Description: Carl Clover has finally found his chance to meet his life-long hero, Lightning Spangles. Sure, she is scarred, and broken, and it's a Golden Angel tournament match where their swimsuits melt when sprayed with the right kind of water. But when you have the chance to meet your heroes, you'll take it no matter what? But something seems wrong in how Jezebel and Carl remember their first, magical meeting...
"I'm.... I'm okay with this."
The statement comes from Jezebel, with the utmost weight. Jezebel stares into the mirror, as the artist team works on her in the locker room of the Golden Angel Arena, spraying on her swimsuit ensemble. The freckled, ponytailed actress adjusts her hat, as she looks at herself. Her chest heaves, as she tries to... tries to digest what has happened so far. After her fight with her greatest fan, Whip. She reaches up to her face.
And she runs her hands on the scars.
The wounds from the whipping were impossibly deep, tearing across her cheeks, her face with mangled, torn flesh. Worst of all was the damage on her nose. She stares into the mirror, as the Golden Angel paint is sprayed on her. She brings the hand to the eyepatch, where... where her eye was still not replaced. She almost looked hideous. Like a freak. She brings the hand next to her neck, where the bruise was still black, a long line thin around her neck, where the rope was. She balls her hand into a fist.
"I am confident in my body, and my past, and my.... and my history." She says to herself in the mirror. "I understand that this will be a water gun fight. I... I understand that I could expose myself... but I understand it. If my opponent exposes me, then... I will not break down. I am beautiful still. I am confident. And I am wonderful. And it doesn't matter what kind of man or woman I face, I will always be me." The artist pipes up as he finishes up the seat of her 'pants.'
"Well, actually, your opponent is a 15 year old boy."
There is a pause of silence.
"I'm sorry, what?"
Jezebel arrives, dressed in the most concealing swimsuit yet.
It was in a faux style of her full Lightning Spangles regilia; blue leggings clinging tightly to her body with the swimsuit material, running all the way down to waterproof Cruggs on her feet. She strides across the arena, her one eye wide open, her face... so disfigured. But she was smiling, smiling so hard. Her chest was wrapped in a faux vest, sprayed on so tight, with little tassels on her legs and arms. A brown cowboy hat was on her head, as she looks out all around. The audience was cheering her on, excited to see their favorite Jezebel finally coming out as Lightning Spangles. Jezebel just kept smiling, her legs bowed, as she waves to her adoring audience. She was breathing hard.
Maybe this wasn't going to be weird.
"Gee... I don't know..."
In another 'dressing' room, Carl is standing in front of a mirror wearing a pair of real swimtrunks - white with a light-blue floral pattern. The Golden Angel artist-employee is applying the substance on /top/ of the fabric, in order to ensure that nobody involved in the tournament go to jail for forcing a 15 year old boy into a situation where he might potentially be exposed in front of a public audience.
Yes, even if this debaucherous tournament there is still /some/ shred of decency holding on for dear life. At least when potential criminal charges are involved in the equation, at any rate.
The young boy seems rather hesitant about going forward with things; the minute he'd heard about the 'special rules' for this particular round, he'd been heavily inclined to leave the waterpark and the tournament altogether.
"I mean... I'm not sure if I'm okay with this..."
As he says those words, he looks to his right side - directly at the tall, drooping mechanical body of his older sister Ada. She too is being decked out in a painted-on swimsuit; namely, a skimpy white bikini with the print 'Daddy's Little Girl' painted on over her robotic chest.
"Is it too late for me and my sis to back out? We don't really wanna... I mean, what if we're fighting a guy? I don't want him looking at my sister!!!"
Carl's words are suddenly cut off by the artist, still hard at work finishing up his work - a sprayed-on bottom with the words '#1 Son' over his normal, real swimtrunks.
'Well, actually, your opponent is Jezebel.'
A pause of silence.
"Really?!?! Oh boy! Sis, did you hear that? The lady from our favourite show!"
As Carl Clover skips out into the arena, he's wearing a beaming grin on his face - sparkly-white teeth practically radiating light in his joy. To think, he was about to leave the tournament before he found out who his opponent was!
The sprayed-on swimsuit seems somewhat comical, painted over the billowing fabric of his oversized swimtrunks... but the audience seems to breath a sigh of relief, as they realize that nobody in attendance is going to jail as a result of being witness to the indecent exposure of a 15-year old.
And behind him, plods the mechanical form of Ada, with her own sprayed-on bikini top. In one of those massive, clawed metal hands is a large, plastic water-cannon in the shape of a chaingun - something too large for Carl to ever conceivably lift on his own.
In the boy's hands? A pen and a promotional, full-colour photograph of Jezebel from her younger glory days as a legitimate television star. As Ada continues to follow him at a dragging pace, he swaggers up to his opponent - fully extending both the photograph and pen directly at her.
"M... Miss Jezebel...?"
His tone is wavering, his eyes obviously starstruck by coming face to face with a hero from his and his sister's childhood. Suddenly, all at once, he practically /shouts/ out his request in one long, run-on word:
"Oh my god! What happened to your face???"
For a moment, Jezebel could sense the joy.
As the teenage boy comes out, she could feel the radiation of sheer delight that only a real showup hoedown fan could have. She looks towards the young man, hand on her holster, where the single six-shooter water pistol was armed. Smiling, she looks across at the young man, wearing the swim trunks -over- the paint. Jezebel also sighs in relief. It seemed they both have their plans. As the boy approaches with the doll and the autograph, she almost... she almost walks through the dream, as the boy comes and-
And asks about her face.
Jezebel felt hot. Her face turns bright red, as anger and frustration floods her. She felt... ashamed. Embarrassed. And yet she smiled. She wanted to run away, she wanted to avoid this. She wanted nothing else, because... because how could she do this to her fan? She pauses a moment, frozen in time. Before finally, a noise croaks from her throat. "I was..." Jezebel halts, unsure of how to best explain it to the boy. And finally, she... she just says it.
"I was whipped."
She says is so calmly, the smile not leaving her face, as she takes the pen and picture. She stares at the picture, staring into it. When she was so young, and so... free, with hope and dreams. She traces her fingertips on the picture's healthy, bright eyes; her soft neck, and the face that wasn't... wasn't scarred and hideous. "It was my last fight, it was... it was from a fan just like you." A single teardrop falls on the picture, as she signs with her autograph. She wipes away the tears on her craggy, fissured cheek, as hands it back, looking at the mechanical companion. "Now who is this Showup Hoedown friend of yours?" She says brightly, as if she wasn't in pain. And she... and she pauses at it. Dressed in a swimsuit. Armed with a full cannon. Paired with the... boy? She looks back at Carl, and then Ada.
"Is this... your friend?"
Carl's face - previously turned up in a bright, happy grin - twists with a mixture of disbelief and horror at the revelation that a /fan/ did this to such a famous, heroic figure as Jezebel. His wide, blue eyes - magnified by those thick lenses of his eyeglasses - seem to grow moist and wet as he stares up with horror at the TV star's mangled features.
Shaking his head left and right suddenly, he seems to abandon that train of thought - about to wonder aloud how a fan could even inflict such damage on such a perfect, perfect visage. Instead, he responds to his hero's question; gesturing back to Ada with one hand - still clad in white gloves, despite lacking the rest of his usual attire - he tries his absolute best to smile, although there is still a sense of melancholy on his expression.
