Serenity screamed. Her entire body shook and rattled like a worn-down car. Something metallic tore into her abdomen. It wasn’t the sharp cutting of a knife but the grinding down of a rotary sander. With her enhanced senses she could feel it grating through her skin. The wound felt warm as blood gushed from her abdomen. Something about the vibrating, not the pain, made it hard to think. She had to focus. She had to fight back. She had to open her eyes and…
“Send a Message!” The wind rushed out of Serenity’s lungs. She twisted and crumpled as her body blasted through the wall behind. Pipes burst. She bounced across electronic displays like a rock skipping across a pond. She groaned and tried to focus through the pain. Instinctively she gripped her wound around her gut. It was bleeding. A lot. She could already feel the bruises forming all along her back. Her empathokinetic sense let her feel not just the pain of it all but the little tears in blood vessels and nerves. She could feel her super-powered healing factor kick into overdrive, trying to repair the damage. She was going to have to eat a lot after this. Gummi donut her body felt like it was on fire with all this pa…
Focus, she had to focus. Pain was not important. All that mattered was… was…
Screams. People screamed. This wasn’t an empty mall like with Day LaMode. People were still here. They would be panicked. Serenity was a Spirit Guard. A hero. They couldn’t see her like this.
Serenity tried to force herself to her feet. Bruises. More bruises formed along the back of her legs. All she could manage was standing on her left knee. She opened her eyes and bellowed in as commanding a voice as she could, “Monster! Get out of the store!” More screams. More panic. She could hear and feel the fear she had just inspired. Great. Spirit Guard Serenity indeed.
“L. O. L. I thought something was up when I noticed you lurking behind those DVD’s. But when you turned off your phone after I had infected it… then I knew something had to be up.”
There, stepping through the hole Serenity’s body had created in the bathroom, stood something that resembled the woman who had worked on Stacy’s phone. Somehow she looked dry despite waking through a curtain of water the busted bathroom pipes had caused. Her hair was still that horrible looking side-ponytail with bangs covering her right eye. Her skin, however, was now cherry red and had a plastic sheen to it. Her outfit could only be described as the skanky, Halloween costume version of the Buy Bright employee uniform. Her right arm had been replaced by a giant, metal antenna Serenity had seen on older cell phones. It hummed with energy that seemed to resonate with the wound in Serenity’s chest. And her eyes…
Her eyes had a crazed look about them that had nothing to do with the fact they now glowed like an LED display. They were the eyes of someone who was just slightly unhinged from reality. They reminded Serenity of the eyes Scooter Feldman in the second grade who would chuckle softly to himself as he burned ants with a magnifying glass. Those were the eyes of someone who liked to hurt people.
The monster-woman daintily stepped over the wreckage. She had a sort of “bounce” to her movements that reminded Robynne of a cheerleader. “I thought you turning off your phone and trying to hide from me could possibly be a coincidence. But then you were all, like, sneaky trying to get to the bathroom. And you sent your friends away. Very suspicious. However, like, when you disappeared from existence in that stall I was all like, ‘O.M.G! That skank is something special. I better go greet her.'”
Serenity’s body desperately tried to mend itself back together. But that would take time. Time wasn’t Serenity’s friend at the moment. Donut she should have listened to Eli and waited. She hadn’t considered that maybe this monster could… no. It was pointless to focus on that now. The battlefield was no place for reflection. All that mattered was the now. She needed to buy time. Serenity channeled as much Cory and Vivian as she could and decided to put on a show for the monster. She clutched her wound tighter, and groaned. “You could see me the whole time? You don’t use your eyes then?”
“Like, OMG! You’re not as dumb a bimbo as you look. I mean, you are a dumb bimbo. Obviously. Because, like, AYKM? Attacking me alone? That’s something a dumb, chesty bimbo like yourself would do. All breasts and no brains. Clearly. But at least you can, like, put two and two together. Congrats!”
