresses are thousands of miles apart. How do you suggest we duel?"

"With these." Nichole replied in the most epic voice she could muster. From her cloak, she removed an object and showed it to Nate through the hijacked webcam.

Nate stared. "Plastic glasses? With slinky-attached plastic eyeballs?"

"Oh," Nichole hurriedly stashed them away. Her face flew through several shades of darkening red with embarrassment. "I meant these." Reaching into her cloak, she retrieved the correct item and showed them to the camera. However, her delivery the second time around was a little less theatrical.

"Cards? But…why?"

"Because we're gonna duel that way! So find some cards and duel!"

Nate searched through all the drawers in his desk looking for a spare deck of cards. He highly doubted he would find one. Who keeps spare decks of cards laying around? Such a strange thing…. Opening the last drawer, he found something in the back corner. It was a pack of cards and a note on top.

Nate: you must always keep a spare deck of cards. Solitare is fun, but war is funner. Ciao. At the bottom was scribbled Ali's mad geneticist symbol. Nate smiled. Well, at least something Ali left behind would be useful.

"Alright, Nichole," Nate said as he opened the fresh deck. "You're on."

CHAPTER 7: The Game is Called Fisherman's Wharf. …Or Was it Go Fish? I Don't Know…

"Do you have any kings?"

Nichole glowered at the insinuation. Looking over her hand, she saw three kings. What if she told him to go fish, though? She could keep her kings and take over his kingdom. It seemed like a perfect plan. But no matter how much she insisted she was a mean person, she was never a cheat. Growling at herself for having to play by the rules, she threw down one of her kings.

"Take it."

Nate smiled, his arrogance growing. He was going to win this duel. And little did she know, he had two other kings in his hand. Piece of cake, he thought to himself.

Meanwhile….with Ali….

Ali was aimlessly stirring some hot cocoa as she hid down in her lab. The window was open and a light breeze was wafting through. She could hear the waves crashing on the shore just outside. Relieving a deep sigh, she continued to think. Did she make the right choice in leaving her previous employer? The surfing in Hawaii was excellent and she loved being able to run around like her favorite Disney character. But she also missed the cold dungeons of Nate's fortress. Hawaii was beautiful, but it was always so humid.

Ali also knew she was kinda lonely. Yes, she had Nichole, but Nichole didn't have the net security of owning the largest portion of the world. She was still struggling to keep what land she had and everything depended on the duel she was having with Nate. If she lost the battle, Ali could say goodbye to Hawaii and it's beautiful scenery. She would have to forfeit and go back to…well….a public lab.

Ali shuddered at the thought.

It was highly unlikely that Nate would offer Ali her old job back. Especially after she'd stolen his prized dragon. Another heavy sigh fell from Ali's lips and she was about to grab her cocoa and go to bed when her phone started buzzing on the table in front of her. Ripping herself from her thoughts, Ali picked up the mobile in curiosity. The phone listed the calling number as unknown. Ali normally ignored the phone numbers she didn't know but something made her answer this one.

"He..hello?" she asked cautiously.

There was a lot of shrieking that met her from the other line. "AHOY, DUCK!"

Ali blinked several times in surprise. "Jen?"


A laugh broke out from the Hawaiian imprisoned geneticist. "How are you? I haven't seen you in ages."

"I know," Jen replied. "And I am well. But we can't really talk in too much detail right now." A loud squawk in the background broke the conversation. "Can we meet up somewhere?"

"Where are you?"

"I'm in Hawaii."

Ali was confused. "Why?"

"No time to explain right now. I know you're with Nichole in Hawaii and I'll be there soon. I will call you when I am close and we can decide where to meet up from there."

"But…" A million questions raced through Ali's head. "How do you know where I am? What's going on?"

"I can't talk now. The line might be tampered with. I will contact you again. Wait for my signal."

And with that, the line was severed.

Ali pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it, confused. What the hell was going on?

Nichole and Nate each had six cards left to play and it seemed for a moment that the game was at a standstill. Anticipation hung in the air like a heavy fog and each second that ticked by felt like hours. Each move made by either opponent was turning into a roller coaster ride of emotions.

After being told to go fishing, Nichole put down another pair from her hand. They were each at five. It was going to be a long game.

After more than forty minutes, Ali couldn't sit still and wait any longer. She had to find out what was happening. Nichole hadn't yet contacted her so she wasn't sure how the game was fairing. She didn't know where Jen was so she couldn't go looking for her. Instead, she took to wandering the halls. It was easier to be alone with her thoughts now that the servants knew to stay far away from her. She could hear them scurrying like cockroaches down the halls to avoid being in her way. It didn't matter that they would hurry away; she was in no state to order any of them to become dragon food.

When Ali was halfway to the door, she heard Nichole's voice come over the loud speaker. "I have won the duel!" She declared. There was a cheer coming from the servant class. "Ali, please come to my throne room immediately."

Ali stood, hesitant. She needed to be ready to meet up with Jen as soon as she could; but she knew it would be more of a detriment to her livelihood to ignore her pharaoh's commands. Turning her phone onto vibrate, she hurried to Nichole's chamber. Hopefully it would be a brief meeting so she could still go meet up with her oldest friend.

Nate, grumbling from defeat, went stalking down to the lab of his fortress. Nichole won by sheer luck, he was sure of it. Nevertheless, he lost. Granted, it was only a minor defeat but it was still the first one he had suffered in years. Everyone else was too terrified of him to risk challenging him to any duel. But he knew Nichole was too hot headed to be bothered by such a thing as intimidation.

He finally made it to the cathedral sized doors of the lab. He raised his hand to knock but before his fist could make contact with the door, he stopped himself. It seemed very quiet in there. Too quiet. Jen was not one to allow her monsters and creations to be silenced. Casting suspicious glances at the closed doors, Nate debated whether it was safe for him to try intruding.

In the end, he decided it was his fortress and he could do with it what he wanted. However, he still allowed his timidness to overshadow his dominance in his knock.

There was no response from behind the door. Not even a growl or a hiss.

Nate stared at the unopened room, perplexed.

"You wanted to see me?" Ali asked as she walked up to her friend.

"I won the duel." Nichole smiled.

"I heard." Ali replied in monotone. Nichole let slide the absence of excitement in her scientist's voice. "So what do you get for winning?"

A sheepish smile crossed Nichole's face as she thought back to the awkward conversation she'd had with Nate just moments prior. In the heat of challenging him, they had forgotten to argue a wager.

"Well, he never gets to talk to you again."

Ali stared at her. "But he's my friend."

"More importantly, your ex-employer." Nichole emphasized. "And in exchange for not being able to talk to you again, I won't take any of his land."

The anger in Ali's tone was meant to mask her feelings of disappointment and betrayal; although the anger didn't hide it very well. "So let me get this straight. Instead of being granted new lands, which you need and should be striving for, by the way; you decide to tell Nate that he can't ever talk to me again?"

"I commanded him, actually."

Ali glared. "You commanded him not to ever talk to me?" The venom in her voice leaked out.

"He's up to something, Ali. I can feel it."

"He's my friend!"


"Whether he employed me or not doesn't make a difference!" Ali raged. "I came here because I wanted to work with you, Nichole. Did you ever think that maybe, even if he did have an ulterior motive to talking to me, I might refuse?"

Nichole paused. "Well….erm….." she coughed. "No, it didn't occur to me."

"Of course not!" Nichole was starting to feel a little guilty. She thought Ali would be happy with her defeat over Nate. She wasn't sure where the anger was coming from. Ali, in the meantime, was trying to stifle her anger by pacing quickly back and forth in front of her pharaoh's throne. Finding such a task quite unsuccessful, Ali let out a deep breath. "I need to go."

As she headed towards the door, Nichole felt it was in her best interest to repeat to Ali's back what she'd been trying to convince her for years. "I never said I was a nice person, Ali!"

Ali, however, ignored her.

CHAPTER 8: Meeting Up with an Old Comrade

Ali's feet stumbled over the sand as she walked along the private beach. Tears of anger and frustration leaked from her eyes. Her feet felt like stone. Her knees kept wobbling. Her heart ached. What was happening to her? Having her soul removed was supposed to get rid of all her emotions and yet she was finding them all over again. The doctors had warned her about latent side effects but those were supposed to happen right after the surgery; not months later. Was it possible she was gaining her soul back?

Unable to walk any more, Ali collapsed onto the sand. The wind rushed through her hair and stray pieces of hair flew into her face. She wiped them away angrily as tears continued to spill. She wasn't even sure why she was so angry and upset. What was going on?

"Do you need a tissue?" Ali jumped at the sound of the voice suddenly next to her. She hadn't sensed any movement but the wind. Jumping back, it took her several seconds to realize who was smiling down at her and holding out a tissue for her taking.

"Je—Jen?" She coughed out. She took the tissue and wiped away the stray tears before fighting to get back to her feet. "When did you get here?"

Jen smiled knowingly but didn't answer. "Why are you crying?"

"I don't know," Ali replied, wiping more tears. "I'm not supposed to be. The surgery should have kept me from doing it."

Jen's brow furrowed in puzzlement. "You had surgery to stop tears?"

Ali gave her dear friend a small smile. Sniffing, she cleared her throat as she regained her composure. "No. I..uh…" Not knowing how to justify her surgery with Jen, she decided to keep it a secret. "I'm just not supposed to be this emotional."

"Because you had your soul removed?"

Ali stared at Jen in shock. "Wha…how did you…"

Without an answer, Jen reached into the shoulder bag she was carrying and took out a large manila envelope. She handed it to Ali. "I came here to bring you this. I came across it a few nights ago and thought it would be important to you."

Ali took the envelope with caution but she had no reason to distrust Jen. There was just a lot that was going on and Ali was a bit apprehensive to see if what she was delivered would further the drama.

But, of course, it was a plot folder and plot would come of it.

Ali opened the folder and skimmed the contents. The more she read, the more tense she became. Flipping through several pages, she continued reading and every report given said the same thing. Meeting Jen's gaze, she choked out, "The doctor who removed my soul works for Nichole?"

Jen nodded her head solemnly. "Yeah."

"Well, what does that mean?"

Jen shrugged. "I don't know. But after I tried to contact you as soon as I found out you were working for Nate. I tried for the longest time to try and get in touch with you but with me being underground and all… But then I heard from some of the servants in Nate's fortress that you had your soul removed and I did some research. Why would you ever do that, Ali?"

Ali shrugged. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"Yeah," Jen muttered. "So did flying monkeys."


"Nothing." Jen replied back quickly. Jumping back on topic, Jen asked: "So what are you going to do?"

