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Chasing The Iris

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            A hand belonging to the owner of a Seattle coffee shop known as the Bean Barn pats down a microphone with a tap tap. A brief test before the main event. “Thank you for coming tonight, folks! Happy Fourth of July!” The crowd cheers on the holiday as they all drink joyfully with one another. “You know what time it is - Karaoke Night! Uh huh, first up are two lovely ladies whom you may have heard of! They’re kind of a big deal! Give it up for Victoria Chase and Kate Marsh!”

            Victoria and Kate, both dressed casually for the hot summer on the West Coast, run up on stage and stand around the microphone, briefly adjusting it. Victoria lowers it a bit for Kate given the size difference between the two. As the instrumental beginnings of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” kick in, the two look into each other’s eyes and the lyrics come to them naturally:

            “ I come home, in the morning light,

My mother says, ‘When you gonna live ya life right?’,

Oh mama dear, we’re not the fortunate ones

And girls, they wanna have fuuun

Oh, girls just wanna have fuuuuun

            They keep singing as the lyrics fade into the world around them. For now, their focus is on one another. What a life to live together. It has gotten strange, scary, amazing, boring, saddening, beautiful. But what matters to the two of them is that they are happy together. Nothing will tear them apart. Especially not a passionate kiss as the song reaches the instrumental bridge to Verse 3. Victoria leans in and takes Kate into a kiss. The two step apart, smiling tenderly at one another, to continue the song as the next verse comes around.

            After finishing the song together, the two return to their table where Naton is sipping a tall mug of root beer. Nowadays, he dresses more like a regular human being rather than a caveman: t-shirt, cargo shorts, sandals and a plastic viking helmet he stole off some random man’s head… Victoria is still teaching him about being sociable.

            A waitress appears with two cups of coffee. She informs Victoria and Kate, "They're on the house! Thanks for singing!"

            Victoria tells her, "Hey, it was our pleasure.", and the waitress walks away.

            Naton raises his mug triumphantly and exclaims, "Dog bless America!"

            Victoria asks, "Max taught you that one, didn't she?"

            "Yus." Kate giggles and Naton grins at his friends.

            Victoria rolls her eyes jokingly and says, "Figures." Victoria turns her attention to Kate and smiles at her, "Oh my God, Katie, you did great up there!"

            Kate corrects her, "We did great up there."

            Naton nods his head and says, with root beer trickling down his beard. "Mhm!" He rasies his mug once more to the two girls and exclaims again, "CHAIRS!"

            Victoria giggles at Naton’s mispronunciation, pours some milk and sugar into her coffee and puts forward her cup. Kate raises a cup of green tea and the three clink their drinks. Together, Kate and Victoria tell Naton, "Cheers." They turn to face each other and just can’t help but smile some more.


 

            The drive back to Arcadia Bay is as peaceful as it has always been. The cityscape of Seattle fades away as the naturality of Oregon takes hold in this neck of the nation. Eventually, the little towns crop up and, before you know it, the Lighthouse is welcoming you into the Bay.

            Victoria is busy driving but she still has Kate, sitting next to her asleep up front, on her mind. Both her and the imminent end of days prophesied by that March dream. By Dolly. By Max. She knows that her marriage to Kate is supposed to come before it but, with the Storm Singer incident, Dolly’s continued interactions with Max, and now this little A-Team Max has formed with her other buddies - Project Morpho - the end feels closer than it should.

            As the bright beam of the Lighthouse gazes upon her car and the Bay comes into view, she puts these doubtful thoughts at the back of her head and looks forward to whatever good may- no, will - come with her friends around.

            Ring ring! A six-person bicycle rings its bell as it pedals closely past Victoria's car. Victoria sticks her head out of the window to her side and harshly tells the bicyclists, "Hey, be careful!"

            The driver, an elderly woman in a pink dress, glares at Victoria before turning her attention back to the road and speeding away. Victoria shakes her head and just drives on.


 

            In the office of a cabin deep in the Redwood Forests of Humboldt County, the drug manufacturer Merrill talks with top kingpin Teddy Iris over the phone. He urges his boss, “We need numbers, Teddy! These four workers here are fine, but they certainly can’t push for the results you want.”

            Coldly, Teddy tells him, “Then, you get them to recruit. Or you push them hard. Get livid or get lost, y’know?”

            Merrill shakes his head and tiredly says, “I get it, man.”

            “Good. That’s why you’re the man, Merrill.” Teddy pauses and adds, “It’s just, with that damn Rachel Amber out of my hands, out there in Arcadia Bay, things are getting stressful.”

            “The bureaucrats givin’ you crap again?”

            Teddy chuckles. “The Agency’s given me a bit to be honest. I certainly wouldn’t use the word ‘crap’. Their new wormhole watch was good for what it was worth - its elegant design with the gold and black, and its ability to… well, time travel.. And my money was surely worth it to them.”

            Merrill huffs in shock, “Time travel? That’s some scary shit, man.”

            “Don’t worry, I’m not fucking with the past. They highly advised against it. The future on the other hand. That’s fair game.”

            “Figures. Where’d you go?”

            Teddy scoffs, “I didn’t go anywhere. Can’t, remember? Had two of my guys go to the future, 2038, grab a robot or android or whatever. Now, he’s all mine.”

            Merrill laughs a bit. “You’ve got the sick inner workings of a supervillain, my friend.”

            “Amen, brother. Ah. Gotta go. Stay safe out there.”

            “Yeah, you too.” Merrill hangs up the phone and says to himself, “This shit’s crazy.”

            A young woman’s voice arises from within the office: “Yeah. Life gets weird like that sometimes.”

            Merrill grabs his shotgun from underneath his desk and aims it at the female intruder standing in front of his door. He demands to know, “Who the fuck are you?”

            The young lady waves and another woman’s rougher voice tells him, “That’s Max Caulfield. Goddess of Time.” The other woman steps out of the shadows, revealing Chloe Price. She takes a seat at a table and puts her feet up on it.

            “Who are you exactly?”

            Chloe introduces herself to Merrill: “Chloe Price. Badass punk zombie. I believe you can help us and we can help you.”

            Merrill begrudgingly asks, “You two lookin’ for a job or something?”

            Max crosses her arms and tells him, “No. We’re looking for information on Teddy Iris. You just had a conversation with him.”

            “For your sake, you should forget about it.”

            Max steps away from the door to stand with Chloe and adds, “I know, but he’s a threat. You know he’s a threat.” She pauses and asks him, “You’re worried for your daughter. Maya?”

            Merrill steps around and approaches Max and Chloe with the shotgun. “You should be worried for your life, bitch.”

            Chloe looks at Max and yells out, “Max!”

            Max puts a hand on Chloe’s shoulder and softly tells her with a smile, “I got this. Let me handle it.” She stands in front of Chloe and adds, “We can help y-”

            Merrill prepares to hit Max with the butt of the gun, yelling, “You need to shut the fu-” Max grabs the gun and pushes it away. “You’re fast. My gun’s faster.” He aims his shotgun at Max’s face and pulls the trigger.

             CLICK . It’s empty. “What the hell?”

            Max reveals to him that she is holding the rounds in her hand. She tosses them aside and tells him, “Merrill, I can help you.”

            “Bullshit! You’ve just endangered my family’s life! If Teddy finds out-”

            “You mean this family?” Max shows him a photograph of Merrill’s wife and daughter smiling with Rachel and Rose Amber.

            “What is this?”

            “It’s my gift.” Max shakes the photo while looking at it and it begins to glow before growing into a wormhole. “Oh, you might wanna toss the gun away.”

            Merrill tosses his shotgun aside and Chloe tells her, “Y’know, Max, you probably should’ve started off with that.”

            Merrill steps away and out of the wormhole steps his daughter, alive and well. “Dad!”

            “Maya!” He hugs his daughter with a smile on his face. and his wife, Lorna, steps out of the portal with Rachel and Rose Amber following behind. The wormhole closes and Max hands the photograph to Maya.

            Maya tells her father, “Dad, these people are so cool!” She points to Rachel and Rose as they walk up to Max and Chloe.

            Rachel says to Chloe, “Hey.” Chloe smiles and the two fistbump. “It was a tough fight, but we got them out. Not a hair harmed.”

            Chloe says, “Awesomesauce.”

            Maya asks her, “Did you just say ‘awesomesauce’?”

            Chloe shrugs and tells her with a smile, “Uh huh.”

            Merrill jumps in and asks, “Okay, this is cool and all, but what about after all this? Teddy’s a tough man and he won’t just accept me leaving.”

            Max snaps three passports into her hand. All for Merrill and his family. “We can help you with that too. Just tell us what you know about Teddy.”

             "Fine. 'You scratch my back, I scratch yours'. He's a ghost of a guy. I've never met him in person but he gave me this job and it paid nicely for my daughter."

            Max asks, "He said something about an android from the future. What could he use that for?"

            "Muscle, no doubt. I mean, you quit on him-” Merrill points to Rachel “- and now, he has all of you to worry about." Merrill points at Max, Chloe, Rachel and Rose.

            Chloe lets out a laugh and says, "Makes sense."

            Max tells her, "It's the same thing Eric told Daniel a few days ago."

            Merrill can only shrug, "Hey, it's true."

            "It is." Max hands the passports to Merrill and his family. "Alright, thank you for your help in fighting the forces of evil, Mr. Merrill. Or should I say…"

            Even though Lorna and Maya seem to be extremely happy with what they’ve gotten, Merrill almost throws his fake passport away in anger: "'McLovin'? Are you kidding me?"

            Max laughs, taking away the passport, and tells him, "I am. Here you go." She hands him a new passport with a name that is longer than one word.

            "'Jax Remington'? What am I, in a fighting game?” Max shrugs innocuously. “Sure, that can work. Thank you, Max." Merill puts his hand forward to Max, who shakes it.

            "All in a day's work. C’mon, you guys. Hold onto me." Chloe holds Max’s hand. Rachel grabs Max’s shoulder and Rose holds Rachel’s free hand. Max looks into a photograph of Blackwell Academy and the four enter a wormhole after it opens. It closes behind them as they all go through.


 

            Oregon State Penitentiary: a home for some of the Beaver State’s cruelest minds. They are meant to be rehabilitated. But some minds never change.

            In the cafeteria, prisoners eat dinner as fireworks erupt in the skies outside. And especially enjoying his holiday meal of burgers is the cantankerous Tangi, the Happy Clown. He bumps the shoulder of the inmate next to him to say, “This is just scrumptious! Whaddya think, Jeffy?” He holds a half-eaten burger up to Mark Jefferson’s angry face and shakes it a bit.

            Jefferson shrugs and crosses his arms. “It’s fine. I’ve had worse.”

            Tangi looks over at a new inmate sitting at a far away table. An older man with bruises covering his face. He was once the Storm Singer, but he sadly sings a jailbird’s tune nowadays. “What’s the new guy’s deal?”

            Jefferson corrects him, “He’s been here for two months. He’s not new.”

            Tangi laughs at this remark. “Try telling him that! Hah! Look at him, a sad little Christian.”

            Jefferson thinks back to his days of freedom. He thinks back to his old victims. “Heh. Yeah.” Jefferson turns his attention back to Tangi and asks, “Hey, what’s the status on you and your girlfriend?”

            “She’s not my girlfriend. And she’s getting both of us out. Real soon.”

            A devious smirk crosses the ex-professor’s mouth. “I like the sounds of that.”

            The cafeteria grows silent and time seemingly freezes as everyone besides them - prisoner and guard alike - pause at a standstill. Squeaky wheels roll closer and closer to the devious duo. Tangi smiles to himself and Jefferson asks, “What is this?”

             Ring ring ! Psychic supervillain Dolly pulls up to the two’s table while riding a six-person bicycle. Sitting behind her in is a big man with a golden scarf wrapped around his head and darkness with two white eyes underneath, a monstrous being of loose clothing with a feathery chicken mask for a head, and a man in a leather jacket with spiky metal hair flourishing across his body as if he were a Muppet. Hovering around the bike is a black leather box, closed with a metal latch.

            Dolly points at Jefferson and Tangi, and tells the two, “We’re your meal ticket outta here, Dahmerson. Hop aboard Dolly’s Trolley!” Tangi rushes onto a free seat and Jefferson reluctantly takes the seat behind the clown.

            Dolly snaps her fingers, putting helmets on the heads of herself and her villainous compatriots. “Next stop: Culmination!”

            Jefferson groans, “That’s so far away!”

            Tangi shrugs and looks back at him to tell him, “Live a little, El Jefe-rson!” And with that, the gang of villains are off to the races, pedalling to their next destination.

Chapter Text

            Lying coolly in bed together, Kate and Victoria - now dressed in their pajamas - look at one another with love in their eyes. A cool orange light illuminates the room courtesy of Kate’s superpowers. It’s only a matter of time until slumber takes them both for the night.

            She tells Victoria, “That place was so nice. We should go there again some time.”

            “Yeah. I used to go sometimes during my vacations. Wasn’t the best, but it was perfectly fine. I’m happy to have taken you there.” Victoria places a hand on Kate’s cheek and adds, “Also, your singing voice is beautiful. Between that and your violining, you could start a band!”

            Kate lets out an easing laugh, lighting the apartment up just a bit brighter. “Maybe all of us can once this whole ‘end of the world’ business blows over.”

            “I hope…” Victoria pauses and corrects herself: “I’m certain we’ll get that far. Farther, even.”

            “We will.” Kate pulls a blanket over her and Victoria, and plants a kiss on the top of her head. “Good night, Vic.”

            “Good night, Katie. I love you.” Kate aims her palm at the ceiling and re-absorbs the light from the room, engulfing the room in natural darkness. The two hold onto one another and fall asleep quickly.

            In that darkness lurks Dolly, standing in the corner. She stares at the two as her eyes glow a dull white light.

            Internally, Dolly monologues, “ I hope you two enjoy what the boss has in store for you .” Dolly walks over to the cage of Alice the Rabbit and opens it. Quietly, she lifts the small rabbit out of her cage and shushes it to keep her quiet. She tosses a ransom letter into the cage as well before turning to the kitchen. Quietly, she slinks out through the window in the kitchen and down to the streets where her villainous associates are awaiting her return.

            The man with the metal mane asks, “What’d ya get?”

            “Insurance for the future, Elmer. Let’s go.” Dolly hops onto her front seat and plops her helmet on her head.

            Jefferson shakes his head and adds, “Uh… Okay.” The crew begin pedalling away from Overlook Avenue. “Tangi, what’s this chick’s deal?”

            “We’re going to war in the near future, Jeffrey. We’re going to be fighting on the frontlines!”

            Dolly looks back and tells the two, “Keep it down back there.”

            “Sorry.” Tangi looks to Jefferson and tells him, “We’re going to bring about the end of Arcadia Bay.”

            Jefferson rolls his eyes and asks, “You really bought that Storm Singer’s end-of-days crap?”

            Dolly tells him, with her eyes on the road ahead, “He’s not the propagator. Just a helping hand. Like us.”

            “Okay, so, if we’re ‘going to war’ who is our enemy?”

            Tangi states, with a firm look on his face: “Maxine Caulfield and her friends.”

            Jefferson’s eyes widen and he speaks nothing, in shock… until he erupts into a fit of laughter: “Ah ha, oh ha, what? My former student - the shy Miss Caulfield - is some goddess of time? Oh ho, oh man. That’s- ah - I may have made some errors in my criminal career, but that’s just…” Tangi gives Jefferson a serious look. “You’re serious?”

            Dolly explains, “Yes, Jefferson, she’s one of our primary enemies. And boy, is she fun to fight. Also, keep it down, I heard police sirens.”

            Tangi playfully scoffs and adds, “I’d use ‘annoying’, but to each their own.”

            “How is she our enemy? She’s all shy, lonely, depressing to look at.”

            Tangi raises a hand and counts off with his fingers. “Let’s see; she put you in jail, foiled my Halloween scheme, is Dolly’s natural nemesis, and… I dunno, has a bad fashion sense.”

            Jefferson asks, shocked as can be, “She what?!”

            Tangi repeats himself, “Has a bad fashion se-”

            “Not that! I mean, she put me in jail?! How?!”

            “Time powers. According to Dolly, she - or rather, some other version of her - came back from the future to let Nathan Prescott kill Chloe Price. This led to him and you getting thrown in jail, and the Prescotts getting the boot, and a whole bunch of stuff nobody cares about.”

            Jefferson balls his hands into fists and angrily growls, “That… That bitch.” He turns his attention to the other villains and asks, “What are your guyses deal with her?”

            The man with the metal mane tells him, “Us? Oh, um, nothing really. She actually seems quite nice, if anything. All that matters is that I’m getting paid richly.”

            Dolly tells Jefferson, “They’re just muscle. Good muscle. Let me introduce them to you. The jacket’s name is Elmer. He’s like a metal porcupine. Or Muppet depending on how you look at him.”

            Elmer waves at Jefferson with a snide smile on his face. “Hiya.”

            Nervously, Jefferson waves at him, “Hi.”

            “The walking pile of laundry is the godly Lord Laundry, and the scarf’s name is Jumbo. He can grow twenty feet tall. You already know Tangi, the Happy Clown.” Tangi nods giddily. “And of course, me. I am Dolly. A psychic psychopath on the path that fate has put me on.”

            “Well, hello to all of you.” Jefferson looks at the box floating around them and asks, “Who’s in the box?”

            Dolly nods. “You’ll see. Now, who are you?”

            Jefferson laughs and arrogantly tells the crew, “Surely, you must’ve heard of me.”

            Elmer shakes his head, Lord Laundry ignores the question and Jumbo is dead silent. Elmer suddenly remembers, “Oh, I know you! You’re that shitty photographer! Makes sense.”

            “‘Sh-shitty’?! I’ll have you know I am a published artist, author and professor.”

            Elmer rolls his eyes and tells him, “Ooh-wee, how cool. I’ve also published shit.”

            Jefferson asks as a challenge, “Oh, really?”

            “No, biiiitch!” Elmer laughs heartily and Lord Laundry offers him a high-five which he accepts. Jefferson sighs, upset. “Aw, creepo gonna cry? Boo-hoo. What’s this loser doing with us again, Dolly?”

