Who Dares Wins: Part 3

Coup D' Grace

by Samy Merchi



DISCLAIMER: This is a non-profit work of fan-fiction involving characters created and owned by Marvel Comics Group.

ARCHIVED AT: http://mash.yok.utu.fi/corona.html

INSPIRED BY: NEW MUTANTS #49 "Ashes of the Soul"


Sebastian "BLACK KING" Shaw
Selene "BLACK QUEEN" Gallio

Tessa MacDonald
Trevor "BLACK ROOK" Fitzroy
Adrienne "WHITE QUEEN" Frost

Janet "WASP" Van Dyne Paladin

Nicole Kidman as Emma Grace Frost

CONTINUITY: This story takes place
* in my Shadows of the Future timeline
* in year +3 (three years in the future)
* on Christmas Eve, December 24th
* exactly a year after FIRST AND TEN
* about half a year after APOCALYPSO

"You've certainly got youthful arrogance", Sebastian Shaw said as he calmly removed his jacket, then folded it up and placed it over the back of a recliner in the living room of his Black King's private chambers at the New York Hellfire Club. "And arrogance can get a man far in the world", he continued as he slowly unbuttoned his pristine white shirt, and then laid it over the back of the seat as well, preparing himself for battle by baring himself from waist up. "Even all the way to the grave."

"Dramatic rhetoric", Shinobi Shaw almost yawned as he stood in front of his father, a dozen feet away or so. "I'm *so* impressed, father. What are you going to do, talk us to death?"

Roberto Da Costa's eyes narrowed in thought for a moment. "No, he's too --" he started, before his eyes widened in realization, and suddenly he dove to the side, tackling Shinobi and hurtling behind a couch with the oriental man just as superheated plasma blasts screamed thru the air where the two men had just stood.

Wooden shrapnel showered the living room as the plasma blasts -- fired by two armed Hellfire Pawns who had entered the quarters -- struck the wall between the room and the study beyond it, blowing it into little shards and the smoldering, flickering beginnings of a fire.

"Idiot", Sebastian addressed his words to Shinobi, seemingly undisturbed by the momentary hail of sharp wooden bits thru the air as he picked up a recliner -- not the one his clothes were on -- with casual ease, and heaved it across the room at Shinobi and Roberto. "Everything I do has a purpose -- in this case, distracting you long enough that my men reacted to the signal I activated."

The chair exploded in a cloud of wood, metal springs, cloth and padding as Roberto's fist whistled up, turning coal-black with a silently crackling black aura as it impacted onto the furniture and blasted thru it as if it were made of styrofoam. "You deal with your father", Roberto snapped out to Shinobi as he stood up, turning towards the Pawns as a few more plasma blasts missed him by mere inches. "I'll handle the rest --" he hissed, casting his arm towards the mercenaries.

"ARRGH!" one of the Pawns cried out as he failed to dodge the solar blast and was knocked backwards by the attack, which fortunately wasn't a high enough temperature to fry him -- nonetheless, bones crunched and cracked as he slammed into the reinforced wall.

"You always get the plum assignments..." Shinobi mumbled as he stood up and glanced towards his father hesitantly, suddenly forgetting weeks of planning of how to pull this off.

"That's because he took control of the situation", Sebastian said as he suddenly leaped across the room towards Roberto. "Decisive!" he snarled. "Everything you're not! You get nowhere in this world by waiting for orders!"

"Roberto!" Shinobi shouted out in warning as he stood in place, watching his father attack the Brazilian, only snapped awake by a plasma blast streaking towards and thru his intangible form, fired by the Pawn who had managed to take cover from Roberto's attack.

"Droga!" Roberto gasped as Sebastian's sinewy arm snaked around his neck, and then before he could blink, a ferocious judo throw slammed him backwards, over Shaw and to the floor with a loud crash and a "WHOULFF!"

"I appreciate this attempt, Roberto", Sebastian sneered as he picked up a heavy marble table, lifting it up as if it were cardboard, and then brought it down upon the Brazilian. "So would your father!"

"DON'T talk about my father!" Roberto growled, kicking his crackling black foot up and smashing the marble table up and thru the roof like a soccer ball. "You don't know anything about him!" he hissed as he jumped back up onto his feet.

