III. Lovers in the Labyrinth
Nothing Like Raising Hell with Your Man in a Strange Land...
“Slow your roll Babe! You still got me the rest of the night.”
He knew she could live in his black beauty for all time, that’s how mad they were for each other. From within her sanctum, there sat a bed, upon which laid Haven’s vigilante-in-residence and the one true love of her life: Nic Ridgefield.
Lita was a playfully amorous sort with her dear Nic, the tall cowboy about the only man she could handle, and she the only woman he could hold tight to. With their ebony-laced laughs, their headstrong personalities, and the arsenals they packed, it was only a matter of profession that kept the two from being fused at the hip.
“You watch the sand and I watch the streets,” she giggled, nipping playfully at his ear, “That it?”
“About the long and short,” he smiled, plopping his cowboy hat on her head, “Miracle I slipped in here at all Sugar.”
“You ain’t doing half bad for running on miracles.”
She couldn’t even take the entendres seriously, bursting out laughing as she rode the wave of love to the shore. As they relaxed, Nic started asking the real questions.
“Tell ya what, how ‘bout we get dressed and you show me the kind of real fun you get up to?”
She did so without hesitation. In an instant, out came the denim and leather, sandals and gloves strapped on and her sidearms holstered. Nic sauntered over with all six feet of his swagger in tow, and swapped his flat hat for a stampede of her own. He perched the brown lid upon her frazzled mohawk. She looked up with a childish gleam before wrapping all fours around him.
“Oh my God! Thank you thank you thank you!”
“Figure getting you some good lookin’ gunslingin’ wares ain’t a bad idea. One these days we’ll make the whole Mrs. Ridgefield thing legit, but I ain’t exactly got the ring on me yet.”
“This’ll do,” came the loving reply.
Soon enough, he had his own gear back on. Bullet belt slung, revolver at the ready, and an addition that Lita couldn’t get enough of: a black leather jacket, fringes dangling freely from his arms and chest. She wrapped his arms around her to feel the tickling strands as they danced about.
“Whaddya want to do,” ventured Nic.
“Well,” she started in, “Ain’t no one in need of avenging tonight, so—”
“—Wait, you actually go around with revenge on your to-do list?”
Lita held up two cell phones in her gloved mitts.
“This one’s for friends and lovers, and the other is for hits. And ain’t nobody been ringing the hit phone for a good long while.”
Nic shrugged, amused.
“Just didn’t realize you took it that serious.”
There was a puzzled look on her face, one Nic was quick to smooth out with a kiss and a clarification.
“I just mean the Avenger thing Sugar, not the gig itself.”
“Hows about we hit a police station,” she offered.
Nic burst out laughing, “That your way of getting back at me—”
“—No I’m serious,” she cutoff, breaking away from him, “Had my eye on ‘em suckas for ages now. Figure now that I got the manpower, we could get some real shit done.”
“They been giving y’all real trouble here, haven’t they?”
Lita wrapped her arms around Nic, and said in the softest tones she could, “They don’t stop for nothing. I lost pals to them steel bastards. Sometimes they beat up Red something awful.”
Nic rubbed her back as he held her. When she started talking about the Bug, he knew it was serious, doubly so when she was laying on the dead friends.
“Alright Babe, let’s hit him hard.”
She pulled back and beamed. With all the frenzy of a kid dragging her folks thru the mall, she took Nic by the hand and booked it for the Bug, his red paint gleaming in the sanctum’s lights as Lita dove behind the wheel, Nic swinging himself in passenger side without too much fuss.
Just a lot of seat adjustment.
With a twist of the key and a stomp of the clutch, she whipped the Bug out into the alley and onto the street.
“Which one we hitting,” he asked, checking his laser cartridge.
“Station 607 Nicky,” she smiled, “Took me a helluva lotta mapping to get her pinpointed, but I got it all planned out.”
“Go get ‘em Kid,” he grinned, “Show ‘em what the little man’s made of.”
Her crimson eyes bore a devil-may-care fire as the souped-up Beetle tore down the cool blue street.
Nic sat impressed, his lover in the zone as her razor-sharp claws dug into everything she touched.
“Whaddya want me to do,” he asked, pulling his brim down.
With a flick of her own, she started in.
“We got cameras to knock out here, lined all along the strip. Point your peashooter on up and ‘PEW!’, pop ‘em like soda cans.”
