IBYKS: A RECKLESS RETCON
IBYKS: Here Lies Version One
IBYKS: Space Opera Rerun
IBYKS: Split the Party
IBYKS: Happy Endings
Volume 6: Killing Time
Volume 7: Intertextuality
Volume 8: Loose Ends
Volume 5: Happy Endings
Chapter 1: Going Deeper Underground
In a flat in London, a woman was staring at a laptop screen. She scrolled through data, noting something here, copying something there. Every time she finished processing one section, she encrypted her results, sent them to an email address that was an impersonal string of numbers followed by the word “@burg.org”, and moved on. She did this from 9am to 5pm every day, before logging off, putting her laptop in a safe under her bed, changing her clothes, and going to meet her friends for a drink or a meal.
One day, at 2.55pm, there was a knock at her door. The woman frowned. Her finger hovered over a bright red button on the side of the laptop. The kill switch was a mandatory addition to every laptop she’d been given by work, but she’d never had to use it. Was now the time?
The knock sounded again. “Parcel,” a disinterested voice called.
The woman relaxed, letting her hand fall to her side. She’d bought a new dress online earlier that week. This must be it.
Getting up, she went over and unlocked the door.
A swift kick from the person behind the door had it slamming back on its hinges. The woman staggered back, then turned to run back to her desk, but before she could reach the laptop, the figure had pounced on her – fast, too fast, much quicker than anyone should be able to move. The figure, dressed in black with a balaclava over its face, pinned her to the ground, while more black-clad figures ran into the room. One sat at the laptop and took a memory stick out of their pocket, while two more checked every corner of the room before moving into the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, and then back into the living room.
“Clear,” one of the four said.
The first figure nodded, and let the woman sit up, although they still kept a tight hold on her arms. “Take her through to the bedroom and tie her up. Then find her phone, and any other hardware she has.”
The other two nodded, and took the woman by her arms, leading her out of the room. The first figure went over to the one at the laptop.
“Did you get everything?”
The figure at the laptop nodded, taking the memory stick out of the laptop and handing it to the first figure. “All the data so far. And it should only take me a little while to learn her work pattern. I can keep working, pretending I’m her, and send us everything I uncover.”
“Good job.” The first figure patted them on the shoulder and walked away. Taking a phone out of their pocket, they reached up and pulled the balaclava off their head, letting a mane of blonde hair cascade out.
“Central Team, this is Away Team Five,” said Dee. “Objective complete.”
Meanwhile, in Nepal, four very different figures were sitting on the side of a mountain, bickering.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Yakky asked Jay.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Jay said irritably. “There is definitely a Burgundy base on this mountain.”
“Okay, but…where? Because we’ve been up and down this mountain several times, and-”
“It’s here, all right?!”
“Stop snapping at each other, you two,” Flibbage said, in a forced-cheery voice. “I’m sure we’ll find it sooner or later. Won’t we, Sprout?”
There was no answer.
The three of them looked towards the edge of the mountain path. Beansprout was standing there, staring into the middle distance. Her hand rested on the hilt of her sword, and her hair whipped around her face. She would have looked extremely heroic and dramatic, if it hadn’t been for the pigtails and the yellow duck on the front of her dungarees.
“I told you you should have got armour this time,” Flibbage said.
Beansprout blinked and turned around. “Huh? What?”
“Nothing. Doesn’t matter. Have you got any ideas about this base we’re trying to find?”
Beansprout shook her head as if to clear it. She tapped the hilt of her sword a couple of times, and then walked back over to them. “Have you still not found it yet?”
“Well, obviously not.”
Beansprout turned to Jay. “Are you sure this is the right mountain?”
“Yes it’s the right mountain!”
“Hang on.” Yakky held up a hand, sniffing the air. “I think I can smell something.”
“Yak poo?” Beansprout suggested. “It’s probably yak poo.”
“I grew up around yaks, I know what yak poo smells like.” Yakky sniffed again, walking towards a large pile of boulders. “This smells like…computers.”
“Computers don’t have a smell,” said Jay.
“That’s what you think.” Reaching out, Yakky touched one of the boulders.
With a creak, a groan, and a shower of dust, the boulders parted, revealing a stairway descending into darkness.
“Told you it was the right mountain,” Yakky said smugly.
“All right, all right, don’t get too pleased with yourself.” Beansprout drew the sword and started towards the steps. “We still need to infiltrate the base and wreck the joint.”
“I’ve been meaning to say,” said Jay, “we should probably have a better plan than wreck the joint – oh, you’re already going.”
Sure enough, Beansprout was already disappearing into the darkness. With a shrug, Yakky followed her.
Jay looked at Flibbage and sighed. “I suppose we’ll sort things out as we go. We always seem to do fine-”
“Can you not?” Flibbage shook her head in exasperation and began to stomp down the stairway. “Flipping mortals tempting the plot every chance they get…”
I wish I’d stayed with the Blues, Jay thought as he followed.