"I know exactly what we planned for you", Sebastian smiled confidently as his fist streaked forward and impacted onto Roberto's solar plexus a fraction of a second faster than the black man could block the attack. "We knew this day would come. But you could have -- you *should* have picked your allies better!"

Shinobi hissed, either from Roberto crumpling down to one knee, or from his father's words. Suddenly, he took his collar stud in his fingers, bringing it to his lips. "Bedlam. NOW!"


Christopher Aaronson glanced to Martinique Jason. She moved a bit closer to the ballroom wall, half pressing herself against it, and then glanced back to him. His eyes narrowed, and he squeezed a detonator in his pocket.


The Hellfire Club rocked on its foundations as the bomb Christopher and Martinique had planted less than half an hour ago went off, and a massive explosion was heard from somewhere underneath the ground floor, all the lights in the building suddenly going dead. There was a heartbeat of eerie shocked silence, before the screams began.


"What --??" Trevor Fitzroy blinked as everything went dark in the chambers he was in, accompanied by Manuel de la Rocha and Amara Aquilla.

Manuel's eyes narrowed and he cocked his head slightly. "They're early. It shouldn't be time yet", he said, mostly to himself, with a quirked eyebrow Trevor couldn't see in the darkness.

"Time? What time??" Trevor demanded as his arms fumbled about a bit, finding the wall of the room, which managed to reassure him slightly.

A crimson glow illuminated the space as Manuel's eyes lit up, eerie shadows playing on his face as he stared at Fitzroy. "Time for you to die."


"In my day", Emma Frost said slowly as she lifted a glass of champagne to her lips, taking a light sip, "the maintenance was far better taken care of." She stood up on the balcony, her eyes as blind as anyone else's in the darkness, but her mind attentively scanning her surroundings and the chaotic, scream-filled ballroom down below.

"There's something going on", Selene replied with a sharp voice, her eyes locking onto Emma despite the darkness, her lips pulling back and showing her teeth as she hissed. "The timing is too convenient." Her hand shot out and grabbed Emma's wrist without error, a steely grip that threatened to crush the blonde's bones. "Are you a part of this?"

Emma's eyes narrowed, and she very slowly turned her eyes onto the Black Queen. "I haven't been a part of the Club's affairs in a long time, Selene", she said in a level tone. "I suggest you go downstairs and change the fuse, I am not your servant." A minute pause. "Remove. Your hand." Her lips pulled back into a snarl. "NOW."

Selene hesitated a moment, but then let go of Emma's wrist. "Something is wrong here", she said with a suspicious wrinkle of her nose.

"None of my business", Emma simply replied, lifting her champagne back to her lips and taking a slow sip.

"It is mine!" Selene snapped, and turned on her heels, stalking towards the corridor leading to the Inner Circles' areas. "Whoever is behind this will not live to regret it!" she snarled as she vanished into the darkness, her cape cascading in the air behind her.

"Evil overlord cliche #368", Emma murmured to herself, toying thoughtfully with the glass in her fingers as her mind expertly screened off all the massive panic radiating from the ballroom. "We'll see." She waited for a few moments, looking contemplative, and then fixed her eyes onto someone down in the ballroom.


"CALM DOWN!" Janet Van Dyne tried to shout over the roars and screams of the crowd, but her voice could rise above it as much as clothes hung out to dry could stay in place during a tornado. She hissed, tensing up, and then leaped into the air.

Shrinking down to insect-size, Janet didn't come back down, a pair of transparent wasp wings rising from her back and she soared above the crowd. Then, she allowed bioelectric energy to surge in her hands, which started to crackle with a bluish glow as she flew towards the foyer doors.

The ballroom was illuminated for a brief moment, as if by a lightning strike, as the foyer doors were blasted off their hinges, outwards into the foyer. The Wasp didn't stop there, she flew thru the now-open doorway, and summoned another strike.

With an explosion of electricity, the front doors of the Hellfire Club, and the brick wall surrounding them, exploded outwards, clattering to the snowy sidewalk and onto a limousine parked in front of the Club, as the Wasp soared out to the cold winter air.


