The Battle is Joined!

If this is your first time reading this book, you can find previous chapters here:

One in a Million – Chapter 27

The Battle is Joined

The fire main was located on the formerly third floor of Rhonda’s three story apartment building. With the plumbing magically altered to conform to the new defensive tower structure, it was stretched to the breaking point, and then some. The red valve handle began to spin wildly before shooting off down the hall and rolling to a stop. The fine misting spray of water that came hissing out of the pipes slowly began to soak into the threadbare carpet.

The pipes groaned and shrieked and suddenly expanded to a cartoonish degree. The metal trembled, and then it split and shredded like corn husks. Larry and Holly stepped out of the ruined metal mess and onto the squishy carpet. Aside from their feet, they were perfectly dry.

“Wow,” said Holly. “Wow.”

“Come on,” said Larry. “Where is The Rhonda’s apartment?”

Holly stared down the hallway, no longer short and stinky and smelling of old cooked fish. Now it was wide and curved. All of the evenly spaced doors on either side of Rhonda’s apartment were now slid to the far sides of the hallway. Only Rhonda’s door remained intact, albeit now gilded in gold and silver.

“Oh, I see,” said Larry. “We’ll have to sneak in.”

“But how—oh, right,” said Holly. She put her arms around him and said, “Lead the way.”

“It’s fun, isn’t it?” said Larry.

Holly looked up quickly and saw that it was in fact Larry who spoke, not Stercutus. “Hey, there you are.” She kissed him quickly, and when she pulled her head back, the volcanic blue eyes were boring into her.

“Cloacina,” Larry said. “My love.”

“We covered this before, Stercutus,” Holly said. “Now, are we going to stand here making goo-goo eyes at one another, or are you going to do that pipe surfing trick again and get us into Rhonda’s house?”

Without another word, Larry lifted Holly up at the waist and they were sucked back into the broken pipe like a magic trick.


Leslie was waiting for D.J. and Jane at the top of the stairs, completely winded. “There you are,” she gasped. “I’m done,” she said. “I can’t go on.”

“Let’s help her up,” Jane suggested.

She and D.J. each grabbed a hand and lifted Leslie to her feet. The effect of both of them touching her completed a circuit and Leslie shuddered. “Okay,” she said. “That was nutty, but I suddenly have my wind back.”

“Good,” said Jane.

“Wonder Twin Powers: Activate!” said D.J.

“Easy, there, Deej,” said Jane. “We wouldn’t want anyone thinking you’ve gone round the bend, now, would we?”

D.J. tried to adopt a straight face, but his big, toothsome grin kept breaking through. “You’re hopeless,” Jane said.

“What, did you kiss him?” asked Leslie.

“Why yes, yes I did,” said Jane.

Leslie nodded. “That explains it, then. He’ll be like this for another hour.”

“We don’t have time for that,” said Jane. She fixed him with a withering gaze. “Snap out of it.”
D.J.’s smile died. “Sorry.”

“Now,” said Jane, turning back to Leslie, “you need to start thinking about your friendship with Rhonda. Anything you can use that’s happy, good times, maybe stuff involving all of you together or something.”

Leslie cocked her head. “Okay, I can do that. What then?”

Jane said, “You’re going to start talking to her, reminding her of all that stuff. Talk to her like she’s having the worst day of her life.”

“What about you two?”

“I’ve got a hunch D.J. will have his hands full with Turk.”

“Well, yeah,” said Leslie, “with equipment like that, who wouldn’t have their hands full—?”
“Yes, yes, we get it, he’s got a big dick!” said D.J.

Leslie put her hand on his shoulder. “Oh, Deej, you’ve got nothing to be jealous of,” she said.
Jane’s eyebrows rose dramatically. “Well, Leslie, it seems you and me have some things to discuss.”

“Can we please focus on what’s going on!” D.J. said, clearly panicked.

“Sure, go for it,” Jane said. “I’ll be right out here if you need me.”

Leslie threw her arms around D.J.’s neck and said, “Just in case something bad happens, I want to thank you for being such a good friend. I love you.”

“I know,” said D.J. For the first time ever in his life, his delivery of the Star Wars quote was not only appropriate but said with sincere gravitas that is conveyed the same effect as Han Solo about to be dunked in Carbonite. He untangled himself from Leslie’s arms and strode to the door.
Jane watched him walk off, a short, stocky hairy fireplug of a guy, and for just an instant she saw in D.J. the swagger of Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. “God DAMN, he’s a bad ass,” she sighed.


Burt hung up his phone and turned to Linda. “Okay, police and fire are on their way. EMT, too.”
Linda was looking up at the reformed building. “Yeah,” she said, distracted, “I called emergency services and told them power and water were down. They’ve got trucks coming.”

