Harmony – 5.3
April 27th, 2011
"I don't know how I let you talk me into this," Sabah muttered to me.
"Hey, it could be fun?" I suggested halfheartedly.
Sabah shook her head and muttered something in her native tongue underneath her breath. Internally, I couldn't help but share her sentiment. A kickboxing gym was not my idea of a fun day off.
With how hectic everything had been, I hadn't been able to spend much time with Madison lately. Heh, now that was a surprise to me, that I'd have enough friends that juggling my social life would be an issue. So I was quite surprised when Madison confessed to me that she had taken up kickboxing, and invited me to attend one of her gym's free trial days for prospective new members for the women's classes.
"Besides, you can learn how to beat people up here," I joked.
Sabah sniffed imperiously at me. "I have a couple of very large friends to do that sort of thing for me," she said, no doubt referring to her giant gorilla bodyguard dolls.
The gym was clean and well-lit, with bright fluorescent lighting and spotless polished floors. So definitely not something grungy like out of a Rocky movie that I was half-expecting. On one side of the large open gym, there were two different boxing rings, both currently occupied by a pair of sparring boxers. The other side of the gym was dominated by rows of hanging heavy-punching bags. In addition, there were also free weights, speed bags, and other fitness equipment scattered at one end of the gym.
It was a nice gym, but it had the off-putting smell of sweat that made the whole experience just a bit uncomfortable for me. More importantly, I had no idea what the hell Madison was doing here. She was a tiny fifteen year old girl! What was she doing engaging in such a brutish and violent sport? The irony of that thought was immediately apparent to me. I've lost track of how many people I've blasted with my energy beams now, and those were powerful enough to break bones.
There was already a decent crowd of girls at the gym, most of which were hitting the heavy-bags. I spotted Madison almost as soon as we entered. The petite brunette waved happily at us, and I introduced Sabah to her. Madison looked oddly in her element in her workout clothes, and was bouncing happily from foot to foot.
Madison grinned at me. "I'm glad you could make it, Taylor! You too, Sabah."
"Of course, happy to be here," I said, not entirely genuinely. "So… how long has this been going on?"
"Just for a few months now," Madison said. "I started shortly after we got into that brawl at the mall. A girl's gotta learn how to defend herself, ya know?"
Madison was still grinning at me, though now her smile had taken an almost feral quality. "Uhh, sure, this town's pretty dangerous," I said. "I carry pepper spray and a Taser in my purse usually."
"Oh me too, but it's a little bit empowering to know that I can at least throw a punch without breaking my wrist or nails!" Madison said, laughing softly. "Also, it's great exercise! I mean, look at this!" She lifted up her shirt, revealing her sports bra and her stomach, which was starting to show traces of a six-pack. What the hell? I'd been working my ass off for months, and I still didn't have any abs.
"Wow…" I poked her stomach a little, causing her to giggle. She actually had muscles there! Muscles that were hard! "You go girl!"
Madison let out a snort. "Taylor, sweetie, please don't ever use that phrase un-ironically ever again."
"Yeah, agreed," Sabah added.
One of the instructors at the gym, Joanne, made her way over to us and introduced herself to us. Joanne, I noticed, also happened to be the model that graced a large banner advertising the gym outside. She was about an inch or two taller than me, and had long blonde hair tied back into a ponytail. She was wearing only a sports bra and knee length yoga pants, revealing incredibly well-defined abs and toned legs and arms. I swallowed nervously and tried to keep my eyes focused on her face.
"Well, why don't we get started with the workout?" Joanne suggested. "Madison, you look like you're about Sabah's size, so why don't you get her started on the heavy-bags?"
Madison smiled cheerfully at us, and started dragging Sabah away by the arm. Sabah looked at me with a terrified expression on her face. Help! Save me! Sabah screamed at me telepathically. Well, I don't actually know telepathy, but I imagine that's what she was trying to say. I mouthed "sorry" at her. She was on her own now.
Joanne led me over to a punching bag, and started drilling me through a series of punches and kicks. Thanks to my training with Lily, I already knew how to properly throw a punch or kick, and soon Joanne was leading me through more complicated combos. I started working up a serious sweat after just a few minutes, and my arms started getting sore. It was clear that Joanne's class would be an intense workout, though probably not nearly as painful as my training sessions with Lily.
After working out some of my frustrations and tensions out on the punching bag for a while, Joanne called all the guests and students over to the center of the gym in front of one of the boxing rings.