"Perfect", Christopher smiled as the Wasp provided an exit for the terrified masses. He watched with amusement as the shadows of the herd surged towards the faintly illuminated foyer doorway where light from the streets cascaded in, everyone trying to get out before they got trampled by the rest of the crowd. "Everything is going according to plan so far."

Martinique nodded and chewed on a club sandwich as she used her telepathic illusionary powers to enhance the light streaming in, making the doorway more seductive to the panicked crowd. "Let's add a bit more to the mix, shall we?" she smiled.

Suddenly, the balcony burst into fire, casting flickering yellow and orange light to the ballroom it was overlooking as flames licked the wooden construction of the railings, hungrily devouring the material in a furious blaze.

Screams grew more desperate as the fire was noticed, the panic rising tenfold as no one wanted to be trapped in a burning building. The strong people shoved the weak ones out of the way, a large man bulldozing his way thru the crowd and knocking a young woman to the floor as he forced his way out.

"So predictable", Christopher smirked. "Like animals, nothing frightens them more than fire. But then, compared to us, Homo sapiens *are* animals."

"Not only Homo sapiens", Martinique commented with a sharp tone. "de la Rocha didn't follow the *plan*. He was supposed to be *here*, replacing you. Crowd control would have been much easier with him."

"Plans change, Martinique", Christopher replied calmly. "And frankly, he has more right to assist Amara in killing Fitzroy than me. I couldn't care less about what happened to --"


"-- the Hellions? Is this what it's all about, de la Rocha?" Trevor snarled as he took a step back in the eerie crimson glow of the former Hellion's eyes. "You're getting revenge over me killing your little classmates? You surprise me. From what I had heard of you, I wouldn't have thought you'd care --"

Manuel didn't respond, as he picked a sword from its ornamental holder on the corridor wall, crossed with another sword. He took a loose grip of the handle, his relaxed wrist slashing the blade of the sword around a few times in front of him, pointed at Trevor, before the tip of the blade went to the handle of the other sword. With a flick of the blade, the other sword flew out of the holder and towards Fitzroy. "Defend yourself", Manuel simply said.

Fitzroy jumped back and the sword clattered to the floor in front of him. He looked suspiciously at Manuel, and then hesitantly picked up the sword. "I'll kill you", he hissed, before slashing the blade viciously towards Manuel.

Metal clashed against metal as the blades met, sparks flying in the crimson-hued dark corridor, the duel silently witnessed by Amara Aquilla standing to the side, saying nothing whatsoever.

"UNGH!" Fitzroy wheezed as Manuel's fist smashed to his jaw, knocking him stumbling back, the Spaniard's blade streaking across his chest and cutting a neat horizontal gash along the middle of his victorian shirt.

Manuel took a step back and assumed a defensive stance, holding his sword ready in front of him as his glowing eyes stared into Fitzroy's. "You are going to *die*", he said matter-of-factly.


"AHH!" Sebastian Shaw recoiled as blazing bright light erupted outwards from Roberto, momentarily frying Sebastian's retinas, his vision remaining nothing but bright spots of light.

"You say you planned for this, Shaw", Roberto hissed as he slowly stood up into an imposing posture, still emitting an amount of light to illuminate the room as he watched the visually disabled Black King before him. "Did you plan to die?"

The remaining Pawn stood up from behind the couch he was using as cover, and pointed his plasma rifle towards Roberto, flicking the safety to full automatic fire, and squeezed down the trigger.

Explosions tore at the room. Ceiling, floor, walls, wooden shards flew everywhere as plasma blasts impacted onto them and the furniture, blowing everything apart. Several blasts hit Roberto. He stood motionless in the middle of it all, and then raised an arm.

The wall behind the Pawn exploded into splinters as the solar blast rammed the unconscious body thru it into the corridor where it ricocheted off the opposite wall, and then lay still on the floor of the corridor.


Roberto grunted as a fist slammed him across the living room and thru the remnants of a wall into the Black King's study, crashing into the large desk taking up most of the width of the room.

"If that's what it takes", Sebastian replied, starting to calmly walk towards the study, his vision having cleared up enough to move around. "Whoever wins this battle must be in possession of sufficient ruthlessness to justify his position as the ruler of the Hellfire Club."