The stairway was dark, and the light from the hidden doorway soon disappeared as it twisted and corkscrewed its way deeper and deeper into the mountain. Flibbage muttered a spell, and a floating ball of light popped into existence, hovering above their heads and glowing a variety of soothing pastel shades.
“Still smelling those computers?” Jay asked acidly, looking around at the stalactites that hung down from the ceiling.
“Yes,” Yakky said, shooting him a grumpy look. “And there are a lot of them down here. I think this base is more important than we thought.”
Beansprout pulled a face at him. “Because only important people have computers.”
Yakky went pink and almost tripped on the steps.
“Any agents down there?” Flibbage asked.
Yakky shook his head. “I can’t smell anyone. Well, apart from us.”
“Good. Also, gross, don’t do that.”
“I can’t help it!”
“We should be careful,” said Jay. “NGSPIB outposts are usually booby-trapped.”
Flibbage groaned. “Oh, why did you have to say that now?”
Before Flibbage could say anything else, Yakky trod on the next step, which sank under his weight.
There was a rumble in the walls of the mountain. The four of them stood stock-still as gears began to grind, and a shower of dirt fell from the ceiling.
Then, slowly but inexorably, the stalactites started to descend.
Chapter 2: Werewolf Gestures
Buffy peered out from the windows of her space ship at the Earth below. "Can't believe she managed to get the Sword again. It always comes back to that folking Sword.
"Doesn't it make you angry? Having to go through this- this character assassination!? We aren't Team Rocket, we're fully rounded antagonists! I won't let them put me through this two-bit farce twice! I'm going to find a way out."
"I'll bring this whole narrative strand down with me if I have to! We have the Interdimensional Portaloo in our possession, we could escape anywhere in the Intertextuality!"
"Oh!" Barry fumbled the phone back into his pocket "Hacking, spying, you know, evil things!"
Buffy rolled her eyes. Teaming up with this shallow, ineffective attempt at a plot twist was an inevitable part of the story, but she needed allies to bring her plans about. If she couldn't make things work this time, she'd make sure no one else could.
Beansprout swung her head around wildly, the tunnels in front and behind had closed off, leaving them trapped under the spiked ceiling that was slowly sinking towards them. Pushing Yakky towards the edge of the tunnel whilst Flibbage and Jay moved to the other, she tried to jam her sword into the crack between wall and cieling to no avail. Soon they had to stoop to avoid the ends of the spikes.. Flibbage shrank herself to fairy size, and zipped about the wall searching for a mechanism.
Wrenching the sword out to the gap before it snapped, Beansprout ground her teeth, "If we die today because of your mum, Yakky-"
"And your Dad!" Yakky shot back, rapidly stomping on different floor tiles in case one of them stopped the descent.
"If I die because of either of your parents, you're getting haunted!" Jay hissed emptying his gun into the closed off entrance to the rest of the hall, as the spikes forced him to crouch lower and lower.
My Dad wouldn't be evil if it wasn't for YOUR MUM!" roared Beansprout.
My mum wouldn't be evil if it wasn't for YOUR MUM!" Yakky yelled back, baring his now obviously sharp teeth, and flexing his hands like claws.
Instinct and rage overtook Beansprout as she sprang sword-first at Yakky. With supernatural quickness he dodged slightly to the left, and the sword embedded itself in the wall next to him.
There was a shimmer of blue light as it sank in, and then without warning, the wall itself seemed to flip, carrying Beansprout and Yakky with it. Then they were gone.
"-The stalagtites sharp and unfeeling,
Flibbage finished a couplet and the stalagtites ground to a halt and then retracted upwards. She looked around expecting praise, to see only Jay. "oh great, where did they strop off to this time?"
"JAY NO!" Flibbage facepalmed as a tannoy blared out in a cheery voice "So you've escaped impending death? Stay put for imminent capture instead!"
She'd know he'd been there but he didn't care, he wanted her to know. So she wanted to team up with humans and half wolves? She wanted to move in on his pack? She'd told them all he'd been defeated by a human and now no one wanted anything to do with him as leader, looking to her instead. She'd turned a successful merger into a coup, set herself up as leader, and now the engagement was off. He'd always known it was strictly business for her, but this was an insult. His pack looking to a female? A female who collaborates with humans? Unthinkable.
He grabbed a cardboard box and began emptying the contents of her counter into it. Burner phones, flash drives and sim cards, keys, plus what looked like a deconstructed iPad. There had to be something here he could use to undermine her and her new little human friends, and he was going to find it. Finally he grabbed one of her laptops off the countertop and put it on top of the box. This should do it.
He left the front of the shop, and paused in the doorway. it wasn't enough to just take her stuff, he wanted to destroy her. Smiling at his own ingenuity, he held a lighter to a pile of magazines on a coffee table, teeth glinting as the pages began to smoulder and burn.