“Good idea,” Burt said. He was now staring up at the tower. “Hey, Linda, is that what I think it is?”

“Yeah,” Linda sighed. “It’s a giant twelve story tall penis.”

Burt put his arm around Linda. “You take me to all the best places, Dear.”


Larry and Holly burst out of the bathroom sink, spraying water everywhere. The porcelain was old and shattered into several large pieces around them. Larry waved his hand and the water stopped gushing.

“Stay behind me,” he said to Holly as he heaved open the door. He no sooner stepped into the large, bizarre room than the front door caved in, framing D.J. in the light of the hallway.
The room swirled with colored disco lights, warm colors of pink and red and peach and yellow. It had been reconfigured by Rhonda’s power to resemble a sunken Roman bath, complete with columns framing the round bed in the center of the room. Flowing drapes of silk and satin wafted in a supernatural breeze that couldn’t be seen nor felt. It looked for all of the world like a very tacky Duran Duran video shoot. Or something pulled from Rhonda and Turk’s conjoined subconscious.
Rhonda stood by the open windows, her attention centered on Mike Bretz outside. Turk stood, naked as a jaybird, to the right of her, his expression fixed.

“Fred, baby, our guests are here. See to them, won’t you?” said Rhonda without turning around.
D.J. ran into the room and said, “Wow, Rhonda, love what you’ve done to the place.”

“You like?” Rhonda giggled. “This is now Rhonda’s Tower,” she said, her tone of voice dripping with boredom. “Unless I decide to move into the Presidio.”

Leslie followed D.J. into the room. “Rhonda? Rhon? Hey, it’s me, Les.”

Rhonda’s face turned ugly. “Yes, Leslie, I remember who you are. I’m not some mental patient, you fucking retard.”

“Hey!” D.J. yelled. “She’s your best friend!”

“Really?” Rhonda arched an eyebrow. “Since when?”

D.J. said, “Well, Gee, Rhonda, I don’t know. Ever since you started acting like a nickel-plated asshole, she’s been defending you, trying to get us to help you see what a bitch you’ve become.”

Turk growled and lunged, and suddenly, D.J. was off the ground and fighting for air. Turk had him by the throat and was shaking him. “You don’t get to talk to her like that!” he shouted.

“You will cease this activity!” bellowed Larry. “I am Stercutus and I am your master!”

Turk spun and threw D.J. into one of the columns as he charged Larry at a dead run. “You’re not calling the shots here, Larry!” He jumped, intending to tackle Larry, but Larry pushed out with his hands and Turk stopped in mid-air like he’d been clotheslined.

“The only god here is Stercutus!” Larry pitched Turk onto the round bed and started towards Rhonda with grim resolve. Leslie grabbed Larry’s arm, screaming, “No, please, don’t hurt her!”

Holly tried to disengage Leslie from Larry as D.J. wobbled to his feet. Turk was still tangled up in the bedsheets, and Rhonda had gone back to throwing energy and chunks of cement at Mike Bretz outside the window. It was a narrow window, and D.J. dove through it without hesitation. He ran across the room as fast as he could and grabbed Rhonda’s shoulder, intending to slap her face, Sean Connery style.

That was the plan, and it was a good one. Unfortunately, when D.J. touched Rhonda’s shoulder, he received a burst of energy that can only be described as a sex bomb. He had never been so horny before in his life. D.J. let go and started clawing at his pants, gasping. He fell down on the bed and began writhing, moaning like he had a stomachache.

“I seem to have that effect on men,” Rhonda said, giggling. Outside, an elephant trumpeted briefly and was silenced by a flurry of screeches. “He’s getting clever,” she remarked before she turned away from the window. Steel plates materialized behind her, followed by a multitude of thudding sounds. “Flying monkeys. Nice.”

Larry finally managed to get free of Leslie and Holly and charged ahead, his eyes never leaving Rhonda. “Give me back what is mine by right!”

“NO!” Rhonda screamed, and fire shot out of her in every direction. The blast and the heat knocked everyone down except Larry. Part of the bed started to smolder. “I am a goddess, fair and square! They all love me! They all want me! I am the goddess of…desire! Passion runs deep, and fires live and die by my whim!”

“Ha!” barked Larry. “Then you are no true goddess, Usurper! My power is not of that realm, not even close. And thus named, you will find it’s no longer sitting still.”

Larry was right. Rhonda’s aura was blinking and flickering like someone forgot to pay the light bill. She started to raise up in midair, but was suddenly brought back down to the ground. “What’s happening to me?”

“Rhonda!” Holly screamed. “Listen to us! You’ve got to let go!”