"That's my sister, her name is Ada and she's a big fan too!!!"
As if in response to these words, the mechanical construct inclines it's head upwards towards Jezebel... blank eyes stare directly at the woman's face for a few moments. With a sluggish, almost creaky movement, the arm not clutching that water chaingun is lifted up - palm out towards Jezebel - before it waves side-to-side slowly.
The robotic face remains as dead as ever, however, despite that gesture of greeting.
Carl's attention then falls to the autographed photo, his eyes darting from the picture of Jezebel up to the genuine article standing in front of him - as if he were trying to connect those two faces as even belonging to the same individual. If he hadn't been told before the match exactly who his opponent was, he might have missed the connection completely.
Where the hell did he even get that promotional photograph so quickly, anyway?
Regardless, he slips the picture into a large, plastic baggie and seals it to avoid any potential water damage during the upcoming contest. Grabbing the waistband of his swimtrunks - still displaying that sprayed-on material over the fabric - he drops the photograph into his pants and lets the elastic of the waistband snap back against his skin.
One hand suddenly comes up, offering Jezebel a big thumbs-up accompanied by his best effort at a large, cheesy grin - trying to lift her spirits, despite her disfigured face.
"Well, I think you're as beautiful as ever, Jezebel!!!"
Jezebel didn't ask where people got their pictures.
At least this was tasteful. There are other pictures less tasteful. Much less tasteful. Carl at least remembered her as she used to be. And what she was now. But Ada... Ada was a big fan too. But who was Ada. She looks at the machine, the towering figure. And then, it dawns on her.
Jezebel does not miss a beat. It was the same role she played a hundred times before. She waves right back at Ada, giving the towering doll a grin big smile, as she responds. "It's very nice to meet you, Ada!" As.... as Carl says that she thinks she is still as beautiful as ever, the actress's smile practically gleams, as the tear dries. "I'm so happy to meet not just one super showup hoedown fan. Your brother is a very nice boy, and it's very nice to meet both of you! In fact..." Jezebel reaches into her holster, and... draws out a pair of deputy badges.
-The- deputy badges.
"Now if you don't mind, and these are all stick on, but I would like to give both of you an Authentic Showup Hoedown Lightning Spangles Deputy Badges, only for the true fans of Lightning Spangles!" The audience is a little... taken aback, but the applause comes as she holds them up. "Carl and Ada are both two great fans, and it's an honour for me to fight them both!" She turns back over to Carl, bending over a bit into a crouch, so she can be eye level to the smaller boy.
"Is Ada okay if I put the badge on her first?"
Maintaining the thumbs-up throughout the entirety of Jezebel's response, Carl does his best to keep the cheesy grin plastered on his face, although his eyes are still running over the scars that /someone's/ whip left on the face of his idol.
In the back of his head - and completely unknowable through the veneer of upbeat pleasantness he shows on the exterior - are a number of terrible, horrific revenge fantasies played out against the so-called 'fan' who caused such damage to Jezebel. If only Carl was able to get his hands on them in private, they'd regret the day that they marred the beauty of a woman who was hero to children around the world...
But it would be impossible for anyone to read such dark thoughts on the face of the young, innocent-looking boy; for a 15 year old boy, he is surprisingly adept at concealing those thoughts and emotions that could be considered truly disturbing. Perhaps if he were more open about the things that devil on his shoulder whispered in his ear, he might finally get the love and appreciation he so desperately craved from the father that he despised and loved in equal amounts.
Carl's big, blue eyes watch Jezebel as she addresses Ada directly, and the words 'your brother' widen his smile even further - something that should hardly be possible, as it already looked like his face was about to split open into two halfs. Finally somebody that doesn't make fun of him for his close relationship with sis! Jezebel really is an amazing and understanding human being, particularly compared to those other damned adults who constantly mock him and his older sister's unfortunate 'situation'.
As the two badges are withdrawn from the scarred woman's holster, Carl actually lets out a high-pitched squeal of joy, leaping up into the air several times as he claps his hands excitedly in front of him. The applause from the audience is almost entirely lost on the young boy, as he responds to the question posed to him by his 'opponent' in this match.
"Of course!!! Gee, you really are as nice in real life as you are on TV!!!"
His voice is practically quaking with excitement, his entire body quivering with unrestrained fanboy glee as he turns his attention - momentarily - up to Ada's face. Reaching out and grabbing the construct's limp arm, he tugs on it once
"Can you believe it??? Finally an adult who doesn't make fun of us!!!"
Releasing his sister's 'sleeve', Carl turns his attention back to Jezebel and shoots her another, brief beaming grin before he speaks... and this time - although his tone is enthusiastic and pleasant enough - there's a slight edge on the very last sentence he speaks...
"Boy, I'm glad this isn't a regular match!!! I'd hate to have to hurt you for /real/, Miss Jezebel!!!"
Jezebel has played pretend many times like this before.
Once, there was a young girl who was touched by a memory in the family, a very close member of the family. The catastrophic loss of trust destroyed her, almost left her as a broken doll. But she had Big Leo the Lion; Big Leo was her imaginary friend, who protected her from bad daddies, and always told the police about them. Jezebel met Big Leo, and she... she didn't know the whole story.
%He was real, as far as Lightning Spangles needed to know.
Just like how Ada was real. There could be a hundred causes for the symptoms that made Ada; hell, a hundred causes for the symptoms that Carl wrapped around him. Jezebel would never understand the layers; the depth of the trauma behind the real Ada. But Jezebel would never mock Carl for it; if she was real to Carl? Then she was real to Lightning Spangles.
At least it wasn't a body pillow, like how some of her fans brought to her.
She places the badge on Ada. "Well, I never hurt for real, Carl." She laughs out loud, a strange yielding coming to that edge. She sticks it on, a special water-proof adhesive on it, as she places it right by Ada's 'heart'. "It's all part of the show." She says somewhat distantly. Turning back over to Carl, that smile practically glowed back at Carl. And she leans over, far over, to put on Carl's badge.
"Now I need you to promise me something, Carl."
Jezebel's voice was still kind, but so low, soft to the audience. "As you know, the water from our water guns will melt our swimsuits. You are wearing a pair of trunks, which is very smart. But if your sister and I... I need to know that you are comfortable with this, and you won't let it go too far between me, or Ada." Jezebel gives a big smile, as she finishes sticking on the badge. She steps back, drawing her water pistol, giving a wink.
"Can you be a good brother, and keep it from getting too out of hand?"
COMBATSYS: Jezebel has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Jezebel is now armed with a water pistol!
Jezebel [E] 0/-------/-------|
COMBATSYS: Carl has joined the fight here.
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Jezebel [E] 0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0 Carl
COMBATSYS: Carl has left the fight here.
Jezebel [E] 0/-------/-------|
COMBATSYS: Carl has joined the fight here.
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Jezebel [E] 0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0 Carl
COMBATSYS: Carl is now armed with a water cannon!
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Jezebel [E] 0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0 [E] Carl
Carl's pearly-white teeth sparkle brightly as his grin seems to grow almost inhumanly wide the minute that badge is pressed onto his hairless, bare chest. The idea of getting to meet a childhood hero is reason enough to be so overjoyed... the fact that she thinks he's Deputy material? Well, he can't /wait/ to tell his father about this!