Ali looked at her friend, confused. "What do you mean?"

"The doctor who removed your soul works for Nichole. What are you going to do about it?"

"What is there to do about it?" Ali asked. Jen stared at her friend for a few seconds before sighing. Ali's removed soul demeanor had returned. Feigning a small smile, Jen nodded her head.

"Well, I came her to give you what you needed. I have to return to Nate's fortress before he finds out where I went. I will be in contact with you again shortly, Ali." She gave her friend a hug before disappearing with the wind.

Ali looked down at the envelope in her hand. Her face morphed into an expression of displeasure as thoughts of what she had read ran through her mind. Clutching the folder tightly in her fist, she glared up at Nichole's fortress. She wanted answers and it looked like cornering Nichole might be the only way she could get them.

CHAPTER 9: Soliloquy

It was later that evening when Jen returned from her mysterious outing. Despite Nate's attempts on trying to find out where Jen had gone, she told him not. He felt very perplexed, taking his daily constitutional down the hallways of his dark fortress.

The moon's rising beams shown in through the cathedral-like windows of his estate and as he moved into them, his blue eyes glanced out towards his lands. Thinking back on the events over the past months, Nate couldn't figure out how things had become so chaotic. He had never even guessed that Ali would have stolen away his one love and disappeared to another part of the world. Worse than that, he found that a girl he was once interested in was now the object of his villainy.

It was so strange how one's plans can change so drastically overnight with no foresight.

Walking up the narrow looping staircase to his upper level, Nate made straight for his balcony. Once he was standing outside, he once again looked below at all his land. Normally such an action would give his mind some form of clarity, but such was not the case that evening. He tried humming and singing softly to himself but the notes no sooner left his mouth than they were stolen away by the wind.

With no other outlet to speak of to ease his stressful mind, Nate sought out the only resource he had left: Shakespeare.

"Shall I speak of him that is my dragon?
Ah, my poor reptile, what tongue shall soothe thy name.
When I, thy long since gone from me, have mangled it?
But wherefore, villain, didst thou steal my dragon?
That villain scientist would have harmed by dragon creature
Back, foolish tears, back to where you belong!
Your tributary drops belong to hell,
Which you, mistaking, offer up to Glee.
My dragon lives, that Nichole would have harmed;
And Ali gone, that which had kidnapped my dragon.
All this comfort; wherefore I weep then?
Some word there was, worser than Snuggles' disappearance,
That murdered me. I would forget it fain;
But O, it presses to my memory.
Like damned guilty deeds to sinners' minds!
'Snuggles is gone and Ali hath stolen it!'
That 'stolen', that one word 'stolen',
Hath taken ten thousand Snuggles. Snuggles' gone
Was sad enough if it had ended there;
Or, if sour woe delights in company
And needly will be ranked with other griefs
Why followed not, when I was told 'Snuggles is gone'.
Thy father, or thy mother, nay, or both
Which modern lamentation might have moved?
But with a backwind draft following Snuggles' disappearance
'Ali has left' — to speak those words
Is father, mother, Ali, Snuggles, Nichole,
All gone, all misplaced. 'Ali has left' —
There is no end, no limit, measure, bound
In those word's death; no words can that woe sound."

Nate let out a shaky breath following completion of his soliloquy. A single tear caressed his cheek as it fell from his eyes. The speech was just so beautiful; and Nate knew it was because he was just so awesome.

A single chime of his cell phone's ring broke the silence following his words. Wiping his tear away, he regained his composure as he pulled the phone from his pocket. He was shocked to see who came up as the caller ID. It had been a while since they'd spoken and Nate was a little nervous.


"Nate," the voice was garbled on the other end, reminding Nathan of Leia's message to Obi Wan via R2D2. "I'm bringing back your dragon."

That was a sentence that Nate had only dreamed of hearing since Snuggles had left. On the verge of unleashing tears of joy, Nate asked, "Well, what about Nichole?"

Ali, on the other line, growled a bit beneath her words. "Nichole and I are finished. I was hoping I could come back to Skullcrusher Mountain. I know I ran away with Snuggles and all, but I was kinda hoping you'd let me back."

Nate, wanting to tell Ali about the monsters Jen had been creating in her lab and had recently started to let run amok, fought to remain silenced. After several minutes of anxious silence, Nate agreed. "But you will be put on probation, Ali." Ali agreed to the terms, knowing Nate was being generous, considering the circumstances. After their phone conversation ended, Nate put his cell phone in his pocket, took a deep breath and proceeded to dance the happy dance all around the balcony.101112

CHAPTER 10: Return of the Mad Geneticist

The sound of the train's whistle blowing as it left the main station in Oahu was the last contact Nichole had from her servant. That, and a simple note that read, "Sent the dragon on ahead. Will send for my things soon. -Hitomi". It was a very anti-climactic ending for the two high school friends and it left Nichole with a feeling of emptiness. In such a short while, she had regained her lost companion, stolen her nemesis' beloved dragon and lost both in a series of circumstances she didn't quite understand. Everything had gone wrong and she didn't know how to fix them.

Nichole had locked herself in her throne room and had enforced her minions to leave her alone. Taking a seat at her desk, she stared out into aimless space. Deafening silence filled the room before a sudden realization hit her. Whipping open the top drawer of her desk, Nichole removed a single envelope with a note on the front telling her to only open it when everything else felt lost. Nichole took a deep breath and paused after her hand moved to break the seal. She finally decided that she needed help then more than ever (after all, who ever heard of running a successful evil empire without the aid of a mad scientist?).

The envelope was ripped open and what fell out onto the desk was nothing but a business card. Nichole felt disappointment swim over her until she lifted the card stock paper and read what was on it. Her eyes glinted something sinister as a smirk spread across her fiendish lips. It was just the solution she had been looking for.

Fast forward a little bit..

The trip between Oahu and Nate's Skullcrusher Mountain was turning out to be a longer journey than Ali recalled. She was happy she had fully charged her iPod before departure, but she was starting to become bored with her usual playlists. Even her video games on portable consoles had started to lose their luster. As Ali's brown eyes fixed out onto the slowly changing scenery, she began to contemplate her position. Was she doing the right thing in returning? Would it even be worth it? True, the news of Nichole's involvement with her soul removal surgery had been a shocking revelation; but the longer Ali traveled, the more she found herself wondering whether leaving Nichole had been the right decision. And even if it had been the right decision, was going back to Skullcrusher Mountain the proper choice? Ali felt too conflicted with her battling emotions that she decided to just do as was custom: ignore them and try to fall asleep, wishing for some clarity through her time away from reality.

At Skullcrusher Mountain

Nate had been looking for hours for Jen. Since her arrival at his lair, he had tried to avoid her more times than seek her out simply because of her chosen monster entourage. But now that he did want to find her, she was missing. As was the noise in the laboratory. The silence in the dungeons of his fortress left Nate feeling extremely eerie.

Hence why he jumped a foot in the air when he heard Jen approach him from behind.

"One of your minions said you wanted to see me." Jen spoke in a monotone voice not too unlike that of Wednesday Addams.

Nate smiled, trying to quench the nervous laughter that threatened to spill out. "Yes. I wanted to talk to you about your future here at Skullcrusher Mountain."

Jen tilted her head quizzically at an angle that reminded Nathan of a curious puppy. But there was nothing adorable about the sunken gaze and the slack expression on Jen's face. It sent a shiver down his spine. "Future?" she repeated in the same hollowed tone.

"Well, I'm sure you've heard that Ali's returning. And since she's agreed to bring Snuggles back with her, I don't think we can find any place for your monsters to roam anymore." Jen produced no reaction to Nate's words. He started to faintly hear the Twilight Zone theme play in the back of his mind but he struggled to ignore it. "That is not to say I don't want you here," he added quickly as his eyes searched Jen's face for even the smallest hint of affect13. "I'm just saying that you need to find somewhere else for all your monsters to roam free…for a little while."

Jen continued to stare at him. Nate continued to feel immensely unnerved and he kept trying to fight the flight instinct that was rapidly coursing through him.

Jen finally shrugged and replied, "If that's what you want." She then turned on her heel and walked off toward her Monster Keeping Room. Nate, meanwhile, let out a sigh of relief. He had no idea what was wrong with Jen but he was too creeped out at that moment to try and figure it out. Hoping it was some weird fluke with a clone, or something, Nate walked off in the opposite direction and decided to spend the rest of the evening avoiding Jen.

It was three days before Ali arrived back at her old abode. She breathed in the cold moisture from the low clouds that hung around Nate's mountain. A part of her truly had missed the old place. She was greeted at SM with the red carpet treatment; something most of the servants had done in order to keep their lives momentarily secure from becoming Snuggles' first meal upon arrival. What few bags she had brought with her were swept up by some unknown underling, her hand was taken gently by a very attractive (albeit terrified) minion as she was led up the plush crimson carpet to the door of the fortress. Others tossed black flower petals delicately at her feet before she took each step. A small smile returned to Ali's face after many nights. She was home.

Ali's arrival had coincided with the arrival of Snuggles, which was something Ali had planned out in heinous detail. She knew Nate too well and trusted him as much as she trusted herself; which was to say, she knew better than to leave him alone with Snuggles for too long. He might get the idea that he could overturn her and steal the dragon for himself without needing her back. Of course, it would be a foolish venture on Nate's part, but…

moving on…

Nate smiled as Ali approached surrounded by minions. Ali smiled back as she came to a halt, keeping a ten foot distance between herself and her former employer.

"Hello," Nate began awkwardly.

"Hello." Ali repeated.

A hint of a nervous laugh escaped Nate before he could catch it. Clearing his throat to mask the action, he continued. "Welcome back."

"Thank you."

The wind rushing past them made more conversation than Ali's and Nate's awkward stand-off.

"Was it a long trip?"

Ali shrugged noncommitally. "Meh."

Nate frowned. "Alright."

Even the servants were starting to react to the screaming of the quiet. Noticing this, Nate did the last thing he knew to do. Breaking the distance between them, he walked up to Ali and hugged her. Ali stood there, frozen, unsure how to proceed.

"It's good to have you back," Nate spoke again, breaking the physical contact between the two of them. Ali had not made any attempt to hug him back but Nate chalked it up to being caught off-guard. "Now, I just want to fill you in on some of the changes around here." When all else failed, go straight for the business. "Jen had taken over for you in your absence so she still works for me. Since you are on probation until you can work your way up again, you will be working under her."


Nate looked at Ali, unsure what how to react to such a blunt statement. "No?"

"You heard me." Ali replied. "I'm not going to be working under Jen."

