Jim set their hovercraft down beside the first on the old playground. “We're going with you,” Tim told the Joss-bot.
“No, you're not. I don't want to worry about you when I face that thing. It can't effect me, but it can effect you.”
“Wade,” Tim barked into the radio. “We want to hear all communication between the lab and Joss.”
“One of you can listen here when you bring the hovercraft back.”
“Not going to happen. You know there's no time for another attempt. We'll be going in if things go wrong. Give us the frequency between the lab and the Bebe.”
Jim stared at the robot that looked a bit like a cross between his sister and Shego. “That really you, Joss?”
“Yeah. Kind of weird, huh?”
Darkness lay over the abandoned town, the moon waned at the end of its final quarter and the next night there would be no moon at all. Joss needed no extra light to see. The visible spectrum open to the human eye represents a small fraction of the electro-magnetic spectrum. The robot's eyes took in colors no human could discern; the night appeared as bright as day to her. She was learning to trust the gyroscopic stabilizers and moved almost normally as she reached the church and cautiously entered.
The Jack prowled the church. It seemed too much of a coincidence that hikers should stumble on the church the very day it had abducted Shego. He suspected the hand of the blue coward who let his woman do the fighting in the rescue attempt, but Drakken knew them too well to send out two people so obviously unprepared. The young man had been interesting, filled with a power the monster had never tasted before, which now burned in his dead veins - giving him a strength greater than he'd ever known. If not for that power the Jack would have tasted the blood of either Ron or Kim, a snack before tomorrow's planned feast on Shego. But with the power he had tasted… The vampire planned to keep Ron a prisoner until the next lunar cycle.
Its ears pricked up at the sound of heavy footsteps entering the narthex. A large and heavy man by the way the floorboards groaned beneath him… The Jack moved silently to the middle of the old sanctuary, uncertain which of the doors would bring his new foe to him, but trusting in the dark and his ability to cloak himself from human eyes to keep him hidden. Clearly his location was known, he would examine and destroy his new foe. Then he would need a new base of operation. He would take Shego with him for tomorrow's meal. The others would die here.
A side door to the sanctuary creaked open on rusted hinges, the Jack narrowed his eyes in surprise. The sounds of approach had suggested a large man, but he saw a small female figure in the doorway. The stranger looked like a younger sister to his captive on the platform, but, curiously, he read no sense of life or power in this slender figure. The monster glanced around nervously. How had this girl been able to approach quietly and was there some larger opponent waiting for him?
She moved towards him as if she could see him, and he noticed her eyes, two points of red which glowed like coals. The young man with the vast power had such eyes when he attacked. The Jack shook his head, why did he sense no power from this human?
They approached each other cautiously; the conviction grew that she could see him despite his mental screen. “Did Drakken send you? Is the coward still hiding behind a woman's skirts?” In a lab miles away Drakken ground his teeth.
They closed, and the creature gave ‘Joss’ a casual back-handed slap he expected to send her flying. She returned two fast punches to the body that sent him to the floor. It sprang quickly to its feet, uncertain what it faced. Despite the fact he perceived no power in her form she hit with amazing strength.
They closed again, grappling with each other. Even contact with her skin presented no sense of life in the female. He wondered what sort of body, that held even less life than his own, had been sent against him. She was heavy also, far heavier than her slim form suggested. It realized she was the one who made the floor creak beneath her weight, but with the power he had siphoned from the blonde young man she was still a toy in his hands. She clawed, kicked, threw elbows and knees. If it were not for the Mystical Monkey Power she might have hurt the creature, but it was like a small child confronting an adult. He found a hold and heaved her off the floor, then threw her with a force that shattered three oaken pews to kindling as she smashed through them.
He stood, smiling at the wreckage. He must have broken her spine with that throw.
The Jack experienced a feeling of wonder as the woman arose, seemingly unharmed, from the broken pieces of wood. If the vampire had a sense of irony he would have realized Ron had felt the same way when he had seen the monster rise after being thrown.
“What are you?” the monster hissed in wonder.