His glee seems even more evident, compared to the lack of reaction from his 'sister' - who simply stands, hunched forward with that oversized watercannon in one hand... the construct's eyes don't even come up to meet Jezebel's as she places the badge on /her/ chest.
Meanwhile, the young boy is practically trembling with happiness; what does it matter if dad doesn't see his true worth? Jezebel does, and that's all that matters!
"You betcha!!! The last thing I want is these creeps staring at my sister!!!"
That phrase is accompanied with a sweeping gesture of his hand at the assembled audience, along with a scowl; it's obvious what he thinks of the kind of person who would attend such an event...
"I don't even know /WHAT/ I'd do if they started oogling her like... like... some tramp!!!"
Turning around with a quick spin, Carl begins to walk in the opposite direction - grabbing onto Ada's free hand as he passes her, to drag her a full ten paces away from his opponent before wheeling back towards Jezebel.
"You first, pardner!!!" he shouts cheerfully, one hand coming up and tweaking the adhesive-stripped Deputy's badge as Ada begins to heft the mighty water-chaingun up to chest-level - neck inclining up slightly to stare at the TV star with dead, vacant eyes.
Jezebel nods firmly back at her fan.
This was fine. This was normal. And nothing bad would happened. The scarred, one-eyed actress was smiling ear to ear, the confidence burning within her. As the badges come down, as she gives the answer, she walks away, ten paces. And she stands fast, a hand to her hip. "Don't call your sister that, okay? Just don't use that word. Now, it's gonna be a shootout!" She pauses, squinting at Carl... She waits. She waits. And then...
And Jezebel does a front roll.
Leveling the pistol with both hands firmly on the trigger, she aims it squarely at Ada, a smile on her lips. Not at Carl, but... aiming squarely in the center of mass of the massive construct. She pulls the trigger.
Letting the stream squirt right out.
COMBATSYS: Carl fails to slow Pistol - Hip Squirt from Jezebel with Cannon - Quick Squirts.
?!? Weird Hit! ?!?
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Jezebel [E] 0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0 [E] Carl
And just like that, a real, honest-to-goodness quick draw with the Spangles star herself! It's just like on TV!
Despite the awkwardness of the situation, and the bizarre rules that govern this match... with all the uncertainty and creeping shame he feels, knowing that he and his sister might soon be half-dressed and soaked to the skin in front of a teeming crowd of onlookers... despite /all/ that, his smile remains as bright and hopeful as ever! If he keeps thinking /positively/, maybe he can purge his young mind of any doubts or hesitation - maybe that dark voice that whispers in his ear will fall silent, and leave him to enjoy what remains of his childhood... before that too is robbed from him.
Or maybe, no matter what he does, young Carl Clover is doomed to walk down the very path that his father set for him all those years ago.
That doesn't mean he can't enjoy meeting one of his idols, in the meantime!
As Jezebel levels her water pistol towards the towering frame of his 'sister' Ada, there is a sudden widening of Carl's eyes - a look of sudden shock and surprise that seems utterly at odds with the cheesy grin still plastered on his youthful face. Did he really agree to this?!
It's like his more innocent and genuine side has suddenly had second thoughts, the worst case scenario of Ada's supple mechanical body being oogled by the audience turns his stomach in an instant. He's pretty sure some of them even have cameras ready!
Of course, it's too late to turn back. Even as his mouth opens wide in a silent 'NOOOOOOOO!', the stream of water from Jezebel's pistols is already flying through the air towards the very real, flesh-and-blood and /certainly/ not terrifyingly robotic girl at his side.
But that girl? She is ready, as always. The massive chaingun full of water hefted at her side, Ada presses down upon the trigger to unleash a series of quick bursts towards the liquid flying at her. Surely such a massive output of water can overcome Jezebel's more miniscule stream?
But no, this is /the/ Jezebel. The Hoedown master, the queen of the rodeo, a practiced hand with a six-gun and the baddest hombre this side of the Rio Grande... and her aim is too precise, too quick, for the slow, lumbering automaton to properly react to.
It happens like slow motion to Carl, mouth gaping as he follows the pistol's stream from the tip of Jezebel's waterpistol... all the way to his sister's chest, the liquid splashing off metal and beading down the front of her looming body. Water mixes with soluble paint and begins to melt down her chest, trickles reaching her shining belly as Carl stares in disbelief.
Whirling quickly enough to make his cheeks jiggle, the young boy points angrily at one section of the crowd, face reddened suddenly as he unleashes his blind rage and shame at the assembled onlookers.
"LOOK AWAY, YOU!! ALL OF YOU!!" he shouts, body positively trembling from exertion and anger, his hand moving like an alcoholic in the middle of the DTs...
Then, Ada's free hand comes up and rests on his shoulder... and like nothing ever happened, the poison is leeched out of him. Red drains from his face, returning to its smooth and silky-white complexion as his sister's touch calms him. Looking almost disappointed in his outburst, Carl drops his hand back to his side as watery eyes stare back at Ada's face - trying to ignore the streaks of paint marring her perfect body.
"Th-that's okay!! Let's keep going!!"
One hand comes rising up from his side, he turns his eyes back towards his hero - leveling the tip of his index finger towards Jezebel as he finger-guns her. His thumb acts as the 'hammer', going down, then back up, then down again, then back up...
"Pew pew, 'pardner'!!"
Jezebel didn't think anybody was doomed down any sort of path!
That no matter how bad things got, no matter how awful things looked. No matter how much people forced you into things you didn't want, and forced you, again and again, over and over, until your chest felt hollow and filthy inside and you could never scrub it clean. No matter how much you were used up, no matter your mistakes, Jezebel knew in her heart that nobody would ever be doomed into their fate. Hope always endured. Light always overcame the darkness. And LIghtning Spangles could conquer all.
But should she?
The thought rattles in her, as she watches at how -upset- Carl gets, when she wings Ada. She sees how upset he is, how -angry- he is. Part of her wants to ignore it. Part of her just wants to keep shooting, keeping shooting with the water gun. She felt more and more nervous, anxious at how -intense- he was. Panick rushes over her. What if she hurt him? What if she made him... made him terrified of him? Lightning Spangles's smile burns, as she watching the sheer... the sheer pain Carl was going through. How his doll- no, his sister was almost exposed. Her chest... her chest exposed for everyone to see. Her beautiful naked body, paraded around while he was helpless to stop it. Jezebel saw what it's like.
Because Jezebel knew what it was like.
Jezebel knew what it was like when 'accidents' happened on the stage, on the set. Where people would trip you up, so you fall over. Or when they bumped into you, and you fell on the table, and they keep bumping into you, over and over and over. And at Ada's age. How -horrible- was it, that they would have a child stripped here? But there was a choice. Jezebel could focus on pretending away the problem, or she could... she could delicately adjust it towards her. Make -her- the person who takes the fall. Who gets humilated. Who takes the hits. She had a choice. Would she choose to focus on Carl and Ada overwhelming her, overwhelming and embarrassing LIghtning Spangles? Or would Jezebel just pretend nothing bad will happen if she keeps shooting Ada. Carl manages to control himself, just enough. And Jezebel makes her choice.