“But you don’t know how this feels!” Rhonda said. “I say what I want and it just happens! I get whatever I want, love whoever I want. Like this!” she snapped her fingers and an arc of lighting shot out from them, caroming across the room and striking the bed, starting another fire.

“D.J.!” Leslie ran over to the smoking bed and pulled him off by his shoulders. “Come on! Get up, dumb ass! You’re gonna burn to death!”

“Get away from me,” D.J. gasped. His erection was plainly visible down one leg of his pants. “I can’t control it!”

“Oh, bullshit, that’s what you all say,” Leslie said.

Larry smiled and watched Rhonda try to levitate again. The light fixtures overhead obligingly dropped out of their mounts in the ceiling, crashing down on her. Turk shrieked and swung at Larry. His fist caught Larry’s temple, but his head never moved. Turk swung again, pummeling Larry over and over. “You dumb sonovabitch!” he yelled.

“It’s coming apart, isn’t it, Rhonda? Becoming more…chaotic?” Larry taunted. He held up his arms to fend off Turk’s wild attack.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

“I? Nothing. It’s what you’re attempting to control. Chaos cannot be controlled, unless you’re a trickster god. Like me!”

Holly looked at Leslie and D.J. “I can’t keep up anymore.”

“Give it to me,” Larry said, “or it will burn you from the inside out.”

Rhonda shook her head and another blast of fire erupted out of her. “Liar! You want this for yourself because you think you’re such hot shit, Larry Croft! But you’re just another fat fucking gamer who wants us because we’re better than you and that pisses you off!”

Holly had heard enough. “Shut up!” she cried leaping out of the bed pit and running right up into Rhonda’s face. Turk moved to intercept, but he was tackled by D.J. and Leslie.

“Rhonda Halsey, you’re without a doubt the most shallow, self-centered, narcissistic woman I’ve ever known! And you’ve got the self-esteem of a cocker spaniel! You only judge people by how much they want you sexually, so you never really get to know anyone, and no one gets to know you. And when they DO find out what a fucked-up bag of quirks you are, they run for the hills, and that’s always somehow their fault!”

Rhonda backed up from Holly’s onslaught until she was up against the metal-shuttered windows. She kept trying to talk, but Holly would not be denied.

“Larry Croft has never been anything but nice to you. He’s one of the few people that didn’t treat you like a hosebag piece of meat. And you want to run him down?”

“That’s not…not what I…” Rhonda started to say.

“And she’s your best friend! She’s stuck up for you time and time again. When everyone else wanted to know why in the hell you spoke about yourself in third fucking person, there was your knight in shining armor, right there! So go ahead, push her away. She’s only had your best interests at heart since day one.”

Leslie was sobbing on the floor. D.J. let go of the struggling Turk to comfort her. Turk got to his feet and started crossing the distance again.

“Why the hell do you think we’re all here, Rhonda? For our health? You think we like this? We’re doing this because we don’t want you to make yet another mistake, one that could very well kill you. Listen to us, for once in your screwed-up life! We love you in spite of all of your bat-shit craziness!”

Turk grabbed Holly but never got a firm grip. Larry pulled him off of her, one handed. And threw him violently into the far wall. Holly watched it happen and said, “Stercutus! Not so hard!”

“That was not I, Cloacina,” said Larry.

Rhonda sagged against the metal doors in front of the windows. The building was shaking and rumbling, now. “I can’t…I don’t want to…” she cried. “Where’s Fred?”

“Rhonda,” said Larry. “Let go. It’ll be all right.”

“Oh fuck it!” Rhonda screamed. “Just get out of my house!”

All hell promptly broke loose.

The framework of the building was changing again, and from the inside, they all thought they were going to die. The metal plates were ripped violently off the window. Mike Bretz, now some thirty five feet tall, reached in to grab Rhonda and it was at that moment she gave off a pulsewave of light that knocked everyone into the walls, along with the furniture, all of the crap in Rhonda’s apartment, even the smoldering pieces of bed. “I don’t want it anymore!” screamed Rhonda.

“I’ll take it,” said Jane Callow. She flew across the room in the blink of an eye and latched onto Rhonda like a lover. Mike’s tremendous hand caught fire, and his scream mingled with Stercutus’ howl of outrage. The energy rose up and swirled around, creating a thick fuscia fog that filled the apartment and sent the smoke and fire billowing outside. Holly looked up briefly to see stars outside in the window, along with red and blue lights, and then she decided it was time to take a little nap.


About Author

Mark Finn is an award-winning author, playwright and essayist who is active in Robert E Howard studies. His biography, Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E Howard was nominated for a World Fantasy award, and will be re-released in an updated second printing later this month. His comic books SCOUTS! Premeires in March from Ape Entertainment.

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