            “He’s here to bring the hurt. Emotional hurt and all that. And because he was in the dream I had. Plus, it means Tangi gets to come along and, quite frankly, I like him. He’s got spunk.”

            Tangi smiles at Jefferson and tells him, “D’aww. She lik-”

            “I heard.” Jefferson crosses his arms and looks off at the Oregon wilderness, annoyed. “How- how long until we reach our destination?”

            “Five minutes.”

            “Really?”

            Dolly shrugs and sarcastically tells him, “Sure.” The villains laugh at him again. “I’m gonna take a call of sorts. Be right back, y’all.” Dolly clutches her forehead and sends her consciousness out to Missouri for a quick talk with another villain. One who is unable to attend this gathering of goons.


 

            In the other Max’s cell located at the Agency of Metahuman Containment’s Missouri Base, the doppelganger fiddles with a photograph of a train on the outskirts of Arcadia Bay. She believes she took it once, when she was hanging out with Chloe. She’s also in the photograph… under the train. Dolly nods in approval, surprising the other Max. The psychic supervillain mentally yells, “ Hey there, you !”

            The other Max looks at Dolly’s mental apparition in confusion and asks, “ Ah, Dolly? It’s been how long? Two months?

            “ Give or take, yes. I’d like to let you know about the mission.

            “ Yes, I’m aware of it. The end of days, back on track. And I know my place. But my time isn’t now.

            Dolly tells her, “ Yep. That’s Christmas. Heh. ” She offers the other Max her hand and asks, “ But, uh, just for the record, no hard feelings?

            The other Max grins, taking her hand and calmly telling her, “ None. Now, go and wreck some shit out there, will ya? And then, come Christmas, I’ll be playing my part.

            Dolly’s mask smirks and she nods gleefully, telling her, “ Ooh, I forgot how much I liked ya! Here’s to the future! And here’s to death. Tootles! ” Dolly waves goodbye to the doppelganger and disappears into the wind.


 

            After roughly five more hours of pedalling and with the sun shortly on the rise, the criminal crew reach their destination: a pristine white mansion with a fountain out front on the driveway. The mansion rests on the edge of Culmination, away from prying eyes. Dolly speaks into an intercom near the gate to get in: “Teddy, we’re here!”

            He speaks through to them. “Come on in.”

            The villains ride in and stop the motorcycle by the water fountain as it shoots fluorescent blue water. They step off their bicycle and briefly stretch their legs before marching up the stairs to the porch, through the front door, past the luxurious living room, and into Teddy’s office.

            Teddy sits and stares at a logfire behind him with a Cuban cigar in his mouth. He wears a black two-piece business suit with a white buttoned shirt underneath. His hair is jet black and his face is strong, straight, almost set in stone… or silicone, if you look hard enough. He also has a band-aid slapped onto his right temple. He spits out the smoke and spins around in his chair to see the villains standing at his desk. “Ah, greetings. Glad to see you’ve all come. Dolly, thank you for bringing them.”

            Dolly curtsies for the crime lord. “It was a pleasure.”

            Teddy smiles and asks of the villains, “Please, tell me about yourselves.”

            Lord Laundry demonstrates his ability to stretch his limbs with socks in his arms - all connected to a feathery yellow jacket as a torso. “Freaky. But I am interested.”

            Elmer sticks a finger on his head of hair and shows a small drop of blood spill from his right index finger. “Ouch. Close range combat can definitely work. You like guns too?” Elmer nods frantically. “We’ll get you a gun.”

            Tangi blows a gray balloon and distorts it into an adorable little elephant. He distorts it again to turn it into a greatsword. “Impressive, quite a sick skill.” Tangi lets out a giggle to which Teddy adds, “And a lovely little laugh. Keep that, clown.”

            Jumbo gets down on one knee and grows larger, almost touching the ceiling. “Careful with the ceiling, boy, or you’ll pay in blood.” He shrinks and curtsies for Teddy as well.

            Jefferson waves at Teddy, who is unimpressed by the perverted photographer. “I suppose you’ll work well when we have to face Miss Caulfield. According to Dolly, she’s had… a history with you.”

            Teddy walks over to the leather box and unlatches it. “Now, for the man in the box.” He opens it and sees a dismembered corpse. He looks for the head and lifts it up with his bare hands, much to the disgust of his villainous cohorts. “Long time, no see. Mister Merrick. Dolly, Shrub, to me at once.”

            Elmer points at the villain and exclaims, “Aww, shit. I knew that guy once!”

            Tangi asks, “What’s up with him?”

            “That’s Damon friggin’ Merrick. He’s a ruthless bastard with a history of crime in Arcadia Bay. Stabbings, assaults, attempted murder, regular murder, dealing.”

            Tangi strokes his chin and adds, “Hm. Interesting.”

            The door to the office opens again and another crook - the shrubbery man who granted the Storm Singer with the ability to make mini-tornadoes - walks in. “Welcome. Meet Shrub.” Teddy dumps Merrick’s head back into the box and asks, “Dolly, can you and Shrub put Mister Merrick back together again?”

            “Of course!” Dolly walks up to the box with Shrub who shoots an infinite red ribbon from his hand into the box. Dolly rubs her forehead and adds, “Rise, oh so-so Merrick! Your death must be undone just this once so as to serve the essence of further pain and pillaging! Rise!”

            Shrub cuts off the ribbon and it rolls into the box.

            Silence befalls the office.

            Jefferson asks Dolly in a whisper, “Was any of that chanting really necessary?”

            Dolly whispers back, “No. It was just fun.”

            Damon Merrick emerges from the box, his body wrapped in red ribbons to keep him from falling apart. He screams, “AAAAAAGH! Holy fuck, where am I?! Who the fuck are you people?!”

            Dolly looks around and tells him, “We’re… uh, a supervillain team without a name. We’re gonna come up with one soon enough.” She puts a shoulder on his arm to reassure him and he jolts away from her.

            “That doesn’t answer my question. Where. Am. I?”

            Teddy tells him, “You’re in Culmination.”

            Damon smirks and remarks, “Oh, hey, Teddy. Did I… I died?”

            Teddy nods and asks, “What do you remember?”

            “I had just finished beatin’ up this kid. Name was Chloe Price. Friend of the DA’s daughter. But then, my buddy, fake friend Frank Bowers, fucked me up. Sliced me up. Killed me. Fuck him.”

            “Indeed. You’ve missed a lot. Four years in fact.”

            Damon steps back in shock: “Oh my god, that long?”

            “Yes. And in that time, the world has gotten… strange. We now have superheroes running around. People like Maxine Caulfield, the Superwolf, Rachel Amber and more cropping up from out of the woodworks. Miss Caulfield in particular threatens my business. She has slowly been dismantling my empire - Frank, Merrill, Eric across the border, the Santa Monica crew. The list goes on. But I feel that, to combat superheroes, I need supervillains. And thus, I require your services to dispose of her and her friends… in some team. ‘Project Morpho’, she calls it.”

            Elmer asks, “Can we get a name?”

            “Aye. You shall henceforth be known as… my Enforcers Eight!” The villains cheer and Teddy smiles upon them.

            Tangi cracks wise while rubbing his belly: “Doesn’t make me any less hungry.” The villains all nod and mutter in agreement.

            “You may go to the kitchen, use it as you please. Feast! For tomorrow… Our reign begins.” The villains charge into the kitchen, save for Dolly and Jefferson who stay behind with Teddy. He asks her, “What’s the bunny for?”

            Dolly looks at Alice, holding her carefully in one hand, as she feeds her a nice carrot. “A hostage. We need to let them know we mean business.”

            “Ah. Who’s bunny is that?”

            Dolly fixes her attention on Teddy and adds, “Does it matter? They won’t hurt us right away now. If this bunny dies, it’ll… make them feel really sad.”

            Teddy shrugs and walks away, saying to himself, “Whatever.”

            Jefferson looks around and asks Dolly, “So am I just gonna run around and… shoot my enemies?”

            “No, no, I’ve got something special for you.” Dolly hands the rest of the carrot to Alice and summons a camera-helmet that has a black cape with red velvet lining the inside. She holds it in her free hand. “Go ahead. Try it on.” The helmet floats out of her hand and into Jefferson’s grasp.

            He puts it on over his head and comments, “Feels stuffy in here.”

            Dolly crushes her free hand into a fist and exclaims, “Project that pain onto your enemies!”

            Jefferson shrugs. “Fine.” He walks away to join the other villains in the kitchen.


 

            Victoria looks out at the Hudson River from an apartment in downtown New York as the sun sets. She’s dressed in a red sweater and black leggings. Her hair is also a bit longer than usual. Kate, dressed in a brown t-shirt and jeans, walks over to her and hugs her from behind, bringing a smile to Vic’s face. Her hair has been done up into a braid. Kate tells her, “Max just called. Said her and Chloe are doing great work in Paraguay!”

            Victoria nods her head with a smile. “Cool… Wait, what?”

            Kate looks around and asks, “What is this?”

            “I feel floaty.” Victoria realizes the situation, taps her forehead and proclaims, “Oh, we’re in a dream! Again.”

            “Oh, boy.”

            Victoria looks around and enjoys the change of scenery. “This is nice though. No end of the world… And…” Victoria looks at her hand and looks at Kate’s hand. Wedding rings on their middle fingers. “There are our wedding rings. Ha! Oh, good.”

            Kate tells her, “You know, I’ve always wanted to visit New York. Seems nice.”

            Victoria tells her with a nice grin, “It is. Or, most of it is.” She cups Kate’s chin in her hand and tells her, “How about I take you there one day?”

            Kate nods her head and smiles. “I’d like that.” She walks away into their bedroom and says, “Hey, Vic.”

            Victoria follows her in, asking, “Yeah?” But she isn’t in the bedroom.

            With more urgency, Kate calls out from nowhere, “Vic!”

            Victoria looks around, now a bit worried, and asks her again, “What? What’s happening?”


 

            “VIC!” Kate shakes Victoria by her arms and wakes her up.

            Victoria shakily looks around the apartment and asks, “Whahapp-”

            “Alice is missing!”

            Vic’s eyes open wide and she jumps out of bed, panicked. She gets onto the floor and peeks under the bed with Kate. “How? She was in her cage, right?”

            “Yeah, but…” Kate steps on a piece of paper. Dolly’s ransom letter. “Someone left this.” Kate shows Victoria the letter Dolly left behind, written with magazine cutouts.

 

“DeaR VIC Tori A & k A Te,

We HAvE kIdNAPpED UR preCiOUS aLICE n the ONly way 2 get her back is 2 turn over Max n Chloe to TEDDY in culMINation within thE next 24 HRS. If NOT, we WILLI be havING rabbit stew. TICK TOCK.

l0 VE , Dolly <3

 

            “Why’d she use magazine cutouts if she’s going to sign it too? Makes no sense.” Kate gives a worrisome look to Victoria and she adds, “Okay. We need to talk with Max and Chloe… I can try and make a deal with Dolly. You can talk with Max and Chloe.” Victoria plops a kiss on Kate’s forehead and tells her, “I’ll get her back. Promise.” She walks out of the apartment.

            Kate balls her hand into a fist and looks at it as it glows, absorbing the emerging sunlight from the sky.

Chapter Text

            Blackwell Academy was once a home to Arcadia Bay's "brightest minds" - a debatable statement to say the least. After it was shut down in the aftermath of Chloe Price's death, it laid abandoned up until one month ago when, feeling the need for coordination with the others in Project Morpho, Max Caulfield bought only the campus and retrofitted it into a base of operations - a home for Arcadia Bay's last line of defense... save for the military, maybe. Now, the new Chloe works while Rachel and Rose Amber patrol the area and catch up on the things in the Bay that they had missed.

            Chloe stands in the center of a classroom retrofitted into a communications center full of computer monitors and television sets with friends all around. She speaks to them, one by one, with a Chock-O-Crisp bar in one hand: “How are things looking in Santa Monica, Tristan?”

            On this television set, Tristan - a young man with pale skin, black hair and black clothing - says, “Me and Helen managed to take down the remaining guys here. Rose sure did a number on them a few months back. Now though? They’ve scattered out of town and gone dark.”

            Chloe nods and looks to another screen on a computer monitor. “Cool. Rog?”

            On this computer monitor, Rog explains, “Yeah, the guys down here in Kentucky didn’t see a thing coming from us. Well, except my CRAP! Ahahaha!”

            Chloe facepalms and lets out a sly laugh. “Gro-ho-hoss, but not bad. Daniel?”

            On this television set, Daniel Diaz - clad in crimson as the vigilante Superwolf - tells her, “Eric hasn’t said more than I pushed him for. That Teddy’s a bad guy on the loose.”

            Chloe takes a bite of her Chock-O-Crisp bar and tells him with a smile, “Okay.”

            Outside of the classroom, Kate yells desperately for her friends: “Max, Chloe!”

            Rose softly tells her, “Kate, Chloe’s busy in-”

            Kate, dressed in a brown hoodie with a white romper underneath and with her hair done up in a bun, pulls open the door to the communications center and yells out, “Max! Chloe!”

            Chloe turns to face her and asks, “Kate? What’s wrong?”

            “It’s Dolly! She’s back and she kidnapped my rabbit, Alice! And she wants you and Max in exchange!”

            Chloe realizes the gravity of the situation and runs to the door, yelling into the hallway. “Oh- Max!”

            Max teleports into the classroom and says, “I’m here.” She walks up to Kate and asks, “Alice kidnapped by Dolly, you say?”

            Shakily, Kate tells her, “Uh huh! What are we goin-”

            Max grabs Kate’s shoulders and softly tells her with a friendly smile, “Shshsh, calm down. Where’s Victoria?”

            “She went to make a deal with Teddy.”

            Chloe groans annoyedly, adding, “That stupid- ugh.”

            Max solemnly tells her, “We need to head her off on the way there, or join her, something like that!”

            Chloe looks at her and asks, “Wha- now?!”

            “Yes. Now. If she messes up - which is certainly possible, I mean, it’s Victoria - it means she’ll die and Alice’ll die. Then, whatever happens next? Certainly won’t be good.” Max looks at the Amber women and asks them, “Rachel, Rose, you’re coming with us?”

            Rachel tells her, “Of course.”

            Rose interjects and adds, “Teddy has some blood to pay us back for.” She crosses her arms and cracks her neck.

            Max shrugs and says, “That makes sense. We’re gonna need these.” She pulls out several wrist bracelets forged from aluminum foil.

            Rose holds one in her fingers and asks, “Bracelets?”

            “Aluminum bracelets. You know how it goes with psychics. Blocks them from getting into your head.”

            Rachel asks Max, “That really works?”

            Max tells her, “You’d be surprised. C’mon now, we haven’t a second to lose!” 


 

            Victoria drives through the Oregon countryside on her way up to Culmination. She’s dressed for business in a red sleeveless top, black shorts, sunglasses and sneakers. The windows of her car are up and the breeze is blowing inside.

            Suddenly, a blue butterfly lands on the windshield and crawls over to the front passenger seat window. She flutters to the back, turns into Max, and tosses a photograph of Blackwell Academy into the back seat. The photograph turns into a wormhole and Kate steps out first, moving up front to sit beside Victoria. The two kiss as Chloe, Rachel and Rose step out and take a seat next to Max in the back.

            Victoria keeps her eyes on the road but says to everyone, “Uh, hi.”

            Max waves to her, as she can see in the rear-view mirror. “Hello, Vic. We heard about your plan.”

            “Here, wear this.”Kate hands Victoria an aluminum bracelet which she takes.

            “Shiny.” Victoria puts the aluminum bracelet on her right wrist along with several other bracelets she has gathered in the past. “Thanks. Don’t worry, Katie. I have a plan.”


 

            Inside the mansion, Dolly slyly asks Teddy as he attaches the golden wormhole watch to his left wrist. “You do now?”

            Teddy buttons up his shirt and tells her, “Yeah. Just gonna talk with her and try to broker a deal. I’m pretty good at that.”


 

            Chloe tells Victoria, “No, you’re not. Trust me, Vic. I know you. We all know you.. Plus, these guys are dangerous criminals, so…”

            Victoria playfully shrugs and responds, “So I’ll just be careful. What’s the worst that can happen?”

            Rachel tells her, “You’ll get captured! And it’ll suck for you.”


 

            “I’ll find a way out." Teddy hides a small knife in one of his pants pockets. "But worst comes to worst, I’ll need you all to jump in and take them to task. We outnumber them, remember?”

            Dolly sighs and adds, “I appreciate your optimism-”


 

            Chloe tells Victoria with worry in her throat, “- but these people are dan-ger-ous. Jefferson is with them, for fuck’s sake!”

            Victoria freezes and looks to Kate, who is now a bit more worried at this revelation. Coldly, Victoria shoots back, “Then, I’ll make sure to kick HIS ass before everyone else's. Should he show up, of course. And if not, then we just go find him and beat his ass.” Kate smiles at this and nods along.


 

            “Taking Max down is the key priority after all. Just keep an eye through the windows and spot any trouble. You catch so much as a scent of someone on her tail, take her down and make a mess if need be.” Teddy walks up to the front door.

            Dolly throws her hands in the air and walks to the kitchen. She says, “Fine. Enforcers!” The other Enforcers Eight walk into the living room and Dolly looks around with a mischievous smirk on her face.


 

            Max looks at her friends in the back with a soft smile and advises them, “Stay on your toes. We may have to fight.”

            Kate softly clutches Victoria’s shoulder and tells her with a sincere smile, “You’re not going alone, Vic. I’m here now, so I’ll be with you.”

            “Thank you.” Victoria sets her sights on the road and tells the group, “We should be there in about two minutes. Lay low, okay. We can do this. We’re… uh… do we have a name?”

            Max earnestly tells Victoria, “Be careful.”

            Victoria raises an eyebrow at this name: “Not exactly ‘the Justice League’, but I guess we can try that. Of course, we’ll be as careful as can be.” Victoria looks back at Max and the Project Morpho crew behind her, telling them, “Hide yourselves. There may be prying eyes or something like that.”

            Max looks outside and says, “Just drop us off around here. We’ll be watching… Ooooo.”

            Victoria lets out a chuckle and adds, “Stay safe, you guys.” They step out of the car after Max opens the door and she speeds away for Teddy's Mansion just a minute or so up ahead.