He was already rolling down his window as he cocked the hammer back. In the blur of the passing streets, he could just see the little dots as the set embedded on the building. With two big hands steadying the gun, he squeezed off one good
The explosion rocked the camera’s eye as it sparked and spluttered into a pint-sized fireball
“Well shit, that ain’t too—”
“They rigged to alarm, ain’t they—”
“—Nicky,” she said quietly, “Don’t let that get in the way. Keep. Firing.”
She shifted up and double-timed the Red Devil. Nic shot a sideways glance before he returned to his task. The sirens grew deafening as one by one, the electric eyes were shut by the icy white laser fire of his Smith & Wesson.
“Babe, you ain’t exactly being stealthy about this, are ya?”
“But I know what I’m—”
Before Lita could finish, she stomped both feet down on the brake and clutch, the Bug swerving and skittering to a stop.
The sentence hung in the smog-ridden air as she and Nic stared, jaws cast wide open, at the towering wall before them. It was a patchwork job, strips of steel welded one to the other, creating a metallic quilt that stretched skyward
“What in Sam Hill is this shit,” Nic exclaimed.
“I…damn I don’t know.”
Lita stewed in the shadow of the blockade. In time, her confusion gave way to determination.
“We’ll just cut through it.”
The sirens echoed in the distance behind them as she loaded her Wildey and her Mateba.
“Swing your head out and see what you can do.”
Nic didn’t say anything, he just swung out and took aim. All three firearms went roaring into the metal; streaks of green, red, and white cleaving the air as they pounded on the wall. To the couple’s surprise, it actually seemed to be working, twin perforations drawn up the wall. They worked their way across the top, all three colors merging in a terrific firework upon the wall.
Lita and Nic smirked playfully at one another.
“I thought we agreed never to touch tips—”
“—Don’t you start with me Sugar,” Nic guffawed.
“Let’s hit it before the nanotech kicks in,” Lita nodded, “Go’on get ‘em Red!”
She slammed her foot on the gas hard, the Bug’s back tires tearing into the asphalt as he hurtled towards the wall. She never let go of the wheel as she grinned.
“You ain’t keeping the fortress from me Bitch.”
Nearer and nearer the Red Devil true until
The gonging echoed as the Bug and his bull-bar left an impression, but no opening. She threw him in reverse and sped back, further than where she started. She tried again, a deeper impression made, but still no opening.
“Third times the charm, right” she panted.
If it wasn’t for the bull-bar, the Red Devil would’ve looked like a crushed can of soup with the amount of ramming he partook in.
Frustrated, Lita whipped out her heavy hitter; the mighty Dragunov. She slammed the magazine in, swung herself out, and unleashed everything it had. The sparks danced in the City’s eve as she rattled the perforation, electric bullet after electric bullet throttling the wall ruthlessly. She slammed the gun back in its rack and gripped the wheel, fuming in absolute rage.
“Now if this goddamn thing doesn’t give, I’ll rip it up my fucking—”
She went dead silent as she looked to Nic. He softened his demeanor and thumbed her cheek.
“Go easy. It ain’t helping nothing going off your fucking rocker like this. Think about what the little guy’s doing for you as is.”
She took the mother of all deep breaths, a hushed “sorry” and kiss on the wheel escaping her.
“Now step on him,” he smiled, patting her knee.
She threw the Red Devil into top gear and drew one last breath.
“Break through for me Tough Guy, I know you can.”
The throttle hit the footwell with an awful crash, smoking tires peeling away into the wall at full force.
It drew nearer and nearer, and nearer, until…
The metal sheet ripped away clean off. The Bug tore over it, bounding into the scene with a scream. And what a scene it was.
It was like stumbling onto an ancient Mayan tomb, or the bowels of some distant Egyptian pyramid. Corridors of wire, motherboards lining the walls, strange textures upon all within.
Nic and Lita stared in stunned amazement.
“I don’t think this is the station we’re after” came her star-struck utterance as she gunned the Red Devil into reverse. In the end, she was met with only one sound.
They were well and truly trapped. And for a moment, Lita figured them well and truly fucked. Then came Nic’s soothing baritone.
“Well Sugar, if she bleeds, we can get ‘er.”