“Death, come lookin’ for ya,” she growled. “I hope.”
She grabbed him again. It had been too many years since he needed fighting skills. The woman twisted, gouged, and tried holds he'd never seen. But his strength far exceeded hers. He threw her twice more, and each time she arose as if unhurt.
He could not read her strength, but had no desire to fight her forever. If he could not overcome it in the way he overcame normal foes he would find some other way to maim or kill the woman. The creature was not yet worried, but back in the lab Drakken was. Joss was draining the batteries faster than expected. “How did he gain so much power?”
A long piece of the oak plank from the earlier struggle with Ron was still on the floor. He picked it up and, swinging it was a club with all his might, slammed it into the Bebe's leg in an attempt to cripple her. It produced three surprises.
In the lab in Middleton Joss screamed in pain, bringing Wade running from the other side of the lab. “What happened?” he demanded.
“He hit my leg with a club. He bent my leg,” Joss told them. A microphone on a chain around her throat broadcast the news to them.
“You were just startled,” the blue man told her. “You didn't feel any real pain.” She must realize he'd lied to her, but he couldn't let her quit.
“I sure as heck did,” she yelled at him. “Gettin’ your leg bent hurts.”
“Can you still walk?” Drakken asked as he stared in disbelief at the gauges in front of him. The dials indicated the force of the blow which had hit the Bebe's leg. The reading was beyond the energy readings the machine was capable measuring. He hadn't planned on strength like that. Could the Bebe survive against this thing?
Joss was moving slower with the bent leg. A wave of guilt hit Wade for removing the speed the earlier version of the Bebes. “Go back, keep working,” Drakken shouted at him. Reluctantly Wade went back to a lab table and resumed what he knew were wasted labors. He wondered if Drakken was a great enough fool to imagine there was time for them to launch another attack, or if the blue man was simply giving him some project to occupy his mind and keep him from thinking about the situation.
The Jack had his own sense to wonder to match that of Joss and Drakken. He stared as the creature that looked like a young woman continued to move despite a blow that should have crippled her. The leg was bent slightly, but not broken. He had thought Drakken had designed some new sort of armor for his pawn. But it seemed the young woman was actually made of metal. This was indeed a curious new world.
The monster hesitated, uncertain how to proceed. His normal means of attack seemed useless. She grabbed him again. She did not yet frighten him, but he puzzled over how to defeat her. He needed a new idea.
Drakken smiled grimly as he studied the dials and gauges in front of him, the vampire's strength was now within limits he could measure. “You're weakening it, Joss. It still can exert more force than the tensile strength of the Bebe, but not for long. Keep up the good work.” Despite the encouragement the blue man was sweating hard,“Which of them is going to run out of strength first?”
The monster also knew he was weakening. Since the metal woman held no sustenance for him he would simply slay her. Joss's superior wrestling ability somewhat diminished the advantage the monster enjoyed in strength. He gave up more of his power before he finally got her in the position he wanted, face down on the floor with his knee on her back. He grabbed her head with both hands and pulled with all his might. His muscles groaned, the female kicked and struggled, but slowly his strength proved greater than that of the metal body. With a small shower of sparks the head separated from the robot's body.
Joss's tormented scream of pain filled the lab, bringing Wade running again. “WHAT'S HAPPENING?” he demanded.
“She's getting pain feedback into her body here.” Wade moved towards the form on the lab table. “Don't touch her,” Drakken barked, “If you disturb the connection we risk losing her.” An ugly third idea had come into Wade's mind, perhaps Drakken neither believed another rescue attempt was possible nor wanted to keep Wade from worrying, perhaps he wanted to keep Wade from realizing what was happening to Joss.
“This is killing her!” the young genius screamed. “YOU’RE killing her!” He reached toward the brain switching apparatus that connected Joss with the Bebe.
“NO!” Drakken shouted, “She won’t die, no matter how much it hurts, it won’t kill her. But if you sever the connection, they’re all dead!”
Wade hesitated, unsure of what to do.
