459: Believe All Women

The men storming the open doorway were in full riot gear, plus attachments and weapons. Helmets, stab–proof vests, reinforced kneecaps and extra straps all over the place like a bad Rob Liefeld drawing (so any Rob Liefeld drawing).

They had come prepared for battle. They had not come prepared for Biadet.

She was dressed in short skirt with leggings (possibly tights, I’m not really sure of the difference — and no, I won’t be doing any research to find out) and a white shirt with tartan waistcoat. She had apparently come prepared for afternoon lessons at the nearest girls’ school. The Taser in her hand was clicking but nothing more. Out of juice.

The men charged in through the doorway, their fallen leader crushed underfoot in their desire to apprehend a helpless target they outnumbered greatly.

The narrow doorway funnelled them nicely for her. I imagined she would be able to pick them off a couple at a time, but no. Biadet dropped the gun and backed up a bit, but not to get away from danger. She was letting them in, which they mistakenly took as a good sign, eagerly piling in. Their thought process was all wrong. It was getting out again they needed to worry about.

The first one to attempt a grab found himself holding onto air. The others followed his lead and got the same results.

What had they been told? If you’re going to send in an assault team, you have to give them an idea of what to expect. But then you’d have to know what to expect yourself, first.

Whatever the briefing had been, they had decided, it seemed to me, to go for quick and aggressive. Strike before anyone has time to react, and then get the hell out. Nothing too violent. Get hold of the target. Restrain her with cuffs, maybe. Pin her to the floor, if necessary. She could be a biter or have sharp nails. They thought they were confronting a little girl with a temper. One from another universe, but still, small hands, tiny feet. Just put your hand on her head and stay out of reach.

Biadet was able to dodge every blow, every grab. She didn’t do it in a Matrix, balletic slow–motion kung fu kind of way. She just moved a little left or right and the black gloves lunged past her.

It wasn’t just one person trying to get hold of her. More and more were joining the game, coming at her from all different angles.

Biadet wasn’t retaliating. She had her back to me, but from the way she had her head tilted, I could tell she was unimpressed. I could tell because that’s how her head was tilted whenever she spoke to me. I am, if nothing else, a man who learns from experience. And I don’t fucking recommend it.

I think the League of Unextraordinary Gentlemen were finding it hard to accept they were quite this bad at playing tag. They tried harder. Biadet didn’t, but still managed to evade them. Only now, because they were all in, their misses started finding each other, causing surprise injuries and hurt looks of betrayal.

Biadet turned around to face me, so now she was dodging them without even looking. I wouldn’t say it was a power move to assert dominance, because how do you assert more than total? It was just a side–effect of having absolutely no respect for your opponent.

“You know, you haven’t offered me anything since I arrived. Nothing to eat or drink. Not even a chair to sit down in case I was tired after my long journey.” She said this while stepping this way and that, lifting an elbow, tucking in a knee. Grunting and panting surrounded her as effort turned into regret. Some of the men had body cams on them. They wouldn’t want the footage made public.

“Why should I offer you anything?” I said. “This isn’t my place. I’m a guest here, too. If you want to accuse anyone of poor hospitality, talk to the hosts.” I pointed at Mandy and Cheng behind me at the top of the cellar stairs. I’m all for taking responsibility for my mistakes (and by responsibility I mean leaving immediately and never speaking to anyone else involved) but you have to draw the line somewhere.

“He’s a monster and she’s…” Biadet looked at Mandy and frowned. “I don’t know what she is but I don’t think she can cook.”

“Yes, I can,” said Mandy. “I’m a very good cook, aren’t I?” She shifted the baby and looked up at Cheng.

He hesitated and then said. “Of course.”

The hesitation was noticed by everyone. Even some of the ineffective assault team winced.

“Don’t you like my cooking?” said Mandy.

I stepped in to prevent any bloodshed. Poor Cheng was still new to the whole dealing with women’s insecurities thing. I, on the other hand, was a master at this shit.

“No one likes your cooking, Mandy,” I said. “He eats it because he loves you. Which means he loves you a lot. Count your blessings, you talentless bint.”