He pointed further down the winding paths of magnetic pulses and skyscrapers electric. She looked to him, first with bewilderment, but then with her own resolve.
“When we make it out of this,” she started, “We’re so taking this bitch down for good.”
They sealed the promise with a kiss as the Red Devil embarked on a journey into the bowels of the strange computerized beast. Not all of the signals and beams brought forth light, the Bug’s numerous headlights (the ones undamaged by the battering) helping to guide Lita through the darker passages. A wellspring of thoughts rattled her mind.
Why would this be? What was A.C.E.S’s endgame with it? What could be within it?
Soon enough, Lita would be treated to her first answer.
With a kick of the brakes, she brought the Red Devil to a grinding halt, for before the trio of guy, gal, and ride was a leviathan of a tank. Half-finished, panels left all over the place, and in the distance…a sort of beeping sound. The Red Devil slunk around the sleeping giant, Lita driving in perhaps the gentlest manner she could muster.
Nic sat silent, awestruck by the war machine’s size as the beeping grew louder. It carried with it a musically synthetic quality, like the rich tones of a Moog in flux. In time, a twin set of flashing lights fell into the rhythm of the tones. Red for the first note, blue for the second, flashing in the dark as they journeyed deeper into the steeled cavern. The lights were the familiar colors of Haven’s bots-in-blue, but no HOV-CRAFT in sight.
Suddenly, Lita heard a cry of anguish from further within.
“STOP, dear God, you’ll kill him!”
She slammed down on the gas as the crimson Beetle tore away into the dark once more. The headlights illuminated the road but not much else until
Whoever the aggressor was went hurtling and twirling across the winding path as his victim and weeping lover leapt out of the Red Devil’s way. Nic jumped out to check in on the two. The victim was a tan wolf, gaunt yet breathing, with blood tracing his mouth. The poor man’s gal was white, her fur greased and musty. Both were dressed right out of the Space Age. White loose-fitting slacks and a button-up, contrasted by black boots and black belts around their waists.
Nic helped the man into the back seat, the dear woman beside him clambering in and doing her best to nurse him back to consciousness.
“The hell we just walk in on,” Lita asked plainly.
“We’ve been in here for ages,” wept the white wolf, “Us, that bastard, the crew on the project…oh God.”
“How ‘bout some names,” Nic asked in a gentle manner.
The tan wolf trailed off.
“David and Cynthia Webster,” the wife finished.
“I’m Nic,” Nic smiled, “This here’s—”
“—Ain’t no one getting my name sweetheart. Nothing personal, you two…I just gotta stay low.”
There was an awkward silence that hung about the ride, Nic shooting Lita a stink eye for the ages.
“She’s my bitch,” Nic winked. It got a chuckle out of the couple, and in time, from Lita too.
“Point is,” she said, “We gotta get y’all outta here, our hides too.”
She shifted into gear and opened her Bug up good and wide. She dug her claws in deep as the car hurtled over the assailant’s body with a crunch.
“Who was that,” she dryly asked.
“Someone from Munitions with a hot head,” David replied.
“Wait, Munitions,” ventured Nic, “Where exactly are we?”
“It’s classified, I—”
“—To hell with classifications Davey,” Cynthia cutoff, “We’re in Station 607. Power to the whole complex got cutoff and everything…went mad. I’m sure reserves to the dimension alternator got depleted, hence why everything looks…well like this.”
Nic and Lita looked to each other with a single blink of their eyes.
“Dimension what,” Lita pressed.
“It ain’t what it sounds like. It’s just a means of concealing the building from the public. People have been driving through the damn thing for ages.”
There was another exchange of baffled blinks before the next question was asked.
“Where’s the center of it all,” quizzed Nic.
“The Police Building,” David replied.
Nic and Lita looked to one another with a glint that could light up the entire base. Lita playfully nuzzled the steering wheel with glee before throwing the Bug into top gear.
The flashing lights blurred as the Red Devil soared along, Nic readying his revolver. They soldiered past everything from prototypes to finished products to those munitions mentioned. Lita didn’t bother to look at any of them. No photographs were taken, no trophies bummed. She didn’t want to get too attached to the place she was going to send corkscrew-spiraling into Hell.
Nic was however.
“Wait ‘til I get these to the General,” he whispered.
David and Cynthia came to a chilling realization of the exact types they were involved with.