Her physical body was crying in pain and the voice from the radio was gone, but deprived of her metal mouth Joss spoke through the body in the lab “My head, my head…”
“You don't need your head!” the blue man shouted into the microphone. “Your brain isn't there; it's in your torso. You have sensors besides the eyes. He expended a lot of energy in that attack! Keep going after him. He's weakening. The readings say he's at a fraction of the power he had at first.”
“Can you do it, Joss?” Wade whispered, not knowing if she could hear him or not.
“I got to,” she gasped.
The monster panted from the exertion, but laughed as he looked at the head in his hands - then tossed it aside. Nothing could live without its head. But the monster's confidence was shattered when its enemy rose yet again and moved towards it.
Joss waved the arms of the Bebe in apparently random motions, as if needing to feel its way with her eyes gone. The other sensors in the body didn't provide vision as sharp as the ‘eyes’ but it was a clear enough image to follow his movements even if she could not see the creature's lips curl in a cruel smile as it moved to the right and out of the robot's direction. It hoped for an easy kill of the blind robot.
When the Jack lunged towards the ‘blind’ robot Joss caught him off balance with a blow that would have felled an ox. He slammed into another wall, cracking more plaster. He got up, visibly slower. Joss wasn't certain if he was weakening or thinking. There would be no way to fool it again by moving the robot's arms randomly; it had to realize she could see despite the loss of her head.
He picked up another piece of oak pew to use as a club and struck with all the speed he could muster, hitting her and moving away before she could react. The blow didn't dent the metallic body.
Drakken let out a shout of joy in the distant lab. “You've got him, Joss! You've got him! He's exhausted the power he stole from Ron. He's weak enough for you to hold him. Move in close. Grab him. Hold him with your right arm. Put your left hand against anything important: head, neck, body - it doesn't matter. Tell me when you have a hold on him.”
The Jack began to circle widely around the robot. At first Joss thought it was simply trying to stay away from her or find a better angle to attack her. Then she saw him pull a knife and realized with a start he was trying to get at the hostages. He knew she was now stronger, and needed warm blood to revitalize him. She ran as fast as her bent leg allowed towards the platform. He realized she knew his plan and ran himself. He beat her to the goal.
“What's going on, Doc?” Wade demanded. He had not returned to his fool's errand, but stood by Joss, holding her hand.
“I don't know… Joss, what's happening?”
Joss remained silent, conserving her breath for the fight -- even though the Bebe did not breathe and her body in the lab did not feel the exertion.
Jim and Tim worked feverishly in the hovercraft to produce a terminal sparkler for a vampire. They had decided to use lengths of pipe with thermite capsules mounted on the end. A contact fuse would ignite the compound by means of a pressure trigger. “We'd better be careful not to brush these against anything by accident. We don't want to set them off early.”
“This isn't going to work,” Jim groaned.
“Because it takes a couple seconds to ignite the thermite. This thing is not going to stand still and let us press the thermite up against it, and we have to move fast or the heat will just melt the capsule off the pipe.”
There was a minute of hesitation. “You might be right. You go back for the flame thrower, I'll radio Wade to expect you, he'll know where the flamethrower is. You can go back and get it while I wait here.”
“'Cause if the robot doesn't work you'll go in with the thermite and try some lame plan without me.”
“What makes you say that?” Tim demanded.
His brother remained silent.
“It's ‘cause that's what you were thinking of doing, isn't it?”
Jim shook his head.
“Well, actually I already figured out the problem. A squirt of superglue on the end of the thermite will keep it stuck on the thing. Low-tech, but effective.”
“Where we gonna get that out here?”
“The tube in my pocket.”
“You already figured out the problem,” Jim protested. “You were just trying to send me back!”
“No point in both of us getting hurt.”
“There's nothing we haven't been able to do when we worked together.”
They grinned at each other. “Sounds like we're ready then.”
“Yeah, let's grab what we need and head up that way, just in case Joss can't handle it.”
“I've got the sparklers, did you get our visors set to infra-red?”
“Yeah, I just hope it has some body heat. I've got the glue… We'd better take fire extinguishers too.”