"Then let's see which one that'll be", Shinobi gritted his teeth as he walked over to position himself between his father and the study, facing Sebastian determinedly. "I've taken you out before, daddy dearest", he said angrily, narrowing his eyes. "I can do it again."

"You don't have the guts, Shinobi", Sebastian smiled as he took a few steps towards his son. "You've always been an idiot, and always will be. You don't matter in this battle. It's about me and Roberto. Whether young age and arrogance has attained a sufficient level of maturity to triumph over my age and experience."

"I'm a *Shaw*! *I* will lead the Hellfire Club!" Shinobi snarled furiously. "Stop overlooking me! Pay attention, father! I'm going to give you the ruthlessness you so crave!"

"Oh?" Sebastian quirked an eyebrow and stopped right in front of Shinobi. "By all means, then. If you've got the guts", he said, standing still.

Shinobi's eyes narrowed, watching his father's for several moments. "I'll dance on your grave!" he hissed, thrusting his intangible hand forward and into Sebastian's chest, preparing to rip out his father's heart.

"ARRRRGH!" Shinobi screamed, recoiling backwards, his hand withdrawing from Sebastian's chest as he stumbled backwards, lost his balance, and crashed to the floor, clutching the hand he had thrust in and whimpering quietly.

"Idiot", Sebastian said and walked past his son.

"What did you do to him?" Roberto asked sharply, standing in the middle of the study, his eyes locked with Sebastian's as the Black King walked thru the demolished doorway into the study.

"Never allow yourself to be defeated twice the same way, Roberto", Sebastian stated. "After Shinobi's last attempt to kill me, I made certain to learn to use my powers in a way to counter his." He shrugged slightly. "When he started making his hand tangible inside my chest, his molecules started colliding against mine. I redirected that kinetic energy towards his hand."

"Using your powers on a microscopic level", Roberto quirked an eyebrow. "Impressive. And naturally, you had to lure Shinobi into attacking you in that very fashion, because you couldn't affect him otherwise in his intangible state."

"Naturally", Sebastian agreed.

"My curiosity is satisfied. Thank you", Roberto said, and then a layer of frost suddenly covered Sebastian's body.

Sebastian's lips pulled into a snarl, but before his body could move any further, it froze in place, Roberto's breath becoming visible in the suddenly absolute zero room, as he had extended his solar absorption abilities to drain the heat from his surroundings.

"It's too bad that you probably didn't have time to realize what I did, Sebastian", Roberto said with a faint smile as he walked slowly around the statue of frozen flesh in the middle of the study. "You'd be proud of me. Skipping the standard lengthy speeches in favor of a quick kill. That's what you want, isn't it? Ruthlessness, no mercy? Never giving the enemy a chance? Destroying them when they least expect it? Being a perfect leader, doing everything perfectly, not letting vanity slow you down..." He shook his head slightly. "I hope you and my father are proud of me", he said quietly. "I'm not." He walked out of the study and glanced at Shinobi. "The coup d' grace is yours."

Shinobi watched Roberto for a few moments thru narrowed eyes. Then, he walked into the study. Heat had flowed to the room from the surroundings, allowing Shinobi to survive inside. He slowly circled Sebastian a few times, and then stopped in front of him. Wordlessly, Shinobi pulled back his uninjured hand.


The statue exploded into icy shards as Shinobi's fist blasted thru it. The shrapnel clattered to the floor, covering it with little bits of frozen flesh. Shinobi stood in place silently for well over a minute, before finally walking past Tessa's unconscious body on the floor and out of the study. "Let's go", he said.


"GACK!" a blond man wheezed as the terror-stricken crowd stampeded towards the doorway out of the ballroom, buffeting and knocking him this way and that out of their way as they all tried to make it out the doors before the flames on the balcony would set the entire building ablaze. "Hey, don't shove me!" he shouted. "I'm too cool to be shoved --!"

Suddenly, his eyes rolled back, and he slumped down to the floor. As the crowd stampeded over him for the doors, little pops and crunches came from his body, not unlike having one's mouth full of chocolate and grinding the nuts in it to bits with one's teeth.