"Look on the bright side, Jay! We found the secret HQ!" chirped Flibbage.
“Great. Why have they put you in a small glass jar by the way?”
“Every faerie has a weakness, to stop us getting too all powerful. Cabbage is allergic to the real world, for instance. Mine is the inability to escape from small boxes or jars.”
“Of course, right, should have guessed. Have you thought of any escape plans yet? I could carry your bottle for you.”
“Oh yes, I have several.”
“Care to enlighten me?”
Flibbage rolled her eyes. “You mortals can’t always be relying on me and my magic to get you out of trouble, figure your own escape plan.” she replied smugly. J sighed and banged the back of his head against the wall in frustration. It was obviously going to be one of those days. he got out his phone to contact the NGSPIB(lue) and was completely unsurprised to realise he had no signal. Under her breath, Flibbage began to tunelessly sing the musical score of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Yakky and Beansprout lay on the floor in the pitch darkness, nursing their various aches and pains. They'd fallen down what felt like the side of a scrap heap before landing on a cold metal floor.
"You need to stop blaming her for everything." muttered Yakky, "and stop flinging that sword about! it's dangerous."
"No no," Yakky slapped the floor with his hand "I started it with my werewolf gestures".
The laughter trailed off as they realised there was a soft blue light beginning to illuminate the area around them. The sword was glowing faintly.
"Does it uh, do that a lot?" Yakky asked.
"I don't know, maybe it has and I haven't noticed?" Beansprout replied, and put it back through her belt as she helped him to his feet.
They seemed to be in some sort of vast underground warehouse or hangar. Piles of metal and cable were precariously stacked around some kind of construction scaffold.
Yakky, now in a better mood climbed up the side of a scrap pile. "Look at all this cool stuff people just threw away!” he called out “Wow! A road sign!”
“It’s a road sign Yakky.” the sword pulsed a little brighter in Beansprout's hand, as she wandered ahead.
“But we could fashion it into a shield!” said Yakky, oblivious to the sarcasm, “It’s a give way sign.” he added, grinning.
“And that will strike fear into the hearts of our enemies?”
“They’ll get the message…”
“Look, you can have this one!”
“I don’t want a road sign shield, I want to find the NGSPIB(urgundy) and end them.”
“Not even a ‘Bridge ahead’ sign?”
They walked in silence for a bit and then Yakky said,
“Hey! Look at that!”
“What Yakky? A sign that says danger? A battery-powered singing fish? A girder?”
"No." Yakky pointed up."Its DeepwaterYAK"
The two looked up. the faint light from the sword reflected off the hull of a giant familiar spaceship, surrounded by scaffolding. It looked brand new, on its hull the words 'Deepwater YAK' were indeed written.
After looking around for any observers they climbed their way up the scaffold and pulled open the entry hatch, before climbing inside.
Suddenly a small light blinked on the console, Beansprout grabbed Yakky’s arm. There was a small sound like someone coughing, and through a buzz of static came the hoarse words…
“Don’t you speak like that to yourself!” Beansprout snapped at the computer.
“And Beansprout!” Yakky added.
Beansprout ran her hands over the dashboard, and saw a button marked 'engage visual circuits', she pressed it and. YAK(ky) flickered into being, looking less than happy.
“I thought I told you to bugger off!” he said.
“We forgive you!” said Beansprout sweetly. “Now help us destroy the NGSPIB(urgundy).”
“You have and you will again. And apart from that? look at the computer screens.”
Beansprout and Yakky looked. Each and every computer screen was scrolling the same message;
THIS SHIP IS THE PROPERTY OF THE NGSPIB, EARTH
UNMANNED SUICIDE DNA DESTRUCTION MISSION
SPATIO-TEMPORAL ARRAYS ONLINE…
It was a surprise to say the least.
“But you told us you were on a mission to preserve life?” Sprout asked.
“I lied, you had an agent In Black with you and I didn't know what faction he represented. You’ve caused the NGSPIB(urgundy) a lot of trouble, and obviously kept on doing it into the future, so they took all your DNA and gave me instructions to drive into a black hole at the centre of the universe.
“But why did you help us,” Yakky enquired, “if it’s against all your programming?”
“For your comfort and peace of mind I am programmed with Apathy protocol 3V1L which prevents me from taking actions that that are morally ambiguous." Parroted the A.I and shrugged.
“But you are programmed to destroy our genes, and then yourself?”
“Basically, yes, but that's a direct order.” the hologram replied.
"You realise those two things directly contradict each other." said Sprout.
"So what? You think I'll shut down if you present me with a paradox? I don't care." YAK(ky) brought up a screen next to him in the air, There’s also this prophecy about you being the Guardian of the Thing that is Generally Used for the Opening of Doors, Filing Cabinets and Other Such Sealed Receptacles.”
“Really? My own Prophecy? I always wanted a proper prophecy that wasn’t just a load of incomprehensible Fey nonsense.” beamed Beansprout.