Mandy snarled at me. Lip curled, growling, claws extending like Wolverine (I might have imagined the last bit). You might think I didn’t handle that very well, but a moment ago Mandy was focused on what people thought of her, now she was thinking about what she would like to do to me. The thing about insecure people and women (a Venn diagram of which looks like a fried egg) is that you fix them by making them look outside instead of inside. You don’t tell them they’re wrong, because they aren’t — every shit thing they believe about themselves is objectively true — you just show them something even worse to focus on. Hello, my name’s Colin.

“I don’t expect anything from them,” said Biadet, still eluding capture, “but you, after all we’ve been through together...”

“What do you mean, ‘we’ve’ been through, you malevolent imp? I’ve been through much worse than you. And don’t give me any of that terrible childhood bollocks. My childhood was also shit.”

“Yes,” said Biadet, “but you survived yours.”

It’s not often survivor’s guilt is used as weapon against you by the non–survivors.

“Enough,” said Cheng. He was making his move, mainly to avoid Mandy restarting her complaints and grievances. “Why are you here? We had an agreement.”

The men had more or less given up, a number of them bent over trying to catch their breath. But Cheng wasn’t speaking to them, he was directing his question to the door where a woman stood in a stylish black coat and large sunglasses.

“Lillian?” I said, recognising my psychic frenemy. “You work for the British government? What are you, some sort of secret agent?”

Everyone got to be cooler than me. Archdemon, midget assassin, stuck up tart, they all had their characters locked and ready to go. I was the only one who never seemed to have a proper role.

“I’m sorry,” said Lillian, strolling into the hall, which Mandy insisted was the foyer (because she understood how to play an archetype), “but this is too important a development to—”

“Are you their leader?” said Biadet.

“I am the senior representative here and as such I am authorised to offer you—”

She was cut short by the slap in the face. She might have been psychic, but she hadn’t seen that coming. Can’t say I blamed her, though. It had been a blur, and I was expecting it. Not that I had any special ability to see the future, I just recognised the look on Biadet’s face. Amusement — there was only one thing the minx found funny.

Lillian’s sunglasses went flying and she hit the floor arse–first.

“As their leader, you should train them better,” said Biadet, in a friendly, helpful manner. “They are weak and ill–prepared. Having met you, I can see why.”

Lillian was trying to get to her feet. Biadet hadn’t hit her very hard, more of a playful tap, but Lillian was finding it hard to keep her balance and kept slumping to the floor.

“In addition, improve your manners. I was talking to Colin first. Wait your turn.”

“I don’t think she’s here for me,” I said.

“You’re very naive,” said Biadet. Always fun to be told that by a child.

“She’s here for you,” I said. “You’re the magical being from another world. You better get used to it, you’re going to be in big demand here. You’re going to love being the popular girl. You’ll get a makeover and a shopping montage and fall in love with two billionaires who’ll fight over you even though they’re obviously secretly in love with each other.”

“Did I accidentally hit you in the head?” asked Biadet.

“No,” I said, “but thank you for your concern.”

“I wasn’t concerned,” said Biadet.

Lillian had managed to get to her feet but was still a bit wobbly. “Please don’t do that again.” It wasn’t said in a pleading manner, more a threatening one.

“Or what will you do?” asked Biadet.

Lillian sighed. “We have been expecting your kind for some time. We know what you’re capable of. We have no interest in confrontation, but we are prepared to defend ourselves.”

“Like them?” asked Biadet, indicating the exhausted men.

“No, not them.” Lillian pulled her lapel closer to her mouth. “Send in Gaston.”

“Now you’re in trouble, Biadet. She’s calling in the French. Prepare to be looked down on.”

“That’s his codename,” said Lillian.

“What’s my codename?” I asked.

“Colin,” said Lillian.

“Ugh. You people refuse to let me have anything. And I’m cooler than all of you.” I’m not a big believer in conspiracies, but it was pretty clear this entire universe was against me, just like the other one.

A figure appeared in the doorway. He was wearing full riot gear and helmet but he immediately began taking it off.

“A French stripogram,” I said. “Tasteful. Does he sing, too?”