 

            Surrounded by trees, the group moves closer to Teddy's mansion, keeping out of sight from any possible prying eyes. Chloe asks Max curiously, “What are the odds of Victoria's plan going well?”

            Max gives Chloe an uneasy smile and tells her slowly, “They’re… odd.”

            Chloe's eyes widen and she asks, “I- is that good?”

             “They’re odd.”

             Chloe facepalms and groans, saying under her breath, “Oh, God.”


 

            With the two of them alone, Kate asks, “You think we can get her back?”

            Victoria gives her a smile and a kiss on her forehead before telling her, “I wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t a chance of it. This is for you.” Deep down in her heart however, Victoria is worried about this. A bunch of supervillains are at this place, three of whom she’s had run-ins with in the past. If this fails… things won’t look pretty. But she has to look forward and move onward. For Kate’s sake, at least.

            Victoria pulls the car up front, waiting outside the gate before it opens. She sees Teddy sitting by his fountain with a martini in his hand. He licks it a few times as if to taste it, visibly being displeased with its taste.

            The car drives a few feet past the gate onto the property. Victoria and Kate step out of the car and walk forward, holding each other's hands in support of one another.

            Victoria waves at Teddy anxiously. "Hello, Mr. Iris."

            Teddy carelessly tosses his martini into the forest and grins at the two girls. "Victoria Chase, in the flesh. And you must be Kate Marsh. A pleasure to meet both of you." He offers his hand to Victoria for a handshake and she shakes it with a hint of disgust on her face. Kate shakes his hand as well, trying to trust this kingpin.

            "We're here for her Alice."

            "That may be true. But you're neither Max nor Chloe. Are the two of you their stand-ins?"

            Victoria shakes her head and says, "Obviously. No, we're here to try and do business. If I…" Victoria pulls out her credit card and continues, "... pay you to give back Alice and leave my friends be, that'd be great."

            Teddy laughs a hearty laugh: "Ha ha ha ha ha, oh ha ha ha ha ha!" He looks Victoria in the eyes, not even trying to contain an amused smile, and tells her, "Kid, I'm gonna go easy on you here. This business isn't one where you can just pay to make things right. You must pay in blood. Max and Chloe will pay in blood. Okay?"

            Victoria puts her card away and Kate steps forward, asking nervously, "Please, mister! She's my bunny, and I miss her."

            Teddy puts a hand to his heart and makes a mocking sad face. "Aw. Melting my cold, dead heart. But no cigar." Teddy grins at Kate and steps away.

            Vic's brow furrows and she briefly chases after Iris, hissing at him, "Listen-"

            Teddy grabs Victoria by the throat and she immediately begins trying to pull his hand open. Kate freezes and rushes forward as it isn't working. He pushes Victoria away, causing her to land on her butt. Kate rushes to her aid and helps her back onto her feet. "No, YOU listen!" Teddy pauses to recompose himself before calmly continuing: "The Chases may be rich but they're artists, they're niche, far from ever spending more than fifteen seconds on the stock market before disappearing to their little photographers circle. Their money is nothing more than a few dimes in my pocket."

            Victoria dusts herself off and, taken a bit aback by the claim against her parents, adds, "Okay… yeah. Look, I get it. We both want things, deals and all. But Katie's innocent in this whole ordeal. She hasn't hurt you or anyone for that matter."

            Teddy shrugs and says, "That may be true. And yet, it has brought you here. One step closer to Max. If you want to save the rabbit, you're going to bring us Max and Chl- actually? No. To make it easier, just bring us one and the other will come running to us. Hah. Young love can be so predictable."

            "I can't do that."

            Teddy swats at the air and begins walking away, adding, "Then make peace with your failure and leave while you're still in my good graces."

            "How- about this?" Teddy rolls his eyes. "Take me instead. Take me and let all my friends go. Alice included. Which would you prefer: the 'Hero of Arcadia Bay'? Or two punk girls?"

            He slowly reaches into his pockets to get a grip on the knife in his possession. "Jesus, you still don't fucking get it? I'm looking. For Max. And Chloe. Okay? Taking you or your money would be… stupid, for lack of a better word. The Chases might be able to muster up more money in their dreams, and I've got a good relationship with the Agency of Metahuman Containment, which includes Sean Prescott, who has a good relationship with the Chases." Teddy looks at the two girls and they catch onto the fact that he has a weapon. He asks, "Get the picture, pixie cut?" The two look down, defeated, and nod. "Now, final warning. Get lost or get your buddies here."

            Victoria looks at Kate and gives her a smile to keep up her spirits. Kate nods and walks back to the car. Victoria follows her girlfriend and says to Teddy with a scowl, "A pleasure doing business with you."

            "Yeah, yeah, awesome. Go home, be merry, live life. Bye-bye." Teddy harshly waves the duo goodbye with a sneer on his face.

            Victoria shakes, full of anger, and catches up with Kate. She holds Kate's shoulder and softly tells her, "Katie, I'm sor-"

            Kindly, Kate responds, "It's okay, Vic. It's not you. Let's get in the car." The two walk into the car and Victoria lies in the drivers’ seat, fuming at Teddy. Kate sees this and calmly asks, "You're okay?"

            "I shouldn't have come here with this stupid plan! I thought it would work, I- I'm so sorry."

            Kate holds Victoria’s cheek and tells her, "Hey, hey, Vic. You did the best you could've done in that situation. That's all that matters to me. Besides, we still have a Plan B, or C, or D, or whatever it takes. We’ll save Alice." Kate pulls Victoria close and gently connects their foreheads together to ground her. Victoria smiles at Kate and prepares to drive away.

            Teddy looks at Victoria’s car and laughs. "Heh. Stupid ki-"

            Max lunges at Teddy from nowhere, knocking him to the ground. He pulls out his knife and tries to stab Max, but she grabs his wrist and tosses him into the fountain. Sarcastically, she says, "Nice to meet you, Mr. Iris.”

            Teddy glares at Max and steps out of the fountain. He screams angrily, "You!"

            Max fires back, "Me."

            Chloe runs up next to her and adds, “Us.” The two girls smile at each other.

            Dolly steps out of the mansion’s front door with Alice in her clutches, and yells inside, "Attack, Enforcers! I'll keep the rabbit with me…" She looks inside as the other Enforcers run outside. Jumbo runs past her and she grabs his arm to stop him. "Jumbo! Get those two!" She points at Victoria’s car and Jumbo glares at it. He grows twenty feet tall and charges at the car.

            Victoria looks back as the ground shakes from Jumbo’s footsteps. "Ah, shit!" She steps on the gas but his giant foot kicks the car into the gate, stopping their escape.

            Jefferson runs past the others and catches up to Jumbo. He knocks on the side window where Kate is sitting and waves eerily. "Hi, kids. Open up."

            Kate growls at him and Victoria yells, "Go to Hell!"

            Jefferson shrugs and says,"Figures. Guess I’ll be taking you there." He pulls out a gun from his blazer and aims it at Kate. Victoria jumps in front of Kate and shields her from Jefferson. As he is about to fire, the two suddenly blip away as a man in black grabs both of their shoulders. Jefferson raises the gun in confusion and asks himself, “The Hell?”


 

            The two suddenly appear on Overlook Avenue, falling to the ground softly. Standing next to them is the man in black battle gear, also known as the Jumper. He tells them with a thumbs up, “Stay safe.”

            Victoria looks at him and asks, “Who the fuck are you?” He teleports away and Victoria adds, “Oh, fuck me, right?” She crawls over to Kate and helps her up to her feet. “We’re safe. Jeffershit isn’t here.” Victoria wraps her arms around her and gives her a hug.

            Kate is surprisingly chipper as she says, “That guy saved our lives! He must be one of Max’s friends!”

            Victoria shrugs and adds, “I dunno, he didn’t look like a vigilante. At least he’s not on… their side.” She looks around and asks, “Well, where to now?”

            “Let’s just go home and rest.” Kate walks to her building with Victoria closely following, holding her hand tightly and not planning on letting go any time soon.


 

            The Jumper returns to Teddy’s mansion as both Elmer and Tangi rush him. Elmer throws a punch and he catches his wrist before spinning him around to fall into Tangi. Tangi pushes him aside and charges at the Jumper with a foam sword in hand. The Jumper observes the clown’s sporadic stance and chooses the best course of action: he punches him in the nose, breaking it.

            As Lord Laundry charges at Max and Chloe, Rachel blows him away with a mini-tornado. Upon spotting the Jumper, she asks Chloe, “Friend of yours?”

           Max explains, “It’s the Agency! What are they doing here?”

            Rose asks the girls, “Did Victoria call them?”

            Suddenly, mechanical tendrils wrap around Max and, with a tug, she is pulled to the ground by the wielder of the tendrils: Doctor Wanda Court. She slides next to Max and says, “Whoever it was did the right thing.” She grabs her chin and adds, “Hello, Maxine. Long time, no see.”

            Damon looks around as an Apache helicopter descends upon the mansion and yells, “Fuckin’ feds?!” An Agency soldier descends next to him and he punches her square in the face. Another agent fires a taser at him, barely phasing the dead man.

            Teddy looks around as the Agency attacks all the metahumans, regardless of whoever’s side they are on, and demands, “Don’t apprehend them! They’re the good guys!”

            An Agency soldier smacks the Shrub across the face with a baton, yelling, “Yeah, you heard him, freak! Stay down!”

            Teddy clutches his face with his palms. Aggravated, he adds, “No, I mean MY guys are the good- goddammit!”

            Court drags Max - clearly trying to fighting her way out of her restraints - over to the Jumper. She asks, “Time for us to get going, right, Jumper?”

            The Jumper looks at Max while she scowls at him: “Aye, Doct- AGH!” A thorny vine grabs the Jumper by the ankle, tossing him into the forests.

            Bedlam slinks off of Chloe’s arm and grows to be thirty feet tall. His yells bellow upon his many opponents: “Leave these people BE!”

            Chloe raises her fists in the air and proudly exclaims, “Bedlam! Finally! Show these suckas how Project Morpho rolls!” Dr. Court tries running away with Max, only for Chloe to chase after her with Tangi’s foam sword.

            Bedlam responds, “With pleasure.” He approaches Jumbo as the scarfed villain balls his fists for battle. Bedlam grabs Victoria’s car and raises it over his head.

            Chloe catches up to Court and slices off the arm holding Max, causing the scientist to recoil and retreat in pain. The tendrils loosen and Max pulls herself to freedom. She look up just in time to see Bedlam aiming Victoria’s car at the Apache helicopter. Her eyes widen and she begins begging to Bedlam, “Oh, uh, no, put that down, put that- ah, shit!” The car is thrown, clipping the chopper and crashing into the forests. Max groans: “Victoria’s gonna be pissed.”

            Distracted by the sight of the chopper escaping and the Agency soldiers focusing their fire on him, Bedlam fails to notice Jumbo jumping onto his back and pulling his thorny vines apart. Thankfully, a ribbon pulls the big brute away and tosses him into the front wall of Teddy’s mansion.

            Teddy pulls at his hair, ripping out some strands in absolute rage. He screams and swears. “FUCK THIS! Dolly, get us outta this mess!”

            Dolly steps out of the mansion with Alice and wiggles her fingers in the air. The Agency soldiers look around in confusion as, to them, the villains have vanished.

            The Enforcers Eight gather together, although the Shrub is the only one somehow confused by Dolly’s mental machinations, and they start walking out of the gate. Teddy says to his crew, “I fuckin’ hate this shit.” The Shrub’s confusion is softened when Lord Laundry points to his head while discussing with the Shrub, letting him know what happened. That Dolly truly got them out of the mess.

            Bedlam also looks around in confusion, having been affected too by Dolly's actions. He returns to Chloe to avoid the situation further. Max and Chloe laugh with one another before Max tells the villains, “We’re not done here.”

            Teddy rolls his eyes and, while trying to ignore Max, tells the Enforcers, “She can’t really see us.”

            Max continues: “I can. And I can hear you.”

            Chloe jumps in jovially with, “Yeah, we all can.”

            Dolly says to the Enforcers and Teddy, “Don’t. Pay them. Any mind.” Her head shakes in anger and confusion. “ What is their secret? ”, she thinks to herself.

            Rachel points at the villains and asks, “Seriously?”

            Chloe tells her friends, “Just follow hi-” The ground underneath their feet liquifies, turning into cherry flavored Jello. She looks down at her feet, and looks over to everyone else’s feet. They’re all stuck ankle deep. “My sneakers!”

            Dolly looks back at the heroes and sneers at them through her mask. She tells them, “Toodaloo!”, before lifting the ground underneath Teddy and the Enforcers Eight in a psychokinetic orb. They fly away into the sky.

            Chloe pulls her feet out of her shoes and walks out of the small pit to help Max out. She snidely remarks, “Man, imagine if Victoria were still here. Major freak out!”

            With Chloe’s help, Max gets out of the jello and says to her friends, “Let’s get outta here before the Agency wisens up.”

            Rachel pulls herself out of the jello with her wind powers and helps her stepmom out the same way. Max pulls out the photograph of Blackwell and opens up a portal that the four women enter.


 

            In the orb, Elmer asks his boss, “So what did you think happened?”

            Teddy strokes his chin and claims, “Maybe Miss Chase ratted us out. Maybe not. But now, we got a third party fuckin’ shit up. And we’re gonna fuck THEIR shit up back. When we find them. For now though, we need to fuck up our enemies’ shit. Sound good?” The Enforcers Eight nod and Teddy smiles upon them. “Good. Pick your targets.” He pulls out a list of names: Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, Rachel and Rose Amber, Victoria Chase and Kate Marsh. He shows it to his Enforcers Eight and adds with a sinister grin, “It’s time for war.”

Chapter Text

            In shock, Victoria loudly asks, “He did WHAT with my car?!” She’s sitting in Kate’s apartment, dressed in her pajamas, while on the phone with Max.

            Max sheepishly tells her, “Look, I probably should’ve warned him about it.”

            Victoria clutches at her own hair and groans, “Arrrgggh!” She falls backwards on Kate’s bed and explains calmly, “I’m not mad at you, Max. I’m mad at him. I- what even was his plan?!”

            “He tried hitting the chopper with it, it was stupid. It really was.”

            “Yeah. I imagine. I really can’t wait for the ‘final battle’, so I can get back at him.” Victoria calms her breathing as Kate gently grabs her hand to massage it.

            Sarcastically, Max replies, “Hey, we don’t know if he's evil yet. Wink wink.”

            “Naton told me all about him already. I don’t care about the fabric of fate and time or whatever, I know about his supervillain status. But hey, to me, he’s not the Lord of Death, he’s the Lord of Being A Dick. He destroyed my car. When I see him, I’m stepping on his vine-toes.” Kate caresses Victoria’s shoulder, soothing her further. She takes a breath to cool down and asks, “You all made it out fine?”

            “Yep. Just, uh, our shoes got ruined. Dolly has us stuck in jello for a few seconds so that she could escape with Teddy and their crew. Calling themselves ‘the Enforcers Eight’.”

            Victoria lets out a chuckle and tells her, “That's not too bad. Could use some work. But oof. That sucks about your shoes.”

            “Yeah. Chloe said it was a good thing you weren’t there.”

            Victoria smiles and runs a hand through her hair, adding with a laugh, “She’s not wrong about that.” All three girls laugh heartily.

            “Oh, and it seems the bracelets work. Dolly didn’t suspect a thing about us and her mind powers not working.”

            Victoria nods and replies, “Good. Thank you, Max.”

            “No problem, pal!” Victoria can almost hear Max shooting finger guns at her. “You and Kate take good care of each other. And have a good night.”

            “Yeah. Good night, Max. You, Chloe, Rachel and Rose. And anyone else.” Victoria hangs up the phone and puts it on the nightstand next to her. She lies down and holds Kate in her arms, gently caressing her face. “How’re you doing, Katie?”

            Kate smiles, feeling safe in Victoria’s grasp, and tells her, “I’m fine. Man, today was a rush.”

            Victoria tells her once again, “I’m seriously so, so sorry about Alice.”

            Kate puts a finger over her thin lips to shush her and reassure her: “It’s okay, Vic. Technically, we gave Teddy what he wanted. Maybe now, his priorities have changed or something.”

            Victoria sighs and optimistically says, “Yeah. Maybe.”

            “Also, I’m not mad at you.”

            “I know.”

            Kate sits up and walks over to a small radio that she bought a few weeks ago. “Know what can cheer you up?” She plugs her phone into the radio and turns it on. Dr. Dog’s cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart It Races” fills up the apartment and Kate dances along to it.

            Victoria bobs her head to the beat of the song and tells her, “This is a good song.” She sits up and looks at Kate, smiling at her.

            “Mhm. It’s great.” She walks over to Victoria and helps her to her feet: “Get on your feet.” The two dance together, holding each other’s hand and sliding across the apartment with care and affection.

            “ And we’re slow to

Acknowledge the knots in our laces

Heart it races

And we go back

To where we moved out, to the places

Heart it races

            From a block away, Dolly stalks the two on the roof of the Helper Shelter. She is accompanied by Tangi and Jumbo. She says to them, “Dance seems to be a common thing with these two. Isn’t dat wight, wittow Awice?” She looks at Alice in her hands. The bunny seems unnaturally quiet and tired, but alive nonetheless. Dolly looks at her allies and tells them, “Let’s get em.”

            As Kate and Victoria dance, Dolly walks on thin air up to the window in the kitchen. Behind her, Jumbo grows large and carries Tangi on his shoulder. She waves her hand in front of the window, quietly disintegrating it, and walks into the house as the song reaches its bombastic end.

            Dolly steps inside and sings along to the cacophony that is the ending, alerting the two to her presence.

            Victoria steps in front of Kate and yells angrily at Dolly, “You!”

            “Pah, what is it with everyone screaming ‘You!’? So cliche.” Dolly laughs and glares at the girls while running her fingers through Alice’s fur.


 

            Max and Chloe sit together at the laundromat in their pajamas, tired of today’s work. Chloe remarks, “I dunno if I’ll ever be able to eat jello again. I swear vengeance upon it all.”

            Max asks her, “How about pudding? Or parfaits?”