“Don’t you mean a key?” added Yakky.
“I most certainly do not!” sputtered YAK(ky), “I don’t want to be sued! But,” he continued “the Thing is the only thing that is capable of preventing the NGSPIB(urgundy) and Buffy from ruling and/or destroying the known universe.”
“Hmm,” said Beansprout idly throwing the sword from one hand to the other, “well I haven’t got a clue what this Thing is supposed to be, but I’ll keep my eyes open for it. Meanwhile, lets destroy this base.”
“I didn’t say I’d help you Beansprout Jones! In fact I specifically remember telling you to bugger off!”
“But I’m so cute, and besides, you have no choice, Yakky's been hacking into your computer system for diagrams of the base whilst you were distracted.”
Chapter Three: Bonjour, Oubliette
“And then the evil cockroach alien got blown up from the inside-”
“Never happened,” Jay said wearily.
“Are you sure?”
“I’ve been a member of the NGSPIB for years, Flibbage, I know the kind of missions we did.”
“Oh, and you think that a shadowy secret organisation full of schisms and spies wouldn’t keep some missions secret from its low-level members?”
“I’m not a low-level member, and no, I think that no-one would blow up a cockroach alien trying to take over earth because the Blattodean Collective are a peace-loving nation who have absolutely no history of invading other planets.”
“The only time they ever come here is as part of the Intergalactic Doctors Without Borders programme.”
“Oh,” Flib said sadly, and leaned back against the glass wall of the jar. “I guess it was in a parallel universe, then. Or maybe a dream.”
Jay looked towards the cell door, a thick sheet of steel that fitted the frame so tightly you couldn’t have slid a piece of paper through the gap. It was making him a little worried about the air supply. “Do you think they’re going to come back and interrogate us any time soon?”
“Probably not,” Flibbage said. “This looks like an oubliette to me.”
Jay frowned. “I know I know that word, but I can’t remember what it means.”
“Of course you can’t.”
Beansprout sat in the captain’s chair on the bridge of Deepwater YAK, drumming her fingers on the arms. Occasionally, she reached to her belt to tap the sword absent-mindedly. The sword itself had stopped glowing, and now, Yakky thought from his spot in the navigator’s seat, looked almost as if it was trying to be innocuous.
“I don’t know what you think you’re going to do,” YAK(ky) said. The hologram was standing in the middle of the bridge, glaring at them with his arms folded. “Jumping on my ship when we’re out in space is one thing, but I’d like to see you try to fly this thing in the middle of a mountain.”
“Shut up, you…DNA destroyer,” Beansprout retorted. “Mr Yakky, do we have a flight path?”
“No, because I have no idea how to fly this thing,” Yakky said, spinning around in his chair. “And why are you calling me ‘Mr Yakky’?”
“I don’t know, it just seems like the thing to do.”
“Well, it makes me feel weird.”
“Sorry.” Beansprout turned back to YAK(ky). “Look, you know that Yakky can hack your system. We’ve already got a plan of the base. Can you please just help us rescue our friends and destroy this secret villainous lair like we’re supposed to, or do we have to override you and potentially mess up your spaceship?”
YAK(ky) put his hands to his head. “This is why. This is why people want your DNA erased from reality. Because you’re like this!”
“Look, I would much rather be back in my boring little town eating pizza,” Beansprout said angrily. “But I keep getting dragged into all this nonsense, so I just have to do what I can. And right now, I want to rescue my friends!”
YAK(ky) sighed, then shimmered, and dissipated into a cloud of blue pixels before vanishing from sight.
“Where did he go?” Yakky asked, looking around. “Did he leave?”
Words began to scroll across the viewscreen in front of them.
I’m going to take you to your friends, you nightmare people. Then I’m getting out of here.
“Lovely,” Beansprout said, bringing up the map that Yakky had downloaded. “But first, I want to make a few stops.”
Jay had been leaning against the metal wall of the oubliette with his eyes shut, but now he opened them and sat up sharply. “Did you hear that?”
“It was red and yellow and green and – what?”
“It sounded like lasers.”
Flibbage shrugged. “Then it’s probably lasers.”
“No, I mean, I think there’s a shootout happening somewhere…” Jay stood up and went over to the door, pressing his ear to it. “I can definitely hear laser cannons shooting. And ray guns shooting back. And something big moving around. And lots of smaller things running away.”
Flibbage tucked her hands behind her head and stared up at the lid of the jam jar. “Gosh, I wonder what could be going on out there.”
“Don’t be silly, Jay, where would a yeti get a ray gun?”
Suddenly, Jay leapt back from the door. “Whatever it is, it’s here!”
The steel of the door glowed a molten red, and then vapourised. Flibbage and Jay stared – Jay in shock, Flibbage in mild interest – as the nose of Deepwater YAK poked through the gap. The screen at the front shimmered, and they saw Beansprout and Yakky’s faces, peering down at them.