Serenity glared. Not one minute into this monster’s existence and Serenity could feel hatred filling every chamber of her heart. This creature had all the worst traits of a stereotypical Hollywood cheerleader: condescending, insulting, arrogant… but maybe that could be used against her?
“You’re different from your sisters,” Serenity grunted, making her pain as obvious to this monster as she could. She needed to seem helpless. Her legs were bruised and she was bleeding but none of the injuries were life threatening… yet. She could still move if the monster went on the attack. “They were just objects that transformed into monsters. But you… you were disguised as a person.” Serenity had learned a thing or two about dealing with girls like Evelyn, Cammy, and Tanya. They were, in fact, very similar to Day LaMode and Polygal: they liked to talk about themselves and feel superior. And this monster’s ego was so big it had already explained to Serenity why sneaking around hadn’t worked. “And I have never seen a monster infect phones. You’re different somehow.”
“Oh, I’m soooo much more than my sisters,” the monster bragged. “I’m the next step. You may have killed Day LaMode, bimbo, but not before she had gathered, like, tons of Investiture.” So she knew Serenity had killed Day LaMode? Made sense that this monster had anti-stealth abilities then. She was being countered. “AAMOF, Lord Platicore told me I was a construct he’s been hoping to make for, like, over a year and stuff but just didn’t have the Investiture. Day LaMode was a test, a grand experiment, the proof of concept needed to see if I would work. I am Cell-celia! The ultimate creation of Lord Platicore!”
Serenity resisted the urge to roll her eyes and make fun of Cell-celia’s name. Also, it was inane to claim to be Platicore’s “ultimate creation.” No doubt he had other, grander plans; he was a villain after all. She was the “ultimate” in as much as she was the latest. Day LaMode had been his ultimate creation before her. Pointing that out, however, might stop her pontification on her own greatness and Serenity could already feel the bruises all along the back of her legs and arms healing. The one giant bruise on her back was taking longer though. She kept still as every twitch of her came with a wall of pain. Seemed being a Spirit Guard didn’t do anything to increase her pain tolerance, just upped her resistance to injuries. “A test? What kind of test are you?”
“Oh… it would be fun to tell you, it really would… hmm… but Lord Platicore told me not to spill the beans… OTOH, I’m about to kill you so… WTH, I just can’t help myself!” So she could disobey Platicore? An interesting development. “Plus, a booberific dummy like you would never guess it without help.” Serenity growled at that jab, though admittedly only half-because she was trying feed Cell-celia’s ego. Plus booberific wasn’t even a word! “Tell ya what. I’ll be sporting about this. I’ll give you a hint. It’s not like Platicore’s little stooge is here watching me.” Stooge? He had help? Was that how he knew about Serenity killing Day LaMode? “Think about it for a moment: what was Day LaMode’s big trick?”
Huh. So Cell-celia really wasn’t good at keeping secrets. Comparing her to Tanya, it turned out, was actually an insult to the gossipmonger. Sure she was a gossip, but at least Tanya only revealed secrets strategically. Perhaps, if Serenity faux-helplessness worked, this chain of events would be more helpful to the Spirit Guard than her original plan of swift execution. Intel was worth it’s weight in gold… assuming she could keep Cell-celia talking long enough to not get herself killed. “She could project herself into different bodies? Or was it just that she had multiple bodies?”
“Two sides of the same coin, but you’re on the right track. Maybe you do have a brain inside those boobs.”
“You are uncommonly obsessed with my chest,” Serenity reflexively quipped.
“Well, it’s just that they are so big.”
“I hear that a lot.”
“I’ll bet you do.” Cell-celia’s antenna twitched and her eye’s murderous, crazy look returned. Banter wasn’t the answer. Time to go back to praising her. “But you don’t occupy mannequins like LaMode. You don’t project yourself into mere objects. Unlike LaMode, you actually seem to have a personality… and Platicore actually told you about the other monsters. Day LaMode thought she was the first. That shows he trusts you.”