            “Eh, they can slide.” The front door to the laundromat opens and in steps a man in a fluffy yellow jacket. She puts a box full of laundry next to Max and Chloe, much to their annoyance. Chloe jokingly plugs her nose with her fingers, asking, “Jeez, you come around every month or so, huh?”

            The man reveals himself to be Elmer, who shoots back, “No, just when I’ve got a job to do.”

            Chloe raises an eyebrow to this and mutters, “Ew.”

            “Lordie!” Lord Laundry crawls off of his back and into the pile of laundry to create his body. He looms over Max and Chloe as his chicken mask lets out a guttural screech.

            Chloe scratches the back of her head, sheepishly telling Max, “Ah, shit. Me and my big, fat mouth.”

            Max smiles at her and says, “I know. I love you for it.” She cracks her knuckles and adds, “Let’s kick some evil ass.”


 

             BANG. BANG. BANG. Mummy Man Merrick tries violently kicking down the front door to Rachel and Rose’s apartment. He screams angrily, “We’re gonna getcha! Just you wait!” He continues kicking… and the door isn’t budging.

            Jefferson plays Mustard Party on his phone out of boredom. “This is taking really long.”, he says, not even taking the time to look up from his game.

            Damon takes a few seconds to catch his breath, huffing to tell him, “Just hang on, I’ve got this.”

            Jefferson glares at Damon through his camera helmet to nervously ask, “D-do you?”

            “Yeah, Jefferfuck! Can you do it with your scrawny ass?” Damon crosses his arms and steps away from the door with a scowl.

            “I’m strong. Had to be for my Dark Room days and dames.” He puts his phone away, telling Damon, “Lemme try.” He charges at the door, slamming into it with his shoulder. It doesn’t budge. He kicks at it with a great deal of force, failing to open it. “C’mon, open. OPEN! DAMMIT!”

            Damon snidely smirks at him and says mockingly, “This is taking really-”

            Jefferson glares at Damon and yells at him, “Shut up!”

            From inside the apartment, Rose is rolling her eyes as she and Rachel boil spaghetti in the kitchen. She remarks, “This is simply sad.”

            Rachel asks, not even all that worried, “Should we go out there?”

            Rose looks at Rachel with a nonchalant air to her face and tells her, “Not yet. Give them a few more minutes.”

            Tiredly, Jefferson yells from behind the door, “All it’ll TAKE…! Is a…! A few more seconds…! Bitch!”

            Rose chuckles. “Maybe a few more days, actually.”


 

            Victoria scowls at Dolly and harshly asks, “What do you want?”

            Dolly sets Alice down on the floor and she slowly trudges back to her. “I’m here to give back bunny. She seems… homesick.”

            Victoria doubtfully looks at Alice, telling Kate, “It has to be a trick.” Alice rubs along Victoria’s ankle to get to Kate who picks her up. She seems lighter than usual.

            “No trick… Unfortunately.” Dolly sighs and tells her, “She’s been getting slower. Now, I may be a villain, but I’m not robbing you of her, and vice versa.”

            Kate asks, a little worried, “What are you talking about?”

            Dolly shrugs and tells her, “Every dog has their day, and every bunny has their… bye-bye.”

            Kate’s blood runs cold as she exclaims angrily, “You killed her!”

            “A: she’s not dead yet, and B: I did not kill her. I’ve got better things to do than murder the little critters of nature. Old age kills, kid. My condolences.” Dolly curtsies for Kate as a sort of apology. Vic’s glare, focused on Dolly, grows more intense and angry.

            “How long does she have?” Kate rubs Alice’s ears, soothing the bunny’s burden.

            Dolly scratches at the back of her head: “A few days, I think?”

            Victoria balls her hands into fists and she grumbles, “You bitch.”

            Dolly is taken aback, putting her hands at her hips angrily. She says, “Hey, think of it as a way to bring you and her closer in her dying days!”

            Victoria rubs Kate’s back to keep her calm. “When we’re done with Teddy, I’m gonna kill you.”

            Dolly smiles at this playfully. She tells her, “I’d like to see you try.”

            Victoria sighs, letting go of her anger to run over to Kate and hold her and Alice tight in a comforting hug. She sweetly whispers into her ear, “Katie, it’s okay. It’s not your fault.”

            Dolly adds, “Listen, I’m sorry too! That this had to come under such bad circumstances. First, she’s all old and dying. Then, you two get dragged away by supervillains.” Jumbo’s hand reaches into the apartment and grabs Victoria with two fingers, pulling her outside. Kate sets Alice down and dashes after her. Dolly remarks, “What a sick world, amirite?”

            Victoria pulls herself out of Jumbo’s grasp and yells, “No, not today!” She climbs onto his hand and sees blocks of light manifest in midair courtesy of Kate. She runs on them as more appear and jumps onto Dolly, hanging onto her for dear life.

            With Victoria hanging onto her legs, Dolly screams shrilly, “Get offa me!”

            Victoria climbs up further and begins punching Dolly in the face, causing the two to spin around erratically in the apartment.

            Kate conjures a dragon of dull orange light - the type that Victoria loves - and charges at Jumbo, only for Tangi to hold onto the dragon’s tail as well. He crawls up and stands to look at Kate with a sinister grin on his face. He waves at her, “Hiya, Marsh! Remember me?”

            Kate rolls her eyes and carelessly responds, “A little.”

            “Yeah. Been a long time, huh?” Tangi cautiously steps forward and pulls out a colorful jump rope, wrapping it around his knuckles with the intent to strangle. “Sorry about the wascally wabbit, he’ll be dearly mi-”

            “‘She’ll’, you jerk!”

            Tangi sighs and shrugs: “Whatever! After all, it’s nothing more than a rabb-” Kate’s eyes widen in anger. The light dragon flicks Tangi away and he goes flying onto the rooftop of the apartment building, landing on his back. He tries to get up… but can’t. He passes out in pain.

            Dolly looks at Tangi while also being punched and kicked by Victoria. She turns to Jumbo and yells at him, “Go, Jumbo! Do something!”

            Suddenly, Naton pokes his head out of the window of Victoria’s apartment and spots Jumbo in action. He bellows, “Vic and Kate! No worry! Naton is HEEEEERE!” He grabs a giant wooden club he made and crawls out of the window soon after.

            Dolly looks at Naton and asks aloud, “Who?!”

            Kate summons more steps of light for him to traverse on and Victoria yells to him, “Nate, catch!” She removes her aluminum bracelet and tosses it over to Naton, who catches it and puts it on his wrist. After running on a few more light steps, he jumps onto Jumbo’s chest where he punches it repeatedly.

            “What was tha-” Victoria violently tugs at Dolly’s blonde locks of hair before punching her in the chin. “Owwww!” Dolly puts a wrist up against Vic’s throat and asks, “So, you like to play rough, huh? Let’s get in that little brain of yours!” She grabs Victoria by the temple and enters her mind.


 

            A pink Moth descends upon a sunny mental manifestation of the Chase Space. She comments to herself, “Ah, for someone who resents her parents as much as you do, you’ve still gotta respect their work, eh?” A bowling ball impacts the window at the front of the art gallery, shattering it open. The Moth flutters inside. Inside are candid photographs of Victoria’s nicest moments over the course of the past few months, each with a small label describing said photograph:

Bowling with Kate, Naton, Max, Chloe and Rachel - 6/13/2014

Delivering her heroic speech to Arcadia Bay with Kate - 5/9/2014

Going on a brief road trip to Portland with Kate, Max and Chloe - 4/20/2014

Drinking delicious lemon tea with Kate - 3/16/2014

Taking Kate shopping at Washington Square - 2/14/2014

Having a snowball fight with Kate and David - 1/17/2014

Treating Kate to a post-Christmas dinner in Seattle - 12/26/2013

Watching Steven Universe with Kate - 11/15/2013

“Graduating” Blackwell with Kate - 10/31/2013

            “Ah. Such fond memories.” The Moth flutters upward and conjures a switchblade in her wing’s grasp. She waves it at the photograph, preparing to stab into any one of them: “But alas, you won’t be needing the-”

            “Quack.”

            The Moth looks to her left at the source of the quack: a yellow Duck with a red cashmere sweater and a pearl necklace. “What the… duck? Out of all the spirit animals you could’ve gotten, you got a duckie?”

            The Duck steps forward and proclaims, “Quack!”

            The Moth flies over to the Duck and flutters in her face tauntingly. “Hah! Get shortchanged, boy!”

            The Duck steps back, offended. Angrily, she shoots back, “Qua- QUACK!”

            “So that’s how you want to play it? Bring it, ugly duckling!”

            The Duck jumps at the Moth, gripping her with her orange beak. “QUAAAACK!” She shakes the moth around, causing her to lose her grip on the switchblade. She eats the Moth, gulping her down. She burps. The Moth is beaten.

            The Duck grabs a broom and sweeps away the shards of glass, quacking in grumbled frustration. She looks back at the photo gallery and affectionately lets out a glee “Quack!”


 

            Kate flies around Jumbo on her dragon. She waves at him as he is being punched by Naton, exclaiming, “Big guy, stop this!” Jumbo doesn’t listen and he attempts to punch her, failing as she flies out of his reach. Tired of the fighting, her hands light up. “Naton, cover your eyes!” Naton covers his eyes and she fires beams of light from her hands into the Jumbo’s face, blinding him briefly.

            He rubs his eyes and looks around, oblivious to Naton’s barrage of fists. He asks Kate, confusion in his deep voice, “Wha- Where am I?”

            Kate flies up to his face and asks, “Why are you doing this? Jumbo, is it?” She also uses several tendrils of light to grab a roll of aluminum foil. She tears a sheet and plops it onto Jumbo’s forehead where it sticks to his scarfed face. She tears another sheet and delivers it to Victoria, who is still in the midst of her mental battle with Dolly.

            “Yeah. I’m Jumbo…” He shakes his head, adding, “And this AIN’T Tulsa.”

            “Interes- uh, Nate, you can stop hitting him.”

            Naton throws his few final punches at Jumbo’s chest before responding, “Okay.”

            Jumbo opens a hand and allows Naton to jump down on it and squat to regain his energy: “C’mere, little fella.”

            Dolly feels herself lose control of both Jumbo and Victoria. She yells angrily, “Agh! How’d you resist my powers?!”

            “Good quacking question. I’ve got one for you.” Victoria elbows Dolly in the face while holding onto her collar. Kate uses her light tendrils to create an aluminum beret, placing it on Vic’s head. “What did the FIST?” A sheet of aluminum wraps around Victoria’s fist, courtesy of Kate. She punches Dolly in the face again. “Say to the FACE?” She punches her once more. “She said ‘FUCK YOU’!” She slams her forehead into Dolly’s mouth, cracking her mask just a little bit.

            Dolly finally pushes Victoria - dizzy from the headbutt - off of her and Kate catches her in her arms as she falls. She turns to Jumbo and demands of him, “Jumbo! Ju- oh, shit. Dammit. No matter. All according to pla-” Jumbo flicks her into the night sky as she screams, “AAAAAAAAAAAAA” Her scream echoes across Arcadia Bay.

            Victoria and Kate gently return to the ground while Jumbo shrinks down to regular size, bringing Naton down with him. Kate uses one tendril to tie up Tangi and bring his unconscious body over to the group, and another tendril to make a basket for Alice to peacefully be brought down from the apartment. Victoria, Naton and Jumbo pet Alice while Kate tells everyone, “We’re gonna need to talk with Max about this.”

            Victoria nods enthusiastically at Kate and she says, “Agreed. But I’m just glad we all made it out alright.”

            “Let’s go before we become the center of a scene.” Kate summons her light dragon and everyone boards it before it flies off into the night.

            Elmer desperately runs out of the laundromat with socks, underwear and other types of clothing impaled upon his pointy head of hair. He hides behind a car as Lord Laundry is flung out of the front window by Chloe, who exclaims in righteous glory, “Boo-yah! Take that!”

            “Ow, daaaamn!” Dolly’s scream echoes across Arcadia Bay. Elmer runs to Lord Laundry’s aid and asks him, “Hey, Lordie, you heard that?” Lord Laundry nods his head and Elmer says, “Fuck this, let’s bail!” He crawls inside Lord Laundry’s body and the Lord sprints away.

            Chloe spots the two villains running away and she happily says to Max, “That was awesome!” She offers her a high-five and Max graciously accepts.

            “Yeah, it was. But something tells me that we weren’t the only ones attacked.” Max nods to Chloe and adds with a reassuring smile, “We’ll tend to this in the morning. We must now deal with another problem… Drying our clothes!” Chloe and Max laugh with one another before heading back inside to collect their clothes.


 

            Jefferson tiredly slams his fists against the door as he lies against it. He mutters, “We’re… Gonna get in there… Ready to… Die again? Miss Amber?!” The four hear Dolly’s scream as it echoes across Arcadia Bay.

            Damon pulls Jefferson away, telling him in defeat, “Enough. Let’s just go. We’ll be back.” He puts a hand on Jefferson’s shoulder but the ex-professor brushes him off and strolls away in bitter, petulant rage.

            Inside the apartment, Rachel and Rose high-five while eating spaghetti in giant bowls together.


 

            Teddy sits by a pool in one of his other Culmination-based mansions with a glass of milk in his hands. He drinks it and thoroughly enjoys it. He sits peacefully in his lounge chair.

            The peace is disrupted by Dolly screaming “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” before landing in the pool. She makes a big splash, drenching Teddy.

            He looks at Dolly as she peers out of the water, surprisingly unperturbed, and asks her, “I take it you failed to kill Miss Chase and Miss Marsh? As did the other Enforcers Eight?”

            “Yeah. Gonna have to make that Enforcers Seven too. But don’t worry. It’s all going according to plan.”

            “Excellent.” Teddy sips his milk, although it now has pool water in it. This doesn’t phase him in the slightest.

           Dolly jokingly lets out an evil laugh in agreement: “Muahahaha.” She slowly sinks back into the pool out of Teddy’s sight.

Chapter Text

TEXT FROM MAX

Are you guys alright?

 

TEXT FROM VICTORIA

We're fine. Had to beat up Dolly and the clown

Also Jumbo is with us now and Tangi is all tied up

 

TEXT FROM MAX

Good. Meet up at Blackwell ASAP

 

TEXT FROM VICTORIA

Oh goodie, more superhero shit

We might as well. Nothing good is on tonight


 

            Victoria and Kate didn’t even get time to change out of their pajamas. They just grabbed the people (and bunny) with them - Naton, Jumbo, the tied up Tangi and Alice - and hurried on their way to Blackhe- Blackwell.

            The flight there is mostly uneventful, save for Tangi trying to entertain Naton with bad jokes: “What do you get when you cross a tuba with a trombone?”

            “What?”

            “A whole lotta clatter!” Tangi lets out a laugh as Jumbo turns around to look at him.

            Glaring at him, Jumbo asks, “Hey, can you shut the fuck up for five minutes? I’ve got enough of a migraine as it is from Dolly singin’ in my ear.”

            Victoria chuckles while adjusting a red beret on her head that she grabbed before departing, which she has lined with the aluminum foil beret that Kate made for her. She says to Kate, “I like this guy.”

            Project Morpho's Blackwell Base is dark for the night under the Arcadia Bay moon. Light arrives in the form of Kate’s light dragon. The dragon gently reaches the ground as Max, Chloe and Rachel sit on the steps to enter the main building.

            Max spots Victoria and the others approach the front door and she can only grin a smarmy little smile at Victoria: "Well, well, well. How the turntables. Looks like you'll have to find another way in, Victoria."

            Victoria crosses her arms and acts hurt in spite of the knowing grin on her face while she stifles her laughter. She mutters to Kate, "Oh my god." Victoria looks around and asks, "Is there some puzzle here that I have to solve?"

            Max looks side-to-side before telling her, “Yeah. Gotta find the paint bucket.”

            Victoria snaps her fingers at the revelation, adding, “Ah. Of course.”

            Max giggles before informing her, “Kidding, I’m kidding! Let's get to class.” The three walk into Blackwell where the lights are on. It is clean and it looks very similar to what it used to be, but it has been gutted and retrofitted to be more about storing objects of importance and surveillance - weapons of magical and futuristic origin, anachronistic items of high value, and MacGuffins galore - in big blue tupperware bins.

            Victoria looks around and notes, "You really tidy up."

            Max shrugs modestly. "I had a lot of time. And a lot of help. Speaking of, let me introduce you to the team." "I'm sure you know these lovely people." Rose walks forward from one of the hallways with a few familiar faces following closely behind her: Wells, Warren, Mikey and Steph. “They are all in my Base Team- er, no, it’s not everyone. Dana, Juliet and Frank are working tonight, Luke is on a college tour, and both David and Joyce are at home. They’re all working here with me to help with information, technology, research, and FRIENDSHIP!”

            Both Steph and Mikey side-eye Victoria, asking Chloe, “What’s she doing here?”

            Chloe smirks at her and tells them, “She’s with us, Mikey. She’s cool.”

            Victoria warmly smiles at the trio. Kate interjects, “Indeed. Hi, I’m Kate Marsh. Chloe’s mentioned you once or twice. I’m Vic’s girlfriend.”

            A smile crosses Vic’s face upon hearing this comment. Does so every time. She looks around at the group and is amazed at seeing all these people back in Blackwell. A bit shocked, she says, “Huh. Hey, guys.” She waves at them and Joyce and David wave back at her. The others are a bit confused at Victoria’s non-bitchiness and wave back as well.

            Wells walks forward and gives Victoria a handshake. “Hello, Victoria.” He speaks without the coldness he spoke with as Principal of Blackwell. These days, he can get some rest when it counts. Victoria shakes Wells’ hand and he assures her, “Yeah, it takes some getting used to. But it's always back to Blackwell for us, isn't it?”

            Victoria shrugs and shoots a smirk at him. “I suppose so.” Max and Chloe lead Kate, Victoria and Naton away from the small crowd and Victoria remarks teasingly, “Talk about the squad.”

            “And that's just a few of the guys you know. Let me show you the Action Team." Max opens the door to the Computer Room and Chloe leads everyone inside. Max enters the classroom and claps twice, activating the computers. On the screens are Max’s friends from across time and space - the crimson costume of Future-Daniel sitting with his non-costumed older brother Sean, the black and bulbous eye-head of Captain Starsight, the gray beak of Rog and his human soldiers, and many, many more faces unfamiliar to the group. Some wave, some say “Hello”, some look confused.