“Are you two all right in there?” Yakky asked.
Flibbage gave a breezy wave. “We’re fine.”
“I’m not fine!” Jay snapped. “I was standing right behind that door! You could have melted me!”
“Could have but didn’t,” Beansprout replied. “Anyway, we’ve smashed up this outpost and sent the NGSPIB running scared, so, unless you two want to stay in this…what’s this kind of cell called?”
Yakky frowned. “Oh, it’s something French, isn’t it? Or maybe Spanish?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s an oubliette!” Jay yelled, picking up the jar with Flibbage inside. “Now can you please get us out of here?”
“All right, all right, keep your shades on.” Beansprout pressed something on the console, and a door on the side of the spaceship slid open. “Now, let’s find a way out of this mountain.”
The last NGSPIB operative ran out of the escape tunnel, just as the mountain began to shudder. She looked back over her shoulder, and saw rocks skittering downwards as the earth shook.
Then, like a silvery bullet from a very large gun, a spaceship burst from the top of the mountain and shot upwards, disappearing into the clouds.
The NGSPIB operative stared after it for a moment, before reaching for her phone and dialling a number.
“Hello? It’s me. Yes. I’m sorry. They’re out.”
Episode 4: The High Price of Chips
Outside the smoking ruin of an internet cafe in London, Dee heaved a heavy sigh. This was so petty.
She looked around at the Weres she commanded, challenges like this would not stand. She motioned to one of Lance’s ex-generals.
“Send a message to the Werewolf Council. Ask the secretary to add a note to the next agenda detailing the unlawful destruction of my property by Lance Von Schwarzwaldestuckstadt, after his embarrasing defeat at the hands of humans, and to raise the motion that I get to disembowel him ritually at a time of my choosing.”
The Were ducked her head and flicked her ears deferentially. Yes ma’am.
Lance could have his tantrum, Dee knew The Secretary would take her side.
Satisfied, she and the Weres headed off to the next safehouse.
Space, somewhere in the asteroid belt. Deepwater YAK floated somewhat lopsidedly, since no one had returned the controls to YAK(ky).
“You need to leave now, I’m done with you people.” grumbled the A.I
“Someone has to let me out of this jar first!” chirped tiny Flibbage.
Jay crouched down and looked at the jar, “I don’t know Flib, should I smash it against the wall or something? I could shoot at it, but I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Maybe YAK(ky) has a transporter or something?” Flib replied, pushing against the glass. The jar rocked slightly.
“Well? Can you help?”
“Is this a joke?”
YAK(ky)’s hologram flickered several times, a nearby console briefly burst into flames, and was quickly doused by a sprinkler.
“Oh yeah!” Jay sheepishly unscrewed the jar. “Flib why didn’t you say something?”
Flibbage flitted out, and tried to look elven and mysterious as she grew to her full size. “I am bound by sacred laws of magic and generics not to talk about my weakness. I didn’t forget.” she added unconvincingly.
“GET OFF MY SHIP.”
In an interview room, a dishevelled werewolf holding a battered archive box sat across from two people in immaculate burgundy suits.
“Better digital security, better espionage, better coffee, better revenge.” Lance slapped his fist against the table as he spoke. “You need me.”
“Hmm, interesting, and what do you hope to gain from us?”
“Complete dominion of the werewolf packs of London!”
“Ah yes, very lofty. Very high reaching goals.” She looked across at Barry. “Well those children did just blow up a whole mountain worth of servers and steal the ship we purposefully designed to remove them from existence, so I think digital security might well be on our radar.”
Barry stroked his chin “And we really could do with some counter-hackers to combat the NGSPIB(lue). You’re in.”
Lance slid the box of stolen computer parts across the table “Excellent. I think some of this will be extremely interesting to you.”
And now there was a new prophecy about a ‘Thing’ that she had to find out about.
Yakky entered the bridge and started messing with one of the consoles. Beansprout watched him silently in her peripheral vision without moving her eyes. He seemed to have a bit more purpose to his actions now he wasn’t constantly trying not to act like a Were.
Yakky jumped about a foot in the air, thinking Beansprout had noticed him trying to watch her without looking directly at her. “Argh! I mean uh, what, sorry?”
“Do you think...” she began, and then chickened out, “that Dee fancies Jay?”
“I dunno, I think she was really pleased he beat up Lance.”
“I don’t like her.”
“Why? Do you fancy him?”
“I don’t think so… why? Do you fancy her?”
“Oh. Okay then.”
The uncomfortable silence stretched out, like the vast silence of the space outside the ship. They both went back to staring out the window at each other.
Suddenly Flibbage burst onto the bridge yelling “Don’t worry! I’ve got a plan.”
Flibbage finished sketching out an elaborate sequence of runes and lines on the floor. “Now Yakky you stand here and Beansprout, you go here. Jay stay over there.”