Emma Frost smiled innocently and turned away, heading off the balcony to one of the corridors.


Metal rang against metal as Manuel parried one strike after another, a calm expression on his face countering the furious one on Fitzroy's face as the time-traveler desperately tried to get his sword thru Manuel's defenses.

"AHH!" Trevor cried out as the tip of Manuel's blade slashed a straight vertical gash onto his shirt, to accompany another one made earlier, on the other side of the horizontal gash, creating an 'H' shape.

"'H' for 'Hellions'", Manuel said sharply, glaring at Trevor for a few moments. "This is for them." Suddenly, he switched from defensive to offensive, feinted towards Trevor's off hand, and then quickly switched the target of his attack to Trevor's sword.

With the bright ring of metal against metal, Trevor's sword was knocked from his hand. "Are you afraid yet?" Manuel smirked tauntingly at his disarmed opponent.

"I don't need a weapon to kill you!" Trevor shouted, leaping towards Manuel, his hands extended in front of him and glowing with his mutant energies as he prepared to grab the Spaniard and drain his life energy from him.


"AIEEE!" Trevor screamed, falling to his knees and staring wide-eyed, dumbly, at the stump of his right hand, severed at the wrist by a quick sword slash. Blood flowed rapidly from the wound, the hand lying on the red carpet covering the corridor floor.

"That's for Jennifer", Manuel said, resting the tip of his blade on the carpet and leaning loungingly onto the handle of the sword. "Afraid yet?"

Trevor snarled between shallow breaths, narrowing his eyes at Manuel. "I'm going to *kill* you for this", he hissed. "I'm going to feed your entrails to dogs!"

"How humanitarian of you to provide your parents with nourishment", Manuel replied, looking down his nose at Fitzroy. "Please, do enlighten me, how do you use your powers without your hands?" he asked, slashing out with his sword.

"YEARGH!" Trevor shouted as the sharp metal cut cleanly thru his other wrist, his left hand falling into his lap and blood starting to pour from the stump. "You -- I'm going to --" he gasped dizzily.

"That was for Emma", Manuel said flatly, placing the tip of his blade under Trevor's chin. "She suffered, you know." He shook his head scoldingly. "Afraid yet?"

"Go to hell!" Trevor spat out.


"UNGH!" Trevor gasped as Manuel's foot kicked him crashing onto his back, an instant later metal flashing in the air, whistling down towards him. "ARRRRRGH!" an ear-piercing scream came from his throat.

Manuel leaned forward on his sword, the blade run into the floor right thru Trevor's crotch. He twisted the blade slightly, getting a few more screams of pain out of the green-haired man, before smiling. "That, is merely for the amusement value. Afraid yet?"

Trevor gritted his teeth, not managing to get out a reply or anything other than whimpers of agony, his back arching as he tried in vain to withhold the pain inside him and not make sounds betraying his distress.

The sword pulled out, and placed itself over Trevor's left eye, close enough that if he tried to move, he'd surely puncture the eye. "Ironic", Manuel smiled. "You killed the Hellions when the Upstarts took over the Hellfire Club. And now, they will be avenged when a new group of Upstarts take over the Club while you're in it."

"Fuck you", Trevor half-growled, half-whimpered.

"Tsk", Manuel shook his head scoldingly. "You lack proper respect for your betters."

"ARRGH!" Trevor sobbed as the sword punctured his eye, wetness running down his cheeks as he started to sniffle. "What do you *want*??" he whimpered..

"I want you to feel what you made the Hellions feel" Manuel shrugged as he ran the tip of the sword down Trevor's cheek, leaving behind a gash that started to bleed. "I could easily make you afraid with my powers." He shook his head. "But that would merely be forced fear -- not *true* fear. I will make you feel true fear."

"I. Don't. Fear!" Trevor spat out weakly.

Manuel calmly laid the tip of the sword over Trevor's intact eye. "Don't you?"

"Look, I can give you money! Women! Anything you want! Just let me get the hell out of here!"

Manuel shrugged noncommittally. "I have everything I want. Money, a woman I love with all my heart, and now in the Hellfire Club, a position of respect and influence. All that I lack is making peace with my past by avenging the Hellions."