            Daniel asks, confused at the call, “What’s up, Max?”

            Max tells him earnestly, “Oh, nothing. Just showing off the Action Team to Vic, Kate and some other friends.”

            Having heard Kate’s name, he spots the Christian girl and yells joyfully, “Hola, Kate!”

            Kate waves at him, smiling as she remembers  and says, “Hi, Daniel. It’s been a while.”

            He nods: “Mhm! Oh, have you met Jacob?”

            “On Facebook, yeah. He seems super cool!”

            Daniel looks to his big brother, asking him, “Sean, when can we go to Arcadia Bay?”

            “Dad said around Christmastime, bigger enano.”

            Daniel jumps up and down in place in glee. “Awesome! Maybe I can see Chris! Ooh, and you guys can see the other me’s powers! We’re like the Three Musketeers!”

            Sean tells him casually, “That would be fun.”

            On another screen, Starsight asks, “What is the emergency, Max?”

            Max shakes her head before telling him, “We’re dealing with a small problem. Teddy Iris. Nothing apocalyptic.”

            “What about the Lord of Death?”

            Max tells him nonchalantly, “Nothing to report.”

            Victoria is a bit shaken by his mention of that name, by someone so far removed from Earth. She runs up to the screen and asks the Captain, “You know about… him?”

            Starsight tells her, “Aye. According to the Yrwalopp tribe, his forces have decimated the Lecarrin capitol of Vollux-5.”

            Victoria feels her blood boil and she says to Max with an imperative tone to her voice, “Oh, my God. Max, we have to do something.”

            Max closes her eyes and shrinks a bit before telling her, “Not yet, Victoria. But I get it. I’ll weigh the stakes on that.”

            Victoria’s eyes widen and she asks, shocked, "‘Weigh the stakes’? I-” Victoria pauses and takes a breath before continuing, “okay. Fine. But, like, wow. Quite a network you've got here." Max turns off the television sets and computer monitors. Out of the corner of Vic’s eye, Bedlam slowly slinks off of Chloe’s arm onto the ground.

            Max shrugs and lightly tells her, "You have to be when the fate of the world is at stake. Now, let’s get to the two Enforcers you've brought along for us." Max leads everyone out of the communications room, but Victoria stays behind and keeps Bedlam inside with her by grabbing one of his loose ribbons in one hand and one of his thorny vines in another.

            Coldly, she says, "Hiya, Bedlam."

            Bedlam looks at her, unphased by her gripping of his limbs: "Victoria. What a pleasure to see you."

            "Oh, how nice. Say, you haven't seen my car as of recent?" Victoria pulls him closer with a harsh tug.

            He tilts his head and, with an almost mocking politeness, says, "Ah, that. My apologies."

            Victoria sneers at him and asks, "For?"

            Bedlam smiles -  at least, as well as a skull can - and responds, "Why, for destroying the ca-"

            Victoria pulls harder and whispers in tranquil anger, "I don't give a fuck about the car. Apologise for what you have planned… Lord of Death."

            Bedlam recoils for a second before reclaiming his cool to ask her, "You know?"

            "I do. Or at least I know about your AU-you from the Bedrock Timeline. And something tells me that you two are alike. Floaty, skully, deathly, utterly fucking useless in fights with bad guys like the Storm Singer, the Enforcers, Dolly, whoever else you’ve fought. They’re… They’re on your side, aren’t they?” Bedlam’s silence answers the question. “Makes sense. Now, I don't give a fuck about fate and timing, I'll stop you. Like I'll stop Dolly. Ya diiiig? Ya soooorry?"

            Bedlam shakes his head. "Death apologizes for no one."

            Victoria shoots a smirk at him and informs him, "As you and the other supervillains will learn." Victoria lets go of his limbs and he recollects himself.

            Suddenly, she steps on his foot, prompting a hard "Agh!" out of him. Sarcastically, she says to him, "Oops. Sorry not sorry.", before leaving the room.

            Bedlam regains his aloof composure and says to himself in the darkness, "She knows."


 

            Jumbo takes a seat in the former Principal’s Office, now a room for Max and Chloe to coordinate amongst each other. He sits opposite Max, Chloe, Rachel, Rose, Kate and Victoria. Seeing as he is nervous but willing to talk, Max asks him, "Tell us a bit about yourself."

            "My name is Garth Patterson. I'm a college student, from Tulsa, and I can grow big."

            Chloe pulls out a notepad and jots down what he says. She asks, "How big?"

            Jumbo uses his hands to measure how high. He answers, "About twenty feet is my maximum height before I pass out."

            Max asks, while slurping on a can of soda, "How'd you get them?"

            "Back in April, I fell off a building. Some dickhead pushed me off on a field trip for my Ecology class. I thought it was all over, but I saved myself by growing big. My friends were astounded, cheering me on. But everyone else was terrified. I felt abandoned by society as I was hunted. My friends helped cover for me, for the most part, but I was, y’know, hunted. Some Agency."

            Chloe chimes in, “Hate those fuckers.”

            Jumbo points at Chloe and happily tells her, “Amen to that!” Chloe gives him a thumbs up and a smile. “So, while I was hunted, I got fired from my job. I worked at Denny’s for a while to get some money, and maybe feed myself. I was a growing boy. But then, I got a call from this fuckin’ guy, Teddy Iris. Promised me money, protection and weed. Graciously, I accepted. I became Jumbo. And it paid well, ‘til I wanted to get out. I tried to leave, but Teddy said ‘no, no, no’ all the way through. Eventually, he got fed up and sent that Doll bitch to get into my head. She whispered sweet nothings into my mind and wormed her way in. I was her puppet! Teddy’s puppet! I want revenge!”

            Max walks over to him and puts a hand on his shoulder, assuringly telling him, “We’ll get it. But first, we need to know more about Iris. Who is he?”

            “He’s… weird. Y’know how they say he’s a ghost? He lives off the grid? That’s all bull. He’s not human. And he’s not a ghost. He is the fuckin’ grid. He’s like an artificial intelligence o-”

            Chloe’s eyes widen and she asks, “Fucking what?!”

            “Yeah. He’s like a computer. From what he told me, he’s been around since the Eighties. He was designed to fight the drug war back in those days by the US Government. They used him a bunch, but then the war ended, I guess, and he was turned off. Or so the feds thought. He got out a few months later and he was pissed. With his knowledge of the drug trade, he became a master of it. He showed the way to a bunch of guys all over this side of the country. Even a bit past that, like in Mexico and Canada! He became a kingpin, a crime lord. He became Teddy Iris.”

            Max says to Chloe, “And I’m guessing that’s what the robot he stole was for.”

            “It’s an Android. Some cool robot from, like, twenty years in the future with, uh, blue blood n’ shit. I don’t remember much when I stole one for him except that they were everywhere! On TV, in the malls, with the police, shit was wild!”

            Chloe perks up at the sound of androids in the future, stating, “Just like in Blade Runner.”

            Jumbo shrugs and says with a pause, “…  I think. Kinda?”

            Chloe is a bit confused by this. She asks, “Seriously, you haven’t seen Blade Runner?”

            “Nop-”

            “WHAAAAT?!” Chloe tucks her notepad away in her jacket and claps her hands: “Okay, interrogation over, let’s go watch Blade Runner. Kate, Victoria, are you guys coming?”

            Victoria asks Kate, “Uh, should we?”

            She shrugs and tells her, “Might as well.” Suddenly, she remembers, “Wait, what about Tangi?”

            Victoria groans and claims, “Dammit, we left Nate with him!”

            Max nods her head, “Oh, that guy. Tangi. Go check in on him. Ask him questions.” And with that, both Victoria and Kate walk into the hallway as everyone starts to leave for the night.

            Sitting by the girls’ bathroom, Tangi is telling jokes to Naton while tied to a pipe: “Knock knock.”

            Naton tilts his head and asks, “Who there?”

            “Rhine.”

            “Rhine who?”

            Tangi looks around in faux panic, asking frantically, “What?! Where’s the rhino?! Ack!”

            Naton is laughing his ass off. He slaps his knee a few times as his viking helmet shakes around his head. “Again! Again!”

            Tangi takes a few seconds to think before he gets to the next joke: “Why did the hunter go to school?” Naton leans in, anticipating the punchline. Tangi delivers with, “To get a HEAD, DEER!” Naton almost falls back in reaction to the joke, but he instead bumps into Victoria who helps keep him up.

            Victoria glares at Tangi and he grins cruelly back at her. “God, your jokes are atrocious.”

            Naton shakes his head, telling her, “No! He funny to me!”

            Victoria rolls her eyes. “Of course you think he is.”

Tangi lets out a laugh to try and ease the tension. It’s almost a bit girlish, unexpected even of a guy like the Happy Clown. “Sorry. It’s just… I have a quick gag reflex.”

            Kate and Victoria look at each other, both trying to stifle a chuckle or two. Kate tells him, “Eh, not too bad. Maybe stick to puns.”

            Tangi’s face starts turning green underneath the makeup on his face. Queasily, he tells them. “No seriously, my gag reflex is bad, dude. I think I’m gonna… ugh, ugh.”

            He looks down and vomits an odd white liquid, causing the three to jump back in disgust. Victoria comments, “Ew, jesus!”

            From the vomit on the ground, a creaky female voice speaks: “Sorry.” Vic’s eyes widen as she recognizes that voice. It belongs to Dolly. She looks down and sees a small pack of six Dollies standing in the vomit, each armed with sewing needles. One of them jokingly says, “Squeak squeak.”, while glaring at Victoria.

            Victoria pushes Kate and Naton back as one of the mini Dollies jumps onto one of the legs of her pajama pants, exclaiming, “What the fuck?!” She tries kicking them away as two more crawl onto her leg. She screams, “Get away!”, and Kate intervenes by shovelling the mini Dollies away with a shovel of light.

            One of the mini Dollies stabs her in the leg with a needle, causing her to kick harder amidst the feelings of pain and panic. The mini Dolly yells, “Don’t get away! Let me get even! Let me get MAD!”

            The Dollies start stabbing more at her leg, and Victoria falls on her butt to swat at them with her hand. “Fuck off!” Naton helps her and Kate out by grabbing more Dollies and crushing them in his hands. They shatter like porcelain. Victoria looks to the Principal’s office and frantically begs, “Max, heeeeelp!”

            The main Dolly, still soaked, walks next to Victoria and tells her, “She can’t hear you. This movie’s too loud.”

            Victoria gives her a confused look and tells her, “This movie’s fuckin’ Blade Runner! How is it loud?!”

            Dolly playfully kicks Victoria in the side. One of the mini Dollies runs up to her throat and exclaims, “Ring ring, rrrrooooound twooooo!”

            Victoria grabs this mini Dolly and slams her into the ground, shattering her and screaming, “Shut up!”

            Another one of the mini Dollies, wearing a yellow skull mask on her face, hops over and tells her mockingly, “You’re smart, Vicki, and that’s what gets ya killed.”

            Victoria flicks this one away and yells at her, “Eat my nonexistent dick!”

            A third sprints over but she and the other mini-mes attacking her are stabbed by tendrils of light and are tossed away. Kate urgently rushes to her side, sliding onto the floor before blasting Dolly into the Principal’s office.

            Dolly looks at Max, Chloe, Rachel, Rose and Jumbo as they are wrapped up in vines by the Shrub. They are fighting hard to get out but it isn’t easy in spite of their harsh struggling. “Good jub, Shrub.” He gives her a thumbs up as she jumps to her feet and runs back out into the hallway.

            Kate gets up and helps Victoria stand while looking at her leg. Blood is lightly seeping into her pink pajama pants from the small stabs. She puts aside this concern seeing as Victoria has done so: “I’ve got you, Vic!”

            Victoria looks at Kate, her hair glowing, and softly tells her, “Thanks, love.”

            Dolly claps three times at them obnoxiously loudly. “Love. Pah! Oh, love. Lovey dovey love. Hey, y’know what? I HATE love! And I LOVE hate!” She grins at the two while Naton rolls around on the floor, crushing more mini Dollies in the process. She rolls her eyes at this and she sets her sights back on Kate and Victoria: “Here’s what HATE has gotten you, Vicki!”

            The front door opens and in steps Wells, Steph, Mikey and Warren. They are sluggish under Dolly’s mind control, like zombies. They have enough strength and mental fortitude however to crack their knuckles, crack their necks, crack the bones in their bodies, ready to kill.

            Victoria sighs and looks at Kate, telling her, “Okay, try not to hurt the-” Kate summons a wall of light to push everyone into the boys’ bathroom where the door locks behind them.

            Impressed with Kate’s intuition, she pulls her close and plants a kiss on her lips. Kate can only smile as Victoria says to her, “God, I love you. Marr-” Victoria cuts herself off, but Kate knows just what she was going to say and smiles at the abrupt notion. Another time, perhaps. Now is the time to kick evil ass.

            Dolly, with malice in her cold gray eyes, points her mini-mes in the direction of the two girls and their caveman friend, and the small psychopaths charge.

            Victoria grabs a discarded pane of glass and shatters it on as many mini Dollies as she can - roughly three dozen in number.

            More scurry past them but Kate slams her palm into the ground, unleashing a shockwave of light that obliterates any mini Dolly that approach.

            Naton grabs whatever he can to throw at the mini Dollies, shattering them into tiny pieces.

             This process repeats for thirty minutes while the real deal Dolly stands by, amused and obsessed with sending more and more at her enemies.

            Suddenly, the Shrub goes flying out of the Principal’s office, having been punched out by Bedlam who steps out a second later. He glares at Victoria, allowing for the Shrub to throw a sneak attack that knocks Bedlam to the floor. He wraps him up in old vines and runs out of Blackwell. Deciding that her fun has been had, Dolly follows after him. But not before looking back at Victoria and her friends to tell them, “This has been fun! See ya, snitches!” She laughs as she leaves while Victoria grabs a sewing needle and throws it at her. It stabs her in the back, barely phasing her.

            Victoria looks at the door Dolly and the Shrub left through and sighs. “Katie?”

            Kate, leaning against a wall to relax, asks, “Yeah?”

            A big grin grows on Vic’s face. The adrenaline helps her speak, in spite of her flesh wound: “I really, really love you.”

            Kate nods her head with a smile and tells her, “Me too.”

Chapter Text

            The Blackwell Pool is a place for a budding romance to grow, as they always should. Between Victoria and Kate, this is hardly any different. Tonight, it is apparently acting as a conduit for ghosts thanks to Victoria. She rests her right hand in the pool as she lies on the edge of the blue lagoon. She speaks to a glowing white blanket with googly eyes on its face, asking it: "Ghosts of Arcadia Bay, hear me!"

            Kate, controlling the blanket with light and a volleyball to take on the visage of a ghost, says spookily, "Ooooo, whaaaat do you requeeeest of ussss, Victoriaaaaa Chaaaaase?"

            Victoria swirls her index finger in the pool to create a small vortex. "Can you, like, beat up Bedlam for me? Soften him up for me?"

            The ghost flies next to Victoria and carefully nods, telling her, "Thaaaaat can be arrangeddddd."

            Victoria laughs and she says to the ghost, "Yes! Thank you, ghosts of Arcadia Bay."

            The ghost floats up in a bit higher in the air and tells her, "Doooooon't mention iiiiiiit. Liiiiiterallyyyyyy. Iiiiiit is an open seeeeecretttttt." The ghost flies over the pool into a wall where it falls apart behind an old pillar. The blanket hovers back over to Kate and she wraps it over her shoulders like a cape.

            Victoria laughs a bit and tells Kate, "That felt good.” Kate shrugs as Victoria holds up a cigarette. A beam of light brings the fire to the cig as Victoria takes a puff of it: "Thank you."

            Kate moves behind Vic’s head and lifts her up so she can rest it on her lap. She says to her, "Tonight was a crazy series of events. Between you calling out Bedlam and Dolly's two attacks, the whole thing has felt unreal."

            Victoria looks at Kate and tells her, "It feels real enough just with you, Katie."

            Kate’s face blushes red as she runs her fingers through Victoria’s hair. She asks, "Soooo… marriage is still on your mind?"

            "Of course. I like it being there, hope it comes out someday. But, ah…” Victoria looks at the pool and its vast blueness. “I'm a little scared of the future. Everything is moving so quickly and the villains are getting more dangerous."

            Kate’s hand glows that dull orange tone that Victoria adores and she strokes her cheek with it. She reassuringly tells her, "We'll beat them."

            "I know, like, we’ve gotten this far, but… I don't want to lose you, and I don't want to abandon you, all to appease those shitheels that are trying to end the Bay.” Victoria sits up and turns to look at Kate with a hint of worry in her eyes before asking her, “At what cost will we beat them?"

            "No cost. It'll be free." Kate grins at Victoria and asks, "Did ya like that? I just came up with it."

            Victoria lets out a laugh and tells her, "I loved it." A small boat made of light sails by the two and Alice looks at the two girls. "How's she holding up?"

            Kate extends a hand to scratch Alice’s back, bringing a satisfied shiver to the rabbit. "She wasn't hurt in either of Dolly's attacks. But she does seem frailer.” Kate looks at Alice with worry and continues: “Do you believe Dolly? That she didn't hurt her?"

            Victoria shrugs, telling her, "She doesn't seem like the type. But what was that about her calling us snitches? Did we snitch on her at some point?"

            Kate pauses to think. She shakes her head and says, "Not that I remember. So, if I had to guess, since it just makes sense, she thinks we called the Agency before they attacked at the mansion. Your parents know Sean Prescott, right?"

            Victoria scowls at this fact, telling her, "Unfortunately… wait.” A little lightbulb goes off in Vic’s head and she says with a smile, “Oh! Goddamn, you're smart!" She pulls out her phone and turns on a recording app. After that, she quickly dials her mother’s phone number.

            Kate tries to play it off, telling Victoria, "I try my best."

            Victoria playfully refuses Kate’s denial, adding, "You don't try your best, you just do. It's why I love you." She calls her mother and awaits a response. Victoria’s mother, Zara Chase, answers just as Victoria stands up from the edge of the pool, helping Kate do the same. She says to her, "Hi, mom."