“You dirty fucking terror—”
The Smith & Wesson pointed towards David’s temple as the upside-down Mateba stared Cynthia down. Lita had a hand on the wheel and the other on her sidearm as Nic looked both passengers down with all the fire of a raging bull.
“If you want to try your hand with a Hell Patrolman and a crazy bitch armed to the teeth, be are god-damnedest guests.”
Cynthia chose to grab the Dragunov from the rack.
Lita chose to slam on the brakes and send Cynthia’s throat onto the butt of the gun. The white wolf gasped and choked as she fell back onto the seat, David propping himself up.
“I thought you wanted to help us out of here you rotten bastards,” he barked.
“Did we forget to mention,” Lita started in with feigned composure, “That the only way we could get in was by cutting through the whole-ass football stadium in the middle of town. Which just so happened to seal itself back up after we got in, ergo the power’s still on, ergo someone’s got to disable the whole of the cotton-picking system?”
Though it was clear their fateful companions were going to enjoy themselves in their pursuit, there was no other way to get the group out of the complex.
“I’m sure there’s a hatch somewhere,” Cynthia indignantly retorted.
“Bitch,” came the frank reply, “If that’s the way you want out of here, fine. But I’d like to get my car out of here too.”
“What’s a car to a life—”
With both hands off the wheel, the Red Devil began to veer wildly across the wide-open neon-tiled plain. With their driver’s Wildey now joining the party backseat, Cynthia went dead silent. Lita re-holstered her guns, gesturing Nic to do the same.
“Glad we could come to an understanding,” Nic nodded.
“So am I” came a deadpan voice from the backseat.
David’s pint-sized laser revolver hummed as it pointed square at Lita’s head.
“You’re gonna pull over, get your ass out, and Cynth’s gonna take the two of us to that hatch. You can leg it, get crushed, or maybe I’ll have her run you down. But we want the car.”
Lita was silent, Nic irate.
“Listen here you sonofa—”
“Ah, temper temper,” David said, swinging towards the head rest Nic’s dome was up against.
“Alright,” Lita sighed, “You can have him.”
Mischievous grins worked their way across the Websters’ faces. Lita laid off the gas, her grip on the wheel loosening, and the Red Devil began to slow down.
“In a few years.”
Perplexion shot across the couple’s faces.
In an instant, a sickly ray of green filled the backseat, the horrified cries of the couple reverberating throughout the car. Fur faded from flesh, flesh from muscle, and muscle from bone outright. Even the metal of the revolver warped and dissipated with the workers’ vanishing bodies. All that remained of David and Cynthia Webster was an ashen pile and a pint-sized molten mound.
With a careful flick of her sandaled foot, the button working the magic fell behind a flap, a flap she tapped into the footwell with her heel before digging her claws back into the throttle.
“Picked that up from a helluva flick,” she grinned, “Got the tape lying around at the pad if you want to watch it later.”
Nic could only burst out laughing.
“Don’t you change Babe,” he broke up, kissing her square on the cheek.
“No plans yet, right Red?”
The Bug could only rev with delight as his mistress brought him back up to tempo.
The neon-tiles faded, giving way to Station 607’s darker passages once more. The shadows were reassuring, a cozy blanket of shade to wrap around lovers and their automotive companion. The glow of the Red Devil’s headlights caught a sign:
↑ Doncaster Street, Haven ← Station 607, Police Headquarters Weapons Development →
“Well,” Nic sighed, “Least we’re on the right path.”
The Beetle soldiered onward, a faint light fading into view. It grew to be the apple of their wild eyes.
Station 607, the true Station 607, was your average police compound. Brutalist in the fourth degree, with dirty yellow light flowing from every window. It was everything the vigilante’s devious brain had dreamt of.
Lita killed the headlights as she pulled up to a small nook outside the window’s glare. She pulled the Dragunov out, slamming a fresh magazine in and readying the rifle. Before she stepped out, she looked to Nic, her gaze thoughtful. With a soft smile, she handed the rifle off to him.
“Take her for a spin.”
With all the joy of a kid on Christmas morning, he leapt out of the Red Devil and towards the wall where they would conduct their business. Lita, dual-wielding her peculiar pair of handguns, leaned over to look and see what they were up against.
“C’mon, gimme just a sweet little bacon strip to blow away.”
Nothing. Not a sign of life to seen.