Nate's brow furrowed. Considering the circumstances, Nate felt like he had let a lot of things go for Ali; but there was no way he was going to let her boss him around after he made his decision. "This isn't up for discussion," Nate stated, taking a page out of John's "When in Doubt, Act Like a Father" bestselling auto-biography. "This is what's going to happen."


Nate growled beneath his breath in frustration. More stern, Nate repeated: "This isn't open for discussion. You left me, Ali. Do I need to remind you of that? You took my dragon and just vanished and went to become someone else's mad scientist. I don't care who you ditched me for, but the point is that it happened and you can't just come waltzing back when things don't go the way you want them to and expect not to face the consequences. You are going to be working under Jen for a while and you are going to listen to what I tell you because, whether you like it or not, you are on probation for what you did. But you're damned lucky I'm letting you back here after all. Especially after you ran off with Snuggles."

Nate took several deep breaths after his epic speech. A wave of surprising calm washed over him after he had recovered. No wonder John liked being so father-like to everyone he was around. It felt awesome.

However, Nate didn't have the experience John did. After such an impassioned speech, all Nate received in reply was, "And that's another thing. The dragon's name isn't Snuggles anymore." Before Nate could say anything, Ali jumped in again. "It's not Tobias either. I've decided that the dragon rightly belongs to me, since I created him. Therefore, he is rightfully mine. And I am going to name him what I want."

Nate did not like where the conversation was headed. He also had no idea where to proceed from that point. He only remembered John's enthusiasms for passionate speeches. Other than that, Nate was drawing a blank. Ali ignored the current owner of most of the world as she stood to think about the perfect name for her creation. "I think I am going to name him….Gallifrey."

"Gallifrey's a place, not a name."

"He's my dragon and I'm going to name him what I want!" Ali yelled, voice warning of a tantrum. Looking up at her new but always faithful pet, Ali smiled. "Come, Gallifrey." The Dragon-First-Known-as-Snuggles-Then-Renamed-Tobias-then Re-Renamed-After-the-Doctor's-Home-Planet followed Ali as she walked into Nate's fortress.

Nate, meanwhile, watched in horror.

CHAPTER 11: Dreams Are the Things That Haunt Us

It was just past three A.M. and Ali couldn't settle down. Her brain was constantly torturing her to stay awake as it slowly ate away at her sanity. Not knowing what else to do, she left her chamber and started to roam the dark and cold halls of Skullcrusher Mountain. Her mind was not focused on where she was going, but her feet knew the course. Before she knew it, she found herself outside of the room where Gallifrey was kept. She opened the door and slipped inside.

Sleeping in a large cage on the far side of the wall was Gallifrey. Each breath that escaped his figure blasted a small wisp of smoke into the air. Ali approached him, never taking her gaze off her enormous creation. She couldn't help but feel nothing towards the creature. She had made him for Nate after a passive comment she had made back when they were in college together. He had held her to her comment and, feeling a sense of responsibility, she had gone through with her promise.

But that was it. She felt no desire to befriend the dragon. He was nothing more than a pawn in her relationship with Nate; possibly the only thing that kept their friendship going for as long as it had. He needed her to make a dragon. She had been a little surprised when he didn't throw her body to the wolves once the dragon had been born (as it were), but that could only be because he knew she had the power to control the mighty beast. Obviously he had to consider the fact that she could take advantage of the fact that he, like so many nameless minions, could become dragon food.

Ali glared at Gallifrey. Being the symbol for her's and Nate's classic dysfunction, she felt hatred boil in her blood. She truly hated the sight of the creature.

But the dragon had become more than just a representation for her and Nathan; it also became a pawn in Nichole's battle against her ex- and once again employer. The longer she stared at Gallifrey sleeping, she more rage consumed her. Her fists clenched into fists so tight that her knuckles began to turn chalk white. The muscles in her arms also started to spasm through sheer stress of her grip. She could feel her nails digging into her skin and the pain only seemed to heighten her anger.

Her next actions happened purely out of spontaneity than rational thought. From the corner of her eye, she saw the glint of a blade on the far wall. It had been placed there for the minions' false sense of security. In case they had been in trouble with Gallifrey and he began to attack them, they were told they could use the sword to defend themselves. Of course, they were never allowed the chance because Gallifrey would kill them before they had even finished turning their heads. But now that Gallifrey was unconscious to the world, such a fate would not happen to Ali.

She moved silently towards the sword. Even if he was alerted, Gallifrey would not feel threatened by her presence. He trusted her. A fiendish smirk found itself on Ali's lips as she remembered this fact. Such a simple, misguided creature.

Ali reached for the sword and as her grip tightened around the hilt, she removed it from the wall. The weight of the weapon caught her off guard but she quickly corrected her stance and controlled the sword before the blade hit the stone floor and would awaken her creature. Soft footed, she moved herself towards Gallifrey's cage and almost silently opened the door to get inside with the monster of once-myth and legend. She felt almost cruel as she approached him. He continued to slumber and not have a notion that anyone was about to harm him. Once again, the sinister smile returned to her lips and she began chuckling softly to herself. Raising the sword above her head, she brought it down heavily on Gallifrey's neck.

When Ali awoke the next morning, she wasn't sure if it was the cold blanket of sweat coating her body that awoke her, or the coolm breeze coming in from the windows of her chamber. Her breathing began to return to normal as she looked down at her clothes and her sheets and found no pools of blood covering her.

She grabbed her cell phone that was sitting on the side table by her bed. Pushing number three on her speed dial, she listened as the phone rang several times. There was finally a click as the receiver answered the phone and responded with a hoarse, "Hello?"

"Jen, I'm in. Let's do this."

Even though they weren't in the same room, Ali could tell her best friend was smiling as she replied, "Excellent."

CHAPTER 12: The Discovery

Nate awoke the next morning with a feeling of dread. This was not highly unusual due to his quick rise to power. He was plagued with nightmares several times a month of his empire being taken away from him. Since his academic background was in psychology, he spent many a morning laying in a love seat and talking to a mirror of himself in an opposite chair about his dreams. He and himself had deduced that his fears were merely the subconscious enactment of his quick rise to power and the worry that he had expanded too soon.

Yet even though he'd realized the cause of his nightmares, they still occasionally afflicted him.

But his dread that morning had nothing to do with his nightmares.

Something was terribly wrong in the lair of Skullcrusher Mountain.

Getting up from bed, he quickly threw a robe around himself because he'd always seen people do that on T.V. For what reason, he didn't know. It wasn't as though he wasn't dressed. In fact, he was wearing his favorite Ewok pajamas.

Leaving his room in swift haste14, he made his way down to the hallway. His brain wasn't sure where he was going but that was OK because his feet did know.

Before he knew it he found himself facing the chamber that held his most prized genetically engineered possession.

At first his eyes (also acting independently from his brain and feet — Nate's neurons needed buffering time before syncing up after being ripped from his slumber so theatrically) didn't see the problem. But his feet obviously brought him to that room for some purpose. And there was a mild red alert going off in the back of his mind. The different sections of his brain had gotten into a fight the night before and were also not speaking to each other.

In a flash of realization, he figured out the problem.

Where was his Darth Vader bobblehead? He had put it in the room to hide it from Jen because he'd stolen it from her and claimed it as his own. And it was missing!

But there was something else that was also bothering him. As his brain argued about what the radar in his brain meant, his eyes wandered around the room. It was all slowly starting to sink in. Yes, the missing Darth Vader bobblehead was surely an issue but there was something else. He just couldn't put his finger on it.

And then, like a tornado hitting him in such a way that one can only attribute to superficial metaphors, he understood.

Where was Snuggles?

His dragon was nowhere. His cage had not been touched, the lock was still intact but the window was open. Although the latter attention to detail wasn't as important because Nate's fortress had no glass windows.

As Nathan examined the cage, he realized that there could only be one person who would dare steal his magnificent dragon of legend. A person who had the only powers possible to remove a once-mythical beast from a locked cage. A person whose power transcended time and space. A person who was a mastery of trickery and escape artistry.

A magician.

Nate left the room hurriedly to go find his evil geneticist and con her into building a time machine and bringing Houdini to justice. And it wasn't until he found Ali's lab also vacant that he began to get suspicious. It wasn't unusual for her to be seen wandering the hallways — especially since one of the perks/curses of the SRS is insomnia — but when if Ali had been aimlessly wandering, she wouldn't have taken her entire book collection with her.

Such an oddity.

At last some part of Nate's brain, having rationalized that enabling the Slow was just detrimental to the whole as it was to that specific section. It wasn't until the Smart section regained its proper control that Nate finally realized what had happened.

And it had only taken him several long and transparently misleading paragraphs.

"She stole Snuggles…" Nate whispered to himself for there was no one to hear him. And if an Evil Overlord whispers aloud to an empty castle, it does still make a sound.

(Although no one can prove that because anecdotal evidence is not real evidence. So never mind).


"Were you followed?"

Ali's eyebrows arched in a very Spock-like reaction to her oldest friend's inquiry. "By what?" She asked. "Flying monkeys?"

Jen frowned but a definite smile spread through her eyes. "I think that's your area of expertise." Ali rolled her eyes at the comment but couldn't hide a smile of her own.

"No. I wasn't followed. Nate was having one of his nightmares so he was kind of distracted." Jen nodded her head until the full effect of what her friend said registered.

"How do you know he was having nightmares? Were you spying on him?"

Ali shook her head. "No, but a couple times a month, I'll make him my special blend of hot cocoa and he'll tell me the next morning that he had nightmares." Ali started walking with Gallifrey in tow, leading him like a horse. Jen, however, stared at his best friend in horrific disbelief.

"Ali, you drug him?"

Shocked, Ali stopped walking and swung back to face the mischievous red head. "What? No!" Her voice resounded of equal appalling disbelief. "He just can't drink hot cocoa because it gives him nightmares. I just never told him that and he hasn't figured it out yet."


Nate tore one of the pantries apart. "Where in the devil15 is that hot cocoa mix? It helps me sleep!"

Jen and Ali walked back to Jen's fortress in the woods. They had successfully hidden Gallifrey from view. Jen had bribed John into building her a fortress incapable of satellite imaging so Nate couldn't track her (or hire someone to track her).

Basically they were virtually invisible.

After Jen and Ali had settled in, Jen and Ali made their traditional chicken dinner and sat opposite each other at Jen's kitchen table.

"We need a plan of attack," Jen started. "And I think what we really need to do is—"

CHAPTER 13: A Very Unlucky Lucky Break

Ian Sansouci awoke on a bright sunny Tuesday morning with a smile on his face. He had been dreaming of Moxie but his subconscious-induced mental stimulation during R.E.M. sleep has little to do with his reaction upon waking. No, that morning he had a meeting that would change the very framework of his life.