            Zara tiredly asks of her daughter, "Victoria, what are you calling me for at this hour? Is everything alright?"

            "I need to ask you about Sean Prescott."

            "What about him? Wait, is this about you being involved with drug dealers?"

            Victoria pauses and holds back some laughter, giving Kate a smile. "That’s one way to put it, yeah. They kidnapped Kate's bunny rabbit. We tried to get her back, but then there was a fight and we got teleported away by some guy."

            Zara groans and tells her, "Oh my god, Victoria. Please stay away from all this craziness of drug dealers and supervillains. Let the authorities deal with it."

            Victoria shrugs her shoulders and says, "If only it were that easy. I just need to know what he told you. If anything at all, that is.”

            “Victoria-”

            “Please, mom?”

            Zara pauses and sighs. After a few seconds of quiet, she relents: “He didn’t say much. Just that he had one of his agents get you and Kate to safety. Some guy called about a situation in Culmination that was about to go down and he sent his people to handle it. That’s all.”

            “Did he say who it was?”

            “No, it was an anonymous caller with a sultry wit to his voice. Kinda sounded like ‘Mark Jefferson’, as he put it.”

            Under her breath, Vic’s eyes widen and she angrily hisses, “SHIT.”

            Zara asks, offended, “What did I do?”

            Victoria shakes her head before clarifying to her mother, “No, that wasn’t to you. I’m just saying. Okay, thank you. Have a good night. I love you guys.”

            “Please be careful, Victoria. You’re our little girl. And we love you too.”

            Victoria hangs up and ends the recording. She then turns her attention to Kate and tells her, “So, assuming Prescott isn’t completely full of shit, it seems a guy snitched on Iris. And I find it a little crazy that he’d do it.”

            “Who?”

            “Jefferson”, Max says, suddenly appearing out of nowhere behind Victoria.

            Both Kate and Victoria jolt at the sight of her teleportation into their conversation. Victoria asks her angrily, “The fuck?! Max, you can’t just teleport in on people!”

            Max puts her hands up defensively, adding, “Sorry. But it’s true. Jefferson called the Agency. Probably to get some leverage with Prescott once he found out it was him. I had to explain this to you, just for your safety.”

            Victoria is a bit taken aback by this latter claim, asking, “M-my safety?” Max nods and Victoria also asks, “Wait, how’d you figure out who it was?”

            Chloe rolls up to the three while sitting in a comfy rolling chair lined with rich brown leather. She tells her, “We saw him doing so while we were in the woods. Didn't know specifically, but we put two and two together, and... ta-da.”

            Victoria crosses her arms in equal parts acceptance and frustration, telling her, “‘Kay." In the midst of taking another puff off the cigarette, she remarks, "So you’re gonna tell us this, but not about Bedlam.”

            Max sighs and tells her, “I can only really help you out like this with the little matters. I’m sorry. Besides, you were smart enough to piece it together.”

            “I appreciate the apology. And I accept it. Just, and not to seem like a bitch, I'm a little worried about this 'secret plan' of yours, where things must be kept from us. Things like warnings about, I dunno, Dolly attacking us - not once, not twice but thrice! Why?"

            Max thinks about this attitude. She thinks back to that party that never was. October 10th, 2013: The Vortex Club’s Armageddon Eve Party. On the path to warn everyone about Nathan Prescott’s menace, she just had to warn Victoria about him. And doing so brought her to the Dark Room. To her death. Max blinks and looks down for but a second before telling Victoria, "It's to ensure that everyone gets out of this alive."

            Victoria raises an eyebrow and asks, "And just how alive would we be at the end of this?" In her head, Max can hear Victoria's desperate pleading from within the Dark Room in that worse-for-wear timeline, the day after the party: “ I don’t want to die like this! I’m only 18!

            "A good alive." Max thinks back to that desperate Victoria, to when she reassured her at her lowest: “ Nobody is gonna die… anymore.

            Kate interjects to tell Max, “That’s all that matters.” The two exchange smiles as Max thinks back to another memory. One of Kate in Jefferson’s class on the morning of Chloe’s death. How she comforted her in the aftermath of her hellish weekend in the Dark Room. How she told her, “ You always know the right thing to do.

            Max nods her head and promptly tells her, “Damn right.”

            As she starts to walk away and Chloe follows, Victoria asks her, “Hey, is there somewhere we can sleep?”

            Chloe spins around to face her friends and she says to her, “Yes. There are some classrooms that we aren’t using for anything, and we can set up an air bed. too!”

            Victoria and Kate smile at one another and Kate says to her, “Sweet. Thank you, guys.”

            Max and Chloe tell them at the same time, “You’re always welcome.”

            The four girls walk out of the poolroom and Chloe leads them to the old science classroom. Max walks in and snaps her fingers, causing an air bed to float down to the ground. She walks over to it, hooks up an air pump and turns it on, allowing it to inflate greatly.

            After the bed is finished being filled up, Victoria and Kate walk up to it and lie down on it. Victoria raises her hands up to Kate’s shoulders and holds her as Alice jumps in between them.

            With the two sitting comfortably together, Chloe wheels herself away like a madwoman. Max tells the two, "You two sleep tight. It's gonna be a big day tomorrow, full of planning and offense."

            Victoria tilts her head and asks of Max, "Just, whatever you have planned with Iris and his gang… You know the drill, please keep Kate safe. No matter what."

            Max smiles at her and lets her know, "That was always the plan."

            Victoria gives Max a smirk and lies her head down while closing her eyes. With a yawn, she says to her, "Thank you. I trust you."

            Max’s voice starts to strain, growing tranquilly harsh: “I’m glad. You and I… We’re so similar.”

            The classroom warps into a wide gray cell, its walls completely barren except for one mess of photographs nailed up for display. They are adorned with selfies of Max, her eyes are filled with rebellious contempt and an odd hint of comfort. Worriedly, Victoria looks around and asks, “The fuck? Katie?”

            As Victoria rises to her feet and looks around, she spots a Max with fair skin instead of pale white, and she’s now dressed in a red prisoner’s jumpsuit, sitting on a steel bed with a solid-looking mattress that certainly lacks a great deal of comfort. She asks, “Max?”

            “No.” This other Max softly kicks her feet, amused by Victoria’s presence. She asks, “Chalkfield must’ve mentioned me, no? Does the phrase ‘I murdered twenty people in cold blood’ ring a bell?”

            Vic’s eyes widen as she realizes, “Oh my god, you’re the Max that did that!” She spots the cell door and runs up to it, trying to open it. But she cannot. It’s locked and this is a dream… right?

            “You’re catching on. Good. I’d hoped your dealio, being smart, with calling out Bedlam wasn’t a one-time spur of knowledge. But yes. I am the Other Max. Call me Maxine. Ooh, or you can call me ‘Caulfield’, maybe! Y’know, for old times’ sake!”

            Victoria turns to face the Other Max, worriedly asking her, “What do you want? You’re gonna try to kill me too?” Victoria puts up her fists, much to the doppelganger’s delight.

            In between laughs, the Other Max shakes her head with a disturbing sense of joy. She tells Victoria, “I can’t. Yet. I brought you here to keep you grounded. I’m just the boost of pessimism that all of us need.”

            Victoria squints at her in confusion, slowly lowering her fists. “Uh… Okay?”

            The doppelganger explodes, telling her, “More like NOT okay. Because that’s where the world will be headed in a few months! It’s all going down the shitter! And we’re through almost all the strangeness seals - the anachronisms of music, of people, of things, paradoxes popping up and around, the forces of darkness and death banding together - oooooh, it’ll be so much fun!”

            “We’ll stop them.”

            “You can try. But in the end, all there will be, and all there is, is death. He waits for us all. Do ya really think you can beat the Lord of Death? Spoiler alert: you can’t. All you can do is wait until Christmas, as I am, hold the ones you love, as I don’t, and embrace Bedlam into your hearts, as I have. Just as you embraced Nathan-Two into yours.” Victoria shoots a cold glare in her direction. One that brings back memories of her old bitchiness, one that brings a grin to the Other Max’s face. She says to her, “Ah, yes, now I’m getting somewhere. Just as you are with your second chanscott.”

            “He’s not the same. He’s better than Nathan.”

            The doppelganger claps for her, sarcastically telling Victoria, “All thanks to you, surely. And yet, Bedlam and Naton’s Lord of Death are the same?” She stands up to impose herself over Victoria.

            The doppelganger paces back and forth on her bed, glaring at Victoria without taking her eyes off of her for even a second. “What if I told you about Bedlam’s soft side? How you’ve just misunderstood him? What if he called you to tell you he’s so, so sowwy? Face it. You’ve fucked up in life. You’re fucked up. Like me! Between being the cinematographer for Katie’s silver screen debut, your old desire for the Jefferson Stamp of Approval, your past disdain for anyone who wasn’t you, your penchant for jealousy, drama, conflict, hypocrisy- oh!” The doppelganger giggles, adding, “Your pretty face is going to hell! Hope you give Chloe my regards when you do.”

            Victoria lunges at her and slams her into the wall. As she frowns at the Other Max and grips her shirt's collar, the doppelganger shoots her a fake smile. Rebelliously, Victoria tells her. “I won’t die, and I won’t be going down there. Me and Katie, we’ll be happy together. I’d do anything for our happy ending.”

            With gritted teeth, the Other Max mockingly tells her, “Oh… hohoho! You think those are dreams you’ve been having? Premonitions? Of you and Katie livin’ it up in the Big Apple?” Victoria lowers her guard in confusion, slowly letting go of her grip on the other Max’s shirt. “Those are flickers, my dear! Sneak peeks at other timelines that are like ours, but not. It may be your future - or rather, just a possible one - but it sure as hell will never be your present. Because you’ll never get there!”

            Victoria pushes herself away from the Other Max and she walks into the darkness of the cell. She looks back at her and tells her with a classic Victoria Chase scowl, “I believe otherwise."

            The Other Max dusts herself off and leans back in her bed while waving her goodbye: "And that's just the tragedy of it all. Be seeing you soon. Real soon."

            The Other Max dissolves into Kate, who looks at her girlfriend with worry. A bit afraid, she asks, "Vic, are you okay?"

            Victoria looks around, face dripping with anxiety-driven sweat, and realizes that she is back in Blackwell. She sighs and tells her, "I think so… Sleep, my love." Kate cautiously and slowly returns to sleep as Victoria strokes her hands, whispering coolly to her, "Everything is okay." Max looks into the classroom and Victoria calls out to her: "Hey."

            Max whispers, "Yeah?"

            "In the future… do me and Katie get married?"

            Max smirks at Victoria and tells her, "That's your plan."

            Victoria shrugs in agreement and thinks to herself: “ It’s true. ” “I take it that’s a yes.” Still, her mind is not at ease, so she asks, "But, like… do we stay married?"

            Max’s smirk grows into a perfectly optimistic smile as she tells her, “Of course.”

            Victoria looks at Max doubtfully as she walks out of the classroom, leaving the two alone for the night. She lowers her head back to bed where she looks at Kate. She sleeps gently as Victoria caresses her cheek and holds her shoulder to keep her within grasp.

            That night, Victoria doesn’t fall asleep. How can she?

Chapter Text

            Without a lot of sleep, Victoria has to catch up throughout the AM hours of the following day. Catching up with her are an assortment of voices as she drifts in and out of consciousness.

            She hears Max explaining their plan of attack: "-is to send three teams to attack the mansion. Be wary of the guar-"

            She hears Chloe, amused and a wee bit annoyed: "-at Sleeping Beauty over here! Max, pass me that Sharp-"

            She feels Rachel lightly slapping her face: "Look alive, Victoria! Wake up! C'mo-"

            She hears a song from the future - Hippo Campus's "Boyish": " -ere's sunlight drippin' off the apricot tree

Lost to the night tide growing i- "

            She feels Kate caressing her cheek: “Vic, wake up.”

            Victoria’s eyes slowly widen behind a pair of sunglasses on her face. She asks, “Huh- what? Where are we?”

            Kate puts her hand on Vic’s back to help her sit up. She tells her, “Outside Teddy's mansion. It’s the mission, remember?” Victoria nods her head and removes her sunglasses, revealing her red eyes from sleep deprivation. “Oh, your eyes. What happened last night?”

            Victoria shrugs her shoulders and smiles at Kate, telling her, “I had a bad dream. All good now.” She rubs her head, hearing aluminum foil crinkle in response to the touch and feeling the red beret with the foil lining on her head. She also looks at her clothing - she is dressed in black. And she looks at Kate's clothing - she is dressed in white.

            Kate holds her hand and tells her, "You poor thing."

            Victoria shakes her head a bit with a smile and says, "You shoulda seen the other… girl." She looks around and sees the forest surrounding them. Looking a bit more, she spots Teddy’s mansion hidden behind a ten foot tall red brick gate. “Uh, what’s the plan again? We have a plan, right?”
            Kate sighs and smirks at Victoria before telling her, “Yes. We're on this side of the building. We have to find a way inside undetected. And we have to take down any of the bad guys in our way. There are guards, the Enforcers… Seven, surveillance cameras, and probably Bedlam and that leaf guy.”

            "Cool. Who's with us right now?" Victoria spots Jumbo and Rose hiding in some big nearby bushes, all with their game faces on, so to speak - Jumbo in his costume and Rose in hers. She waves at them and says, "Hi."

            Rose nods at her and says, "Let's get this show on the road." Jumbo grows to the size of the gate and bends his back at a 45-degree angle, allowing his allies to climb over. They walk up his spine and jump down the gate, entering Teddy’s property. Jumbo climbs the gate and shrinks to normal size as Rose rushes over to a wall with vines on the side. Above it is a scaffolding where three goons keep watch. Not very well, obviously.

            A goon asks another standing on one edge of the scaffolding, "Hey, man, you catch the game last night?"

            This second goon tells him, "I don't watch sports, bro."

            The first sighs, "Oh…", before walking over to a third on the other side of the scaffolding and asks the same question: "Hey. Hey, man, you catch the game last night?"

            The third goon turns to the first and tells him, with a fist bumping in the air, "Yeah! Goooo, Hawt Dawgs!"

            The first goon gets defensive and smacks the third goon’s fist out of the air. Angrily, he tells him, "Fuck you, man! I’m with the fuckin' Power Bears, man! We rock the Chess Board!"

            The third goon backs away from his friend, raising his palms to defend himself. "Dude, chill." Upon turning around, the third goon realizes that the second has left his post. He asks, "Where'd Vern go?" The first goon turns around just in time to see Jumbo climb over the railing and onto the scaffolding.

            Jumbo informs them coldly, “He’s taking a break.”

            The two goons salute Jumbo, with the second saying to him, "Oh, it’s you. Sorry, sir…” Jumbo grabs the first goon by the shoulders and tosses him off the scaffolding. “Wa- shit!" As he raises his gun from his pocket, Rose jumps down and hits him over the head with a baton. Kate and Victoria follow after her. The two high-five Rose and Jumbo

            From inside the mansion, Elmer yells, "Keep down the goddamn ruckus, ya goons." The group silently shush each other as Elmer says to someone else in the room, "Nothin', beb."

            Elmer holds a hand to his ear like one would a regular phone. He says to the person on the other end, "How have you been?” Elmer nods his head at the response and exclaims, “Congrats! You earned it.”

            Secretly, Victoria and Kate’s team have entered the room through a window while Elmer wasn’t looking. He continues on his call, “Oh, I’m just working here still. I expect my payment soon. Then, home free with you!"

            Quietly, Victoria opens the door for her team and they exit further into the mansion. Blissfully unaware of the infiltration, Elmer smiles and asks, "So it's a date? Gotcha. Be seein' you soon, beb." He takes his hand away from his ear and closes his eyes to catch some sleep. Before he can, he says to Dolly nearby, “Thanks for lettin’ me call him, Doll.”

            Standing silently in the corner of the room, Dolly gives him a thumbs up.

            In the hallway, avoiding the sight of the many goons roaming the Main Hall, Victoria asks, “Where are the other teams?”

            Rose explains, “We’re Team B. Team A is Max and Chloe.”

            Victoria laughs a little giggle. “Makes sense.”

            Rose continues, “They’ll lead the main attack. Team C is Naton, Frank, Rachel and David. They’re dealing with security. Like cameras and all that.”

            Victoria nods at her, nods at Jumbo, nods at Kate. “This is a good plan.”

            A screech rings across the mansion. Teddy speaks. “It is!” An army of footsteps marches forward and the quartet prepare their weapons. “Unfortunately, it is nigh impossible to beat me. In this world and in my business, I am a mere king of crime. But in my home, and in this town…” Goons dash around the building, and they are all armed with guns, knives, bats, and many other weapons. “I am a god.”

            Elmer looks out through the door and asks, “What the?!” Rose, wielding her blow dart gun, fires into his neck, hitting him. “Shit.” He collapses to the ground slowly, trying to fight the tranq. He fails and falls asleep.

            Dolly steps out behind him as Rose fires another dart at her. The psychic merely grabs it as it approaches her eye and waves it at the heroes. She also takes note of the strange drawing on under Vic’s nose: “I’m digging the facial hair, Vicky.”

            Victoria wipes the drawn on mustache away and jokingly remarks to herself, “Damn you, Chloe.”

            Kate creates an orb of light and the four attempt to retreat across a balcony as more goons rise up the stairs in the midst of the Hall to get to the second floor where our heroes are hiding. Victoria states, “We need to find him!”

            “You’ll never find me, rats!” More goons surround the orb and Kate tips her head to the edge of the balcony. Kate charges the barrier of the balcony, breaking it as the four fall ten feet to the first floor. Safely, their orb bounces and our heroes roll into the center of the hall. The center where the goons are mobilizing. “Like rats, you shall be driven out of this fine establishment! You shall be drowned! You shall be-”

            Victoria says to her friends, “Man, this guy really loves the sound of his own voice.” She gets the irony of her saying this and laughs to herself.

            Jumbo shrugs his shoulders. “I mean, he did used to be a phone call. It’s all he’s got.”

            Gunfire rains upon the orb, causing the four to fall on their butts. Victoria swears as Kate leads the orb and its inhabitants to a chest in the corner of the Hall. “Shit, shit, shit. Katie?”

