Jimmy and the dork patrol had to go to some fancy party downtown, and I got to come along! I went and
return frauded the hell out of borrowed this way cute pink neon one-strap cocktail with a chiffon mini and matching heels my feet are still glaring at me for. Not that anyone noticed. Sigh.
We got there first, riding past the valet. So totally Officer and a Gentleman. Jimmy left me at our table to case the party while we waited for the others. Jason, Scott, and Levi showed up together, stag, I guess? And Odile arrived looking all classy with some dashing Latino gentleman named Raoul. Jimmy swept in and took her arm, giving her the run-down as he escorted her to her seat. Which was way closer to the stage than ours.
“Oh, Jaaaaaaaames,” she Odiled, hanging onto his arm a bit longer than she needed to, “I’m dreadfully sorry you’re all stuck in the cheap seats.”
Jimmy said, “I’ve got some practice at the second-hand citizen thing.”
“At least you’re not serving drinks,” said Odile.
“Indian. Not Mexican,” said Jimmy, as Raoul showed up with cocktails.
Meanwhile, Scott started mingling, listening to the party buzz. Amid the totally boring blather, he picked up some excitement over Dr. Agard’s Estrazor chemo technology. Almost nothing had been released yet, so everyone was curious.
After about thirty minutes of chatter, Dr. Agard’s assistant Hal walked onstage. I know Jimmy and the gang suspected him of being one of those chimera freaks who tried to eat me, so I gave him my best glare. He stopped to wave to Odile after she shouted, “Harold, how are you!” and thanked everyone, especially the sponsors, for all their support. Apparently Odile was one of the sponsors. La-dee-da. He says there will be sixty minutes of boring speeches about how awesome it is to be white and have money to spare for causes, and then Dr. Agard will make a speech that also will be boring. He said it just like that, I swear!
An hour of awesome Keith Haring doodles on my napkin later, Dr. Agard got onstage, shaking like a deer at an orange vest fashion show. He dropped his note-cards, but Jason kelekinorganized them for him while Jimmy moved to stand on stage behind the doctor like a regularly scheduled bodyguard.
“Good evening everyone and thank you for coming to the event tonight,” he began. Still nervous, he listed like every last donor.
As he talked, Scott was scoping out the crowd for anything suspicious. Some people were drunk, but Dr. Agard’s “best friend” Dr. Oren, was stone sober up front. And fuming, totally doing the Iago thing. Levi, meanwhile, scanned the room with a loose sniper-scope he must’ve reconfigured into some sort of something useful.
Agard was just finishing up with the thanks, saying, “I would like to thank my dear friend Cecil” (that’s Dr. Oren) “for his constant support through these trying years,” when a noise came from above like someone pounding a giant steel drum. Cecil and Hal looked just as confused as everyone else, which may just mean their evil henchmen changed the plan. We don’t know!
Hal tries to get everyone to calm down, which was almost working till the lights cut out, at which point everything went crazy. Jimmy backed Dr. Agard up against the corner of the room, drawing Chief Sitting Shotgun and his tomahawk from his coat.
Before the panic could really kick into high gear, Scott told Jason to keep an eye on Cecil, and sneaked upstairs to check out the noise. He says he heard a roar echo down at him over the slam of massive feet on the steel steps.
Searching his bottomless pockets, Levi found a pocket flashlight and turned it on the elevators just in time to see a faint light shining between the doors, getting brighter by the moment.
“Might I point out the electricity is out, but the elevator is moving?” said Jason, trying to jam the silvery doors with his mind.
“Either they only cut the power on this floor or they’re moving it some other way,” Levi agreed.
In the panic, Odile dragged her date under the table. They were making noises I’d rather not think about for a while, and then she intoned, “My Void Bunny is on the roof. The door by the helipad has been forced inward.”
She grabbed Raoul’s head and her eyes went all non-Euclidean. Claws of black nothingness drilled into his flesh, and something like cloudstuff flowed from him into her hands. When she got up again, she seemed more spry than I’d ever seen her, hyped up on something.
Back in the stairwell, Scott changed his eyes to be like an owl’s, and they adjusted to show him Vicious Ox lurching down the stairs. His apelike form was completely gray, his arms longer and bandy-muscled. Twin tusks emerged from his face. He slammed into the door to the ballroom and we could all hear his roar shake the walls.
A moment later the elevator dinged open. People charged it, only to be greeted by a stampede of rats. Gross! Meanwhile, here’s me, thinking the best place to be in an emergency is with Jimmy, sneaking over to the far side of the room, away from the stempede, when a vent over my head comes crashing down. I barely jump aside as more rats fall from the shaft. Still, the guys were watching, so I kept my cool, but I will be taking and extra-hot double-cleansy shower later.
I did see Odile grab a rat to sniff it. “They’re lab rats,” she said. “No magic, but I do smell another animal. Something stampeded them up here.”