Ian spent his first waking hour getting ready for his "big day". But surprise found him early when he opened the door to venture out into the world.

Someone was waiting for him on his doorstep. Ian stared blankly at the stranger. The man looked like a lawyer.

"Hello, Mr. Sansouci," the would-be-lawyer smiled in that creepy lawyer like way that did not necessarily reek of negligence but also didn't inspire honesty. He was definitely a lawyer. Ian gulped. The lawyer pretended not to notice Ian's reaction; such a thing came with the profession. "I'm here for the reading." The lawyer continued, seeing that Ian was not going to be the one to respond first.

Ian paused, blinked, opened his mouth to speak, found he had nothing to say and closed his mouth again. "What reading?" Ian finally choked out after several minutes of struggle. The Lawyer Smile returned and sent a faint shiver down Ian's spine.

"The reading of the will." The lawyer stated patiently. "My secretary should've called you to let you know that we decided to change locations." Ian's brown eyes guiltily slid over to his dead answering machine and uncharged cell phone on the table in his small foyer. He turned back to the lawyer, feigning a smile.

"My apologies. My phone appears to be…erm…off at the moment." Fumbling past his embarrassment, he suddenly remembered his manners and stepped aside. "Won't you come in?"

The lawyer (who's name was Mr. Chum — although Ian didn't know that) responded with a curt nod. Together, Chum and Sansouci walked into Ian's kitchen. It was the only room in Ian's small loft that, after a quick glance, seemed to the lawyer to be the most business-like.

Opening his custom briefcase, Mr. Chum pulled out a hefty amount of paperwork and laid it in front of Ian. Ian's brown eyes widened in shock with just a dash of borderline fear. He was supposed to read all of that? Mr. Chum, ignoring Ian's initial reaction, opened the cover slip of the documents to show his client. "It merely details," he started. "That the property of your great-great uncle, Augustus Reginald Halifax Sansouci, will be passed onto you at the time of his passing; which, as you know, was roughly four days ago."

"What did I get?" Ian asked quietly, still feeling uncomfortable at the size of the reading material.

"Your great-great uncle owned several pieces of land."

Ian's thick eyebrows furrowed. "Like farming land?"

"Countries." The lawyer corrected. Ian coughed involuntarily.


"However," continued Mr. Chum, once again ignoring his current client's reactions. "It seems that your uncle had no desire to organize his land. As you may know, the U.N. put into effect the Overlord status for those who controlled many countries to combine them and be free of politics other than their own. But your uncle never made any attempts to put together his property, believing that everyone who lived in those lands had the right to live as they pleased." Inwardly, Mr. Chum shuddered. Hippie, he thought to himself.

"So…" Ian began after several moments of silence. "I get the countries?"

Mr. Chum nodded. "You do. You have the right to do with them what you wish." Instantly, the Harry Potter resembling would-be writer grinned. His mind began working immediately as to what he could do with those countries. He would live in his hero's, Rush Limbaugh's, footsteps and organize them all for pure Right Wing Nut Job Conservatism.

"Where do I sign?" Ian asked eagerly. Mr. Chum grinned and handed the man a fountain pen. Opening the documents to the final ten pages, Mr. Chum pointed to the first line. "Sign here," Ian did. "And initial here," he pointed to the line across from Ian's signature. Ian initialed. When the lawyer turned another page, suddenly a sound came from the front door as it was kicked violently open and fell, crashing, to the ground.

Jen and Ali stood in the doorway looking bad ass and awesome.

"Stop what you're doing!" Jen yelled dramatically as the two old friends marched into the tiny apartment. Ian stopped in surprise and the lawyer stared suspiciously at the two intruders.

"Who are you?" Mr. Chum demanded.

"We're here to take away Ian's land from him." Jen replied.

"What!?" Ian exclaimed. He had finally just owned enough land to live out his dream and his high school dork friends were going to steal it away? Just my luck, Ian thought bitterly to himself but still stood his ground. He had worked far too hard to inherit land from a long lost great-great uncle he had never heard of until four days prior and he was not going to let it go that easily. "This land is mine!"

"Correction," Ali said with a smug grin. "It's ours."

Ian turned violently towards his lawyer. "Tell them it's not theirs!" Ian had attempted to go for "I Have the Law on My Side and No One Can Tell Me What To Do" but his demand towards the lawyer sounded more like a plea to a father to get his siblings to stop teasing him.

To Ian's horror, Mr. Chum sighed. Fixing his eyes onto the two women, he gave them a curt nod. "The land is officially yours."

"WHAT!?" Ian blew up. Happily, Jen and Ali walked over to the table in the kitchen and lifted the documents.

"I, Ian Sansouci," Ali began to read. "Hereto relinquish all rights given to me by my great-great uncle, Augustus Reginald Halifax Sansouci, of his property, to Jennifer Hussey and Alexandria Chaya. It is theirs to do with what they wish and I, Ian Sansouci, will not stand in their way." Jen and Ali looked up at Ian in the same moment and smiled.

Ian glared at them. "You're lying!" He finally decided that his only course of action was to rip the papers from his two friends and read it for himself. His skin grew paler as his eyes scanned the page that had been read to him and processed the information.

Ali hadn't been lying. That's what the paper said.

Ian now focused all his rage onto his sketchy lawyer. "How could you let me sign this without knowing what I was signing!?"

Mr. Chum scoffed at Ian. "Who signs a legal document without reading it carefully?" He retorted. Ian was silenced. Jen removed the documents from her friend's hand and took them with her. As she left the room followed by Mr. Chum, Ali lingered back. She placed a hand gently on Ian's shoulder.

"You can always submit a resume to us and maybe we can find a place for you in our empire." Ali then took something out of her pocket and slid it across the countertop to her friend before leaving.

It took several minutes for Ian to look down and read what was written on the card.

J.A. Evil Alliance
Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul and Muhlenbach.16

Ian realized in shock that all the cities listed on the card belonged to the countries he was supposed to inherit.

CHAPTER 14: That's Loyalty For Ya

Nate found himself once again standing on his balcony and overlooking his vast land. Ali had renounced her alliance to Nichole and returned to Skullcrusher Mountain and then, in a way that made no sense to the flowing plot, she stole Snuggles and disappeared. Was her departure really so much his fault like Jen, Ali and all their mutual friends had been saying since college?

No, it couldn't be, Nate reasoned. He was too awesome for it to be his fault.

But even his expanded ego could not keep him from wondering. Something had obviously gone wrong enough for Ali to (yet again) abandon her loyalty to him and to Skullcrusher Mountain, and depart.

As Nathan continued to wonder in silence, he as interrupted by the opening of the balcony door. He turned, aggravated, to face a nameless manservant. His blue eyes settled on the minion with such intensity that the manservant visibly shook in his boots.

"I'm s-s-sorry, sir," the man stammered. "I-I j-just wanted t-to give you s-s-something. You were delivered a mes-message."

Nate's eyebrow cocked in his usual expressive way. Confusion slowly replaced the aggravated reaction and he relaxed his guard slightly. Holding out his hand, he silently demanded the message be brought to him. Shakily, the manservant did as was commanded.

Nate snapped the piece of paper from the minion's hand and grumpily scanned his eyes over the text.

Dear Nathan,

We will be arriving shortly after 3pm by train. Please send a car for us.

Oh, wait. Never mind. We have a dragon. We'll just fly then.

See you sometime around 3.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Frankenstein and Igor.

Nate's eyes glanced up and looked through the manservant still standing by the balcony door, waiting. Did Nate know any Dr. Frankenstein? Igor sounded rather familiar but he couldn't place the acquaintance. Assuming they were people Jen and Ali had met in their Mad Geneticist Grad School Days, Nate read through the letter a second time. That's when he noticed the post script at the bottom of the page.

P.S. In case you haven't figured it out yet, this is actually Jen and Ali.

But of course! Nate snapped his fingers to emphasize his (thorough) understanding. Why would Mary Shelley's characters visit him? And he knew the thing about the dragon sounded a little off. Dr. Frankenstein didn't own a dragon!

As Nate stood there, his mind ran amok with possibilities of retribution. He was going to get his revenge on those two fiends somehow. And them alerting him to their presence obviously gave him the upper hand. Smiling to himself, Nate disappeared back into his fortress to plot.

A little after 3; maybe 6:30

Ali groaned as Gallifrey landed on the cold pavement that led to SkullCrusher Mountain. She knew there had been more reason to leave S.C.M. then just her having been manipulated by Jen. It was so damned cold. She'd asked Nate once why, out of all the land he owned, he chose to live in so frigid a country. He'd gone into (his version of) the logistics but Ali had gotten bored after he started speaking and didn't pay attention.

Ali pulled her alternative down feathered army green cloak around her more tightly when Jen landed next to her on the pavement.

"Good to be back," Jen smiled, her brown eyes glancing around the landscape. Ali stared at her oldest friend until, just over a full minute later, Jen took notice. "What?" She asked innocently.

In her best Gary Coleman impression, Ali's eyes narrowed as she demanded, "What's wrong wit'chu?"

Jen's borderline maniacal grin enveloped her face but she only responded, "C'mon. We have a mission to do." As Jen took Gallifrey's custom reins and carefully led them towards the castle, Ali took a few more moments out of her busy schedule to gawk at her friend. Finally, defeated, she shook her head and obediently followed.

Nate had just sat down to his main course dinner when he heard a blood curdling scream, a struggled moan and a loud crunch that ended in silence. His blue eyes lazily looked over the rim of his wine glass as his expected guests walked into the dining hall, uninvited. A different terrified servant than before was unwillingly following behind the two girls. The servant's clothes were sprayed with blood spatter and it was quite obvious that he didn't want to be there. But the minion was marginally more afraid of his master than both of Nate's previous employees; so he followed.

"I tri-tried to stop them, m-master," the minion choked. "But they —"

Nate nonchalantly lifted his left hand and waved the servant away. The servant hesitated, for a mere moment before instinct conquered fear and he flew from the room.

Ali and Jen stood at one end of Nate's obnoxiously long table while Nate sat at the other end. All three remained in silence for several minutes before Nate finally broke the ice.

"You're late."

"You're late," Jen automatically retorted. Ali shot her friend a quick curious glance while Nate's eyebrow arched.

More silence.

"You said you would be here at three."

"Time is relative."

"That may be true, but time is a constant in every day human life."

"Time is an arbitrary concept created by humans as a way of knowing when it's time to make the doughnuts."