            With an almost smug smile on her face, Kate tells her, “I’ve got thi-” Two spotlights, bright and white, beam down on the orb, causing Kate to fall forward. The orb dissipates, leaving only the chest as their means of defense. Bullets fray at its edges and vanish inside the box, keeping the four safe.

            Terrified, Victoria scurries next to Kate and caresses her head. “Ka-”

            Kate holds a hand to Vic’s shoulder, staggeredly telling her, “Am fine.”

            Teddy steps out of his office on the second floor atop the Hall’s stairway, followed by Dolly, Jefferson, Tangi, Lord Laundry, Merrick and the Shrub. He bellows through the Public Announcement system of the house, “You think you and ya crew are innocent? Nah.” He raises a fist and the goons cease fire. “Where’s Maxine and her chick?”

            Victoria rolls her eyes at Teddy’s “Maxine” remark. She hisses, “MAX… is elsewhere. Probably on the way to kick your ass.” She smirks smugly.

            Teddy puts his hands up and claims, “Maybe so. If only she were here, she could save you all. Ha!” With his raised hands, he snaps his fingers twice. “Kill them. Shoot 'em again!”

            The goons, Jefferson, Dolly, Tangi and Merrick fire on the four again while Teddy takes a puff off the Cuban cigar in his fingers.

            The chest frays more and more, prompting Victoria to hold Kate. “Oh no! Uh! Just focus, Katie!”

            Kate creates another light orb but the two spotlights cause the girl great pain. It falls apart as liquified light spills from her nose. “Light… So much light…”

            Victoria hugs Kate and tells her, “You’re okay! God…” She wipes away the liquid light from her nose and looks at it in confusion. “ That’s certainly new ”, Victoria thinks to herself.

            Suddenly, she remembers. “WAIT! Hold your fire or whatever!” Teddy raises his fist and the goons hold their fire, as do the other Enforcers… save for Jefferson. He fires and fires from the pistol in his hands until Lord Laundry smacks him upside the head, prompting him to stop.

            Victoria stands up. She is wobbly given her wounded leg from last night. She raises her hands in the air and opens them. “We’re not the snitch here!” Cautiously, she walks into the center of the Main Hall, and her friends follow her. Nerves are high as they have dozens of guns trained on them.

            Teddy scowls at her and asks, “Ooh, then who is?”

            She looks at Jefferson, angered at his presence. “It’s Jefferson you’re pissed at!”

            Teddy raises an eyebrow. “Is that so?” He looks at Jefferson and walks over to him. He asks, “My boy, did you snitch on me to the Agency?”

            Jefferson laughs and passively raises his hands to defend himself. “No, sir. I would never do anything like that to someone of your status. Too dangerous, too-”

            Victoria sighs, sticking her tongue out in a show of disgust. Quickly, she pulls out her phone and raises it in the air. “Listen to this, Ted.” She taps a few buttons on her phone and the call from last night begins to play.

            Teddy tilts his head and asks, “What is it?”

            Merrick advises, “Might be a trap, sir.” Teddy places a hand up to his ear to hear it more closely.

            The recording of the call ends and Teddy asks, “A guy? Sounds like Jefferson here?” Jefferson’s face grows pale and Dolly leans in from where she is standing to sneer at him. Teddy looks around. “Is that supposed to be some proof that it wasn’t you?”

            Victoria turns off her phone and puts it away. “My mom and dad told me. And they’re good friends with the big boss himself. Y’know. Sean Prescott?”

            Teddy smirks, first at her and then at Jefferson. “I’ll have to check for myself then. Give me a minute. Beep boop boop beep, boop beep bop.” Teddy places his hands behind his back and walks into his office while awaiting an answer.

            Victoria sputters out a laugh the second he leaves. Jefferson glares at her. “Don’t laugh at him, if you know what’s good for you!”

            Wiping away a tear from her eye, she gleefully tells her old professor, “Kiss my ass, Jeffershit.”

            Many of the goons let out deep “Ooooh”s in response, and Tangi bursts into laughter, much to Jefferson’s annoyance. “Oho! Oh my- ‘Jeffershit’? That’s gold, kid!”

            Victoria shrugs. “Eh. I didn’t come up with it. It might’ve been a bunch of people. After all, that’s just how much people hate him.”

            Jefferson fixes his glare on Tangi and asks him, “Whose side are you on, Tangi?”

            Tangi points at the ground on the second floor: “This one, of course.”

            From a hallway on the first floor, Team C is escorted into the center of the Main Hall by a squad of armed goons. “Sir, we found these folks in the corrid- Where’s Mr. Iris?”

            Dolly floats down to the Main Hall and points at Teddy’s office with her thumbs. “Taking a call right now.” Dolly smiles upon the new captives and says. “Put them with the others.”

            Naton looks at Victoria and Kate with a worried glance. As he gets pushed over to them by a goon, he asks, “Guys! Guys! Are you okay?”

            Victoria nods at him and gives him a smirk of reassurance. “We’re fine, Nate.”

            “Nathan? You’re here too?” Victoria rolls her eyes, not even bothering to give the villain a glance.

            Naton stands up and informs him, almost defiantly, “I am Naton. Or Nate. But never Nathan.”

            Jefferson nods along before stating slowly, “I’m… not following.”

            Victoria turns to face him with a death stare before telling him, “Put it together, Teach.” Dolly giggles and Victoria smiles at this. It feels good to see bad people not be bad, even if only for now. “He’s a caveman. And NOT your weird not-adopted son, you freaky fucker.”

            Taken aback by his former student’s harsh attacks on him, Jefferson angrily lashes out, “Y’know what, Victoria? How about I come down there and kill you?!” He aims his gun at her.

            He won’t shoot her. She knows. “Do it, pussy. Or should I strike a pose for you?” As Victoria mockingly strikes a pose, Jefferson lowers his gun. A sinister grin grows on Vic’s face and she snidely asks, “Are you actually pausing to consider that?” She laughs. A few seconds later, her friends, the other Enforcers and the goons begin laughing. Anger grows within Jefferson. Fuming with rage, he marches down the stairs to approach Victoria.

            “God. Oh, ‘you’re approaching me’? You’re pathetic. You’re nothing. Just… a remnant of times where you were the worst thing out there. Maybe that's why you snitched. You're a scared little man, afraid of the future. Afraid of... well, us. Look around you! You are… You’re nothing! Hell, even Mummy Man over there is giving me more of the heebie jeebies than you.”

            Damon smiles through his ribboned-up face and shrugs. “She’s got the right idea.”

            Jefferson skips up to Victoria and aims his gun at her forehead. Coldly, he tells her in a harsh whisper, “The Agency'll take care of this sideshow circus one day soon. But you? Just. Die.”

            She looks behind him and smirks. “You first.”

            From atop the stairway, Teddy steps out of his office. “Don’t waste your ammo, Mark.”

            Jefferson turns around and asks him, “WHY?!”

            “Because you’re fired.” Just as Jefferson sees Teddy, he also sees the assault rifle in his hands and his finger on the trigger. Kate pulls Victoria back and creates a small wall of light as Teddy opens fire on Jefferson, knocking him into the light wall with an Atatatatatata .

            Blood spatters onto the light wall, but Kate and Victoria oddly don’t feel disgust in their hearts. They almost feel joy.

            After ten seconds, Jefferson falls to the ground, dead. Teddy hands the rifle to Merrick and says to Jefferson’s corpse, “Fuckin’ rat snitch. Prescott told me all about it. Had to pay him a bit though.”

            Victoria tips her beret in equal parts shock and relief. “Good riddance.”

            Dolly nods her head and says, “Agreed…” She tears Jefferson’s helmet away from his corpse and wipes away a few drops of blood. “Oh. I mean, uh, he’ll be dearly missed. I weep for him n’ shit like that.”

            “Now, about you all.” Dolly hops away onto the second floor as the goons reload their guns. “You’ll all still have to die, y’know, for breaking into my house. Sorry, it ain’t business. Just self-defense.”

            Teddy points at the heroes and yells, “FIRE!” The goons fire as Kate keeps the wall up. Slowly, both of her hands glow a bright white light as the spotlights are seconds away from being turned on. The instant the lights shine on her, she raises her hands into the air and absorbs the light into herself. Her skin grows pale as her eyes, her hair, her fingernails transform into pure light.

            Kate flies into the air and Victoria yells to her friends, "Close your eyes!"

            They do as Kate explodes into a ball of light, consuming the mansion’s Main Hall with the sound of a SCHWOOOOM.

Chapter Text

            The mansion is gone. Wiped off the map and reduced to a sizable crater with debris abound. The surrounding trees have been stripped of their leaves by the light that was Kate Marsh. Just a few feet away from where the front gate of the mansion used to be, the Price Mobile rests with Max and Chloe sitting inside.

            Chloe gazes at the smoke as it scatters into the Oregon afternoon sky. She asks, a bit panicked,“Max, what was that?”

            Max tells her casually, “That was Kate.”

            Chloe groans, stepping out of the car in a hurry. “C’mon!” Max steps out after her and the two march into the smoke, through dust and past debris.

            Marching further, they spot an orb of light big enough to hold about ten people safely. It opens, revealing Teams B and C. Safe and sound. Chloe rushes over to her friends and exclaims, “You’re safe!”

            Victoria takes a breath of relief and nods her head. But oddly enough, Kate is not in her view. She looks around and asks, “Where’s Katie?” She runs off from the group to look through the wreckage of Teddy’s mansion. “KATIE!”

            Naton runs along to help, yelling around, “KATE! KAAAAATE!”

             Ring ring goes Dolly’s bicycle as she pedals down from the heavens with a toy box strung up to one of the seats. She pedals to the ground and drives around the heroes, waving them down with a “Yoo-hooooo!”

            Victoria scowls at her and asks, “How’d you survive THAT?”

            “I think quickly on my feet.” Dolly stops the bicycle and walks over to the toy box. “And speaking of…”

            She opens it up and flies into the air before dumping its contents onto the ground: all the goons and the other Enforcers. Trapped in a big pile of people, they engage in discourse: “Get OFFA m-” “-your HANDS, stupi-” “ACK, my hai-!” The pile pulls itself apart and they take in the damage surrounding them.

            Gleefully, Dolly exclaims, “Look at me! I’m like a superhero!” She strikes a superhero’s pose - fists at her waist and her chest puffed out.

            Max asks, “Where’s Teddy?”

            Victoria adds, “And where’s Katie?”

            Dolly raises an eyebrow and tells them casually, “Pretty sure she was with you guys. No?”

            Victoria can almost feel her soul leave her body as her breathing grows panicked. She fears the worst. Suddenly, she steps on Jefferson’s skeleton, his body destroyed by Kate. By his ribs is his gun. She grabs it, and she drops it when she feels the heat radiating from it, blowing on her hand to cool it off.

            Suddenly, a pile of debris comes undone and Teddy steps out of it. He is covered in dust, his suit is tattered and he has a gash on his forehead where he bleeds blue blood. He beats his chest like a gorilla, shouting, “I live! I am more than man! Gods cannot kill me!”

            Teddy glances at the heroes and groans, perturbed by their survival. “Ah, you all are still here? Good.” He looks to his goons. “My men, kill these intruders!”

            The goons grab their guns and aim at their enemies. They all pull their triggers and… no bangs. They all look at one another and ask around: “Ey, you gotta any more?” “Nope.” “How ‘bout you?” “Nada.” “Zilch outta me too.”

            One goon sheepishly says, “Uh, boss?”

            Teddy sighs. “Yeah?”

            “We used up all our ammo.”

            Teddy glares at his men and asks of them, “Seriously?” He looks for an ammo rack amidst the destruction, telling his men, “Just grab some more am-” The ammo racks have been melted by the light that was Kate Marsh. Teddy places his hands on his hips and admits, “Shit. Grab… Anything. And kill these suckers.” The goons run around and grab pipes, bricks, a chair, anything really.

            Victoria crosses her arms. “Seems you have a good plan, Teddy. Mind if we steal it?”

            “Only if you live long enough t-” Victoria grabs Jefferson’s gun and shoots Teddy, hitting him in the shoulder.

            As Teddy recoils from the pain, Victoria smiles at this new power in her hands. “Let’s go!”

            Three goons rush to Teddy’s aid and they begin to run off to a trap door in the ruins of the mansion.

            Dolly rushes Victoria and the two fall on top of one another, causing Victoria to drop the gun. Almost immediately, Victoria throws a punch at Dolly's chin, causing the psychic's head to spin. Victoria throws another punch at Dolly’s right cheek and Dolly, regaining herself, grabs a tuft of Victoria’s bangs and starts pulling. Victoria knees Dolly in the gut, causing her to let go and fall over.

            Victoria grabs Jefferson’s gun again and aims it at Dolly’s face. Shock crosses Dolly’s face for but a brief second before she returns to reality and smiles at Victoria.

            Victoria freezes with her finger on the trigger. She looks at Dolly, sees the terror in her eyes that she is desperately trying to hide, and decides not to shoot her, aiming the gun up to the sky.

            Teddy’s fist flies into Victoria’s cheek and Dolly hops away to engage in a fight with David and Rose. She staggers for a second before Teddy takes the gun from her and ejects the ammo clip. He throws it at her head but she catches it and pulls the trigger as her aim arrives at Teddy. No ammo, no bang.

            Teddy cracks his knuckles and spits some blue blood on the ground. “You ain’t Max or Chloe, but you’ll have to do. Or, well, you’ll have to die.” Suddenly, Lord Laundry consumes him and becomes a sort of armor for him, causing Victoria to take two steps back. “Time to die, kid. Where’s mommy and daddy to save ya? Or how about Kate?”

            Victoria furrows her brow. “Oh, shut the hell up.”

            Teddy calmly steps forward to fight Victoria. She puts up her fists, and just as he throws a punch at her face, she ducks away from it. Teddy throws another fist which Victoria deflects with her elbow. She kicks Teddy in the chest, causing him to take a few steps back in recovery. As he recovers, Victoria grabs a brick and throws it at his head, causing the gash in his head to grow larger.

            She glares at him as the wound seems to do nothing to stop him. Out of the corner of her eye, she spots the ammo clip for her gun. She runs to it but some weeds trip her up, causing her to fall to the floor. She looks up at the ammo clip as a vine drags it away. As she pushes herself up to her feet, Lord Laundry runs into her and opens his chest. He grabs her by the shoulder and tosses her in before zipping himself up. He then starts punching his chest several times, hitting Victoria.

            Victoria looks around the snuggly supervillain’s “stomach”, while trying to defend herself. Not being able to see where the hits are coming from makes it a bit harder. Thinking quickly, she spots a way out in the form of the Lord’s chicken-head. She grips at the pockets in his body to pull herself up so that she can see out of his mouth.

            Victoria pulls herself up some more, fastening her arms in the Lord's jacket-for-a-chest and starts thrashing about. After a few seconds of thrashing, he starts falling apart at the socks-for-limbs. Victoria frees her arms from the Lord’s limbs and kicks away at his jeans-for-legs, causing him to collapse completely to the ground. Victoria rolls out of the damage, her body covered in light bruises from the Lord’s flurry of fists, as she tosses his chicken head off her head to the rest of him. She also starts to take off the yellow feather jacket before deciding to keep it on.

            Teddy watches this unfold as Dolly and Max fall at his feet, fighting one another. After Dolly pushes Max away and tosses some small action figures at her to act as a distraction. He asks exasperated, “How is this chick so fuckin’ good at fighting?” The vine that took Victoria's ammo hands it to Teddy and the gun is swept over to his feet. He picks it up and loads the ammo before aiming it at Victoria.

            Before Dolly can even respond, another female voice retorts from above, “She’s full of surprises, Ted!”

            It is Kate's voice.

Dolly flies into the air to look for her, but a small ray of light hits her eyes. “D’aaah!” She rubs her eyelids to ease the pain.

            Teddy waves the gun in the air while trying to find Kate. He bellows, “YOU?!”

            The light coming into Teddy’s eyes begins to refract, forming Kate Marsh in his line of sight. She gets up in his face and does jazz hands at him while valiantly declaring, "Meeeeeee!" Without returning to her physical form, she punches him in the face, causing him to recoil in horror. He closes his eyes to embrace the impact… and opens them to see that she is gone.

            He looks around again as light encircles him from above. Suddenly, an anvil of light falls onto him, crushing him flat into the ground. He lets out a weak “Ow.”

            Victoria rushes over to the anvil as it dissipates and reforms into Kate. She tries to hug her, yelling gleefully, “Katie!”, but Kate is still reforming, so no cigar. She waits three seconds before Kate fully reforms into her physical form. “Katie! You’re okay!” She hugs her again, successfully this time, and the two smile at one another. “What was that thing you did?”

            “Absorbed the spotlights into myself and ex-PLODED! It was so SURREAL! I think I DIED for, like, five WHOLE seconds!”

            Victoria runs her fingers through Kate’s hair and beams with relief at her, “Well, you’re here!”

            “Yes, yes, and now, you’ll die together!” Tangi runs over to the two girls and puts his fists up. He looks next to him, hoping some reinforcements will arrive. None do. “Uh, Jefferson was supposed to be a part of this too. ‘Ccording to Dolly, that is. But he… y’know.”

            Victoria snidely glares at him. “Good riddance.”

            Tangi nervously laughs. “Right?!” The two girls look at each other and nod their heads in agreement before walking up to him. The Happy Clown lowers his fists and adds, “Ehhhh, you know, I can just surrender right now. Nobigdealpleasenottheface” Kate’s hand glows and she flicks Tangi’s nose, sending him flying away into a pile of debris.

            Victoria smiles at Kate, proud of her girlfriend’s power, and walks up to her to wrap her arms around her from behind in a hug. “That’s a really nice coat.” She grabs at the shoulder and rubs the feathered material with her fingers.

            “Thanks! I stole it off the Lord. Lord Laundry, that is. Not, like, God or something.”

            Kate laughs and holds Victoria’s hand to calm her down. “I figured.” She looks at the scene around them. The crater that once was Teddy’s mansion, the supervillains working together, the three big bads - Bedlam, Teddy and Dolly - somewhere around, her and Victoria united in love. “This is the dream. Oh my goodness.”

