It took more than a couple of hours for Amber's program to complete. In fact, it was still running the next morning when Saleen flew out for patrol, and Amber decided that she needed to take Diana shopping for some clothes. Brittany was reluctant to come along-she was sore beyond belief, after all, and had already lent the amazon the jeans and t-shirt she was now wearing-but Amber somehow managed to convince her to come along. As usual.
Brittany made up for it by complaining every fifteen minutes or so once they got into the mall. She hated the crowds and the noise, and made her opinions very well known to the other two. Amber pretty much ignored her, dragging Diana from one store to the next and helping her select all sorts of clothing. Diana, too much in culture shock to say much on her own behalf, nearly ended up with more clothing than she could use, but Brittany noticed and stepped in, steering Amber away from the dresses and over towards the athletic clothing.
Diana spent ten minutes trying to understand how a little card that Amber did not even give away was somehow able to pay for the clothing, and finally gave up, still looking entirely confused. She perked up again, however, when Amber selected a restaurant with a Mediterranean theme, and ended up spending the entire time they were eating telling them about some ancient hero that Brittany had never heard of. Amber took a moment to check some sort of device that she had linked to her computer, but said that the program was still running. They still had time.
Brittany expected to be out of the mall within another couple of hours, but it ended up being four o'clock before they left, since Diana had discovered a pet shop with kittens that had kept her occupied far longer than either of the other two women had thought possible. Still, they eventually ended up making their way back toward the car, all three of them laden down with shopping bags and Diana talking nonstop about what sort of cat she wanted to own. Brittany dumped her own burden into the trunk and then collapsed into the back seat with a sigh of relief.
That relief turned to alarm as there was the sound of an explosion and several objects-including a car-suddenly flew overhead and crashed several rows over. Brittany twisted around in her seat to look out the back window. Diana had whirled around from where she had been getting into the front passenger's seat, and Amber was frozen at the driver's door, keys in hand as she stared.
Some sort of glowing tunnel in the air was fading away behind at least a dozen of the same armored creatures they had fought just the night before. Brittany's first thought was that it was cosmically unfair that she could not go twenty-four hours without having to deal with those idiots, and her second was regret that she had not thought to bring along her costume and weapons.
That latter issue did not seem to concern Diana. Before Brittany was halfway out of the car, the amazon was springing over several parked vehicles and charging headlong into the midst of the creatures, completely unarmed.
"Call Saleen!" Brittany shouted to Amber as she raced to get closer to the battle. Diana had pulled a staff from the hands of one of the soldiers and was proceeding to beat down two others with it. Another took aim at her with some sort of special gun-thing, and Brittany launched herself from the top of a van and crashed into him, knocking him over. Another charged her, and her muscles screamed in protest as she executed a flip that put her over his head and behind him, where a swift kick to the back of his neck sent him staggering into a car. Another soldier flew over her head, crashing into two of his fellows, and Diana followed, swinging that staff wildly. Brittany had to duck to avoid having her own head taken off, and then something grabbed her arm.
She spun around to find that one of the creatures had a tight hold on her, and was about to bring his weapon down on her head. A large jar of sauce lay on the ground within arm's reach, apparently dropped by a panicked shopper, and she snatched it up and hurled it into his eyes, where it shattered. He howled, dropping his weapon and clutching at his eyes. Brittany recovered his weapon, some kind of strange energy staff, and got him right under the ribs, where his armor was less-at least, it would be under the ribs for a human. He dropped, and she spun again to slam the end of the staff into another of the creatures.
Suddenly, the battle was over. Their opponents lay about, most still, some groaning slightly. Diana, grinning, dropped one on top of the others and hopped down from the car she had been standing on and clapped Brittany on the shoulder, nearly knocking her over.
"Well fought, my friend!" Her voice seemed to echo in the near-stillness following the fight. Brittany sighed. Some of the mall customers-those who had not already fled-began to poke their heads out of their hiding places. Brittany was suddenly aware that they were out in the open, right in public view; the last place she wanted to be. Sirens in the distance grew closer and louder.
A shrill whistle from Amber caused both women to turn; this time, it was Brittany who led the way running back to the car. Diana slid over the hood like an action star in one of those movies, and Brittany darted for the back seat, only to realize that she still had the staff in her hands.
"Keep it!" Amber said as she started the car, as if she could read Brittany's mind. Brittany, who had been about to drop the thing, rolled her eyes and attempted to maneuver it so that she would be able to close the door. Diana twisted around to help; between the two of them they got it angled enough that Brittany could tug the door shut and buckle in. Amber was already halfway out of the parking lot.
"We're heading back to the apartment now," she was saying. It took Brittany a moment to realize that she was on the phone. "Yeah. Brit's got one of their staffs, and I plan to have a look at it. I-"
Amber cut off as Brittany poked her and gestured at the road, mouthing, "You're driving!" She glanced up at her in the mirror and rolled her eyes, but said, "I'm going to have to let you go. I'll see you at the apartment."
Brittany sat back, elbowing some packages away so she would be more comfortable, and waited until Amber hung up before demanding, "What the hell was that back there?"