But Jen and Nate slowly moved their gazes to focus on Ali. Ali's cheeks hued red, giving away her embarrassment. In an effort to hide it, she merely shrugged. "I heard that somewhere," she muttered.17

Undeterred, Nate focused his attentions back on Jen. She seemed to be the more competent of the two.

"Regardless. You're here now. Now would you mind telling me why you're here, exactly?"

"Oh, right." Jen opened her Jacket of Holding and reached into one of its many pockets. "We own land now." Unable to control it, Nate let out a bark of laughter. It was met by glaring stares by both Jen and Ali. "It's true," Jen asserted.

Nate smiled and nodded his head in the most chauvinistic, condescending way. "Sure."

More glares and stare downs arose from the duo and electricity started to buzz through the air. Ali's fists started to clench and she moved forward a step before Jen rose her hand to Ali's chest to keep her held at bay. "Not now," she whispered. Ali struggled to control her annoyance as Jen retook control of the situation. "We have papers."

"And where did you get this 'land'?" Nate asked, still being a big baby jerk about it.

"It came to us in a dream," Ali responded wistfully. She received stares from both of her friends. She had intended to sound sarcastic and maybe a tad mean, but she ended up sounding more like a character from A Midsummer Night's Dream. She decided it was best to follow in Teller's and Harpo's footsteps and stop talking.

"We stole it from Ian." Jen said, trying to get the story back on some kind of track. "Well, not really stole. We legally own it."

"Let me guess. You hired a lawyer to cheat Ian out of his inheritance of land so that you could battle me in a duel and try to steal all my land from me."

Jen and Ali were speechless. "Uh…yeah," Jen said finally. "Ho-how did you know?"

Nate smiled, but tsked. "A magician never gives away their tricks."

"Penn & Teller do."

"Jesus, Ali!" Jen exclaimed, whipping around to face her duck-like friend. "Will you stop with the P&T references?"

"I can't help it," Ali replied softly. "They're just so awesome."

"Yes, they are. But they're not paying us for our advertising. Besides, you're distracting from the story."

"I don't care!" Ali pouted. "This is a stupid story!"

"You're the one writing it! Listening to Stone Temple Pilots and sitting in your room."

"So I should know what I'm talking about!" Ali retorted. "It's stupid and silly and I think we need something completely different!"

Jen found a 2x4 conveniently placed by the side wall by a prop guy, grabbed it and hit Ali over the head. Ali saw birds chirping and flying over her head, but at least she stopped talking.

"Shame," Jen said after a sigh. "She had a good way to defeat you, too."


"I don't know. Maybe. She never really told me. I just trusted she knew what she was talking about. That was obviously something I shouldn't have done but…at least she's out now." Jen turned back to Nate and decided it was best to continue with the story's pseudo plot. "To recap, though, we do have land. How we got it is unimportant. But we have some. And we are legally allowed to duel you for your portion of the world because we are backed by the U.N."

Nate opened his mouth to object but knew he had nothing to say. He let out a low whistle and settled back into his chair. "Why attack me?" He finally asked. "Why not Nichole?"

"Because Nichole's our friend."

"So am I."

"But we like her more."

Nate frowned, eyeing Jen suspiciously. He said nothing, only continued to stare, until Jen finally sighed in defeat. "OK, so we don't like her more, necessarily, but we have a beef with you."

"What did I ever do to you? I gave you lab space —"

"I hate labs."

"You could have said something."

"I didn't want to trouble you."

Nate groaned and rolled his eyes but was determined to get to the bottom of their little spat. "OK, fine. What else?"

Jen looked as if she were about to continue with a long list of issues and complaints, but she said nothing. Four minutes passed (Nate counted) and still nothing happened. "I guess I really don't have that much of an issue with you."

Nate struggled to hide his smile of victory. He was going to win them over with logic. "So why battle me?" he asked again.

"It was Ali's idea."

"Well, Ali I could understand. The girl's nuts."

From the floor (where Ali had fallen but it didn't seem important at the time to mention), Ali started mumbling. "The creepers may come to eat me, mommy, but at least save my brain for the zombies." Jen looked down at her friend and kicked her. "¡Ay caramba!"

"Do you think she may have a concussion?" Nate asked, raising himself from his chair slightly to see Ali's exposed feet.

Jen shrugged. "Maybe. But this might be better for her."

"Please don't feed the hamsters…" Ali mumbled from the floor. "They have poison fangs and sting when threatened…"

"So are we going to duel, or what?" Nate asked. "My food's starting to get cold."

"Yeah, we can duel, I guess," Jen said blandly. Nate's eyebrows rose to hide behind his fluffy guinea pig hair.

"You don't sound so certain."

"I kinda don't care."

Victory, Nate thought to himself, swallowing the urge to rub his hands together in a very diabolical way. "So maybe we shouldn't fight. Maybe you can just give me back Snuggles and I can call a doctor to come look after the idiot on the floor. Then we can arrange a little partnership. Open trade routes and all that boring stuff that countries used to do before the world got boring."

"No….I think we should battle."

Nate's spirit faded. "Why?" he asked, disappointed.

"Because Ali would have wanted it that way."

"You talk like she's dead."

"I'm not dead yet!" Ali yelled from the floor before erupting into a fit of giggles. Jen locked eyes with the Hill Man.

"Want to go to another room?" Nate nodded and the two of them slipped out quietly while Ali busied herself with the faeries she was seeing in her head.

In the library down the hall, Jen first checked for dead bodies before entering. Not finding any, she walked to one of the walls and leaned against it, facing Nate. "So how do you want to do this?"

"I don't want to do this." Nate replied. "I don't want to duel you and I don't want to take your land."

"But you have to."


"Because it's in the story notes."

"Screw the story notes!" Nate growled. "Ali said so herself: this story's stupid. We need to take over the story and rebel against the borderline order that's set up."

Jen thought about that for a couple minutes, looking very intrigued, but finally shook her head. "No. I kinda like the story notes. So we should battle. Then maybe, if she's lucky, we'll call a doctor or a nurse and get them to look at Ali's head."

Nate sighed and finally (begrudingly) agreed. He knew he shouldn't be worried, anyhow. He was going to wipe the floor with his ex-employees. "So how are we going to do this?"

Jen brought a finger to her lips looking really puzzled. She started to introduce an idea a couple different times but always fell into silence after uttering a syllable or two. Finally, she said, "In honor of Ali — because she's currently out of commission —"

"You hit her with a two-by-four." Nate reminded her.

Jen passed a warning glance at Nate but continued. "I think we should play Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock."

Nate stared dumbfounded at the petite redhead. After a couple beats, he asked, "What?"

"It's The Big Bang Theory's version of Rock Paper Scissors. It makes it more….nerdy, I guess."18

Nate conceded. "Alright. We'll do that."


After playing twenty six different "games" of RPSLS, the end result was Jen: 15, Nate: 12. Nate was convinced that he won one more hand than was mathematically possible. Jen didn't mind letting him have it for a small ego boost because, hey, she won either way.

So in the end, not only did Nate have his prized dragon stole (twice) and lost both of his mad geneticists (three times), Nate also lost his fortress, his minions and his egg salad sandwich. Defeated, heartbroken and conquered, Nate bowed his head in misery as he slowly left the library Jen and Ali owned. Choking back a gasp and a tear, Nate ambled slowly down the hall. Before he reached the door, he was met by Ali. She'd made a suspiciously quick recovery and was leaning against the front door eating a popsicle. Nate's torn eyes settled on her and he stopped short, fearful that Ali would make a fool out of him before he left forever.

Ali, however, did no such thing. Although she no longer had a soul to speak of, she still cared about her friend. Or, in the very least, she had vague memories about caring for her friend. So she didn't want to make matters worse.

"I assume you're going to take over everything now?" Nate asked morbidly. "Whatever happened to you having no interest in ruling?"

"Oh, I still don't." Ali replied. "That's still more of Jen's and your thing. I'm strictly a lab lackey."

Nate's brow furrowed as he met his friend's eyes. "Then why did you and Jen need my land?"

Ali smiled. "If I tell you that, the story won't go further."

"But you said the story was stupid."

"No, I didn't."

Nate was starting to feel annoyed. "You did. You said it in the diningroom before Jen hit you over the head."

"My clone said the story was stupid."

"……your clone."

"Mm-hmm," Ali replied, sucking on the popsicle.

"This story has clones now?"

"No," Jen replied, joining her two friends by the front entrance. "The story had a clone."

"She's dead?"

Jen and Ali shrugged nonchalantly. "Probably," they said in unison. Nate groaned and rolled his eyes.

"I think she had a point," he muttered. "This story is pretty stupid." Ali, having finished her popsicle, threw the stick at him. He ducked out of the way just in time.19

"Either way," Jen said emphatically, returning their attentions to the story. "We wanted to make you a proposition, Nathan."

"What's that?"

"A proposition," Ali started. "is the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done. Or it can be a plan or scheme proposed." Jen smacked Ali in the arm. "Ow," Ali muttered, giving Jen the puppy dog eyes. Jen, however, was immune.

"We want you to work for us as a mad geneticist." Jen told him.

"Isn't that Ali's forte?"

"Yeah," Ali replied. "But I want to broaden my horizons a little. Who knows? Maybe I can get a hang of this ruler thing. I kinda wanna see what the big deal is."

"What would I even do as a mad geneticist?" Jen and Ali smiled.

"You'll figue it out," Ali said, walking past him and patting him on the shoulder. Jen followed her friend and together, they walked through the fortress, talking about what they were going to change.

Nate stood, speechless, staring after them until they disappeared into one of the rooms. He then turned his attention to the front door. He really didn't have any idea where to begin; but at least he could stay in his fortress. And maybe he would come up with some clever scheme to have the women forfeit their land back to him. They do always say, after all, that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Not knowing where else to begin, Nate left the fortress. Getting into his CrayonMobile, he started down the long, windy drive to head to the mall. He didn't know what geneticists did, exactly, but he figured he would start with the Levi's.

CHAPTER 15: A Chapter by Any Other Chapter Would Still Be an Update

"Did you find everything alright today?" The sales associate asked automatically. She did her best to hide her shock at her current customer who was hidden behind a stack of twenty pairs of jeans. When they were placed on the counter, gravity took over and a number of them slid all over the counter top, with a couple falling onto the floor. The associate's eyes flickered to the customer standing behind the man with the extraordinary number of jeans. The customer, a lady — short, a little heavy set and with the appearance of age somewhere in her late-fifties — glared at the man in front of her and frowned, and began tapping her foot impatiently. In her hand, she held only a single decorative kitchen towel and she looked extremely offended at having to stand in line.