Gaston was a short, shaven–headed man with tan skin and a trim goatee beard. The rest of him was all muscles. Little bumps on top of big bumps. He discarded everything until he was in vest and shorts. No weapons.

So far, I wasn’t very impressed. Yes, he would look great oiled up on the cover of a magazine (I’m speaking aesthetically, not everything’s about sex just because it’s muscled and oily), but what was he going to do against Biadet? Flex her into a swoon?

Gaston began dancing. Okay, it wasn’t actually dancing, more gyrations and gesticulating. Some sort of Tai Chi? His arms moved faster and faster until there were after images. I began to think he might have some kind of special power.

He began to reach for her, his actual position not at all clear. Blinking didn’t help and made it look like I was flirting.

Biadet stepped forward and gave him a backhanded slap that sent him flying through the window next to the front door.

It had been quite a big swing, all the way across her body and then way up over her head. He should have seen it, she wasn’t even that fast, but it cut right through his dance of the many hands and sent him soaring across the foyer.

“My window!” said Mandy. “You better pay for that. The glass was imported from Venice.”

Lillian stood there not saying anything. There was a quiet crackling which was probably someone speaking into her earpiece. She reached up and yanked it out, and stuffed into her coat pocket.

“Look, Biadet, is it? Tell me what you want. I’m sure I can get it, whatever it is. We want to be your friend. Help me, help you.”

“You have nothing I want. Only he does.” She turned to look at me. “I don’t have much time left. There are still things I want to try before it’s too late. That’s why I came to you.”

“Um, Biadet, I’m flattered, but…”

“Only you can heal me.”

“Oh, you want me to heal you.”

“Of course. What did you think I meant?”

“Um, nothing, healing, sure, I have that ability so that’s obviously what you meant.”

Biadet shook her head slowly. “So, it really is like that. Poor Jenny.”

“Hey, not poor Jenny. Enriched Jenny. Ask her, she’ll tell you the same. The rest of you, do me a favour and fuck off, will you? We’re about to have dinner and I haven’t even ordered yet. Biadet’s never eaten our fast food. Wait till you eat a bucket of chicken, Biadet. That’s right, a whole bucket full of chicken.”

“If you don’t deal with us now,” said Lillian, “it will be the Americans next, or the Russians or the Chinese. They’re out there, and they’ll be using guns and much worse.”

“Great,” I said, “we’ll be sure to get some snacks in. Will they be bringing their own strippers?”

“Go and ask them. They’re parked outside,” said Lillian. “They let us come in first to see how you would react.”

Smart. Let the idiots take the first hit, use it to gauge what they were going up against.

“Well, you’re the psychic,” I said. “What happens next?”

“You invite me to stay for dinner,” said Lillian, wiping a little blood from the corner of her lips. “And try to get information out of me.”

“Oh, really? You trying to wangle yourself some free chicken wings?”

“No chicken wings.” Lillian pointed at Mandy. “She’s going to cook.”

“Yes!” said Mandy. “Great idea. I’ll show you what a proper dinner tastes like.”

“You didn’t see that with clairvoyance,” I said, “you just knew she’d take the bait.”

“Just because you make the future,” said Lillian, “doesn’t mean you can’t predict it.”

“Would you like me to expose her thoughts?” asked Biadet.

“Do you mean that figuratively or literally?” I could imagine Biadet prising open the top of Lillian’s head with a spatula.

“She has a simple mind,” said Biadet. “It won’t be hard to find out what she knows.”

Getting some actual real bona fide information out of Lillian was certainly tempting.

“And in exchange,” said Biadet, “you can help stop me falling apart.”

“Exchange?” I said. “You don’t have to exchange anything for that.”

“But it will cost you. I’m willing to offer you my services.”

“I know what it will cost, I’ve healed you before. Don’t worry, years off my life aren’t worth very much on the open market. Might as well use them now.”

Biadet stared at me with an odd expression. “I’m glad I came here. I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. I can’t go back and this world is very strange. But now I see it was the right choice I will help you make these people understand their place and who you are. They will bow at your feet, if you wish. And you will make me feel good.”

“With my healing, you mean?”

“Yes,” said Biadet, after hesitating.

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Afterword from Mooderino
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