She holds her fire.
Jezebel laughs nervously, laughing so nervously. She was trying to hide the nervousness, as she breathlessly laughs. She thrusts a fist in the air, surging with red, white, and blue energy. "YEEEEEE HAW! That was a real close one there, pardner!" Holstering the gun again, she nods along. "Lets keep it going, but it looks like your sister has a lot more firepower than speed! That's not fair I think to make this a quick draw! I think it's only fair if you take a shot on me, and I try to roll out of the way! It's only fair!" She gives Carl a wink, and motions for Ada to come at her. The audience was... why was the audience so indistinct now? It felt like it was just her, and Carl, and Ada. She motions for Ada again, nodding along.
"Give me your best shot, pardner!"
COMBATSYS: Jezebel burns with the darkness of her sins.
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Jezebel [E] 0/-------/-======|======-\-------\0 [E] Carl
"We-e-e-e-ll, she used to move a lot quicker!! But then something /terrible/ happened, and she's... ummm..." he trails off, his loud and bubbly voice suddenly growing quieter as a shadow passes over his face, his soft, wet eyes hardening for just a /moment/ into something darker... and then, just like it appeared, the serious look fades away - and Carl returns to his usual cheerful self, beaming as he finishes his previous thought.
"She hasn't quite been herself lately!! But that's okay, maybe she just needed to meet her heroine!! Yep, a quick boost to the oooooold mood - just what the Doctor ordered!!"
Turning back to gaze up at Ada's impassive, mechanical face, Carl shoots her a quick thumbs-up as he reaches with his other hand to pat her on the hip - the highest point on her body that he can possibly reach.
"Ain't that right, sis?!"
There is an audible creak and grinding of metal-on-metal as Ada slowly lifts her head up, then back down in a robotic nod. Looks like that Deputy badge is already having an effect on her attitude! Carl winks at Ada, taking a few quick steps to move himself behind her massive frame. And then, he presses both palms against her backside and /pushes/ with all his might... of course, it doesn't budge the automaton's significant weight - despite the grunts of exertion from Carl, and the bulging of tendons in his neck.
TBy the time Ada catches on to his intentions and lumbers forward a few, long steps, Carl's face is already awash in sweat dripping down from his forehead.
The first stride she takes catches the young boy entirely unaware, his hands no longer pressing up against the cold metal of his sister's back - and leaving him with nothing to brace himself on. Predictably, he trips and tumbles ahead - falling forward to the ground and remaining there, face-down, even as Ada lifts her cannon up and begins to unleash a sustained stream of water in Jezebel's direction.
Whatever mercy or decency Carl may possess, it seems Ada shares neither - without his specific instruction.
And as the stream from Ada's cannon begins to slow and eventually die down, Carl suddenly lifts his head from the floor - revealing a small trickle of blood from one nostril, no doubt having bumped it quite hard on the surface.
"I'm okay!!" he shouts weakly, to nobody in particular - the audience certainly seems to be more focused on the television star and the weird robot duelling it out. Even Ada doesn't so much as glance backwards to check on her sweet and loving brother.
COMBATSYS: Jezebel endures Carl's Cannon - Hose Down.
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Jezebel [E] 1/------=/=======|=======\-------\1 [E] Carl
The water felt clean.
Jezebel liked feeling clean. She craved the feeling of purity and innocence and sweetness and love. She hated being dirty and rotten and slimy. She hated that about her. She hated that about herself. She wanted to be like Lightning Spangles, who never would be ashamed of herself, nor would she be shameful. So as she brings her palms forward, she could feel the cool water pouring over her, the paint running off her, running off her skin. She wasn't indecent, she wasn't yet. But the skin of her thighs, her belly, her shoulders were exposing, her arms exposed in the model body of a beautiful woman. She would protect her chest. She had to keep her chest safe. But as the gush of water overtakes her, she starts to force through with a shout.
"I'm okay too!" She declares!
Lightning Spangles touches on her face, over her eyepatch. Over her scars, where the clean water poured over her. She touches her throat, her neck. The wounds... the heavy wounds. It didn't matter to the purifying water. It made her clean. SHe wanted to be clean. And this fight was making her clean. "Your sister is a real sharp shooter! I haven't been hosed down like that since... since... I haven't been hosed down like that ever! You ought to be real proud of her. And she ought to be real proud of you, supporting her like that in a tough fight like this!" She strikes a pose, body dripping wet. Paint oozing over her. She starts to run. She was sopping wet, but still... still decent. Was she running to Carl? To scoop him up? No. She was running to Ada again, looking at Carl with a smile. ANd once she closed in on Ada, she wouldn't hurt her. She would just twirl.
To spin, to splash her own water off on the other girl!
COMBATSYS: Carl blocks Jezebel's Pistol - Splash Attack.
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Jezebel [E] 1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1 [E] Carl
It's almost ironic; Carl Clover, a boy with a tragic past and a darkness hidden deep inside his otherwise sweet and cloying exterior... idolizing a woman who puts forward the same sort of optimistic and joyful front - but who is also consumed by doubts and fears which claw up from within. Both of them, fighting their own demons with the power of sugar and spice and everything nice.
If the Clover boy knew the shadows that Jezebel herself grappled with, would it bring him peace - knowing his idol dealt with the same adult issues which plagued his own mind and body... or would he simply sink deeper and deeper into his /own/ abyss, knowing that even a heroic television star like Jez was not immune to the void of depression and self-doubt?
Probably best that the question is never answered, really...
Pushing himself to his knees and wiping the trickle of blood from his nose onto the back of his forearm, Carl reacts swiftly to the approaching Jezebel by jamming one hand down the front of his swim trunks. There is an audible gasp from the audience, several of the more decent onlookers shielding their eyes - no doubt anticipating something entirely different than what actually happens...
...Carl grabs hold of something inside his swim pants and /yanks/ it out!
...it's his famous magician's hat, pressed into what looks like a flattened disc of rigid fabric. A quick flick of the wrist, and it extends out into its full majesty - before the boy tosses it into the path of the water which Jezebel's spin sends splashing towards his sister.
The thrown object flies into the air, and prevents a good portion of the liquid from striking the very center of Ada's bikini top, it creates quite an unusual effect as the beads of water that did hit begin to wash away the printed words 'Daddy's Little Girl'... leaving another message, instead, in its place as several letters disappear.
It now reads 'D i e Girl'.
Well, that's not ominous at all.
And from behind that machine-girl, a voice - proud and triumphant and overflowing with a naive, childlike joy.
"Heh heh!! Thanks, Miss Jezebel!! You know, sis and I are a /team/ - and /teamwork/ makes the /dream work/!!"
It seems like Carl has finally dragged himself back to his feet, standing tall - though still a bit woozy from the sudden fall he took - in a safe position behind his sister, head peeking out from the side of her wide, metallic hips.
"Together forever!! And ever!! And ever and ever and ever and ever and ever....!!"
In time with his statement - with Carl repeating the words 'and ever' even as his voice begins to trail off - Ada begins to spin her body in a slow twirl... but it builds up speed, massive clawed arms held out at either side as the automaton swirls around in a speedy, manic fashion like a wobbly, spinning dreidel.