Cell-celia stood tall with pride. “Yes, he does. And, yes, I don’t project myself into objects. Too limiting for me. I like to stretch my legs out.”
Serenity nodded and tried to look a bit confused. If she was going to keep assuming Serenity was some dumb cheerleader she might as well play the part a bit. If your foe thought you were weak, they were indirectly buffing you. “I see. So, um, like… you don’t project yourself into phones but use them to, like, I don’t know, drain energy all the time?”
Cell-celia rolled her eyes and smiled. “Oh, sweetie, I’m clearly straining what little you have in your noggin. I don’t need to consciously project myself into another object. I just infect phones with the tiniest fraction of my power and then, every time they send a text, I get a little packet of Investiture. I don’t have to think about it. My sister could only activate so many mannequins at once because they had to be fully battle capable. And those extra mannequins couldn’t even drain people for her. Infecting phones though? Probably about as easy as you were on prom night. I have no upper limit on how many I can infect. With each cell phone infected I get one more receiver, giving me further range. Greater sight. More power. Soon enough, Lord Platicore’s brilliance will have every cell-phone in the world hooked up to me, giving him an infinite source of Investiture. I will be able, through everyone’s cell phone signals, to see everything going on in the world. I will know all! I will be a goddess!”
Serenity tired to look scared even as her desire to slash this thing’s throat grew. “Goddess? Okay, so, well, um, like, that is totally bad.” So this monster wouldn’t be teleporting into bodies like Day LaMode. That was good. However, if staying out of sight hadn’t prevented Cell-celia from seeing Robynne, would Placid Mist prevent her from seeing Serenity? She had a feeling the answer was no. And apparently her “vision” improved with each cell phone she infected.
“Yes. That would be scary. For you. Pretty great for me though.”
The giant bruise covering all of Serenity’s back had nearly finished healing. Soon her body would be moving onto her large, but shallow gash in her abdomen. At least she thought it worked like that. Seemed the Healing Factor moved from smaller wounds to bigger ones. Though this reverse-triage approach to healing didn’t make much medical sense to Serenity, it was useful for her right now. As long as her abdomen kept bleeding Cell-celia would assume Serenity couldn’t fight back. “Day LaMode’s test, then, was to see how thin you could spread a construct. Platicore saw the weakness in trying to keep a one-woman army together so he put the focus back on a single fighting body and spreading the ‘net’ wider… with the side benefit of giving you more vision since you see through cell phone transmissions rather than visible light?”
Cell-celia’s eyes narrowed. “How perceptive of you.” Too far. Too specific. She always had been bad at playing dumb. She was a sucker for a good experiment. Science had betrayed her once again.
“Yeah, well, like, um, couldn’t have done it without your hint and stuff?” Serenity was only holding her right pompom. Where was the left? She must have dropped crashing through the wall. She’d need both to to fight anywhere close to her full ability. She reached out with her empathokinetic sense and could feel about thirty feet straight ahead, with Cell-celia right between them.
Then she felt something else. An aura that smelled like a dewy, grassy meadow at sunrise. It was about a block and a half away and moving like a bullet. Help had finally arrived. Serenity was sure to keep her face looking pained. She couldn’t let Cell-celia know that…
Cell-celia’s head snapped right in the direction of Spirit Guard Charity’s approach. She groaned. “OMG, you messaged your friends to help you before I was paying attention to you, huh?”
The cat was out of the bag. Serenity shrugged and stood up. Her body ached at the movement. Healed or not, her arms and legs still ached something fierce. Her back throbbed like an old man’s. And her bloody midriff stung like a parent’s disappoint… and kept bleeding too, which was a problem. At times like this, Serenity wished she could turn off her super-senses. Fighting through pain like this was going to be a biscuit. She’d need to make sure Cell-celia’s movements were predictable. It was time to start goading. “My uncle did always say to make sure the meat is cooked before taking a bite.”
Cell-celia grit her teeth and bent her knees, ready to strike. “Your uncle sounds as dumb as you look, bimbo.”