By this time, Dr. Agard had lost what little remained of his cool. So Jimmy said, “Rather someone else had the shotgun? I’ll help Cecil too, don’t worry.” That seemed to calm the doctor down a bit, just a second before the bullets came flying.
The bay windows shattered, glass showering the pavement far below, as a pair of somethings went “BRRREKK” and sprayed lead into the ballroom. Jimmy hit the deck with Agard, and Jason put up a forcefield, but poor Levi did his best Sonny Corleone. I was so busy shrieking I forgot to duck. Something sliced through my arm and sent me spinning. I couldn’t feel it, because shock, but the bullet had gouged a little canyon in my upper shoulder. I tore a strip from my skirt — so much for that return! — and made a bandage behind an overturned table.
With what strength he had, Levi tossed a champagne flute against Jason’s forcefield to get his attention. The doctor concentrated on Levi’s wounds, which closed up before my eyes. Whatever miracles Jason can work, anesthesia isn’t one of them, and I could hear poor Levi screaming even over the gunfire.
Odile, meanwhile, scampered over to where Jimmy had taken cover behind a speaker. “Oh James, darling, are you hurt?” she said, checking carefully, “I couldn’t live with myself if you were perforated.” I could see Jimmy wasn’t enjoying her touch, as if it felt cold and clammy and just a smidge evil.
Vicious Ox finished bashing the door in, sending it careening through the room before he ducked through the doorway and bellowed, all spitty. Shotgun over his shoulder, Tomhawk over the other, Jimmy strolled forward. “Look at you!” he said, “One ass-kicking a la Raindance and you hit the ’roids.”
That got under his rhyno-hide, and Vicious Ox charged blindly.
Bullets rumbled through the room again, and this time I saw the female Chimera swooping by on black bat-wings, muzzle of an Uzi flashing in each hand. Or she did have two before something like a living gargoyle dove at her, knocking one of the guns away.
With nothing mechanical to work with, Levi instead put his inventive skills to use on the rats, throwing one at Ox’s head. Batting the squirming critter away, Ox turned from Jimmy to glare with its piggy red eyes at Levi, who yelled, “JIMMYYYYY! PUNCH IT TO DEATH!”
“On it, sorta,” said Jimmy, using his shotgun like a club in one hand, ’hawk in the other as he slipped behind Vicious Ox to deliver rapid blows along its spine.
“Bonchance, James!” Odile shouted as she retreated with the Dr. Agard, leading him to safety.
Focusing his will, Jason stood up from behind cover and squinted very hard at Vicious Ox, who began to slip backwards, the squirming rats underfoot making it hard for him to find his footing, though he was just too huge to push all at once. Weaving around to face the monster, Jimmy flipped Chief Sitting Shotgun up, caught it by stock, and kablam! Right in the face!
Enraged, his face all ruiny, Ox swatted Jimmy with the back of his hand, sweeping him out the window. But Jimmy held onto his wrist and swung him all the way around, skidding on his knees back into the room and hacking Ox in the Ken-doll parts as he slid past.
Behind them, the flying she-maera and the gargoyle I figure was Scott had a dogfight in midair. Wouldn’t it be neat if there was, like, an animated show about gargoyle-like creatures fighting crime in a modern city? Like, by Disney or something? I would totally watch that show. Anyhow, Scott dodged several hails of bullets and dove at her again, knocking the other gun out of her hands before they want at it, his claws against her eagle talons.
Upgrading to Thrown Rat 2.0, Levi tied two of those ugly wormy tails together and threw a rat-bolo at Vicious Ox’s face. He roared as they clawed at his eyes, and with one more mental shove, Jason sent him plummeting out the window. “Bye, Felicia,” he said.
Seeing Ox fall, the winged woman shrunk into a hawk and flew away. We herded the party-goers downstairs. Nothing like stumbling down a couple thousand steps barefoot, heels in-hand, bleeding into a strip of two-hundred-dollar dress and listening to the Cotillion club whine about how getting shot at is too Tenderloin for their tastes. I could’ve danced all night, Diary.
At least Odile didn’t look much better when we finally hit the lobby, emergency lights flooding through the windows. She’d just set Dr. Agard down from a fireman’s carry, using what I guess was the last of Raoul’s strength. “Ah,” she said, “There you are. We were halfway down when the good doctor here got a case of rigor sans mortis. Some clever boots must’ve slipped him a paralytic. Jason, do be a dear?”
Jason did be, and drew the poison from his veins into a paper cup to microscope later.
Only then did Jimmy notice me, slinging his jacket over my shoulders. “You okay, kid?”
“Sure.” I did my best John Cleese: “It’s only a flesh wound!”
“Atta girl,” he said, and ruffled my hair. Like a kid. I leaned my good shoulder against him and didn’t say anything.
Maybe it’s time to tell him about that letter from Berkeley.