As she does so, she inches closer and closer to Jezebel - water and melted paint flying off Ada's metallic body, showering the surrounding area with liquid.
Carl lowers himself down in a crouch, hands over his head as he makes sure none of the water hits his own soluble, painted swim trunks. He really doesn't want the material clinging to his hairless legs, or revealing any of his lower half through the soaked fabric. Seems like he managed to duck down just in time, much to the relief of literally everyone.
COMBATSYS: Jezebel fails to interrupt Cannon - Splash Attack from Carl with Pistol - Point Blank Squirt.
-* CRITICAL FAIL! *-
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ////////////////////// ]
Jezebel [E] 1/---====/=======|=======\==-----\1 [E] Carl
As he reaches into his pants, Jezebel just smiles. % R
It was natural, wasn't it? Jezebel heard it all the time. It was normal for a young boy, or a male between the ages of 18 and 35, to look at her, and reach inside their shorts, and pull out their magician hat. Hundreds of people roleplayed that very event online every night, in private adult-online SpangleMucks. It was normal, and natural. Jezebel knew it. She felt it. It was a normal natural feeling. Just like being together, forever. It was a natural statement. "I love you Carl!" She says outloud. "You're a good kid, we could have made a great team." Could have? That was a strange thing to say out loud. Jezebel levels the water pistol at Ada as Carl moves her in place, as she begins to spin. Even as his lovely thighs were exposed, she wasn't focused on him. It was Ada. The real girl. She takes aim point blank, and pulls the trigger, and.
And nothing comes out.
It is completely and totally dry. Or maybe it was broken. But nothing comes out, not even a squirt. It was dry. It was so dry. Why was it so dry? Why was it so dry? She was slapping her pistol a few times, smiling, still smiling."I'm... I'm out?" She states out loud, almost shocked that it could be as the water splatters all over her helplessly. It was washing over her, washing it away. The audience gasps. Why were they gasping now? Because right when it mattered, Jezebel misfired? No, Lightning Spangles never makes mistakes. And yet, as the water comes over her body, she could feel the purity wash away. Jezebel felt naked.
But she wasn't.
Her chest and pelvis were barely intact, the paint holding on to her buttocks and ribs. She had already gone from G to PG, and right now, she was plowing hard into PG-13. This was allowed for Carl, sure. But if it got any worse, he might just find his father walking in at the most inopportune time. She covers across her chest, breathing hard. But it was so hard to breath, so dry. "I'm all out, pardner!" She states aloud. "And I'm doing a lot worse than your sister! I don't- I don't think I can pull this off, Carl! I think you got this one!" She shakes her gun uselessly, imagining that maybe- maybe something will come out? She gasps out, trying to breath.
"Is this the end of Lightning Spangles?" She wheezes.
Fortunately for his own mental wellbeing and grip on reality, Carl completely misses the implications of that very specific wording; he is totally unaware of the dark truth, caught as he is in - what appears to be - a wonderful meeting with one of his most beloved role models. Instead, he focuses on the rest of her words... and the idea that him and Jezebel might make a good team!
It's enough to bring him out of his crouch, standing tall as the compliment washes over him - renewing his youthful optimism and belief that the future is a bright place, where nothing could ever, ever go wrong. How could it, now that he had finally been recognized by his idol as being /worth something/ - a feeling his own father had never put into words, or deeds.
Could it be that this is the beginning of a brand new chapter in the Clover boy's life? His chance to leave behind the tragedy and pain of his past, once and for all, to finally step into the bright rays of the sun - basking in the knowledge that he /is/ good and righteous and true. That he /does/ have a purpose, that he /doesn't/ have to become the man which his father so desperately wanted him to be!
It feels... good. It feels /right/. And for the first time in a long time - maybe even since that dark day he lost what was most precious to him - he feels truly hopeful. More than a mask he wears in public to protect others /and/ his own sanity, he really feels it this time.
Yep, things are looking up for Carl Clover!
Watching with pride as his sister spins forward, he quickly covers both his eyes as Jezebel levels her water pistol back in Ada's direction... but he is noticeably peeking out between his index and middle fingers with one eye. With a squeal of joy as the Hoedown queen's weapon dry-fires, the youngster lifts both thin, scrawny arms up in the air in celebration. For once, everything seems to be coming up Carl.
As Ada's frantic spinning begins to slow, and Jezebel's paint continues to be washed away - dripping down her... uh... body - Carl is clearly excited by the prospect of proving to the assembled crowd that he and his sister are worthwhile and strong and brave. His breathing grows more intense, his body practically shaking with happiness even as his idol finds herself increasingly revealed in front of a leering audience.
So thrilled is he that Jezebel's next words hardly have an effect on him. She doesn't think she can pull it off? Nonsense! They're having too much fun!
In fact, the idea that she might be planning to stop things here and now... well... it's almost frustrating to Carl! How dare she decide that now, when he is finally /winning/ at life, is the proper time to put an end to their duel?!
Is she trying to steal his glory away? No, Jezebel couldn't possibly be so petty; he's a real fan!!! He's watched her on television for years!!! HE'S BOUGHT ALL THE MERCHANDISE!!! That's right, he's gone hungry just so he can have the latest Spangles wear! And this is how he is repaid?!?!
"I don't think so, Jezebel!!" he says, voice still bubbly and sweet - but there is a noticeable sterness to his face now, his cheery grin gone and replaced by a straight face... and there is a darkness in his glare, where previously there was only joy and a bit of embarassment.
"I'm /just/..." he says, as Ada's twirling continues to slow, leaving the massive automaton stumbling as the centrifugal force dies away...
He points at his sister dramatically, then moves his index finger to face the desperate, all-but defeated Jezebel. "/Getting/..."
His narrow chest practically heaves with breath as his voice gradually grows more and more serious, louder, almost /demanding/.
At that final, almost shouted word, Ada finally topples over and hits the ground on her side...
...of course, her water cannon still happens to be pointed at Jez; and the impact of Ada's shoulder onto the floor of the waterpark is enough to send a jolt down that metallic arm... squeezing the trigger by accident, the cannon lets off a massive spray of water at the seemingly dejected Spangles star!
COMBATSYS: Jezebel blocks Carl's Cannon - Bombardment.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////////////////// ]
Jezebel [E] 2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|===----\-------\0 [E] Carl
Her chest was hurting. %
Why was it hurting? Carl wasn't stopping. He wouldn't be stopping, as the strong young man was forcing his sister to do things to her. To squirt her, to pour all over her the surging waters. They felt hot, so hot, when it was so cold before. More of the paint peel away. Right above her belt line. Right at the edge of her thighs. Her chest is less and less, until it couldn't possibly be any clothing. Instinctively she turns, letting her back take the brunt, as the water washes so much away, the edges of things revealed. IT was almost all gone now. She had crossed the lines. "You... only just started..." She whispers, her one good eye gleaming at Carl in growing awe. She almost seems ready to turn, to let the full wash come over her chest, right to the very pit of her heart to stop the ache and-
The voice rips through, as the audience falls silent. Relius Clover, the head engineer of the NOL, seemed completely unaware of the water, the audience, the display. He barely seemed aware of himself. Garbed in his purple cloak and gold mask, he was peering across to his, and he was more embarrassed than ever before to admit this, but his -son- Carl Clover. Bringing up his gloved fingertips, and head held equally high, he -glowers- at the now R-rated Lightning Spangles. He doesn't even look at her.