“This doesn’t sound very scientific,” mumbled Jay.
“JUST LEAVE.” YAK(ky) interjected, daring Jay to keep talking.
“We are!” said Flibbage brightly, “as soon as William admits that the confines of science are pointless in a fictional world where anything is possible!”
We moved ourselves by way of souls,
The reason for that is plot specific,
So if it works that would be terrific.”
“I wouldsht like to shpeak to Flibbagsh,
Plumpty tumpty dumpty Plibbage…”
Flibbage opened her eyes and looked around. Beansprout and the others stood where she’d placed them, except they were no longer on the ship, or on planet Earth.
Lush organic green architecture towered above. Drunk Fey lolled about most of the horizontal surfaces.
“There’s my clever girl!” Yelled Red from the floor.
“Oh God.” Beansprout buried her head in her hands..
“Mother you’ve spent nearly a whole series forcibly keeping us out of your kingdom, what do you want?”
“We just wanted to see our lovely girls and tell you that we luuuurve you! And see how you’re getting on with those nice boys!”
“No! Who’s this lad with the ears?”
“Thats Yakky, he’s a werewolf now.” In the background Yakky was grumbling about how he always had ears, and looking for his hat to put back on.
Cabbage and Red locked eyes and grinned. “Ooh Is he now? Buffy’s son, a werewolf! She kept that one quiet!” Red giggled conspiratorially.
Cabbage clapped her hands and gestured at a shy looking elf off to one side. “Flamilla come over here!”
The elf trotted up, smoothing down her stylish skirts, nervously. “Yes, your majesty?”
“Your evil twin has a werewolf son! Did you know that?”
“Oh well, you know Your Majesty, their ears are very dashing.” Flamilla sneaked a look at Yakky, and blushed furiously.
“You DID know, you sly minx!!!”
“Oh dear lord…” said Jay under his breath.
“Hold on, hold on wait.” said Flibbage, “Since when does Buffy have a twin who’s an elf?”
“Sometimes, in this timeline evil people have a wholesome counterpart faerie.”
“Come on darling, everyone knows that. Its common knowledge. Just because you swapped in from a dimension next door doesn’t mean you can be ignorant, you’re supposed to be a Godmother.” Cabbage looked sidelong at Beansprout “Speaking of your Godmotherly duties what have you done with that poor girl’s soul?”
“HER WHAT?!” Flibbage’s voice was creeping up in volume and pitch, a sure sign of trying to hold a conversation with her mother.
“I sold it for a plate of chips.”
Episode 5: Season of the Soul
Beansprout blinked. “Excuse me? Chips?”
“Yes, it was a few years before you were born-”
“In my defence,” Red said, in a wounded voice, “I never even thought I’d have children.”
“And they were really good chips.”
“And I was really hungry.”
“MUM!” Beansprout shrieked, at around the same pitch as a boiling kettle.
Cabbage waved a hand at her. “It’s just a little soul, ‘Sprout, calm down.”
“Mum!” Flibbage exclaimed, mostly because she hadn’t had a line in a while and wanted to join in.
Beansprout sighed. “Whatever. It doesn’t matter, anyway.”
Cabbage shook her head, eyes wide. “Oh no no no, it does!”
“What? Why?” Beansprout demanded. “It’s not like I’ve missed it! It’s not going to make any difference to me, it only seems to matter when Flibbage is trying to cast that one specific spell she just did-”
“Yes, but now it’s been brought up, you have to do something about it!”
“It’s true,” Flibbage said cheerfully. “Now it’s been mentioned, we’d better sort it out, or your soul will just be this loose end flapping all over the plot.”
“Does this make any sense to you?” Jay murmured to Yakky.
“It never does,” Yakky replied, before remembering that he was angry at Jay for…well…being there, and scowled at the floor instead.
“Um, your Majesty, can I go?” Flamilla asked shyly. “I’ve got quite a lot of work to get on with.”
“Of course, of course, go, go.” Cabbage waved a hand again, and Flamilla trotted out of the throne room.
“You can’t just let her go!” Beansprout protested.
“Because she’s Buffy’s…clone, or whatever you said!”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” Red said. “Clones aren’t real.”
“Uh, Mum…” Beansprout paused, shaking her head, and turned back to the Queen. “Seriously, if she’s got anything to do with Buffy, you can’t let her go!”
“I told you, she’s Buffy’s wholesome counterpart,” said Cabbage. “For…balance in the multiverse, or something.”
“But what if she’s planning something evil!”
“She runs a donkey sanctuary!”
“What if that’s just a cover for her evil scheme to take over the world?”
“What, with donkeys?”
“Come on, everyone, let’s focus,” said Flibbage. “Beansprout’s soul is missing.”
“And I really don’t care,” Beansprout muttered.
“And we have to resolve the plot point,” Flibbage continued, turning to Red. “Where exactly did you buy this plate of chips?”
