by Brian K. Asbury
Godiva found herself backed up against a wall, unable to regain the doorway as the expanding black disc grew ever closer. Her makeshift wooden brace had given her some breathing space, but was blackening and smoking, and the heat from the device was scorching her skin and hair. “Knight! Squire! I’m in trouble here. I could use some help!” she yelled.
“Sorry, we’re a bit occupied right now!” came the Squire’s voice from across the room, barely audible above the howling of wind. He and the Knight were hanging on desperately to the window frame to avoid being swept out of the opening. Neither dared releasing their grip to reach for any of their special equipment.
“Great!” Godiva said. There was only one thing for it. If she could just…
“No!” a voice shouted from the shattered doorway. A streak of pure white flew past her. Sandie held her hands out before her in desperation. Thin and two-dimensional they might have been, but if only she could hold the disc back long enough for Godiva to get out of its path.
To her astonishment, instead of making contact with the disc, her hands phased through it. There was an enormous shower of sparks as it happened; the disc shuddered, contracted back to its original size, and fell to the floor, still sparking.
“What the–?!” exclaimed an astonished Bard.
“What?” panted Sandie, every bit as astonished herself. “No suitable quote, you murdering pig?” She advanced upon him, hands still out before her.
“I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw!” screamed the Bard, turning his wind weapon on her.
It slammed Godiva against the wall, but had no apparent effect upon the eerie living silhouette that had been Sandie Bremmer. “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about,” she yelled. “So why don’t you just shut up?”
“What — what are you?” he stammered. A noise behind him alerted him to the fact that the Knight and the Squire had taken advantage of his turning the weapon to re-enter the room. He whirled and turned it back on them.
“I’m — I’m Cameo,” said Sandie. “And I really have had enough of you!”
She ran at him, phasing through him and his weapon, which shorted out and fell from his hand. The Bard squealed like a stuck pig and joined the weapon in hitting the floor, hard.
“Alas, poor Yorick!” she said, standing over him.
The other three heroes came up to her. “Are you OK, Sandie?” asked Godiva.
“I think so.”
“Cameo?” the Squire said.
“If I’ve got these powers, I might as well have a name to go with them,” she explained. “And right now I look like one of those old cameo brooches you see in antique shops.”
The Knight coughed. “If I can just have your attention, I think we’ve some unfinished business.” He indicated the screen obscuring nearly half of the room.
“Indeed, we have, my foesss,” said a sibilant voice from the other side. “And sssinccce my agentsss have failed me, I must deal with you myssself. Prepare to die!”
The screen slowly descended, revealing a curving metal desk, behind which sat a being in a curiously shaped chair of the same metal. Even seated, the heroes could tell that it was extremely tall — perhaps as much as eight feet tall. It was clad in a scarlet robe, and its limbs seemed to be long and spindly, ending in large hands that had very long, taloned fingers. Its head was oversized, with no trace of hair covering its large, domed skull and pointed ears. But its face was the real horror: its eyes were large, yellow, and lidless, there was no trace of a nose, and the mouth was a huge, lipless mass of wickedly pointed teeth.
“A Dominator,” breathed the Knight. “Just as I thought.”
“Indeed,” said the Dominator, “and asss one alien to another, I greet you, Ssson of the Wing.”
“What?” said Godiva, staring at the Knight. “You’re an alien?”
“I’ll explain later,” the Knight said. “But right now our priority should be to take this abomination down. He’s responsible for everything that’s happened.”
“I’m all for that!” said the Squire. He extended his club back to quarterstaff size and started to run forward.
“Did you really think it would be ssso easssy?” said the alien who had called himself Mr. D. He stabbed down at a switch, and the room erupted as a swarm of small flying robots burst from the floor and ceiling, firing lasers as they hurtled toward the quartet of heroes.
The Knight brought up his shield, deflecting lasers as he took the point to distract the attackers from his more vulnerable companions. His sword flashed as he smashed the first of the robots.
The Squire was also quick to take action, agilely dodging the robots’ blasts as he hurled a dagger into one and brought his staff down onto a second.