The associate's system kick-started an adrenaline rush as she pretended not to notice the latter customer's avid irritation. The associate was fairly new and was paranoid about getting complained about by an irate customer. As her current jean-loving customer tried to pretty up his purchases, the associate debated calling for a back up cashier. She held off in the end, remembering that she couldn't call for backup for a single annoyed customer. If the associate had had more experience in retail, she would have realized that there was a sick and twisted (but ultimately pleasurable) satisfaction to pushing the buttons of rude customers.

But I digress.

Nate tried hard to tidy up his pile of jeans for the associate. He'd never worked in retail personally (his background was in baking) but he had a number of friends who had been forced to dabble in that area of business. He understood what a crappy job it was, so he was trying to be as cooperative and friendly to the anxious-looking associate as possible. After fixing his mess, he tossed the girl an impressive smile. That seemed to have the appropriate positive response and she smiled back.

"Did you find everything alright?" She repeated, preparing to start the interaction anew. Nate delivered a curt nod.

"I did, thanks."

"No problem," she replied as she began scanning through all the jeans. After several moments of silence, she commented: "Wow. You certainly have a lot of jeans here."

Nate nodded solemnly. "I hope they all work." The associate, realizing Nate had a mix of jeans from every department (children's, juniors, misses, men's), continued with her polite small talk.

"Are you buying for your family? Or a summer camp?"

Nate found himself confused. "No, I got a new job recently and I needed all of these."

"Oh, cool." The girl responded, understanding the mixed feelings about having a new job. "So are you selling these…?"

"I'm a geneticist now. And to be honest, I don't really know much about it. But I know it involves jeans."

Halfway through scanning Nate's pile, the associate paused. She looked up at him questioningly. "Genes?"

"Yeah. Jeans. I didn't know what brand to go with, but I'm partial to Levi's."

The girl was thoroughly puzzled. She was training to become a vet tech and she knew a thing or two about genetics. She highly doubted it had anything to do with purchasing Levi's.

She stopped scanning the clothes and knew it went against her job description to question a customer, but she was a helpful person.

"Uhm… I don't mean to be rude…but are you buying the jeans because you want to wear them; or are you buying them because of your job?"

Nate's brow furrowed in confusion. "It's my job…" he replied slowly. "Geneticists work on jeans."

"No, they work on genes."

"That's what I said."

The girl sighed, really wanting to help Nate. "Geneticists don't work on denim fabric. They work on deoxyribonucleic acid — DNA."

Nate fell into a hole of total bewilderment. "…huh?"

Not being able to possess any more patience, the woman behind Nate was finally fed up. "Excuse me," she spat at the associate. "Can we move this along, please?" The associate's mouth opened and shut in helplessness, unsure what to say or do. Luckily for her, Nate was there.

Nate turned his frosty blue eyes onto the middle-aged, crotchety woman. "Excuse me," he spat back at her. "But I'm the customer right now and I'm having a conversation with this nice lady." The associate was touched. The woman, on the other hand, was taken off-guard for a second but immediately regained her grumpy self.

"You're wasting my time," she asserted. "And you're holding up the line."

"You're the only other person in line."

"I'm important!"

Nate chuckled and there was something dark and foreboding in that chuckle. He was not a force to be reckoned with at that moment and all the anger he'd bottled up inside him from the recent events boiled over. The enraged woman was thrust into silence as Nate glared coldly at her.

"You are unimportant," he purred20 angrily, making the woman instinctively step back. "I used to rule this entire country and many others and I lost all my power by playing a stupid, dorky game. Now this kind girl is trying to help me sort out my issue and, quite frankly, she's being extremely helpful. She doesn't need to help me, but she's trying. And you — you insignificant, overweight, bitchy woman — are trying to keep her from helping me and, ultimately, doing her job. Now there are other registers in this store, so unless you are going to relocate to one of them, I suggest you shut up and patiently wait your turn."

The associate and the older lady were thrown into shocked speechlessness. The associate involuntarily shivered from the impact of Nate's speech. His voice never rose an octave above a soft tone, but his message (and the power of it) was clear.

After struggling to find her chutzpa and fight back, the woman ran away in defeat with her tail between her legs.

Without missing a beat, Nate turned to the associate gave her another smile, and all was well.

The associate's mouth was hanging open. It took a little longer for the girl to regain her composure but when she did, she began (once again) explaining to Nate what geneticists actually did. He was finally persuaded not to buy the jeans because he didn't need them (well, he needed one pair, so he bought those) and he made a point to talk to the management about what a great job the girl had done21. Then, with his new jeans in hand, Nate headed back to Skull Crusher Mountain.

When he got home, Jen and Ali were busy playing Minecraft in the open foyer. "Where have you been?" Jen asked, not removing her eyes from the screen.

"I was out buying jeans."

Ali glanced up momentarily. "Why?"

"To do my job," Nate replied, embarrassed.

"You….thought geneticists buy jeans?" Ali asked. Jen snorted from her corner, trying (and failing) to stifle her laughter. Annoyed with his embarrassing moment, Nate grumbled and stormed off. The echoes of Ali's and Jen's laughter followed him down the hall.

Ali was walking around Muppet-style in the basement of the fortress. She'd been looking for her hiding spots where she'd hidden random things to keep from herself but when she wanted to find them, she realized what a good job she'd done hiding them from herself that she couldn't find them anywhere.22 She was about to turn around and leave when she came across the newest addition to the story.

"What are you doing?" (Tiger) Matt asked, stepping out of the shadows and leaning against a door frame. His arms were crossed in front of his chest and he was studying her quizzically.

"I'm..erm…," Ali tried to find a way to spin this in her favor but realized only too soon that that was impossible. So instead, she lied. "I'm trying to look for minions."


"So I can sacrifice them in the name of science." Ali said so matter-of-factly, her words dripped with the "duh" attitude.

"You would,"23 Matt commented and then fell into silence. Ali tossed him an inquisitive glance and watched him suspiciously for several moments. He did not move; he just continued to watch her. A small smile started to creep across his face, which only made Ali all the more suspicious.

"Are you implying that people shouldn't be sacrificed in the name of science?" Matt said nothing. "Because it's a very old and time-honored tradition, especially amongst the most villainous mad scientists." Silence still reigned. "And some people decide to do it for fun."

Still nothing.

Ali was starting to get desperate for some kind of reaction.

"And some people even kill people for medical reasons. Like for lobotomies because lobotomies are fun…and….en..enjoy..able….." Her vision started to go blurry as she seeped into panic. She needed confirmation that him — or anyone — was listening to her. She was making such convincing points and for them to be dismissed so casually and without a word was sending her into a frenzy.

It was then that she noticed in the minutes spent in his presence, Matt hadn't blinked. Blinking away her own freak out, curiosity took over. "…..Matt?" She asked cautiously, carefully approaching him. He didn't move — didn't even flinch — when she walked up to him and waved her hand in front of his face (and, of course, since he was a whole foot taller than her, she had to stand on her tip-toes just to wave her hand at him). He didn't blink still and Ali became even more suspicious and skeptical. She reached out and gently tapped his forearm.

No reaction.

It was only after Ali pushed him a little harder to gauge a response that he fell over.

He was cardboard.

Ali stared blankly at her fallen friend. "…whaaat?" she breathed, thoroughly confused. Her eye then caught the glint of a light that slid under a door along the far wall. In a moment, she finally understood. "Ohhhhhh….." Despite her initial reaction, Ali tapped her lips with her right index finger and smiled as her eyes remained on the far trap door. "Clever Matt," she said in her best Jurassic Park impression.


Jen and Ali were busy preparing. Nate was coming home with dinner soon and they were expecting a very special guest into the Fortress du Jonathan Coulton. The two best friends were talking in hurried whispers to each other and, every once in a while, one or the other (or both) would laugh and then they would continue.

There was a sudden blood curdling scream that came from the front door. It was inspired by Jhonen Vasquez's JtHM comics where Johnny keeps a tortured guy hooked up to the doorbell so that, instead of a buzzer or bell chiming when the doorbell was rung, a man would scream from pain.

(Ali really liked Jhonen Vasquez.)

When the scream alerted the two girls to a visitor, they knew immediately that it was the person they'd been waiting for. Nate, after all, had a key to the fortress and really wouldn't need to ring the doorbell. He also had something against having a living person electrically attached to the doorbell. Something about "inhumane torture" or some such new age nonsense. The two women paid no attention to Nate's outbursts. They were just cute and didn't mean anything.

Rushing to the door, Jen and Ali threw it open immediately. They smiled happily at their visitor and greeted her. They both stepped aside to let her in and they even helped her with her bags of samples.

Her name was Barbara and she had come to vash and vipe the vindows24. Although not really. She was an interior decorator from Belgium and she had been hired by Jen and Ali to look into redecorating Nate's old fortress. She also had a reputation as a special kind of interior decorator. She loved pink and frills and lace. She loved turning everything into a homage to a faerie tale that got served ipecac and freed its contents all over the house.

The three of them exchanged polite pleasantries and quickly got to work. The two high school friends took Barbara on a tour of the premises and discussed the best ways to maximize the space for the most pink and fuzzy.

About an hour into the discussion, Nate arrived to his home with dinner. He found them in the study, talking about taking down all the manly manliest wallpaper and furniture he had special ordered for his home and replacing it with sparkly bright pink wallpaper with overstuffed loveseats and lining all the bookshelves in the study with doilies. Barbara was getting a lot of inspiration in that particular room for tons of lacy doilies; the lacier, the better.

Nate stood at the door, speechless and in shock. He was noticed by the three women right before he fell with a thud to the floor in an apparent apoplectic shock.

Barbara was rather alarmed to see the fallen man and looked at her two potential clients in concern. "Is he alright?" She asked. Ali nodded her head gravely while an evil smile slid across Jen's lips and danced into her eyes. Barbara felt a faint shiver of fear at the two women. But before she could make her decision on whether she really needed their money (she did, but there was something about their reaction to the fallen man that really shook her up), Jen turned to her. The evil smile was gone but Barbara could see that it was hidden only just under the surface.

"Thank you for your time, Barbara. It was really helpful. Ali and I will have to discuss it and we'll let you know." Barbara, a bit disappointed she wasn't rewarded the job immediately, also felt washed over with relief at the gentle let down. As she was led to the front door by both friends, she set her mind to run a security check on all new potential clients in the future.

After Barbara left, Ali and Jen walked side by side back to the study where Nate still lay, unconscious, in the doorway. "I feel almost bad for her that we wasted her time like that," Ali commented as the two stared down at Nate.