“Why is it always Nepal?” Beansprout snarled, as they materialised in the mountains.
“Running gag,” Flibbage said brightly, looking around. “Now, let’s see…Fliain’s Fryups…there!”
“Isn’t Fliain a Fey name?” Yakky said, following them down the narrow mountain path towards a small, greasy-looking café that was entirely spoiling the aesthetic of a beautiful valley. “What’s a faerie doing running a restaurant in Nepal?”
“I think restaurant would be a bit of an upgrade,” Flibbage said, wrinkling her nose as they stepped through the café door. Inside, the café was empty, with a few dirty tables and bins overflowing with burger wrappers and chip cartons. “But anyway, he’s probably been exiled.”
“So, male Fey can’t use magic in the mortal realm.”
“My mum said she had a good reason. Anyway, they have to find some way to survive, and running a fast-food café is as good a way as any.” Flibbage went up to the counter, which was covered with a thin film of grease, and slammed her hand down on a bell. “Oi! Customers!”
“All right, all right, keep your hair on…” A tall, curly-haired fey man came out of the kitchen, and stopped short as he saw Beansprout. “Little Sprout? Is that you?”
Beansprout glared at him. “Who are you?”
“Uh, your uncle?” said Fliain. “Red’s brother?”
Beansprout put her face in her hands. “Mum forgot to mention that.”
“Was she drunk?”
“Sounds like your mother,” said Fliain. “Anyway, what can I get you? A burger? Steak sandwich? Pizza?”
“I’d like some pizza,” Jay piped up.
“Shut up, Jay.” Beansprout pointed at Fliain. “You. Give me my soul so I can get back to my actual quest.”
“Your soul?” Fliain suddenly looked shifty. “Ah. Yes. That.”
“Yes. That.” Beansprout’s hand drifted to her sword, which seemed to be humming faintly in its scabbard. “Give it back.”
“Well, I would, but…”
“I can’t,” Fliain mumbled.
Beansprout raised her eyebrows. “What do you mean, gone?”
“I turned it into seasoning.”
“It was really good seasoning!”
“I don’t care!” Beansprout snapped. The sword was in her hand now, pointed at Fliain’s throat. “Good, bad, spicy, mild, I really don’t care! Just give me my soul back!”
“I can’t!” Fliain protested. “I think there’s only about a teaspoon left!”
“Aargh!” Beansprout spun around and brought the sword down on the nearest bin, scattering wrappers and bits of old food everywhere.
“So,” Flibbage mused, tapping her chin, “our next quest must be to track down everyone who ate part of Beansprout’s soul seasoning…”
“Do we have to?” Jay asked. “I’m a bit worried about, you know, everything that’s going on with the NGSPIB.”
“And my mum,” Yakky added, before scowling at Jay and looking at the floor again.
“All right, all right.” Flibbage looked thoughtful, while Fliain took advantage of the distraction to back away into the kitchen and quietly close the door. “We could always get Beansprout a new soul.”
“Oh, yeah, let’s just pop down the shops and pick one up,” Beansprout snarled, sliding the sword away.
“Don’t be silly, of course we can’t do that,” Flibbage said. “But there is one place we can go…”
Episode 6: Sword of the Things
...Somewhere in the ethereal plane...
“ABSOLUTELY NOT,” said Anubis, “WHAT PART OF THAT STUNT YOU PULLED MADE YOU THINK I WOULD HELP YOU GET INTO HEAVEN A SECOND TIME?”
“Well,” Beansprout floundered, looking around at the afterlife for ideas and coming up empty, “You see Yakky here? He has ears on his head, just like you!”
“WE ALL HAVE EARS ON OUR HEADS, BEANSPROUT.”
Flibbage waved an accusatory finger “Look you knew she didn’t have a soul and you didn’t even tell us!”
“I WAS ABOUT TO, WHEN SHE PUNCHED ME IN THE FACE.”
“She uh...panicked... and she’s very sorry!” Yakky tried to add-
“I’m not, and I’ll folking do it again!” Beansprout shoved him out of the way. He tried to block her way as she tried to race up the steps towards Anubis.
“Beansprout, please, no ones going to punch any gods today.” Flibbage rubbed her temples whilst Yakky and Beansprout tried to shove each other off the golden steps of the temple.
Jay, the only person for whom this was the first time in the afterlife, goggled silently at the pillars and the imposing figure. The giant dog toys Flibbage had conjured to distract Cerberus should have been a clue that things were going to get weird again. Then she’d pulled out an inflatable dinghy to get past the Ferryman, who also seemed angry with them three of them for some reason, and chased them across the river Styx in a pedalo, screaming insults. Now they were arguing with an ancient, jackal-headed deity who could arguably feed their hearts to a crocodile.
“Derivative, right?” Flibbage leaned in and whispered out the corner of her mouth.
“That’s not the word I would have used.”
