|Trouble at the Valencommune:
Kalaleq peered blearily through a grey fog. "Where is everybody?" he called out. "Damn it, I can't see a thing without my glasses." He patted vainly about through the indistinct blur that was the world. "Helllooooo! Somebody help me find my glasses!"
"Kal? Kal?" heard Kalaleq, a distant wisp of voice floating through the mists of nearsightedness.
"Over here!" he shouted, and began making his way toward the voice. Slowly, the figures of Piquet, Christine, Sage, Syren, Fili, Todd, the Email fairy, and the cats emerged out of the fog, becoming clearer as they approached. "Hey!" shouted Kalaleq ecstatically. "Everyone's here, and we're all safe in the Valencommune, and the gaggy old republicans are gone! Yay! We won!...Now help me find my glasses so I can see!"
"Um, Kal," began Piquet, "I hate to tell you this, but this isn't the Valencommune."
"What?" said Kal. "Where are we?"
"Near as I can tell," answered Piquet, looking around, "we're in a sort of bleary grey fog."
"I've seen this place before," said the Email Fairy, "but only from afar--luckily, my mail has never strayed into this forsaken place. I'm afraid we're all trapped in Limbo."
Ellen Cairo peered out through the grey fog that had suddenly enveloped her. "What happened? Where'd everybody go? How am I supposed to visit doom upon the Valentrio and their friends?"
"Ellen? Is that you?" Mr. Saaa's voice floated out of the void. His shape emerged indistinctly from the fog. "How did I get here?...and where is here?"
As Ellen Cairo and Mr. Saaa attempted to reason out where they could possibly be, elsewhere in Limbo our heroes and heroines searched intrepidly - and, unfortunately, in vain - for Kalaleq's glasses. Finally Sage turned to the others.
"Much as I hate to let a good pair of glasses go unfound," she stated, "I begin to suspect that this, our search, is futile. Mayhap we should attempt to make our way out of this godforsaken place, in the hopes that Kalaleq's spectacles might be waiting for us once we emerge." She paused, looking startled. "Sorry, I don't know what got into me there!"
"Still," said Kalaleq resignedly, "I suppose you're right. But how do we get out?" Everyone turned and looked inquisitively at the Email Fairy.
"Sorry," she said, "but like I said I've only ever seen it from afar. I've never been stuck in it before."
"Ah well," sighed Shelly, "I suppose one direction is as good as the next." They set out randomly, half swimming their way through the murky, soupy fog.
After an indeterminate time of wandering, a pattern had established itself. Fili, the sole remaining cat in cat form, chose to ride nestled in Anita's girlish arms. The two chatted gaily, apparently oblivious to the others in the group as they made their way through the increasingly thick atmosphere. And if their discussions occasionally elicited from Anita such extreme non sequiturs as stumped even Fili's conversational abilities, that worthy grey individual seemed not to mind, and would simply ride in silence, purring contentedly, until such a time as the exchange started up again of its own accord.
The six humans and the Email Fairy exchanged knowing grins. Until the others noticed that Kal's and Syren's grins were directed only at one another, and that their hands had surreptitiously come together while the others had been watching Fili and Anita. The grins intensified until it was noted that neither had Sage and Todd noticed the burgeoning love affairs, staring as was their habit into one another's eyes.
Piquet looked worriedly at Christine and the Email Fairy.
"I'm sorry," said Christine sympathetically, "but I've got one too, you know. He simply isn't in this story."
"And I," shrugged the Fairy apologetically, "am hermaphroditic. I'm afraid I've never quite understood this social phenomenon of yours."
Piquet, disgusted, joined ranks with the humanised cats. Briefly her thoughts turned to the lovely and tragic Lleshye, lost to her so long ago at the end of the last campaign against the evil plots of Mr. Saaa... but Lleshye hadn't been her type. No, indeed.
After some time of wandering like this, each absorbed either in his or her own thoughts, or in another person, they suddenly noticed that they had come upon a vast wall, which stretched off in all directions until it faded into the murk. Huge shapes seemed to move across the wall... and all at once, everyone realised that the wall was, in fact, transparent, and that they were seeing motion through it. All glanced at one another, then back at the immense window.
"I... I think it's a human," said Habanero, for the time being forgetting that he himself was in the same state.