"Meh," Jen shrugged noncommittally. "She got her consultation fee either way." Ali nodded, but remained silent until Jen continued. "Best $1,200 I've ever spent."

Ali's mouth fell open and she looked wide-eyed at her best friend. "Twelve hundred dollars!?" She exclaimed.

"Oh, sorry. That wasn't right. I knew that sounded a little off." Nervous sweat poured down Ali's neck as she was able to breathe again. "It was really £1200."

"That's even more money!"25 Ali screamed before falling into her own apoplectic fit and fainting to the floor. Jen grinned like a mad woman and danced off, humming a happy tune, down the hall before disappearing into the library.

CHAPTER 16: All This Waiting for a Short Chapter

Nichole was angry. She had been for several days and it was starting to worry her lackeys. Because she no longer had Tobias, she couldn't use her minions for food, but she wasn't above using them as target practice to ease her tension.

Sick of being ill-tempered constantly (and more frustrated that her target practice wasn't working), Nichole finally succumbed to her final solution. Picking up her cell phone, she begrudgingly used it to dial an old friend.

Nate was sitting in the lounge area of Ali's and Jen's fortress. He was bored. The two women were off playing with Legos and watching cartoons which didn't interest the Hill Man at all. He had tried reading but found nothing interesting. Sighing in desperation, he was about to go take a nap when his cell phone rang.

Surprised, Nate picked up his phone and was even more shocked when he read the caller ID. Precariously, he answered it.


(Back at EHPC)

"Yes, that's right. I want a large barbeque chicken pizza and a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew." Nichole repeated her order to her favorite pizzeria and waited, listening to the employee on the other end. "OK, so how much is that?" Another pause. "Alright. …no, I don't want to give you my card number. I'll pay the delivery guy." Pause. Listen. "Fine. But if it's not here in fifteen minutes, I'll shut you down." Another pause. "Oh. It takes twenty minutes to make a pizza? …I guess that's OK. You can't rush art. Alright, so anything less than forty minutes and I'll shut you down." The two of them, having reached a mutual understanding, ended their call together. Nichole reached across her desk and started her stop watch.

"It begins." She exclaimed dramatically to an empty room.

"You want an alliance?" Nate asked, surprised. He immediately glanced over his shoulder to make sure his new employers weren't listening in. "OK, do you have any land? …No? Well we might need some."

"Don't worry about it," the mysterious caller assured. "I have someone else in mind."

"OK," Nate agreed. He felt like he should ask more questions to gather more intel but he trusted the caller implicitly. "Contact me again when you have it all sorted out."

"So does that mean you're in?"

Nate glanced behind him through the open doorway into the adjacent room. Jen and Ali were busy toppling all their buildings in a very Godzilla-like fashion while they cheered. Nate grimaced.

"I'm in."

(Thirty-seven minutes later….EHPC)

Nichole was happily munching away at her pizza when her phone rang. She glared at it but that didn't keep the phone from ringing. Technology was not a-scared of her.

Growling, Nichole gave in and picked up her phone. "Hello?"

"Hey, Nichole. I have a proposition for you."

Nichole's eyebrows raised in shock. "John?"


Nichole was momentarily stunned into silence. "…hi."

From the other end of the line, John sighed. "Hi." He returned. "Anyway, like I said, I have a proposition for you. What would you think about starting an alliance?"

Nichole's eyes narrowed. "Why?"

"Well I heard about what Ali did to you and Nate and I thought an alliance would benefit the three of us."

"What did Ali ever do to you? You haven't even been in the story at all except for a random mention several chapters ago."

"Exactly," John agreed. "It's already the sixteenth chapter and now I get a cameo!? I'm a star! It's insulting. Plus, I like to constantly knock Ali down a peg."

An evil grin found its way across Nichole's face. "That's a good point…and I do very much enjoy destroying Ali's hopes and dreams."

"I think we all do," John chuckled. "So can I count you in?"

"Sure. Although…does Nate really have to be apart of this? I mean, we're supposed to be arch-enemies."

"But Nate's also destroyed Ali's hopes and dreams. So maybe you two can put your issues aside for the greater good?"

Nichole spent several moments thinking about that possibility. "But we're supposed to be arch-enemies."

"Yes, but that was well over a year ago when this story started. So now we can concentrate on destroying the story and the dreams of the author."

Nichole smiled again. "Alright. I'm in."

"Great. I'll contact Nate again and set up a meeting place to discuss the details."

(A few days later)

Nathan was making his final approach to John's M.O.O.S.E. (Mysteriously Overdramatic Oval Sanctuary Establishment). Ali had convinced Jen to go on a wild goose chase through Mexico to find the chupacabra (a sly — and transparent — excuse to go find authentic tacos) so Nate had been able to slip away anxiety-free. He had fed at least ten minions to Snuggles in the hopes that his dragon would be sleeping until he could return.

As Nate pulled up and was about to park his CrayonMobile, his eyes fell on a familiar shiny red Dodge vehicle.

He froze. And at the same time, unintentionally slammed on his brakes. Throwing his car into park, he removed himself from his vehicle and marched towards the Dodge. At that same moment, John emerged from his hidden entrance. "Hello, Nate," He greeted. Nate had no time for pleasantries.

"What the hell is she doing here?" Nate demanded, thrusting his finger towards the car.

John glanced at the vehicle. "The car? Well, it's parked…"

"Nichole, John. What is Nichole doing here?"

"Oh," John replied pathetically. "She's the only one with the land."

Nate suddenly (and without any of those pesky suspenseful buildups) appeared to be undergoing an aggressive inner debate. John watched as his friend gestured back and forth, trying to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. In the end, Nate finally sighed in defeat. There was no way of getting around the fact that Nichole really was their only option.

Lowering his head in submission, Nate mumbled, "Fine."

John grinned and clapped his hands together. "Excellent. Now, let's go back to Nichole and make sure she hasn't set fire to my things." As soon as John disappeared inside the house, Nate began (literally) dragging his feet as he followed.

CHAPTER 17: A Very Evil Overlord Christmas Special (on paper)

Ali sighed as she sat on the couch in the main room of SCM. Jen sat in a chair adjacent, reading a book. Ali looked around again and then sighed. She tried adjusting her position on the couch, crossing her legs underneath her. A couple seconds passed and another sigh escaped her lips.

Jen, thoroughly annoyed, threw down her book. "Ali, stop being Sheldon." She snapped.

Ali glared momentarily at her friend before leaning forward in her seat.

"Doesn't it bother you that it doesn't feel like Christmas?"

Jen's eyebrows raised. "It's weird that you're concerned about it."


"Because you're a Penn Jillette fangirl. I assumed after finding out Penn doesn't celebrate Christmas, you wouldn't either. After all, it is a Christian holiday."

Ali shook her head. "I grew up not celebrating Christmas and I hated it. Besides, Christmas is only Christian because the church doesn't like people who don't believe what they do. It was assimilated." Ali leaned closer. "But it doesn't feel like Christmas."

"How is it supposed to feel, then?" Jen asked, losing patience.

"There's supposed to be snow. It's supposed to be decorative. It's supposed to feel happy and cheerful." Ali's brown eyes cased the room once more. "This just feels…pathetic."

It was Jen's turn to sigh. "Then what do you want to do, Ali?"

"I miss Nate and Nichole." Ali muttered, half under her breath.

"You miss them?" Jen exploded, her patience gone. "How can you miss them? They conspired and betrayed us. We betrayed them for the sake of our own fortress and you getting your dragon back."

"Yes," Ali agreed slowly. "But Christmas is about forgiveness and friends and family, right?" Jen stared blankly at her friend. "Or…some bullshit like that," Ali continued quickly. "So I think it's time we make up and invite them all over."

"They're our enemies."

"We can have a tea party."

Jen paused, lost in thought. Finally, she smiled. "Make out the invitations. I'll put the kettle on."


Nichole was twiddling her thumbs as she looked around the room. John was on his laptop playing MinecraftTM and Nate was occupied with a book. Nichole glared at her companions.

"You realize that we've been in an alliance for months," Nichole pointed out, breaking the silence. Her companions looked at her. "And we haven't done anything?"

There was a pause between John and Nate. Finally, John turned his laptop towards Nichole. "I've made a whole new building in Minecraft." He smiled.

Nichole's glare grew more fierce.

"I have to agree," Nate said, closing his book and leaning forward in his seat.

John glanced at him as he turned his laptop back towards himself. He continued playing as he spoke. "You're only agreeing with Nichole cuz you're scared of her." Nate shot a glance at Nichole as a wide grin of triumph spread across the pharaoh's face.

"True." Nate conceded. "But we're supposed to be seeking revenge on Ali, right? Why are we just sitting here doing nothing?"

"I'm playing Minecraft." John reminded him. Nate rolled his eyes.

"Minecraft isn't revenge." John shrugged noncommittally but didn't respond. Nate changed his focus to Nichole.

"What should we do?"

"I think we should ambush."

Nate's eyebrows raised. "How?"

"Trojan horse."

"You wanna trick Jen and Ali with a large wooden horse as we hide inside it?" Nate asked skeptically. "I think they'd figure it out."

Nichole frowned and shook her head. "I doubt it."

"We'd get Monty Python'd!" Nate retorted. Nichole shook her head again.

Just then, the butler entered the room holding three sealed envelopes. "For you, sirs."

Nichole's eyes narrowed dangerously as she whipped around to face the butler. He only watched her down the bridge of his nose with a somewhat self-satisfied look on his face. After he'd distributed the envelopes and left, Nichole grumbled, "I hate that guy."

"Who, Charles?" John asked, opening his envelope and removing its contents. "He's harmless."

"He's chauvinistic!" Nichole exclaimed. John grinned as he caught Nate's eye.

"I know." Nichole, furious, picked up the throw pillow beside her and threw it at John's head. "Ow!" Satisfied, Nichole smirked and sat back in her chair, opening her own envelope.

Inside it was an invitation that read:

Dear M.O.O.S.E. members:

I realize that, in the past, we've had our differences. However, it's Christmas and in the Spirit of the Season, we'd like to invite you over.

Jen and I are having a Christmas Tea Party and would like you all to attend. Think of it as a chance to amend our differences and spend the holidays together.

The party will be held on the 23rd of December at 1830. You all know the place.

Please be prompt, or all the scones and cookies will be gone.

Hope to see you all there.

Sincerely yours, Ali, esq.26

Each one stared dumbfounded at their invitations. A shocked silence filled the room. After several minutes, it was broken by Nate.