“'Just in case, good to have one along when you're working with thermite.”
“Oh, and grab a radio to keep in touch with the lab.”
Although the Jack had reached the prisoners first it realized there was no time to slash the throat and drink the warm blood of any of the hostages before the headless engine of destruction was on him. With a growl he turned, knife in hand, to face his attacker. He lunged forward, trying to drive the knife into the spot where a human heart would have been. The blade snapped off at the hilt and Joss made a grab for him.
“I got-- He got away,” Joss told the doctor. Hearing her speak in the lab while her conscious mind controlled a body miles away was unsettling.
“Where are you?”
“We're on the platform, by the hostages.”
“Is Shego safe?”
“I'm a little too busy at the moment to check.”
“Sorry. Force him away from the hostages. We don't want them hurt in the fighting.”
“I'm not stupid!” she snapped. “And I'm the one fightin’ him.”
Had the Jack turned and fled it might have escaped that night. He could move faster than the damaged robot. But anger, and the proximity to the red blood it wanted to feed on, kept him in the moldy sanctuary.
The small space on the platform limited the vampire's movements. She caught him near the front edge of the platform with a diving tackle that sent them both tumbling to the floor of the sanctuary and rolling down the center aisle. Locked in an embrace where neither seemed to have an advantage over the other they struggled, metal and muscle straining to overcome the foe.
“I've got him,” Joss's voice sounded in the lab. “I'm a holdin’ him tight and he can't get loose.”
“Where's your left hand? Is it on him?”
“Sorta in the middle of his back.”
“Good enough.” Drakken screamed into the microphone, wishing there was any way to convey his message to the monster, “This is Drakken, you parasitic sack of shit! Join the rest of your brood in hell.”
The blue man hit a switch and a magnesium fuse flared in the Bebe's left hand, serving to ignite the thermite containers Drakken had placed there. The vampire struggled vainly, desperate to break the robot's hold as it first felt the heat. In a few seconds the red thermite ignited and two thousand degrees of heat centigrade - more than four thousand Fahrenheit - lit up, melting the metal hand and arm up to the robot's elbow as the flame burned through the monster's body.
The Jack made no sound as the spirit which had animated the body through the decades left the long-dead flesh, driven out by the refining fire. And the mortal remains of John Turlough, once of his majesty King George's army crumbled, returning to the dust from which it came more than two centuries earlier.
In the lab Joss screamed once again as she experienced the pain of her hand and arm being consumed by heat.
The twins were still quietly arguing with each other as they trudged towards the old church when they heard a shout of joy over the radio. “She did it! The thing is destroyed.”
“Fire, stop the fire,” Joss gasped in the lab.
“Hell!” Drakken swore. “I may have started a fire. Grab the extinguishers and head for the church.”
The twins broke into a run while Drakken was still talking. Jim had a communicator and tried to talk as they ran in the darkness, their flashlights casting bizarre shadows on the way. “Is everyone okay?”
“I hope so,” Drakken responded. “The Bebe is in bad shape, you need to go find out what happened. I'm pulling Joss's consciousness out of the robot and bringing her back to the lab.”
Jim waited a minute before demanding, “How is she?”
“She's here and fine,” the blue man responded.
“No she's not,” they heard Wade shout. He was working frantically to free her from the restraints.
“She's fine,” Drakken shouted.
“Can we talk to her?” Tim requested.
The twins stared at each other. They didn't trust Drakken. They were in front of the church. There might be a fire starting inside; they needed to make sure Kim was safe and were worried now about Joss.
Tim tapped Jim on the shoulder, pointed to himself and the church. Jim nodded and handed his extinguisher to Tim who ran inside.
“You said she couldn't be hurt.”
Wade took the microphone, “It appears he lied. You feel pain in your brain, not in your body. And Joss took a royal beating.”
“Can she talk?”
Wade handed the mike to Joss, “I'm… I'm okay,” she managed to gasp. “Jus’ sort of feeling pain that isn't real. Go make sure Ron and the others are okay.”