"You're darned right!" exclaimed Claire, whose vision was sharpest. "That's Kalaleq!"
And indeed, so it was. Given the suggestion, their brains quickly resolved the image of a mountain-sized Kalaleq, hunched in front of a glowing, vertical desert horizon of a monitor. The movement they had seen was his fingers flying over the foothill keys on a gargantuan keyboard. His tongue protruded comically from the corner of his mouth.
"But what does it mean?" wondered Shelly.
As one, the others turned to their own Kalaleq questioningly. But though he could not clearly see his gigantic doppelganger, the news had been too much for him; he drifted horizontally in the thick air, still clinging tightly to Syren's hand, once again fainted dead away.
The ensuing silence was broken by Syren, as she looked exasperatedly at the others and sighed "does he always do this?"
The others tried in vain to return Kal to an upright position, so Syren clung tightly to his hand, afraid he might simply float away into the fog. Having just found him, she was not about to let him slip away. As they all peered upwards at the much larger--and much more conscious--version of Kalaleq, wondering just what this could mean and how, if at all, it could help them, they heard a muffled voice penetrate the window. Suddenly, the large Kal was joined by a large version of... Syren? But it couldn't be!
Then again, the hair on this Syren was also blonde, and very wonky. And she was wearing all blue... The valenbunch widened their eyes even further as they understood just what the big Syren, with her arms around the big Kal, was saying:
"Eeeeeeee! I love what you've done with the story, goob. I should be able to pick it up from here and do something with it, I think. Just give me a little while..."
The voice was, without doubt, that of Syren.
The E-mail Fairy just barely managed to notice in time that Syren, too, had fainted; she grabbed one of Syren's boots just before the fainted pair disappeared into the fog.
The others were terribly confused. What story? What was all this? Who were these giants? And just what was going on?
Suddenly, the glowing, vertical desert horizon of a monitor/window looking thing went black, then white, then black again, and finally resolved to a new scene. A giant face, looking somewhat puzzled, was staring blankly into a coffee cup.
Christine jumped up and down and yelled "It's ME! It's ME! Ohmigod!" Overcome with existential possibilities, she too fainted dead away.
The others gaped at the largish image and watched as the huge face peered at them, raised the coffee cup and drank with a huge SLUUURRRRRP. Huge fingers began tapping at the oversized keyboard and slowly, inexorably, the fog began to clear. Looking around, our travelers saw that they were standing on a mountainside, looking into the cave of a very old and crotchety hermit. Largish Christine paused, shook her head, tapped repeatedly at one key, and began again.... They looked around and found they were standing in a room with many windows of possibility. They turned as one, looked through the windows, then back at the largish Christine, still typing away at her giant keyboard.
"NOW WAIT JUST A MINUTE!" the smallish Christine yelled, coming back to consciousness. "I refuse to have my future dictated to me by some coffee-drinking, god-like, oversized being. I direct my fate, I am the master of my reality, and NOBODY'S going to write my story for me!!!!"
The Email Fairy, who after all, was more familiar with virtual states of being, merely shrugged.
Kal, regaining consciousness, shouted "That's right! Take back control of our lives!" and promptly fainted again.
"Oh dear", Piquet muttered. "We'll get nowhere with all this fainting and yelling. I have an idea..."
She sat down and from a large bag (which it turns out she'd been carrying all this while) she pulled out a keyboard. She laid it across her lap and, chuckling, began to type.
As they all watched, the largish Christine backed away from the huge window and faded into the background. All they could see for a time was grayish foggyish movement, and then, they heard the Indigo Girls playing. Largish Christine returned out of the haze to the keyboard and peered in closely at tiny Piquet.
"Wha?" she muttered to herself. "How did that happen? Did you do that? Why you little... it's a good thing I like that song. But I'll teach you to take over..." and she began typing furiously.
Our travelers, unsure what fate was about to befall them, stood shaking in their shoes.
"Hurry, Piq, do something!" shouted Sage.
Piquet's fingers flew across the keys as she raced to execute her plan before the largish Christine could carry out her threat.
A surprised yelp from Anita, followed by a small grey thud, drew the attention of Sage and Todd who turned to see that all the cats had reverted to their feline physiques. Fili rubbed his nose with a paw.