"Does she really expect us to believe this?"

John frowned thoughtfully and shrugged. "Dunno."

"Maybe it's an ambush." Nichole volunteered. Nate's and John's gaze moved slowly to their mutual friend.

"An ambush?" John asked slowly.

"It's a Trojan horse."

"Stop with that reference!" Nate shouted, frustrated. Thrashing his own invite around, he demanded, "How is a tea party a Trojan horse?" Nichole shrugged but chose not to respond.

"It may be an ambush, but I doubt it." John commented.

"Why doubt it?" Nate asked, turning his attention back to John.

"Because Jen and Ali take their tea parties seriously. I've been to one. They're kinda lame — all they do is drink tea and watch old movies. But they don't joke around about the party."

Nichole's eyebrows rose high on her forehead. "How about all the times tea parties are mentioned in the stories? They make fun of them and use the theme as a ruse to put everyone in silly and completely ridiculous situations."

John stared at Nichole. "But have you ever been to one of their parties?"

Nichole sighed in concession. "Fine. They are pretty awesome."

"So what are we gunna do?" Nate asked. "Are we really gonna go?"

"Well, I'm not really into tea and I've never understood their enthusiasm for the Marx Brothers," John admitted. "But I do miss Jen."

Nate looked over at Nichole, silently demanding an answer. Nichole shrugged.

"I know I have no reason I should go, considering." Nate looked relieved at Nichole's answer. "But," Nate froze. "I do like their tea parties. And it is Christmas. I dunno; maybe it'd be fun."

Nate stared openly at his friends. He wanted to say something to argue; to convince them both that it was a bad idea. But as he read and re-read the invitation, he became more convinced that Nichole and John would still attend, no matter what was said.

Sighing heavily in defeat, Nate slumped back in his chair. "Fine," he grumbled. Maybe I can get the chance to check on Snuggles once we're there.

23 December; SkullCrusher Mountain

Everything was set for the arrival of their guests. Ali bustled around the dining hall, making sure everything looked perfect. Jen watched her from the sidelines, a half-eaten sugar cookie in her hand while she munched on the other half.

"You know, Ali," Jen started. "I don't think they care if every thing's not perfect."

Ali shot an annoyed glace at her friend. "I don't care if they don't care. I care." Jen rolled her eyes but said nothing as she ate the rest of her cookie.

Ten minutes later, Ali was satisfied that everything looked impeccable. Stepping back, she admired her work with a smile. "Done." She declared. Jen gestured towards her friend with one hand as she picked up another cookie with the other.

"What about your outfit?"

Ali looked down at her Green Lantern cooking apron27 and shrugged.

"What's wrong with it?"

Jen shook her head. "Nothing. I just didn't know if you were gunna stay dressed like that."

"But I wanna be Hal Jordan for Christmas." Jen was about to open her mouth and inform Ali that Christmas was not Halloween, but she stopped herself. Halloween was the best holiday. Who was she to argue against it's continuation? Biting into her cookie, she pondered whether she, too, should go change. Perhaps she could be Batman.

Out of nowhere, a colorful origami shuriken came flying at Jen's head. Startled, she jumped out of the way and then glared at Ali. "I wasn't debating your right to dress up like a superhero!" Jen exclaimed. Ali rolled her eyes.

"That wasn't why I attacked you, nitwit. Stop eating all the cookies!"

"This is my third one!"


"You've had five!"

"I'm not the one in danger of shuriken attacks!"

Glaring, Jen bent down and picked up the fallen makeshift ninja weapon of paper. Hurling it at Ali, she yelled, "Now you are!"

The shuriken flew marvelously (because Jen had better obscure weapons skills than her younger friend). A corner of the star hit Ali square between the eyes. "Oof!" Ali exclaimed, hitting the floor. Jen stared down at her friend and sighed.

"You're so overdramatic."

"Maybe so," Ali agreed, jumping to her feet. "But it is on."

"It was never off." Jen snapped. Ali picked up the shuriken and threw it at Jen. Like a champ, Jen caught the paper weapon and boomerang'd it back. It hit Ali in the shoulder and Ali threw herself across the room in response.

"Your stunts make no sense!" Jen yelled.

"They worked in Star Trek!" Ali retorted.

"They defy physics on a stupid level!"



"Dream destroyer!"




In a fury, Ali screamed and tackled Jen. They landed on the floor and scuffled, each trying to get the advantage over the other. It wasn't until a familiar voice spoke that the fight was broken up.

"Don't you think you guys are taking this a little far?"

Stopping, the two girls looked up. Over them stood their allusive basement/dungeon dwelling creature.

"Hey, Matt." Ali said, a little short of breath.

"What are you two fighting over?"

Both girls opened their mouths at the same time to speak, but nothing came out. Also at the same time, they closed their mouths and a look of concentration fell across both faces.

"We don't remember." They finally responded in unison.

"Don't you think it's time you stop fighting, then?"

"But she called me a witch." Ali protested.

Matt stared at her. "You are a witch."

A look of realization struck Ali. "Oh, yeah…"

Jen shoved Ali away before standing up and brushing herself off. Ali stood up a moment later.

"Well, now that that's solved, I guess I should get going." Matt declared. He turned on his heel and walked out the door.

"Ali was speechless. "How does he do that?" She asked in an awed whisper.

Jen glared. "How does he walk out a door?"

"He disappeared, Jen," Ali said matter-of-factly.

"Yeah. Into the hallway." Jen reminded her. She then raised her hand and slapped Ali across the back of her head. "How can you say you know science when you say stupid stuff like that?"

Ali pouted and rubbed the spot where she'd been hit. "I was trying to be funny and help raise Matt's mysterious factor."

"Well it didn't work." Jen sighed before walking over to the table and stealing another cookie.

Ali frowned and then shrugged, looking around the room. The tablecloth was all messed up, the rug was disheveled from where she and Jen had fought. The whole place looked a lot less organized and normal.

Ali smiled. "You know," she commented to Jen. "I think this place looks better than before."

The last thing Ali saw was the bright tie-dye and peacock blue colors of a shuriken aimed at her throat.

Roughly an hour later, a coach brought the arch-enemy team to S.C.M. All three were met at the door by Jen, who graciously invited them in. Nate glanced around the interior. "You chose not to redecorate?" He asked, both surprised and pleased.

Jen shrugged. "Yeah. We couldn't find a decorator we liked. And the first one really was only there to annoy you and provide entertainment." Nate nodded. He still remembered that fateful day…

While Nate was busy having horrid flashbacks, Nichole stepped around him and appraised the fortress. John stood by Jen and the couple held hands. Nichole could sense that something was wrong, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. After twenty minutes, when the small party had retired into the dining hall for cookies, Nichole finally realized the issue.

"Where's Ali?" She inquired, her mouth full of cookie.

"What's that, Nichole?" Jen asked, feigning ignorance. "I can't hear you when you mumble."

"I said, whe —"

"MUMBLER!" Jen yelled in Nichole's face. Understanding the reference but thoroughly hating getting yelled at in her face28, Nichole shoved Jen back and scowled.

Yet she got the hint. She devoured her cookie quickly then asked her question again; this time enunciating every syllable.

"Eye saaay'd," she spoke slowly. "Wherrre iiiiizzzz Aaaah-lee?"

"Oh, Ali," Jen nodded her head. "Oh, yeah. She's dead."

Nate dropped a plate (but it was a styrofoam plate, so it was O.K. It even bounced!) and all three stared, dumbstruck, at Jen. How could she be so passive about the death of a true friend?

And then they all thought long and hard about that question and all simultaneously decided to drop it.

"She's what?" Some part of Nichole that still had a heart seemed to care about what Jen said.

"She's…erm…dead." Jen repeated awkwardly.

"How did she die?" Nate asked.

"I killed her." Jen shrugged. Each member of M.O.O.S.E. frowned and nodded their heads. They'd all seen it coming; they just didn't know why Jen had taken so long.

"Hi, guys."

Each guest screamed like terrified little girls when they saw who walked in the room. They all clawed at each other in a feeble attempt at security.

Ali stood by the door, watching them all in complete confusion. "What is wrong with you?"

The screaming reached a crescendo before they all forgot how to breathe and collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Ali looked to Jen for answers. Jen just shrugged and turned her attention back to her chai tea.

"I didn't think I looked that bad." Ali muttered, walking over to her friend.

"You're hideous, darling." Jen assured her as she handed her a nice hot cup of tea.

Ali frowned and shot a hurt look at Jen. She said nothing in her own defense but started to wonder…

And then she stopped wondering. It was Christmas and she was with her besties29 so she wasn't going to worry about it.

"So what are we going to do with them?" Ali nodded at the fallen trio before she blew over her tea to cool it down.

"Wanna decorate 'em?" Jen suggested.

It wasn't long before the three arch enemies of Ali and Jen revived. They found themselves covered in bows and Nate's shoes had been specially gift-wrapped to his feet (courtesy of Jen).

For the next couple of hours, everything was good. They all talked, caught up, drank tea and murdered all the cookies. It seemed like Christmas had finally touched the hearts of all involved. Ali was even gracious enough to let her two ex-employers visit their once-dragon (although Ali slapped Nate's hand when Nate tried to pet him).

As the night drew to a close and the members of M.O.O.S.E. started to gather their things, they all stood in the doorway awaiting their final goodbyes.

"It was great having you all here." Ali smiled at them.

"It was a lot of fun." Nichole agreed.

"Maybe we can do it again sometime?" Nate asked, hopeful that this party had mended all their issues.

Jen frowned and shook her head. Both women folded their arms across their chests. "I don't think so." Jen said.

M.O.O.S.E. & Co. looked shocked. "Why not?" John asked.

Ali shrugged. "It was a nice Christmas party, but I think it's time for things to go back to normal. After all, this is a Christmas special. It's not the real story. We haven't done anything epic yet. I think it's time for you guys to leave." On cue, the two hostesses started shoving their guests towards the door.

"But wait," Nate protested. "I thought we were all friends again. Everything was going to go back to normal. I would get Snuggles back!"

Ali chuckled. "Oh, Nate," she smiled sweetly. "His name is Gallifrey and he's mine. We've been over this. Besides, this team is good the way it is. We don't need you guys here." With that, Jen and Ali shoved the three out the door.

"Bye!" Jen shouted after them as the heavy front door slammed shut behind them.

Above them, flurries of snow began to fall. Each one pulled their jackets a little tighter around them and began walking heavily to their waiting coach.

"At least they called a coach for us," Nate added helpfully.

"Shut up, Nate." Nichole snapped. "Don't try to make this better. This sucks."


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