Jim headed inside. In the lab Wade told Joss, “No, the pain is real.” He took her in his arms and she started sobbing hysterically.
The broken windows had let in enough snow during the winter to dampen the wood and keep it from burning well. In the heat of summer the building would have been engulfed in flames before they could get inside.
Tim was putting out the last of the flames as Jim entered. They were curious what the creature had looked like, but there was no sign of its body. The robot lay on the floor near where the small fire had been. She had rolled slightly away when she found herself on fire. One leg of the Bebe was bent slightly, the head and one arm were gone. The floor smoldered under the stump of the robot's left arm, and Jim hit it with the extinguisher to keep it from flaring up.
Now it was Drakken who was demanding news. “Are they safe? Answer me, damn it! What's going on? Please, I'm sorry I swore. Just tell me.”
The wait was agony, but the twins were too interested in putting out the fire and finding their sister and the other two to waste time talking. They found the three trussed up on the platform. Shego still appeared under whatever kind of mind control she had been placed under. Both Kim and Ron seemed to be trying to rouse themselves. Ron looked like he was in terrible shape, covered in blood and groaning with pain.
“Everyone is alive. Ron is hurting. We need to get him to the hospital,” Tim reported.
“We need to get the hovercraft up here, we may need to carry them on,” Jim said. “I'll go move one up here - you stay with them.”
“Shego is fine?” Drakken demanded.
“She's out of it, but yeah, she's alive.”
Almost as an afterthought Drakken made a request, “I'd like you to bring the Bebe back. I don't like leaving technology laying around.”
“No problem. One of us will fly Kim and the others back when Jim gets here with the first hovercraft. The one who's left will bring the second one up here and load the robot. Have you called the hospital? I want the emergency room ready for Ron.”
“I'll call now.”
“Call my Mom too; she'll want to be there.”
While they waited for news from the Possible twins Wade attacked Drakken, “You knew!” he said accusingly, “You knew she was going to feel the pain! Why did you lie to her?”
“I hoped I was wrong,” Drakken said defensively. “I couldn't be certain. I didn't realize it was so strong…” He paused, and confessed his real motive, “It was the only chance Shego and the others had… I was afraid if Joss knew the risk she would be afraid to do it.”
“You should have told me,” Joss sobbed, still clinging to Wade. “I'd do most anythin’ to save Kim and Ron. You should have told me, I needed to know.”
Drakken stared off into space and sighed, “Perhaps I should have told you… I couldn't have done it. I'm too much the coward…” He looked at Joss, pleadingly, “I was afraid if you knew you would back out. You were our best hope. Forgive me, please.”
Joss fell silent, and Drakken turned back to the radio, “Any news?”
“Keep your shirt on. Give Jim a few minutes to get the hovercraft up here.”
Five minutes later Jim re-entered the sanctuary. “It's creepy to walk around out there with all this talk about vampires. Are we really sure it's gone?”
“I'm willing to believe Joss. Let's get these three on the hovercraft. Which of us should take them to the hospital? Other job is to gather up the pieces of the Bebe and take the scrap to the lab.”
“I'll take them to the hospital, it's the better job.”
“Yeah, but Mom will probably be at the hospital waiting for us and I don't know what she's going to say.”
Jim called the lab with the status report, “I moved the hovercraft up in front of the church. We've carried Shego on board. Kim seems to be coming out from whatever he did to her - she may be able to walk out. If she recovers enough in the next couple minutes she may be able to help us carry Ron. We're trying to be real careful with him. I'll take them to the hospital.”
“Does your brother have the Bebe?”
“It's not our highest priority. He'll probably look for the head after I leave. He said he'd take it back to the lab.”
“Jim was right,” Tim reflected as he walked down the hill to bring the second hovercraft up after his brother left for the hospital run, “a ghost town at night is creepy.” Tim set the hovercraft down at Lipsky and Load a little more than a half hour later. By that time Joss had calmed down, but Wade stayed close, holding her hand to provide moral support. Drakken and Tim dragged the Bebe into the lab, and then Wade piloted the Possibles home.