“C’mon now ya bastards, someone’s gotta be running the joint.”
No one was.
She cocked her head towards the base, the lover at her back as they cased the area. Slowly the duo crept up to the window, quietly, neither a click of heel or a squeak of rubber to be heard. What they saw as they stared deep into the building, past the thick glass and concrete façade was sobering.
Walls of machines clicking, chirping, and chattering like an IBM dinner party. No White Coats, no boys in blue, not a spark of life to be had. No living wolven soul walked within the hallowed halls of the City’s finest.
Lita pressed her face against the glass, the downturn of her snout and wide eyes absurd in expression.
“They don’t even have people to take care of the bastards.”
She almost felt sorry for all of those slender law-bringers that prowled the city streets.
“Alright, Babe, let’s waste ‘em!”
In an instant, madness.
A rainbowesque hurricane of laser fire slashed through the walls, the glass, the floor, and the machines. Oh God, did they light into those machines. Sparks flew in spectacular fashion as they cut through every pixel on the displays, every button to be pressed, every light to flicker, every goddamned reel-to-reel rig of tape shuffling in unison. They shot out every light in the compound in a frenzy of unhinged glee, the lovers’ eyes wide with pure delight.
It was with a final blow that they realized the extent of their damage. A rumbling came rolling through the complex, echoing across every panel about them.
They leapt out of the demolished window, only to hear the same cacophony in the wider “world” before them.
“What are our odds on getting to the exit,” Nic asked over the roar of complex.
“Let’s put the Kid’s hammer down and find out,” Lita grinned.
In no time at all, the duo leapt into the Bug, Lita pounding out some mighty revs as Nic threw the Dragunov back onto the racks. The Red Devil careened out of his spot and went thundering past the freshly bombed-out police station. Even as they roared through the darkness that came after, something refused to sit right with both Nic and Lita.
“You gotta sorta tingling up your spine Nicky?”
Nic nodded, “Fur standing on end?”
Suddenly, in the rearview, a light. A bright, blinding blue light. The light slowly crawled towards the couple in motion, all engulfed by its glare. Lita opened her Bug as wide as he could go, the needle shivering at 200 on the dial. She braced for whatever it was that was coming for them. They held one another’s hand over the gearshift, the Red Devil’s headlights revealing a chilling sight before them.
“That our exit,” asked Nic dryly.
“‘Fraid so,” she said, stone cold in expression.
With cobalt at their backs and a steel wall at their front, the lovers took the ride in stride, a small grin creeping across the cowboy’s face, then the urban warrior’s. And as the valiant crimson steed soldiered on, unwavering under his mistress’s command, the swirling vortex lunging at his wheels…
The Bug skittered and ground to a halt…onto the streets of Haven. His bumper gently graced the end of the alleyway. Behind the wheel sat Lita, Nic riding shotgun. In appearance, they awoke from a comatose state, fighting through the grog and delirium before looking to one another. Lita held tight to her lover, and he to her. They made out like it was their last, kissing ferociously before a realization dawned on the nocturnal fighter.
“Bitch don’t know I ain’t chipped, does she?”
Nic looked to his lover amused.
With a knowing nod, the two laughed hysterically. The secrets of Station 607 sat tucked away in Lita and Nic’s minds, locked away from any alterations. They didn’t dare say more than that, each wolf’s paranoid gaze scanning the area as they necked.
An epiphany of his own struck Nic amid the emotional flareup. He looked to see if his photographs had made it out, only for blank sheets to stare back at him. A dash of disappointment lingered on his face as his lover held him close.
“Well Baby,” Lita smiled, “You can always give him the oratory.”
Through the juvenile giggling, he figured it was safest to take the memories instead of trying to record them here and now.
“Lemme take you to the border. Your ride will be here in…holy shit, five minutes!”
“Relax Sugar,” he said, “He ain’t leaving without MEEEE!”
The Red Devil rocketed away out of the alley, spun around, spryly roared into the misted evening. On his tear, the couple passed by the crushed remains of Police Station 607, a trio of demolished HOV-CRAFT coated in rubble.
The journey had taken the troop into a startling development, one which tore at the fabric of the City’s design. The target on their backs ever larger, the Urban Avenger and her faithful steed thundered away into the City’s edge once more, alive to tell the tale. For now.
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