"Please", Fitzroy whimpered amidst sobs. "Come on! I'll give or do anything! Don't kill me!"

"Is that what the Hellions told you before you killed them?" Manuel asked. "Did you take their pleas into consideration?" He shrugged slightly. "Consider this", he said, pressing the tip of his sword against Trevor's throat, "reaping what you have sown." His eyes narrowed as the sharp metal dug a bit deeper into the skin. "This one is for Tarot."


Manuel quirked an eyebrow and glanced over his shoulder, to see a woman standing at the door to the room, holding a lit torch in one hand, the flamelight flickering back and forth, shadows playing over the white-clad blonde. "Emma."

"He's mine."

Silence. A moment of hesitation. Then, Manuel pulled his sword away, taking a few steps back from Fitzroy. "Yes, Ms Frost", he nodded to the white-clad figure.


Manuel let his eyes linger on Emma for a moment as she walked over to Fitzroy. Then, he moved his eyes to Amara. "Let's go", he said.

Amara blinked, and raised a hand to her temple as if waking up from a dream. A moment of confusion passed thru her eyes, and then her gaze focused on Manuel, a snarl rising to her lips.

"UNGH!" Manuel gasped, his eyes widening as Amara leapt towards him, slamming him against the wall and knocking the wind out of him momentarily. "Amara --!"

"Silence!" Amara hissed, snatching the sword from Manuel's hand and placing the tip to his throat as she glared viciously at him. "Never", she snapped, "EVER use your powers on me again. Are we *clear* on this, Manuel?"

A bit of moisture beaded on Manuel's forehead as he drew back against the wall and stared at the blade pointed at him. "Uh... I was only..."

"Breaking the plan", Amara hissed, and the metal blade flashed in the torchlight as it slashed horizontally across Manuel's throat. She watched with narrowed eyes, and then lowered the sword. "*Never* do *that* again, either!"

Manuel gasped in relief as he raised a hand to his throat, finding only a little nick and minute traces of blood there. He swallowed, and took a handkerchief from his breast pocket, dabbing at the sweat on his forehead.

"*Selene*, Emma", Amara said sharply, turning her attention to the former White Queen who was standing beside Fitzroy, her attention on her two former students. "*Where* is *Selene*?"


For millennia she had walked the world, watching from the shadows and preying on the helpless humanity. She had seen people be born, people die, thousands upon countless thousands which she had witnessed or attended to personally. It was the way humanity was. Their life span wasn't infinite. They were created only to end after a brief fling with existence. Was it surprising that she saw nothing unique, nothing new and nothing worth preserving in one individual after another?

Every person she met, she had already known someone exactly like that. She had seen that person die, and the world not come to an end because of that. No one mattered, no one made a difference. The human race was as constant as its individuals were inconstant. Like a huge library, with each person being a book, written when they were born and decayed to dust when they died. Some of them were interconnected, none of them were important in the grand scheme of things. The library would continue to exist even if she removed a few books for her personal usage before their time and destroyed them herself.

They should be honored. Not only would the life forces she drained be used to juvenate her and maintain one of the most important and permanent things in the world -- her beauty -- but she would remember all of them far better than the history books ever would. From the naive and idealistic Mera of Aquilonia, to the altruistic nightclub owner Nicholas Damiano, and beyond, they would all survive in her memories, over millennia. What greater honor could there be?

Selene sat on a seat not unlike a throne. It was made of dark, almost black wood, glistening with varnish as well as adornments of solid gold and jewels. It was large and wide, allowing her to comfortably lounge in it in a slightly tilted position, one elbow on the armrest while her other arm made its way to a crystal ball mounted on waist-height pedestal before the throne.

Her fingers caressed the orb like it was a favored pet, running over the incredibly smooth texture and bathing in the soft white moonlight emanating from the sphere which was the size of two fists held together, palms against each other. Thoughtfully, her eyes narrowed as if she saw things in the pale white globe, and her lips gradually pursed together tightly.


"YO!" Cordelia Frost shouted soon after exiting the White Queen's chambers, stopping in mid-corridor as her flashlight caught a squad of six Hellfire Pawns in blue and red uniforms and bearing the standard Shaw Industries plasma rifles, small flashlights attached underneath the muzzles.