I met up with Sabah again, who looked significantly worse for the wear. Her t-shirt was drenched in sweat, she was panting heavily, and her hair was completely disheveled. I couldn't resist chuckling at her appearance. "You look like you've just been –"
"Don't you dare, Taylor!" Sabah hissed back at me. Judging by the glare I was receiving, I was currently not Sabah's favorite person.
I giggled a little, but kept my mouth shut as we turned our attention to Joanne.
Joanne cleared her throat and started her spiel. "Thank you everyone for coming! My name is Joanne, and I'm one of the instructors here. As most of you girls have no doubt just experienced, kickboxing is quite the total body workout. It's an amazing way to burn calories, develop strength and agility, and boost your cardiovascular health. In fact, you can burn over a thousand calories in just one one-hour session!"
A lot of the girls in the crowd nodded appreciatively at that idea. Given Joanne's superb body, I couldn't help but think the results spoke for themselves.
"The majority of our students sign up just for the kickboxing conditioning and fitness class, but we do offer skills and technique training as well for people looking to spar or compete. In fact, why don't have we have a little demonstration spar right now for our guests? Would any of our existing students like to volunteer?"
Madison's hand shot up immediately, and she waved it around enthusiastically.
"Great, Madison, come on up!" Joanne said.
Madison bounced up happily and entered the ring.
"Anyone else?" Joanne asked. None of the other students raised their hands. "Hayley, how about you? Come on up!"
The other girl, Hayley, walked slowly up to the ring, looking not nearly as enthusiastic as Madison. "Um, maybe I should sit this one out. I have a stomach-ache," she said. Sheesh, what was she scared of? She looked like she was at least four inches taller than Madison, and probably outweighed her by twenty pounds.
"Nonsense, Hayley," Joanne said, "I'm sure you'll do fine!"
The two girls faced each other in the ring, briefly touched gloves, and took a fighting stance. Joanne blew a whistle, signaling the start of the round. Madison immediately let out a piercing battle cry and rushed straight at Hayley, who looked like a deer caught in headlights frozen in fear. And then Madison was upon her, unleashing a flurry of punches and kicks in rapid succession. In less than a minute, Hayley was on the ground curled up in a fetal position, and Madison had scored her first knockdown.
Sabah and I stared in stunned silence as we witnessed Hayley's brutal destruction.
"Your friend scares me."
"… me too, Sabah. She scares me too."
April 28th, 2011
Operation Stalwart Beaver was in full swing, which meant that I saw very little of Vicky or Lily in the past few days as they spent their evenings patrolling or raiding ABB territory. Meanwhile, I was stuck in the hospital again on healer duty.
I though the raids were going well, since there had been a number of arrests already of the ABB's non-powered gang members, and very few of the heroes had required healing so far. I was itching a bit to be out there with my friends, but at least I had Amy with me in the hospital, even if we spent most of our healing shifts apart.
Intellectually, I understood why it made sense to hold me back from the fray. There were plenty of Blasters and Brutes in town already, but very few healers. Just me and Panacea actually, for the heroically aligned. So I kept telling myself that staying safe at the hospital was where I could do the most good.
Safe at the hospital. That was the plan at least. That was why I was so surprised when I rounded a corner in the hallway and took a baseball bat right to the head. The bat hit me on the side of my head and sent me tumbling facedown into a near-senseless heap. I heard the soft sound of laughter, and then felt someone's foot on my body, nudging me and flipping my over onto my back.
I blinked hazily as the world spun circles in front of me. Why were the lights sooo bright?
"Hey little birdie," a feminine voice said to me quietly. "I promised myself I'd get you back for what you did to me."
I tried to make a noise, but it just came out as an incoherent gurgle. The figure above me was blurry still, but I was vaguely able to make out a face painted white – Circus? Wasn't she supposed to be in a PRT holding cell? I tried to move my arms, but nothing was responding. Circus let out a quiet giggle as she reached down and tugged at something on my belt.
"I think I'm going to help myself to this," she whispered, leaning in close to speak directly into my ear.
I let out another gurgle and tried to raise an arm, but Circus easily swatted away my feeble attempts to push her. She leaned in again and smirked at me.
"You know, I'm feeling generous," she whispered to me, "so I'm going to let you off with only a little bit more punishment."
The last thing I saw before blacking out was Circus hovering above me, holding a Sharpie in her hand.
When I woke up again, I was lying down on a bed. Fluorescent lights bathed the room I was in with cool light, and I could hear the sounds of people bustling around nearby.