Neither was Godiva idle. She formed some of her hair into a shield as she scooped up the disc weapon that had latterly menaced her and flung it into the nearest robot with explosive results. “Sandie!” she yelled. “We can take care of these! Get the Dominator!”
Sandie shrugged off her initial shock and started for the seated alien. Several laser blasts hit her but passed straight through her transformed body. Then a robot came straight at her and it, too, passed straight through, sparking and spluttering as it hit the ground and lay still. This energy form must disrupt electrical circuitry, she thought, astonished.
“All right, you,” she said, advancing on the Dominator. “The game’s up, sunshine. This’ll teach you to give your best gadgets to a loser like the Bard.”
“Oh, I did not give them all to him,” said the Dominator, smugly. He raised an oddly shaped gun and fired at her.
And again, the ray passed harmlessly through her. “Imposssible!” the Dominator said, dropping the weapon and hurriedly pressing a switch on his console. The air shimmered before Sandie as he worked other controls. “A forccce field will ssstop you while I make good my essscape,” he said.
“Not if I can help it.” She pushed forward into the shimmering. There was a lot of resistance — it was like swimming through treacle — but she found she could move through the field, very slowly. The Dominator’s eyes bulged. A space warp opened up behind him, and Sandie knew she had only moments to act.
However, as she cleared the field, she found to her astonishment that a transformation had occurred. Her hands were flesh and blood again; in fact, she realised, she was back to human form.
The Dominator, whose attention had been fixed on the space warp, did not seem to have noticed this change. I’ll bet he won’t be in such a hurry if he realises I’m only human again, she thought, scrambling for the alien’s discarded gun as the creature began to turn back toward her, and she brought it up in a swift arc, connecting with the centre of its skull with a sharp crack.
The Dominator went down in a heap. “Thank God for that!” she breathed.
“Well done. Now how about letting us in to give you a hand?”
“What?” Sandie looked up to see Godiva, who had spoken, and the Knight and Squire staring at her from the other side of the force-field. The room was a disaster scene, with bits of robots scattered everywhere, but the three heroes looked unharmed. “Er… right. If I can remember which of these controls works the force-field.”
She stabbed down on a button, and the space warp closed. “Damn!” she said. “I was hoping that would stay open so we could see where this monster was trying to escape to.”
“Never mind,” said the Knight. “Try again.”
She considered for a moment and selected another switch, hoping it was the right one this time. However, as she moved to press it, her arm turned glowingly white and two-dimensional, and her hand phased right through the panel. There was a loud whuf! accompanied by copious smoke and sparking. The force-field vanished.
“Not quite what we had in mind,” said a grinning Godiva, blowing the smoke away with her whirling hair, “but it’ll do.”
“Yes, but look at me,” moaned Sandie. “I’ve changed back again!”
“Hmmm…” the Knight said. “It seems it may have been your proximity to the space warp that caused you to revert back to human form. And when you shut it off, you changed again.”
“Whatever. But now I’m stuck like this. And I’ve wrecked the control panel, so we can’t even reopen the warp.”
“Don’t worry,” the Knight reassured her. “At least it shows you can be changed back. We’ll find a way to make the change permanent, never fear.”
During this exchange, Godiva had moved to kneel beside the fallen Dominator. “Er… guys?” she said. “I don’t want to worry you, but I think he’s dead!“
“What? I can’t have killed him! I didn’t hit him that hard!”
The Knight crouched down by the alien and examined him. “I don’t think it was your blow that killed him,” he said. “See this bulge at the side of his skull? I think a suicide device went off in there. He didn’t want to be captured and interrogated. Typical Dominion behaviour.”
“You seem to know a lot about that,” said Godiva. “But then, you’re an alien yourself, aren’t you?”
“I think you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, mister.”
“Got you there, boss,” muttered the Squire, who had been busy trussing up the unconscious Bard and divesting him of his weapons.
“I’ll explain everything in good time,” said the Knight. “I guess I owe you all that much. However, I think the priority for now has to be to call Hanson and get this mess cleaned up. And then we have to see about getting some help for Sandie.”
“And then will it be all over at last?” asked Sandie.
“I doubt that very much. That Dominator was here on a mission of revenge, and he won’t be here alone. I fancy we’ll be hearing from others like him in the very near future.”