The Pawns glanced towards Cordelia and her companion Monet St Croix. A few rifles were pointed instinctively in their direction, but the leading Pawn raised his hand in a signal for the others to lower their arms for the moment. "Ladies, you shouldn't be here", he said. "The generator's blown and the building isn't safe at the moment. We'll escort you out --"

"Uh-uh!" Cordelia shook her head emphatically.

"Miss, this is a restricted area --", the Pawn said a bit more firmly.

"Not for me", Cordelia smiled and grabbed in her hand part of the white cape flowing off her shoulders, waving the garment she had stolen from her sister's corpse around a bit to demonstrate it to the Pawns. "Me new White Queen, me go wherever I want, capeesh?"

"Uh --" the Pawn started, and glanced hesitantly to his companions who looked about as lost as he did. Then, he looked back to Cordelia. "New White Queen --?" he asked with a confused voice.

Cordelia sighed and dramatically let the cape fall from her fingers. "Look, guys, it *isn't* that hard to figure out. Old order changeth, y'know? 'Mother, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead!'"

"The White Queen is female --" the Pawn started, still confused.

"YO! No nitpicking!" Cordelia shouted.

"And you used poison, not a gun", Monet pointed out.

"SHUT UP!" Cordelia snapped. "That's not the point!"

Monet sighed and looked away, pretending to inspect a painting on the corridor wall.

"Anyways", Cordelia pouted her lower lip outwards for a moment before smiling cheerfully, "I'm in charge now! Isn't that cool!? I've even got an assignment for you guys!"

"Assignment?" the Pawn asked hesitantly. "With all due respect, we have no proof whatsoever of your authority, or of the status of the White Queen --"

"ARGH!" Cordelia growled, clenching her hands into fists. "Why do you people have to be so damn difficult!?" She sighed and shook her head. "Okay." She stayed silent for a moment, looking at the floor and gathering her calm. Then, she looked up again with a bright smile and walked over to the Pawn. "Gimme your sidearm", she commanded.

"Why?" the Pawn blinked.

"Cuz I'm gonna *need* it", Cordelia said. "And I'm gonna *fire* your ass if you don't give it to me right now, got it?"

The Pawn considered for a moment, and then hesitantly pulled the pistol from his hip holster and handed it over.

Cordelia took it calmly and nodded in approval.


"ARRGH!" the Pawn shouted as he crumpled down to the floor, clutching his kneecap.

"What the --?" the other Pawns gasped, some of them just watching in confusion, doubting whether they should believe Cordelia's claims or not -- two of them evidently decided upon the latter, as they raised their rifles towards her, and squeezed down the triggers.

Hot plasma blasted towards Cordelia, but ricocheted off the invulnerable form of Monet St Croix, who tossed herself in the way of the beams, the impacts exploding in small fireballs against her skin and scorching parts of her clothing into cinders.

Before the Pawns could react, Monet snarled and darted forward, grabbing the offending two Pawns by their throats, and ramming their heads down thru the floor. "That's for ruining my dress", she hissed.

"I'm a good employer", Cordelia smiled brightly as she lowered her gun. "I'll even pay their hospital bills. Aren't I cool? I'd be even cooler if you people would stop being so damn difficult, okay?"

"Okay, okay! We get the point!" one of the remaining three Pawns said, raising his hands up defensively. "You're the new White Queen, I have no problems with that!"

"Great!" Cordelia smiled widely. "I'll make sure you get a raise tomorrow. Now, you three up for some assignments?"

The three nodded eagerly.

"Okay", Cordelia nodded. "One of you, get some other guys and get these three guys", she motioned to the three downed Pawns, "to some medical treatment."

"Got it, ma'am", one of the Pawns nodded.

"Don't call me ma'am", Cordelia wrinkled her nose. "That sounds old. Call me..." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "'Your supreme and most cool highness'. Okay?"



"Okay, uh...your supreme and most cool highness?"

"That's right!" Cordelia grinned and nearly jumped with excitement. "Man, this gig rocks. Okay! Another one!"

"Yes, your supreme and most cool highness?"