After all, he was a married man.
"How disappointing." Comes the voice of authority of Relius, as he strides out to the arena. At his side, Ignis hovers emotionlessly beside him. "I expected so many great things with you, my boy. That no matter what challenge you had before you. And what did you dedicate your talents and genius too?" Relius's tone becomes bone dry.
"A wet T-Shirt contest with an washed up former actress."
"How -shameful." He shakes his head, standing right between Ada, and Jezebel, shaking his head as he looks at Carl, down his plump, exposed thighs. "And now I see you demeaning yourself, letting yourself expose yourself to that... -Spangles-" He states, with more disgust in his voice than anything else Carl would have heard in his life. "Well I forbid it. Come along now Carl. Your playtime is over. We are going to leave Jezebel now to be alone, sad, and as far away from you as she possibly can." He gestures at the woman, who stares with wide eyes, looking from Relius, to Carl, with pleading eyes. Relius moves, standing between Carl and Jezebel now to cutoff the line of sight. His words are chilling with the cold ruthlessness of growing seriousness.
"Don't make me take you over my knee, child."
Its effect is both instantaneous /and/ drastic, enough to drain the colour out of Carl Clover's face... enough to wipe away that darkly triumphant look he was sporting moments ago... enough to drag him out of the light of the day and back into the shadows, the darkness smothering what little hopeful innocence he had managed to claw back during the course of this meeting with the brave heroine, Jezebel.
Before Relius has even finished his admonishment of the boy, Carl is thrust into the depths of self-loathing, embarassment, and shame once more. He hangs his head low, tears streaming down his face and falling onto the floor of the waterpark, mingling with the water and being washed away.
What a time Carl had been having, away from the devious and disappointed gaze of his beloved and hated father.
He'd seen things you people wouldn't believe. Lycanthropes on fire off the shoulder of Makai. He watched chi-beams glitter in the dark near the Brandenburg Gate. All those moments will be lost in time.
Like tears in the rain.
Time to return to daddy's side.
As if possessed by a will not entirely his own, the dejected, sobbing boy shuffles forward - dragging his feet along the ground like he were trying to struggle against every step towards the man whose loins he had sprung from. The man who had spent Carl's entire childhood being disappointed with the boy, chiding him for every mistake, every error in judgement or logic, never /once/ letting him feel truly good about himself.
He passes by the fallen mechanical body of his sister, the automaton staring up at him with blind, unblinking 'eyes' - one clawed hand still clutching the water cannon tight to her side.
"I...I'm sorry, sis... I-I-I... screwed up again..."
A pause above her form, allowing himself a moment to consider the course his life had taken - to be /here/ of all places, putting his /sister/ in such a position... showing no mercy to his /idol/ Jezebel... what had he become?
Why, he'd become the very young man which Relius had created with all his harsh, uncaring words and barely-veiled disgust.
...why not embrace it?
The thought springs into Carl's minds entirely unbidden, a fresh consideration he had never had in all his 15 years of life. He had spent every waking moment since /that day/ running away from the fear which dwelled in his heart... afraid of becoming his father, /and/ of disappointing him, in equal measure.
The word is barely above a whisper, only audible because of the dead silence from the stands. Carl's arms are held stiff at his sides, tiny hands balled up into fists, entire limbs shaking with an emotion somewhere between anger, frustration, and sadness.
When the boy raises his head back up to look at his caped, masked father... there are no more tears pouring from his eyes. And he does not shy away from the glare of Relius; instead, he meets it... staring /daggers/ back at the patriarch of the Clover family. His jaw is clenched in place, teeth grinding side-to-side, nerves on edge and his fury barely restrained.
The shout rises up to the top of the waterpark's stands, echoing back and forth amidst the hush which has befallen the crowd. Carl turns back around to face his fallen sister, bending low to the ground and gripping the handle of the watercannon in one hand - prominently displaying the painted '#1 Son' message on the back of his swim trunks as he does so.
With a grunt of exertion, he straightens his body, hefting up the weighty watergun and leveling it - with great effort - towards his father. He had /never/ shown any aggression towards that man, even the slightest stab of his sharp eyes had always been enough to utterly unman Carl in the past.
But every boy must grow into a man, eventually.
"I'm /sick/ of it, dad!! I'm sick of you treating me like a /child/!! And I'm /sick/ of seeing what you /did/ to mom and sis!! I want a fresh start!! I WANT MORE!! I'VE BEEN A GOOD BOY, AND I DESERVE IT!!"
What exactly? Well, let Carl /tell/ you.
He takes a confident - albeit slow - stride towards his father, nearly dropping the cannon as he does so as his arms tremble from keeping the weight aloft. And still, he finds the strength to keep the barrel pointed at Relius Clover's chest.
"/Say/ it, father!! Get down on one knee and /ask/ her to /marry/ you (sorry mom)!!" he shouts, adding the last, apologetic bit in a whisper towards Ignis - his beloved mother - standing to one side behind Relius.
"Ask her to bear your children (sorry mom), so we can be an even /bigger/, /HAPPIER/ family!! I want a /brother/, and you and /Jezebel/ (sorry mom) are going to /give/ me one!!"
There is an eerie silence from the onlookers at Carl's unhinged, soap opera-style outburst... it's almost like there was no crowd at all, like they were just placeholders there to affect a certain appearance. Faceless, voiceless NPCs meant only to populate some bizarre role for an audience of one.
Relius gasps, as he puts his hands in the air.
Even Ignis puts her claws in the air. Relius looks horrified. "Impossible... for you.... to stand up to me?" Relius seemed so small. Even as the audience changes, even with the stage, the theater, the OPERA changes. Even as the water becomes so dry, even as it all becomes so tight. Jezebel looks from RElius, to Carl. She felt weightless. Why does she feel weightless? She feels stiff. Why does she feel stiff? But as Carl trains the gun on Relius, she clasps her hands together, looking starry-eyed at her hero. Carl gives his ultimatum. And to that, Jezebel's face burns with a smile, as she brings her own hands over her womb. Relius looks at Carl, at the gun. ANd then, looks to Ignis. The doll nods her head, allowing his husband to do what he must, as it is his duty. Relius grins, as he gives a great bow to Carl.
"Of course, Carl. I thought you would have never asked me!"
With a swish of his cape, he comes upon Jezebel, as a dancer in the night. Embracing her, bringing her chest to his own, his grip is tight. Relius pulls Jezebel's leg up, lifting by the thigh. Tracing a white gloves finger along the creamy, pale skin of the woman, Jezebel feels herself grow hot. Her body, so warm, so hot, so dry. The Mad Engineer leans in, clutching Jezebel with such strong hands. He leans in, his lips so close to hers, as she watches. His hands move up those thighs. "To marry again, to become one, and make a special little brother to grow up with Carl... would you be willing to have me, Jezebel Failblesse?" Jezebel tries to say yes. She tries so hard to say yes, harder than any yes before. To be a family. To be a family with Carl, and Ada. She would even be willing to share with Ignis, as the wife was willing to share with her. And she would have a reason, a purpose. She wouldn't haunted anymore by her past, by her mistakes. ANd she would only see a perfect future.