            Victoria looks around and realizes too. “Oh shit, it is! Awesome!” “Wait, does that mean this is the end of the world?”

            “No.” Dolly descends from the sky, her eyes having recovered from Kate’s assault on them. “Schedule’s off. We’re ahead of it.” Damon Merrick’s head flies at her feet. He winks at her and she picks him up as the rest of him runs over with open palms. “And so are you. Get back there, you.” She plops his head back into place between his shoulders and he rushes back into battle with the other heroes.

            Victoria smugly glares at Dolly, asking, “So the story - of your little war on Arcadia Bay - is gonna end here? When we beat your ass?”

            Dolly chuckles as she scratches at the back of her neck. “Well, no, I’ve still got plans. And so does the big boss bone man.”

            Victoria’s smugness turns to scowling as she adds “Bedlam.”

            Dolly lightly nods her head. “Yeah. Can’t kill really ya ‘til Christmas or whatever, if my math is right, and we’ve already fought twice… And I almost got blowed up. And- eh, y’know what? Let’s just call it for today. I’m going home.” Dolly starts hovering away to her bicycle.

            Victoria wags her finger at her. “No, you’re not.” She walks over to Teddy’s destroyed body and grabs the gun from his hands, much to his annoyance. “I said I was gonna kill you. So now, I’m gonna kill you.”

            “Very well.” Dolly walks away from Victoria and Kate, much to their confusion. “If this is the end, it’s the end. Let’s…”

            She starts spinning as her limbs grow loose and wobbly. Her hands shrink into her wrists as her fingers transform into machetes. She herself starts to grow twice the size of the two girls. Her mask distorts from a face into a violent swirl with sharp jagged teeth hidden in the darkness.

Finally, she stops transforming. She roars:

“GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

            Victoria’s jaw drops at the sight of this Dollstrosity. She looks at Kate, who is equally as dumbfounded. She picks up her attitude and preps her gun. She tells Kate, with a smile, “I fuckin’ love you, Katie.”

            A lightsword manifests in Kate’s grasp and a sweet smirk enters her face. She tells Victoria, with her smirk, “I… fuckin’ love you too.”

            Victoria freezes as her smile grows into a full blown grin. “Potty mouth! Isn't that a one-way ticket to eternal damnation?”

            Kate turns to Victoria and says to her with a fire in her throat, “You do that for me, love!”

            And with that, the two charge the Dollstrosity with their weapons, screaming their lungs out in a war cry. The Dollstrosity roars back at them and lunges at them, causing the two girls to leap out of the way of her landing.

            Kate swiftly stabs the Dollstrosity's arm nearest to her, causing the creature to screech in abstract pain. With the villain pained, Victoria fires at the Dollstrosity’s face. The bullets blow through her but she doesn’t go down.

           Victoria wastes the rest of the clip on Dolly, yelling, “C’mon! Die! Die!”

“YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU FIRRRRRRRRRRST!”

            She swats at Victoria and Kate saves her by lifting her up with a light-hoist.

            Max hovers from above, holding Chloe’s hand, and the two land on the Dollstrosity’s hunched back. Chloe raises an eyebrow at Dolly’s new form and tells Max, “This is new.”

            “It is. It’s also that end-of-the-world dream.”

            Chloe sighs, remembering her old Max’s experience with nightmares and dreams, with prophecies and fate. “Oh, dammit, everyone has one of those. Seems weird.”

            “Yep. But it’s not the end of the world. And… THIS” Max pokes the Dollstrosity with her shield. “wasn’t there.”

            The Dollstrosity spots the two lovers on her back. Having heard a whole bunch of their conversation about predestination.

She hollers, singing:

“MY FATE IS TURRRRRNING,

CHANGING, EEEEEEEVERY DAAAAAAAAAAY”

            She tries shaking off Max and Chloe to no avail. At the same time, Kate and Victoria are attacking one of her arms. She tries swatting at them with her machete fingers.

She sings some more:

“WITH BEDLAM AND YOURS TRUUUUULY,

I’M FINDING MY WAAAAAAAAAAAY”

            Beneath the Dollstrosity, Victoria bellows with a joking manner in her voice, “Dammit, I hated that show SO MUCH!”

The Dollstrosity screeches, as the four leading ladies of Arcadia Bay fight on:

“ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGH!”

            The other heroes, the villains and the goons cease their fighting as they observe the Dollstrosity in action. David yells, absolutely petrified, “What in god’s name is that thing?!”

            Elmer tells him, while also carrying Lord Laundry’s remains, “That there, Mustache, is Dolly!”

            “It’s a cryin’ shame Jeffy missed this!” Tangi applauds the walking carnage that is the Dollstrosity as she roars at the many spectators, sending some flying backwards onto their butts. Tangi among them, he remarks, “Or not! Let’s get the fuck outta here!”

            The crowd disperses into chaos just as a swirling sinkhole opens in the floor and a neon sign saying “ VILLAINS, GET IN! HEROES, GET LOST! ” hovers above it.

Dolly turns to the crowd and instructs them:

“FLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, FRIEEEEEENDSSSSSS!”

            Damon Merrick tells his allies, “You heard the thing, let’s bounce!” And swiftly, the villains and the goons bounce into the portal. Our heroes attempt to follow and fire on them, but they merely run into invisible barriers. And within a few seconds, all the villains have vanished into the vortex.

            Chloe says to Max, “Dude, they’re getting away!”

            Max sighs and tells Chloe, “Dolly’s our main priority now. We’ll have to let them go.”

            Teddy raises a destroyed hand and stutteringly says, “Heyyyy… I’m… Still heeeeere…”

            A vine grabs his hand and tears it away from the wrist, taking his wormhole watch as well. The source, the Shrub, speaks with Bedlam’s voice: “I see, Theodore.” Bedlam appears behind the Shrub and absorbs him into himself, becoming one again. He attaches the wormhole watch onto his own wrist and tells Teddy, “You may rest. Your work here is done.”

            “No!” Teddy tries to move his body but things are freezing for him. Rigor mortis is kicking in for him. “I can still… fight!”

            Bedlam shakes his head, telling him, “I am afraid not. Your body is too damaged due to Kathryn’s efforts. But your assistance was, in the end, appreciated.” He walks to the sinkhole awaiting him. He looks at Teddy and waves goodbye. “Fare thee well. ‘Til death do you part.”

            “Come… back! Pleeeeease!” Bedlam sinks into the hole and a vine carrying Jefferson’s skeleton follows after him as it vanishes over them both. “Pleeeeeasssssse.” Teddy’s android body goes dark and dies down. Teddy’s consciousness stays on however, as the heroes approaching him notice. Defeated and dejectedly, he says to them, “This isn’t over.”

            Rachel taps on the android’s forehead and a SIM card is ejected. Rachel says to it, “I believe it is.”

            Teddy yells through the card, “Then deal with THAT!” He is, of course, referring to the Dollstrosity.

            Rachel looks at the monster and adds casually, “Of course.” She leads David, Naton, Rose, Frank and Jumbo onward to battle. They pick up speed and join the battle.

            Swiftly, they blend into the battle alongside Victoria, Kate, Max and Chloe. It’s a 10v1. And it is BRUTAL.

            Rain pours into town and thunder crackles in the sky. The Dollstrosity fights with all of its might, as do our heroes.

            Max, Kate and Rachel fly around the Dollstrosity, landing blows at random to whittle away at her stamina and health.

            Jumbo, grown big, punches and slams the Dollstrosity around with brutality only known by a twenty-foot titan. He helps Naton run around the beast, beating at her with his fists and two bricks.

            Victoria, Chloe, David, Frank and Rose stay at ground-level, shooting at the beast with their guns and providing one another with ammo once someone runs out.

            All serve to hurt the Dollstrosity, making it bleed. “ If it bleeds, we can kill it.

            To deliver the killing blow, Kate summons rays of light that pierce the clouds, wounding the Dollstrosity and bringing inner peace into Dolly’s soul within. This peace destroys the body of the beast, bringing it down on the land around them.

As the Dollstrosity falls, beaten, it screams out one last:

“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

            At the end of the battle, everyone stands triumphant against the Dollstrosity. And yet, Dolly doesn’t seem to return to humanity. With her body gone, it seems that she has been defeated. 

            Fate has been averted. The day has been saved.

But how much so?

Chapter Text

            Tangi turns on a baby blue Frozen radio with a tap . Guitars strum gently and soberingly as Ben Howard’s “Black Flies” begins at the funeral for Dolly and the burial of the skeleton that was Mark Jefferson.

            “ Black flies on the windowsill,

That we are,

That we are,

That we are you know

            Tangi clears his throat as he stands before an empty coffin with a shoddy drawing of Dolly in it. He and his criminal compatriots - Elmer, Damon Merrick, Lord Laundry, Bedlam, and the goons - are dressed in black as they mourn the loss they have faced.

            Tangi looks around, a sad face replacing his usual happy one. He chokes back giggles and tears as he gives his eulogy. "We are gathered here today to celebrate the life and times of one of our closest allies. One of our closest friends. Dolly… no last name, I think she was just Dolly… was only… an adult when she sacrificed herself to help us escape custody. As we were all villains, we hate the word. But among us as humans, and a walking pile of laundry granted sentience by chaos magic, she was a hero." Tangi sniffles as a tear rolls down his face, smudging his makeup just a tad bit.

            “ No man is… an island

But can’t you see, oh

Maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone

            Tangi bows his head as Damon Merrick, Elmer and Lord Laundry walk over to his side to give him a hug. The tone is somber, even with Bedlam as he reflects on his lost lieutenant. With enough strength to regain his composure, he says, "She will be missed dearly. Play us out, Ben Howard."

            “ So here we are!

            No crooks laugh. A few crooks cry. Most crooks are silent. The moment is silent, save for “Black Flies” as it fades out and finishes.

            Tangi wipes away his tears and does up his makeup, putting on a happy face with giddy and glee. His demeanor changes as he groans, "Now, onto this fucking guy. Marky Mark Jefferson. La-ame!”

            The Frozen radio begins playing Joe Sparks’ “You Are Dead” as the many villains present boo at Jefferson’s predicament. 

            “ You are dead, deeeeead, dead.

You are dead, deeeeead, dead

Thought you were hot

Guess what? You’re not!

You are dead, deeeeead, dead

            Elmer interjects, “Like, taking photos of little girls to get off to? What a tit." Merrick gives him a hand to high-five and he does so. He also steps forward to stand by Jefferson’s skellerton before spitting on it indignantly.

            Tangi adds smugly as he dances around Jefferson’s remains, “Quite frankly, little Katie Marsh did something right here! Eh?” Tangi stomps on Jefferson’s skull, collapsing it then and there. He looks down and says, “Certainly, more than you ever did, SNITCH.”

            The crooks and the Enforcer throw random stuff at Jefferson’s corpse - pebbles, burnt cigarettes, old receipts - all while voicing hatred against the sick monster: “Tables turn, fucko.” “Rot in hell, bitch.” “He got what he fuckin’ deserved!”

            “ Brought your adventure to a screeching halt,

You are dead, deeeeead, dead

            Damon Merrick steps over Jefferson’s corpse and says to the villains around him, "He won't be missed, fuck him. Let's go crank call his family."

            They unilaterally cheer, "AYE!" and look to their new boss: Bedlam.

            Standing tall and fearful, Bedlam comments, "Soon, we will bring about the endgame. The end of days. But for tonight, we drink."

            Bedlam tosses bottles of liquor to each and every crook in the area. They catch them all and pop them open, some on their own and some with each other’s help.

            Bedlam grabs a bottle too and opens it for himself. "Drink! To Dolly!" The villains cheer!

            Bedlam looks down on Jefferson and spits ink on him. "To Jefferson!" The villains playfully boo, even pouring their drinks on Jefferson’s corpse. Not out of honor, but out of hate.

            "To conquest!" The crooks cheer and clink their glasses.

            Bedlam raises his cup: "To death!" The villains cheer, albeit a bit confused. Still, they cheer.

            Quietly, Bedlam says lastly, "To all those things that give us purpose." The villains cheer into the night sky.

            Lying on her bed, the Other Max speaks to herself. Or does she? Her face is neutral with that air of bitchiness she loves. “I do not pray, Dolly. I’m a bit above those other gods. As are you. But I will surely miss your old form. I’m not that dumbass Max, and you’re not gone for good. I mean, when do we ever do anything for good?” She chuckles.

            She looks to her side and picks up a big camera. The big camera helmet, that is. The one Jefferson wore. “But I am thankful. For your ‘early Christmas gift’.” She looks up at the ceiling and grins an unnaturally wide grin while nodding. “Thank you.”

            She sits up and puts the helmet on her head. Fits just fine. “We will meet again, missy.” She raises a fist and bumps it against air. “Cheers to crime. Cheers to suffering. Cheers.”


 

            Max takes a sip of cold glass of Coca-Cola while seated at a big, big table in a not-as-big bar restaurant. It’s a comfy little place near the Two Whales Diner, where the cool, gentle wind soars outside. She says to the many friends around her - Chloe, Rachel, David, Joyce, Rose, Frank, Pompidou, Naton, Jumbo. Wells, Warren, Dana, Juliet and Luke - and smiles at them all. She triumphantly yells, “You guys rock!”

            Chloe lightly nudges Max’s shoulder and tells her, “Hey, don’t exclude yourself! You were the brains behind it all, right?”

            Max shrugs as Chloe gently scratches at the back of her head. “Eh, it’s a team effort. Always a team effort. Because of us, the ol’ Teddy Bear’s going to jail. For a long, long time. And we just stopped a bunch of supervillains!”

            Everyone likes hearing that as the happy chattering between one another is any indicator.

            Rachel looks around the table as she hands Pompidou some steak from her plate. “Where are Victoria and Kate?”

            Max smiles. She knows something’s up. And it ain’t just the sky. “They’re busy at home. Resting. They deserve it, I mean, they did hold the line against Dollzilla back there!”

            Chugging his second mug of root beer, Naton asks curiously, “Ey. I was wonderin’... Can I getta job here? Wit’ you guys?”

            Max shoots her smile at Naton, telling him, “Of course, Nate!” She turns his gaze to Jumbo, adding, “Same with you, Jumbo! The more, the merrier!”

            Jumbo gleefully bumps his fist into the air, exclaiming, “Yes!” He high-fives Naton as well, both working men on the side of good now.

            Max lowers her voice a bit, taking on a more sobering approach to her goal: “Besides, we’re gonna need all the help we can get. After all, evil still lurks in the shadows. But, just, look at all of us. Us and more. Taking down crime. Things can be good. Things will be good. Here's to heroism, and doing the right thing!” Max raises her Coca-Cola into the air and everyone clinks their glasses together in joy.

            Filled with joy, Chloe holds Max’s hand and looks her in the eyes. The two kiss and Chloe tells her girlfriend, “I love you so, so much.”

            “I love you too, Chloe.” Max places a hand on Chloe’s cheek and her smile shines into her heart. As it always does. “Always.”


 

            Kate holds Alice in her arms, rocking her to sleep as she sits on her bed. "Good baby." She plops a kiss on the rabbit’s forehead and her ears twitch giddily.

            Victoria holds Kate’s shoulder, feeling her soft skin and running her fingers along Kate’s hair - most strands of it are normal, but some are highlighted with the dull orange light - and asks, “How do you feel?”

            Kate nods her head and tells her plainly, “I’m doing fine, of course. With you and Alice here, what else is needed?”

            Victoria smirks at her. “Food and water, I imagine.”

            The two girls laugh amongst themselves. Kate tells her, “Obviously.” The two finish laughing and Kate asks, worried but not, “You think Dolly’s really gone?”

            Victoria shrugs her shoulders. “I sure as hell hope so. Still, all those other guys are out there. The porcupine guy, Tangi the clown, that laundry man with the bitchin’ jacket, Damon Merrick. And of course, Bedlam.” She sighs at the thought of having to take on all those lovely people, but feels ready nonetheless.

            Kate tells her, “We’ll take them down together. All of us.” She holds Alice up for Victoria to see, adding, “Including her.”

            Victoria chuckles. “You’re right. Still…” She looks at Kate’s window, seemingly repaired after Dolly’s demise, and claims, “Fate’s changed. That doomsday dream happened and we weren’t married yet.”

            “And it wasn’t the end of the world.”

            “And Jeffershit was destroyed beforehand. Good job on that, by the way.” Kate puts her hands up, taking in the praise for that little action. “You don’t think it’s too late, right?”

            Kate moves over to Victoria’s side and holds her hand. “Fate is only what we make it.”

            Victoria plops a kiss on Kate’s cheek. “You’re right. And speaking of…” She gets out of bed and stands next to Kate as she sits. She then gets down on one knee, much to Kate’s surprise… and concern.

            Victoria rubs the back of her head before saying what she must: “Katie, it’s a little too late and it’s been a little too busy to run to the jewelry store - that’s all the way outta town - so I’ll give you something that’s just as valuable as a ring.” She moves her hand to the back of her neck where the latch on her pearl necklace rests. Swiftly, she unhooks it and takes it into her hands. “These pearls have been passed down the Chase lineage for many generations. Or at least that’s what Dad tells me. And you… you’ve been the greatest fuckin’ thing in my life. It’s a little ironic, considering how I used to be, and I’m, y’know, sorry about it as I’ll ever be, but, with all the shit that’s hit the fan, you’ve been the light of my life. The one person I can rely on, talk to, trust, and hold. Now, I don’t know if we can get married-married, or if you’d like that right now, but I’d love to have you as my kinda-wife. And I would love to be yours. So, foregoing…” A tear rolls down Victoria’s face and she laughs upon feeling it.

            Kate steps forward and holds her cheek, crying too. Victoria continues, “... foregoing all those old marriage traditions… Kate Beverly Marsh, will you kinda-marry me?”

            Kate holds Victoria’s pearls and tells her, “Yes!”, with a gigantic grin on her face. She kisses Victoria and the two hold each other lovingly as they collapse into two crying messes. Victoria holds Kate’s head from the back and smiles at how this all turned out.

            She adds, “That takes care of the ‘wedding’. Now - well, not now, but later - we take on armageddon. Again.” Victoria wipes the tears from both her face and Kate’s.

            With their faces cleaned, Victoria holds Kate in her arms and tells her, “Together. My love.”