Mantra Madness

Chapter 7

a "No More Fakes" story

by Indiana Jones

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Time stood still for a moment as my eyes adjusted and I belatedly caught sight of the flame-red hair of my erstwhile attacker. Not only was this not Amy, I realized, but I had probably just exposed my only ally to one of my greatest enemies.

"No, but thanks for giving me the name of the traitor in our ranks," the woman snarled. "I have to assume 'Amy' is the only other female member of our group."

I felt rage at my betrayal and at the woman in front of me, who had to be the 'man' that had tried to rape me earlier. I wanted his heart, but I would settle for any vital organ.

I threw a punch that she blocked with ease, but not as much ease as when she was a he. I countered and managed to force an opening as she blocked which I quickly exploited with a kick. It seemed that we were now evenly matched in strength and speed, but with her unfamiliarity with her new form, I knew I was going to clean her clock.

She doubled over as I brought my knee up and into her face, causing her to flip backwards onto the nicely manicured lawn we were sparring on. She pulled her gun and I was caught by surprise. She snarled as blood flowed down her nose, mouth and chin. She was angry and she was going to shoot.

From nowhere, a bolt of energy leapt out and the woman's hand went limp, the gun falling from numb, useless fingers as she screamed out in frustration and pain.

"Ah, ah, ah! The General wants her alive, remember?" A familiar voice chided.

I turned to find Amy walking towards us with her gun still drawn.

"You traitorous bitch!" The fallen woman screamed.

"Now is that any way for a lady to talk? Especially to her superior?" Amy said with a sneer.

I shook my head and looked to Amy. She could see in my expression something was wrong. "I'm sorry, but I accidentally blew your cover."

Even under the mask, I could tell she was frowning. "Damn. The rest of the team is waiting around the front. That jerk was supposed to wait to attack and force you out the front when everyone else was ready." She glanced over her shoulder as she quickly considered options. "It won't take them long to work their way back here."

"Well, what do we do? She'll blow your cover."

She flicked a switch on her gun and aimed it at her former comrade. I could tell what she meant to do.

I grabbed her arm and shouted, "NO!"

The shot passed harmlessly into the ground and dissipated. Amy growled at me and almost couldn't keep herself from slapping me. "You idiot!" She yelled. "They had to have heard that and it'll bring them running!"

"I can't let you kill her!"

"I wasn't going to kill her! I was going to knock her out and erase her memory. Now I won't have time!"

I felt embarrassed. I thought quickly and came up with a solution. I began chanting my mantra. Soon the woman on the ground was struck dumb. She began to glow as Amy watched dumbstruck.

The woman on the ground began to squirm and scratch herself as if something was crawling on her body. Tufts of orange fur sprouted from all over her body, quickly becoming a soft fur. Her hair followed suit, becoming orange. Stripes then appeared. By this time a little pink spot appeared on her nose as it was forming into a cat's nose. Whiskers followed and her ears changed next becoming pointed and moved to a weird angle. She screamed in agony as a tail snaked its way out of her backside.

My world exploded with pain. I recognized the pain and heard shouts from behind. I was so woozy I couldn't tell which way was up. I turned towards the shouts and focused through the pain and reached for whatever power I could. A gust of wind slammed into the voices and they cried out in surprise as they were carried off their feet and slammed into tables behind them in the restaurant.

I heard them moaning as I tried to shake off the grogginess. I fell to my knees and the world continued to spin. When the world stopped spinning, I started to rise to my feet only to come face to face with a weapon.

"Never send a grunt to do a General's job!" Gaines said as he blew a ring of smoke in my face.

I choked on the thick musty smoke and spat a low curse at the man. "Hello, Gaines, what turned over your rock?"

"Funny," he stated coldly. "You won't be laughing when my people are pulling you apart to find out what makes you tick!"

"You'll never take me alive, copper!" I managed weakly.

"I prefer it that way!" he chuckled as his men recovered and circled us.

He lowered the gun into position and prepared to fire when someone shouted, "NO!"

Gaines looked up and his hand inadvertently followed his gaze and released a torrent of energy towards Kathleen.

Time seemed to slow down. I was exhausted to the bone, but desperation gripped me tightly around my heart. I reached out my hand with no expectations just an apology on my lips. But what actually happened shocked even me.

The energy flowed from my hands and intercepted the lethal beam just as it reached Kathleen. They gently wrestled with each other turning in all direction and producing a spectacular light show rivaling any Fourth of July display. Finally the energy changed color matching the color of the magic while leaving a trace of itself throughout.

It then circled the WHAT soldiers seeking something. They just stood amazed, almost entranced and none more so than Gaines. The magic found what is was looking for and had completely surrounded everyone. Before they could even act the energy surged and flowed over them rendering them unconscious.

The look of surprise on Gaines' face alone was worth the price of admission. The shock was most apparent as he resisted the force pulling him down. I pulled the cigar from his hand and blew smoke in his face before he finally hit the ground.

I pulled myself all the way up and wearily made my way to Kathleen trailed by a shocked Amy. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." Kathleen answered.

"How did you do that?" Amy said, amazed. "According to our data, between the beating you took this morning and continued exposure to the stun beams, you should be in a coma or dead."

I had to think about that for a moment. "The only thing I can think of is the constitution of the character I became."

"What character is that?"

"The comic book character Mantra. That's who I was dressed as when the incident happened. According to the comic book, the woman I became has powers that run stronger and more deeply than most magicians. That is how they explained her ability to bend or break certain rules of magic."