But she cannot say anything.
There is no air in her lungs. There is nothing there. She cannot breath. She cannot make the words. It's not because there is water in there. No, it was so dry. But she couldn't speak. She couldn't give an answer of yes, or no. Relius hangs there, looking at her. His smile fades. His grip moves further and further up the thigh. Deeper. And deeper, all the way to the joint. "Oh dear... Carl! I can see that the spirit is willing, I regret to say... that the flesh is weak. There is just one thing missing, Carl. One thing we must do, before I can give you the perfect, Spangles Brother, for you to frolic and have fun with!" And then, he grips the thigh so tightly, digging his fingers deep in. "You have to fix her, Carl."
And he pulls the leg off.
Holding the leg up, he shows the boy the joint at the end of it. Jezebel tries to gasp, tries to scream. But she just mouths airlessly, opening and closing her mouth like a fish out of water. Relius drops the leg with disgust in front of Carl, and begins gripping her arms, wrenching them off as one would a roast chicken. "It seems not only has she been put together all wrong, Carl, but something's -happened- to her. Something awful. It wasn't you, Carl. No, you -care- too much. It's just that..." He finally grabs her by her wide, thick hips, and lifts her up. Holding her up, he looks at her, tilting his head. ANd now, Jezebel begins to smile. The Mad Engineer shakes his head, and turns back to the boy.
"She's so -broken-, Carl."
Relius coos softly, clucking his tongue. Then as he lifts up the dangling half of Jezebel, as she jerks and shudders too fast, to suddenly. "And you are so -good- at putting together ladies who are... broken..." His father gives a soft smirk. He turns around Jezebel's torso a bit, holding her out so Carl can look directly at her ample, painted bosom. "And her heart, Carl. Nobody can live without a heart, Carl. Not even your beloved father." Jezebel's face is frozen in a smile, as Relius drops her in front of Carl, on top of the pile of limbs. "I'm sorry, Carl. It's too late. You missed your chance. You have to rebuild her, if you want anything to do with her, or me to give you the brother you so crave. The family you so crave. You should very well take your shot, Carl." He spreads his arms, giving Carl an ample target.
"Before it's even too late for that."
Hope is a funny thing.
Some view it as a gift, the one thing that keeps us from losing our sanity in the darkest of moments. The thought, the vague idea that one day, if we keep pushing forward, things might look brighter for us. The world might become a better place. Good might triumph over evil, and we might all dwell in the rays of a bright, new morning.
Those people would be wrong, of course.
Hope is a curse. It is the lie that we tell ourselves when when should resign our spirits to the truth. It is a cliff we scale, thinking each inch upwards is a step towards our eventual salvation - when in reality, it is merely serving to increase the height from which we must inevitably fall. It is a brief glimmer of happiness that we dangle in front of ourselves, to temporarily distract from impending disaster. It is the province of the foolish; those who are always crushed under the weight of their own ignorant, senseless optimism.
And Relius knows this; he knows that suffering is only made more poignant, sharper, when contrasted with the possibility of happiness. Perhaps they all know it, Jezebel and Carl included. Perhaps they are the agents of their own demise, at the end of the day.
Philosophy aside, his father wields the concept of hope like a weapon, by acquiescing to Carl's shouted demands at first.
For the briefest of moments, the young Clover is happy - for the first time in a long time.
His father - the man he hated, the man he loved, the man he feared, the man he respected, the man he did not want to be and yet, deep down, so /desperately/ wished to emulate - approaches his bride-to-be with graceful, sweeping movements. He hefts Jezebel up into the air, and Carl finds - with some small surprise - that he is no longer holding /just/ the watercannon... in his other, previously-free hand, is a bundle of white flowers - a gift for his new mother, surely, once she becomes an official member of the family! But when did he grab those, and from where? He hardly has a chance to consider this odd turn of events...
And then, Jezebel's leg comes off.
Horror. Pure, undiluted, mind-breaking horror.
It is the only way to describe the impact that Relius' sudden shift in actions and words have upon the young boy - who was only moments ago finally resolved to stand up to his father, once and for all. To take a stance against his belittling ways, his mocking words, his cold and cruel disapproval. This had been Carl's shining moment, when he finally moved past the tragedy that had haunted him for years... the moment when he finally took things into his /own/ hands, to rebuild the family which was stolen from him, to bridge the gap back to the childhood he had lost.
How can he fix her, when he can't even fix his sister - or himself?
"Y... you asked for it!!"
Carl's body shifts, as he prepares to brace the watercannon against his own body so that he might more accurately spray down his father... and there is an odd lightness in the arm which had previously held that hefty gun. Breaking eye contact with the masked patriarch who had caused him so much pain, the boy glances down to his right arm...
...the gun isn't there, it's laying on the ground in front of him... it seems so far away, as though it had fallen more than a few feet. Like it were as the bottom of a massive trench, far beyond his reach, lost to time.
Carl's eyes move up from that impossibly distant watergun, to stare at the hand which was holding it only seconds ago.
His white gloves, worn even in this bizarre waterpark, are sticky-hot and stained red with a rich, crimson fluid.
He opens his mouth - perhaps to scream, perhaps to question what is happening here - and nothing comes out. Hesitantly, fearing what may come of it, he slowly scans from his bloody hand, towards his other arm.
In his other hand - which previously held the bouqet of flowers - there is now an object clutched between his thin, frail fingers... it pulses in his grip, and Carl feels himself begin to slip into something which can only be madness as his eyes register the thing which he holds.
It is a heart. Still beating. In his hand.
Wide, panicked eyes move towards his father, looking for some explanation for this turn of events. Is this one of his daddy's tricks? Some scientific method to instill terror into his disappointing progeny? Or is it magic? The line between the two, when it comes to the Mad Engineer's experiments, had always been a thin one.
But there appears to be no answer coming from Relius Clover; at least not as quickly as Carl's trembling, wet gaze demands one.
The beating in his hand stops, replaced by some other, more subtle, wriggling motion... seemingly unable to stop himself - despite his best efforts to look away - his eyes once more fall upon the hand which had previously held the organ.
Worms, writhing in a fistful of moist earth, the creatures pulsating and twisting their invertebrate bodies, looping around his fingers, falling from his grasp onto the floor below.
His mouth had never closed, from the first moment his eyes registered his bloody, blood-soaked palm - but for the first time since this hideous turn of events, he is able to make a noise.
It is a loud, almost inhuman screech - a sound of pure confusion, pure terror, the noise of one losing what little grip remained upon their own mind. He collapses, to his knees, staring up at his father - vision shifting, twisting, undulating as the waterpark around them is swallowed by shadows and smoke which begin to take the form of something else entirely...
"F-f-father... help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."
"It cannot be helped."
That is response, as Relius stands fast. Cannot, or will not? It isn't clear, because something is washing over him. It is unseen. It is not real. But something is washing over him, his cape billowing as it blows through him. His body begins to peel back. His body begins to ooze away. The clothing, the flesh, the body. Washing away like the paint of the swimsuit. THe Golden Angel spray. He was falling away, washing away like the water. "You must find her... or what's left of her..." And then, the rest of him pours out all over the remains of Jezebel, a slimy grease oozing across it, like diesased fat on a hot griddle. Ignis remains, the vessel. Dolls would remain. Something pulses where the heart once was in his hand, amongst the worms, the gnawing hideous worms. Something was kicking. Beating. Pulling and squirming in there.