“Better to look like a bimbo than be a bimbo. I mean, seriously, who praises themselves so long that reinforcements arrived? Like, OMG, how’s how’s your foot tasting, Cell-fie?”
“My name is Cell-cilia, you bitch!” The monster dove at Serenity. Her antenna-hand extended outward and hummed violently. Serenity cursed herself for failing to consider that an antenna would extend. Still, her swipe was predictable enough that Serenity narrowly leapt over the attack, towards the entrance.
“Clement Pierce!” Spirit Guard Charity’s voice cut through the air as clearly as her arrow. Impressively, the arrow hit Serenity right in her wound despite being mid-air and flipping. The Clement Pierce’s anesthetic effect immediately dulled the pain. She could feel flesh reknit itself with greater speed. More importantly, her senses weren’t enfeebled by the empathokinetic painkiller; just the pain.
Serenity landed with barely a whisper. Not a single surge of pain. This was a good sign. “Nice shot.”
Charity frowned and nocked another arrow of pure light. “Why the honey did you attack a monster by yourself? I thought Tenacity was supposed to be the foolhardy one. You’re supposed to be the smart and patient one.”
“It seemed like the right move at the time?”
Charity let out a long, suffering sigh through her nose. “And now you sound like Felicity. What do you know about this one.”
Serenity clapped her hands together, though only her right dagger formed, seeing as her left pompom was still on the other side of the store. “Calls itself Cell-celia. Has some form of x-ray vision or something. I don’t think my stealth will work. It’s infecting people’s phones and…”
“OMG, we aren’t doing this,” Cell-celia proclaimed. “You’re not talking your way out of this. Voice-to-Text!”
Serenity and Charity crouched, waiting for an attack. None came. Cell-celia smirked all the same. Serenity raised an eyebrow and said, “She also seems to have a vi…” No sound came out of her mouth. The honey?
She glanced Charity who gave Serenity an equally puzzled look. That’s when Serenity noticed a yellow text bubble floating above Charity’s head that read, “What do you think that was…” Clearly she had trailed off when no sound came out of her voice as well.
Cell-celia laughed hysterically though it only manifested in a string of green LOL’s scrolling above her head. Serenity looked up and saw her own words hanging above her in a sky blue text bubble. This was bad. How many battlegrounds had she been on in Aspect Realms where the chaos of combat prevented her from noticing some critical bit of info someone had typed in the chat window?
“What do we do? O.o She can see what we say! Should we regroup?” Charity emoted.
They could run and wait for Valor to back them up. But that would give Cell-celia more time. Her influence would spread even further over Kessia City. More sight from everyone’s phone signals. More power from their Investiture flowing to her. No. They had to act. They had to fight.
“The longer we w8 the more power she gets from phones. We have 2 fight.” Serenity loathed her words being twisted into text-speech but there was nothing she could do about that. What she could do something about was getting her other pompom so she had both her daggers. But she couldn’t whisper that plan to Charity. Anything she said would display right over her head for Cell-celia to read. Gummi donut she hated servers with all-chat enabled. She’d just have to trust that Charity would read her intentions rather than her words. “Cover me. I have a plan.”
“OMG, u still want 2 fight me after the ass-whoopin’ I just laid on you, bimbo? Do I have 2 spell out how bad an idea it is 4 u to fight me?” Cell-celia’s murderous eyes flashed with amusement.
Serenity hoped playful banter would prevent the monster from focusing on the fact Serenity had a plan. “Given what u just did, u literally have 2 spell everything out. ;)” Serenity kept her eyes glued to the monster, but used her empathokinetic sense to hone in on her other pompom. She had to keep her intentions quiet.
“OMG. That’s funny. Ur funny. 2 bad u I have 2 kill u, bimbo. 3" “Yeah, well, life is just full of those little tragedies, ain’t it?” Then Spirit Guard Serenity charged. She just hoped this plan worked out better than her last one.