"Okay, I want you to make sure that everyone in the house knows that things've changed. As of right now, you only take orders from me, Shinobi Shaw, or Roberto Da Costa, until one of us informs otherwise. Cool?"

"Yes, your supreme and most cool highness."

"Kick ass!" Cordelia grinned, and motioned for the two Pawns to leave. "Okay, get going, go to work and stuff, you're not being much use just standing there."

The two Pawns nodded and headed off.

"And me?" the remaining Pawn asked.

"Okay, I've got an extra-special job for you!" Cordelia smiled as she took the gun belt from the Pawn she had downed and put it around her waist, then holstering her gun. "I want you to get some other guys and make sure the authorities don't get inside tonight. No firemen, no cops, no press, no one at all except Club employees. Gas explosion, is being sorted out by our own staff. Tell that to anyone who asks. Club's closed for the night and no one gets in. Got it?"

"Got it, your supreme and most cool highness."

"Okay, off you go", Cordelia waved to the Pawn, and waited for him to depart before turning towards Monet and making a victory dance in place as if she had scored a touchdown. "This is so cool", she grinned.


A long, sharp blade gleamed in the dark corridor lit by a crimson glow. Amara advanced steadily and carefully, keeping her senses open to any signs of anything being wrong. Manuel followed close behind, paying far less attention and just walking behind her with his hands in his pockets, his eyes glowing brightly and illuminating their path.

"Hold!" Amara hissed quietly, raising her free hand and freezing in place just as she was about to round a corner. "And turn off the light!" she snapped.

Manuel snorted and gave a little shrug, then, as if a switch had been flipped, his eyes stopped glowing and a darkness fell, the corridor blacking out instantly.

"...Joan Jett is *so much* cooler than Alanis Morri-whiney-ssette!" a voice griped in the distance, slowly getting closer, accompanied by some footsteps. "It's like comparing Michael Hasselhoff to Woody Allen..."

A moment of silence.

"Why are you looking at me like that? I don't *care* what anyone else says, Michael Hasselhoff kicks *ass*. Okay, so maybe he can't act or direct or sing, or anything else, but that's not the *point*. He's *cute* is the *point*." The voice stayed silent for a moment. "You know, maybe I should have him kidnapped, and make him my love slave for --"

"Cordelia", Amara sighed as she stepped around the corner and glared at the younger woman. "*Must* you talk constantly?"

"Consider yourself lucky", Monet pointed out from beside Cordelia. "I have had to endure her ceaseless rambling for the past five minutes."

"I don't 'ramble'", Cordelia snorted. "*You* started it. You said Oreos suck."

"I said *no* such thing", Monet wrinkled her nose.

"Did *too*!" Cordelia insisted.

Monet sighed and raised two fingers to her temple, turning away from Cordelia and towards Manuel. "How are you, my love?" she asked.

"I'll be better once we get done with this subterfuge", Manuel replied, glancing up the corridor towards the door leading to their target -- the Black Queen's chambers.

"I suspect we all share the sentiment", Amara pointed out, and squeezed the hilt of her blade firmly. "Does everyone recall the plan?" she asked.

"Yes", Monet nodded. "Let's do it."

Cordelia reached into her purse and pulled out a lipstick, unscrewing it and speaking into it. "Shinobi, where are you?"


"On my way", Shinobi replied breathlessly to his collar-stud as he and Roberto trotted towards the rendezvous spot, the corridor illuminated by Roberto emitting a sufficient amount of light for the two of them to see. "Be there in just a few seconds."

"There they are", Roberto said, pointing down the corridor towards a grouping of four people. He slowed down, and stopped in front of the door to the Black Queen's chambers. His head darted around slightly, looking all over almost paranoidly while the other four Upstarts ran over to join him and Shinobi.

"Everyone ready?" Shinobi asked, stealing a brief glance at Cordelia, but looking quickly away when she returned his glance.

Nobody said 'no', so Roberto struck his fist against his palm, and narrowed his eyes at the door in front of him. "All right, people... Don't disappoint me. Prepare for the *final battle*."

From behind a corner, a shadow watched the Upstarts, narrowing its eyes.

Part 4

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