"Hey there Sleeping Beauty," Vicky's voice greeted my return to consciousness softly.
"Wh-where am I?"
"In the hospital. You don't remember coming here?" Vicky asked playfully. "Oh my god, do you know your own name? What year is it?"
I rolled my eyes, which unfortunately sent a stab of pain racing through my head. "Yes Vicky, I know what year it is."
I looked around a bit and saw that I was inside small a private hospital room. Vicky and Amy, both in costume, were sitting by my bedside. What the hell happened? Memories of a baseball bat and an evil clown rushed back to me.
"Circus!" I yelled out, trying to sit up. "She was here."
"We know," Vicky said, placing a hand on my shoulder to keep me down. "Easy there. She's long gone, but the security cameras caught sight of her."
I let out a groan. My head was starting to pound again with pain.
"You have a concussion," Amy said, noticing my discomfort. "I've done what I can to heal your surface wounds and mitigate the side-effects, so you can probably take it from here with your own healing. Anyways, I need to get back to my patients."
Amy stood up and left the room brusquely. I frowned as I watched the door swing shut behind her. "What's up with Amy?" I asked. "Is she OK?" Deciding to listen to Amy's suggestion, I started focusing on a healing spell and started unleashing gentle waves of healing energy on my body.
"Well, you were pretty talkative when you were conked out," Vicky said. "You were uhh… saying some pretty interesting things."
Crap. "Like what?" I asked nervously.
"Well, you said that you wanted to [BLEEP] me with [BLEEP], and that you were going to [BLEEP] with [BLEEP] [BLEEP] and then run a [BLEEP] over a [BLEEP]. Then you talked quite a bit about [BLEEP], with four or five [BLEEP], and then adding butter. [BLEEP]"
I stared at Vicky in horror. "I said all that?"
"Nah, I'm just messing with you. You were mostly mumbling about bacon and Mrs. Fluffypaws. Amy's just going through nicotine withdrawal. I'm trying to get her to quit smoking."
I grabbed a pillow and screamed into it. After expelling all the air out of my lungs, I put the pillow down and glared at Vicky. She was smiling sweetly at me. "Why do you do this to me, Vicky? I'm in a hospital bed! How about a little compassion?"
Vicky smirked at me. "Well I can dress up in a nurse's outfit and nurse you back to health if you want."
"That… would be acceptable." I felt my face redden as that particular image entered my mind and set up permanent camp. I felt around a bit on my belt. "Did she steal…?"
"Yup," Vicky said. "She stole all the money you had on you, your Taser, and worst of all, she stole OUR lightsaber! Believe me, I'm pissed about it too. I haven't played with it nearly enough yet!"
I let out a snort of laughter at Vicky describing it as 'ours.' Oh god. I lost the lightsaber! I spent six-figures on that Tinkertech toy, and I lost it in less than two months. Circus can go suck a bag of –
"Um, there's something else," Vicky said, interrupting my thoughts.
"Hm?" I looked up at her and waited for her to respond.
"She drew something on your face and uploaded it to PHO."
"Wait, what? Do you have a mirror?" I asked.
"Amy and I cleaned it off already, but here," Vicky said, holding up her cell phone for me to see.
It was a picture of my (unconscious) face with what looked like some kind of weird cartoon creature drawn on my cheek and around my mouth. "What the hell is that?"
"You know, it's a dick with another dick growing out of its butt, but anthropomorphized. Dickbutt. It's an internet thing."
I let out another groan. "And Circus posted it online?"
"And have a lot of people seen it already?"
"Umm… well… it may have gone viral already. I think there's like half-a-million hits now."
Great. Just great. It looks like I had a nemesis now, and she was a clown.
Author's Note: Wow, 600+ favs and follows. You guys rock! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing. This chapter marks the return of Madison. I'm wondering if she needs more screen time.
RIP Hayley. On a different not, I may have need for some OC capes for some minor roles in this story and my other ones, so I think this might be a good time for some reader interaction. So, I'm putting out a notice for a CASTING CALL. If you have an OC cape that you want to see in one of my stories, feel free to share it with me and I'll make a pool of capes I'll pull from when I need an OC where appropriate. Anyways, if you want to share an OC cape, feel free to provide as much or as little detail as you want (name, power, alignment, backstory, whatever), but I reserve the right to nerf your character if it's too OP ;). Just leave it in the reviews or PM me.
Standard disclaimer: Worm belongs to Wildbow, and Dungeons and Dragons belong to Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro. I own nothing.