There is the sound of rattling, of cracking, as the dirt piles around them. Closing in. There is a narrow, rectangular light above. But the walls of dirt were closing in around them. The limbs. THere were moving. Jerking. Reconnecting. But in the wrong slots, the wrong holes. The torso crawls along, jerking and jumping, as the head hangs loose from what was... well, not her neck for sure. It jerks up, looking up at Carl with eyes like a dead fish. It wasn't breathing. But it was starting to speak. "I don't understand?" Jezebel finally says. "This isn't what's supposed to happen. I'm supposed to be... I'm supposed to be good... I'm supposed to... I'm supposed to..."
"I'm supposed to live, Carl."
It continues, trying to paw at Carl, trying to hold him, embrace around him in his broken state, smearing the remains of Relius all over him as it tries. "I'll... I'm going to live... I'm going to live..." She babbles, jaw jerking and jabbering as it tugs at Carl's smooth, creamy legs. "My Fishy Friend Nae Nae is going to show up soon, right out of the van. And Honoka, and Zach, the two lovebirds, they love each other so much. And Hayley, and her father, my new husband, we got married in the lab, it was beautiful. Pepper will come too, she's like a daughter, the littlest Lightning Spangles. SHe's the sheriff now, she should be. And Baby Bonnie Hood, the real one, is going to come out. We're going to all go in the bus, and we're going to save all the children. We're all going to go to Spangles Paradise, where the rivers flow with sarsaparilla, and everybody knows your name. No more violence, no more death, no more pain, no more... bad thoughts. JUst peace, and love, and respect, and tolerance... Help me Carl. Please help me, I don't- I don't want to die-" The fetus begins to glow brighter and brighter. It's mouth was moving, mirroring Jezebel's own jerky, animated movements. "I don't want to be sheriff anymore, Carl. I'm sorry I couldn't ever be good enough for you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
The light above begins to dim, as the rectangle above grows smaller, and smaller.
The heartbeat in Carl's palm seems to start up again... but when he looks back down into his hand, there are only those hideous, writing, pale-pink worms... and yet, something else is pulsing under there, some more significant form of life, something for him to cling onto.
Brushing away some of the earth and worms, he digs into the pile until revealing the source of the sensation. A breathing fetus, small but possessing a vitality that could not possibly be real... it is /breathing/... it's heart is /beating/...
Shutting his hand as firmly as possible, Carl closes his eyes against the tears that spring forth. He knows what some refuse to acknowledge; being brought into this world is no great boon... passing from it, then, must be no great curse...
Better not to be born, than to suffer this cruel existence. Better to leave this earth soon, than see everything one hoped and fought for turn to ashes in ones mouth.
His hand remaining tightly shut into a fist, there is a steady drip of blood that escapes from his clenched palm... slowly trickling down his stained white gloves... but his body is still. Even as Jezebel crawls to him, there is only silence - no motion from the boy's kneeling body.
"We're sorry too, Jezebel... But Carl can't fix his broken toys - no one can... /I/ know... And, anyway..."
The voice that finally breaks the silence is not that of young Carl Clover... it is a voice that has not been heard in years, the voice of one who had shuffled off this mortal coil long ago. One hand clasps the boy's shoulder; it feels warm, human, not the metallic claw apparatus of the automaton... but the real, flesh and blood hand of his sister, Ada.
Taller than Carl, with the same thin, feminine features both he and Relius possess... medium-length blonde hair sways in a sudden hot and stuffy breeze that seems to raise the temperature of the air around them.
Is it getting warm in here, or what?
Sloooowly turning his head back around to face Jezebel, Carl peers at her with a sightless gaze - his eye sockets are now empty voids, leading into an unfathomable darkness that seems to leak and dribble out of his skull. The young boy paws at his own face as he continues to 'stare' at the Spangles superstar; long, yellowish, aged nails piercing through the bloody, formerly white fabric of his gloves to rake long gouges in his soft, youthful, alabaster skin.
No blood escapes where he has broken his skin... dirt falls out of his cuts, rather than the expected crimson fluid. He opens his mouth to speak in tandem with his sister, and the observant eye might notice... their tongues are forked, serpentine, slithering entirely too far out of their mouths, dark and wet with a viscous fluid. Their voices join together into a dissonant, unharmonized, otherworldly noise that is both low and high, cheerful and depressed, sorrowful and full of fury.
"...hell needs a sheriff, too."
And then? A childish giggle from each of the siblings; high, piercing, slowly rising in pitch and volume until it is joined by a crescendo of tens, hundreds, thousands of distinct voices all laughing in unison. Gradually, it becomes deafening - until no other sound can be processed through the total sensory overload the chorus of giggles inflict.
The light keeps fading. The temperature rises. The walls close in, as the air itself grows more claustrophobic with each passing second.
For a moment, there is hope.
Real hope. That there this isn't the end. That she can escape. That Carl can love her so much, and so purely, that he will selflessly sacrifice whatever he could to undo the mistakes of the past, and fix this. Stop this awfulness from happening. To fix Jezebel, or, or make her reborn into a perfect person, a wonderful doll, whatever he wanted. She would be whatever he wanted, as long as she could live.
And that hope is eradictated at the clenching of his fist.
Jezebel cannot be angry. She tries so hard to be angry, but the despair is just too strong. What about the other mother? Ignis shakes her head, falling away into shadow. There is only the children. There was always only the children. No more adults to deface or defile you, only the children. The heap of flesh and broken pieces that was once known as Jezebel Failblesse finds the boy slip from his grip, as the strange voice rattles around her. And with her twisted, malformed limbs, tries to wipe away the grease and slime of Relius off herself, but Jezebel cannot. She can never be clean of his grease and slime anymore. And with a feeble eye, she stares into the transformation of the little boy, as he and Ada become their true selves. Their truth, at their choice. The true selves, in reflection of Relius Clover. "No... please... no..." Is all Jezebel can muster as the scraping of dirt comes to a halt. The light above is gone, and the light from the heart is gone. Only the horrible faces of the twisted children, her only companions.
And then, she can't feel them anymore.
In their place, there is a familiar sound. Hundreds and thousands of children, out of sight. But laughing, laughing and loving her. She cannot stop hearing them, the precious sound of children, but she cannot see them. She cannot feel them, or touch them, or hold them. And they cannot the same to her. More than any time in her life, she is more aware of them than anything ever. And she continues to be more and more aware of them, on and on. She never stops being aware of them, never able to tune them out. Always listening to them, and thinking about what was the price of her choices, what were the consequences of them, and ultimately, what could have been. Jezebel cannot scream anymore, for there is no air to scream with. She claws at the walls, but there is no strength to claw with. She is encased in the earthen womb, as the eternal chorus of the precious laughter envelops her. She will have her children, in her ultimate Spangles Paradise. And they will never, ever leave her.
It is dark.
It is hot.
And it is dry.
Log created on 12:12:00 02/14/2018 by Jezebel, and last modified on 10:48:54 07/19/2021.