Amy nodded. "That makes sense, I guess. Wait, did you say 'woman you became'?" she said as if some great weight just hit her. She looked at Kathleen and said "Wait, you're friends with that Wonder Woman guy...were you a guy too?"

I didn't know how to answer. What would she do if I answered incorrectly? "Yeah, I was. I was working for a friend of mine who owns a costume shop. I don't normally do that kind of thing."

"That's...ok. I suppose she's your girlfriend." Amy said slowly.

"Fiancée, actually," Kathleen chimed in.

Amy's enthusiasm dropped a few notches. "Oh, I just thought, well...that kiss," she started. She cut herself off, but not before I felt the icy stare of Kathleen boring into my back.

"I think I understand. But first things first...how are you going to explain this to Gaines? That woman could blow your cover," I said pointing at the spot where once man turned cat had been. "Well, how do you like that?"

"I have nothing to fear from Bentley. Especially now. But I'm this close to getting the evidence and I'll need something else from you."

I was a little leery. I imagined the Cheshire cat and jaws at the same time as she smiled. "What do you have in mind?"

"Will I be able to get in touch with you tomorrow?"

"I suppose," I demurred. "When?"

"I need to get the evidence first," she explained. "Then I need you to help make a big spectacle, to expose Gaines. Do you think that you could get Bill Edwards to help out?"

Now I knew something was going down, and I had to figure out if was to our advantage or not. Why did she need to have both of us there? Was it some kind of trap?

"Use that number I gave you," I told her. "I'll make sure the phones are in first thing tomorrow."

"Thank you!" she exclaimed, hugging me excitedly. I winced knowing Kathleen was probably seething behind me.

"Now you are going to have to stun me too, to make it look good," she said, picking a good and soft patch of grass to lay on. "Oh, and you should be more careful with your magic. We were able to track you down when you used your magic a few minutes ago."

I rolled my eyes as Kathleen gave me a look. I let Amy have it with an energy blast similar to the one that had taken out the General and his cronies, except I made it slowly and painlessly send her off to dreamland.

Kathleen and I began to run as we could hear sirens in the distance. I hoped that maybe the cops would blow Gaines' whole operation. It wouldn't do to have a top Black Ops unit being busted on TV. But that same reasoning told me no matter what, it probably wouldn't come to that.

I just barely managed change into my normal clothes before we caught a cabby's attention. And dressed as we were, it didn't take much to catch his attention. As we got in I could practically see him living out his ultimate fantasy in his mind with us in the lead roles. If I had one more ounce of power to squeeze I would have made him the star.

"Where to, ladies?" he asked in a thick southern accent.

"221 Barr road," I told him half ready to pass out.

"Yes, ma'am!" he said excitedly.

I realized it was the way Kathleen was cradling me that got his blood pressure rising, among other things. That coupled with the 'yes ma'am' got me wondering if I would ever get used to life as Mantra...to say nothing of her alter ego.


[Note: Again I didn't actually witness this as well as making up the names for people I didn't know. But I imagined what had to have happened went something like this:]

 

"That does it, gentlemen," Gaines spat through his clenched teeth. He continued to walk back and forth before his troops who were at attention the entire time. "As of tomorrow I will be calling in WHERE. W.H.I. (Weird Happenings Intelligence) has informed me that we have lost contact with the target completely. They have also informed me that we now have a WH in our very own ranks. It seems that a cat woman has been seen running through town wearing one of our uniforms. So our new assignment is to track down what I can only assume is left of Bentley and capture him, err, her...it. Whatever!"

"Permission to speak, sir."

Gaines face twisted in rage as he backtracked to coldly meet Amy's eyes with an evil stare. "Well I guess you don't need permission or you wouldn't have just spoken. What is it?"

If Amy was put off by the Generalís comments, she didnít let it show. "Sir, I respectfully request that you give us just one more opportunity to apprehend the target."

Gaines almost fell backwards as if struck by the hardest of blows. "And why should I do that, corporal?"

"Sir, because I have it on good authority that we have a traitor in our ranks. If we don't apprehend the target it will just be more for the traitor to use against you sir."

Gaines couldn't believe his ears. "A traitor, you say? Who is this traitor?"

"I don't know if I should say sir," she replied carefully. "I don't have all the evidence."

"Well spit it out anyway. I want to know and I want to know now, mister. That's an order!" the general shouted.

It was all Amy could do to keep from smiling. "A few days ago I caught Bentley breaking into the records room. I didn't want to say anything until I had more proof, sir. Also because he is not here to defend himself, sir."

General Gaines considered that for a moment. "Well, what other evidence do you have, soldier."

"I heard him talking to someone about how if you made three more slip ups, the report would be on it's way to his superiors," Amy offered. "That was two mistakes ago, sir."

"Damn! That means we have to split up and find them both." He growled slowly and lit his cigar, releasing smoke as if releasing stress.

"Mullins, you take Chameleon Alpha and acquire the target. Jenkins, you take Chameleon Bravo and track down Bentley. Lord knows who he may have talked to already."

Amy was ecstatic, as this failure would be the end of Gaines. She was about to let the smile win when Gaines broke in again.

"Atkins, prepare the W.H.N. Armor."

Atkins spoke up, "Sir, the armor has not been successfully tested yet."

"I don't care. Right now we need a victory more than we need caution."

"Yes, sir. But I want the record to show I did inform you that the Weird Happenings Neutralization Armor only has a 60 percent success rate in field ops."

"So noted. Now step on it."

Gaines smile turned into a shark's grin. "Let's see that bitch escape this. Dismissed."

 

To Be Continued...

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