Everyone looked desperately at Piquet, willing her to type even faster.
Images of the ruined Valencommune faded into view on one side, while frighteningly weak pinging and ponging noises eminated from the other, drawing a loud panic-stricken gasp and a small electric shock from the Email Fairy which was enough to jolt Kalaleq and Syren back to conciousness.
"We've failed!" cried Kalaleq in despair, as the laughter of Ellen Cairo reverberated around them, but at that moment Piquet finished typing, paused to glance briefly over what she'd written, and with a self-satisfied pinging sound of her own, clicked the "send" button on the screen.
There was a startled cry from the other side of the huge monitor, and the largish Christine suddenly stopped typing, looked frantically at the clock on the wall, and stumbled out of her chair and through the door, out of sight.
"What did you do?" asked Syren, who was terribly worried, but relieved to observe that the sounds of the Fairy, while still very faint, seemed to be holding steady.
"Oh, nothing," smiled Piquet. "I just arranged for Amy and Emily to be playing a free concert down the road, starting five minutes ago."
Kalaleq stared at her. "But..? And..? How did Christine know it was on if you only just arranged it..?"
"We're in Limbo," explained Piquet. "Time has no meaning here. I simply wrote to the Girls and explained what was happening, and then I date-stamped the letter as having been written three months ago to make sure they had plenty of time to arrange it. The posters would have been up for weeks by now, so I was certain that the big Christine would have known about it; and with her out of the way for the next hour or so, we have more than enough time to put a few things to rights! starting, I think, with a message to the Email Fairy last week, telling her to fortify her domain against mail bombing..."
Piquet returned to the keyboard, whistling happily to herself, while the rest of the group breathed a sigh of relief. A decidedly euphoric-sounding pinging and ponging from the Email Fairy's domain signalled the successful delivery of the next message. "I asked her to do that a week after she received the letter," said Piquet with a grin. "And if everything went according to plan, I think that Ellen Cairo is in for a little surprise..."
As if taking a cue from Piquet's words, the ringing laughter began to attain a garbled and staticy quality, followed by a shriek of rage, and then silence.
The Email Fairy laughed delightedly. "Piquet suggested that I redirect the mail bomb campaign towards Ms. Cairo's address," she explained.
"You can remember the letter that Piquet just sent??" asked Syren, with a surprised look.
"But what about the Valencommune?" asked Sage with a glum look. "Just look at it!"
The images of destruction still hovered to one side of the group. The Republicans had been quite thorough, and already the foundations of the new Ellen Cairo World Headquarters were apparent.
"Oo, I think a quick letter to ourselves should allow us to provide a more than adequte defense against that particular threat," replied Piquet. "This might be a little weird for all of us when I send it," she added, "but don't worry -- it's just our minds catching up with all the new stuff that will have happened..."
She settled back down to the keyboard for a third time, and started clicking away at the keys once more, snickering to herself every few moments.
"What are you telling us???" asked Christine intriguedly, after a few minutes had passed.
"It's surprise," grinned Piquet, and clicked the send button. There was a momentary silence, and then, as one, the group collapsed laughing into a pile as the memory of what they'd done filtered back to their present minds...
"Well," said Piquet eventually, "that's fixed everything I think! The only problem is... well... I'm afraid I don't know how to get us out of here..."
"Leave that to me," said the Email Fairy, closing her eyes to compose a letter of her own. Suddenly a huge shimmering envelope appeared in the air before them.
"Sorry," apologised the Fairy. "Metaphors become something of a habit in my line of work... Follow me; it's quite safe." and she opened the envelope, and climbed inside. The others gathered round, and one by one followed suit.
"Ngnyaaaaggssstafflll!!!" screamed Todd, as he found himself hurtling through a narrow and sparkly tunnel, and then abruptly landed in a huge pile of cushions. Four humans and nine cats later, and cursing himself for having gone first, he struggled to his feet and glanced around at the new surroundings.
"Welcome to my domain!" beamed the Email Fairy. "Wait! Where's Sage?"
"Ngnyaaaaggssstafflll!!!" yelled Sage as she landed in the cushions.
Todd rushed over. "What happened?"
"Sorry," said Sage. "I just had to write a letter of my own before we left Limbo..."