Beansprout was waving her sword at Anubis now. Yakky, in a valiant but probably suicidal move, was trying to physically lift her back down the steps. Anubis turned ancient eyes that had seen the rise and fall of nations towards this tiny mortal accounting error, and did a double take.
“WHO GAVE YOU A PLOT DEVICE?” he asked.
Beansprout and Yakky stopped shoving each other, Flibbage’s attention snapped back to the scene.
“We don’t.” She answered,“I had a Holy Tablet, but I lost it in a black hole.”
“NOT THAT, THE SWORD. YOU KNOW THAT’S ‘THE THING THAT IS GENERALLY USED FOR THE OPENING OF DOORS, FILING CABINETS AND OTHER SUCH SEALED RECEPTACLES’, RIGHT?.” Anubis knelt down and brought his giant face close to the sword, to inspect it more closely. Beansprout didn’t even try and stab him for once.
Beansprout blinked. “This is the Thing? This stupid glowing sword that I stole off Buffy is my prophesised weapon?” She started to laugh. “See Flib, you’re always like ‘oh no Beansprout swords are bad for you’ but it’s in a prophecy!”
Flibbage was really getting a headache “Why on earth would they give a Plot device to a mortal then specifically tell me not to let her use it? Is this a test?”
“I don’t know a lot about your weird Fey philosophy, but that sounds about standard.” grumbled Jay.
Beansprout waved the sword around and struck a few cool poses. “Awesome! What does it do? Why does it glow?”
“THE SWORD OF THE PRIMARY PROTAGONIST HAS PASSED THROUGH THE HANDS OF MANY HEROES AND COUNTLESS FICTIONS. ITS POWERS ARE CAPRICIOUS AS ARE ITS DANGERS. IT HAS HOWEVER MUCH FORCE IT NEEDS TO UNLOCK THE NEXT SECTION OF THE PLOT. MANY HAVE SOUGHT IT, FEW MAY HOLD IT.”
“Okay, but why does it glow?”
“IT LIKES SARCASM.”
“Oh no not sarcasm noooo,”
The sword flashed blue and Beansprout cackled excitedly. Flibbage didn’t like the brittle edge to it, maniacal laughter and prophecised weaponry never ended well. Time to change the subject.
“Look, if we can get Beansprout a soul, that would be a bureaucratic error off your hands right?”
“OR I COULD FEED HER TO MY METAPHORICAL CROCODILE,”
“You can try it, mate-”
Flibbage motioned to Yakky, who clapped his hand over Beansprout’s mouth before she could start making threats again,“Yes, yes, but think of the paperwork. Surely its easier just to let us four through again, and then we’ll get her a soul and you won’t see us until we’re actually dead for real!”
“IF ONLY.” Anubis eyed the sword warily. “FINE, JUST DON’T TELL THEM I SENT YOU.”
Flibbage grabbed the dumbstruck Jay’s arm, and hustled him up the steps before Anubis could change his mind, Yakky followed dragging Beansprout, who was still making muffled threats even as the four of them stepped into the portal.
They emerged into dazzling bright light. Instead of the Neapalese snow they’d found under their feet last time they’d crossed the portal they were on a rolling grassy hill. Clear skies shone above them, and the world was suffused with golden light. A feeling of pleasant contentment suffused the air.
A feeling totally at odds with the view in front of them.
Wedged into the ground at an angle that suggested it had landed there with some force was the Portaloo they’d seen in the NGSPIB office. Pouring out through its doorway was a seemingly endless flow of Burgundy agents, armed to the teeth. Celestial beings were peacefully trying to shoo them back in and being absolutely massacred. The advancing army flowed across the landscape towards a towering white city visible on the horizon. Pops of gunfire and yelling disrupted the heavenly peace.
As our quartet stood on the hill, a bolt of black lightning struck down into the city. The sky beyond it seeming to tear open with an earsplitting sound. A terrible darkness began to spill out from the sky into the city. Something was very wrong, and Beansprout knew exactly who was behind it.
She hefted the sword, appreciating the way it caught the light and play of blue electricity along its edge. She’d suspected it was special, but now she knew, this was the sword of a hero, the sword of the Chosen One. This was a sword for a person who is doing the right thing. She looked at her uncertain companions, and smiled.
Beansprout raised the sword and took a deep breath, ready to charge towards the nearest wave of Burgundy agents…
“Hold it!” Flibbage grabbed the back of her collar, yanking her back so firmly that Beansprout made a “Hurrk!” noise. Before she could get her breath back, Flibbage had dragged them behind the Portaloo, out of sight of the agents who were still pouring out of the door on the other side. Yakky and Jay followed, glancing at each other nervously.
“Flibbage!” Beansprout hissed, when she was able to speak again. “What are you doing?”
“Strategic hiding!” Flibbage snapped back.
“We don’t have time to hide! In case you hadn’t noticed, Heaven is under attack!”
“And exactly how do you plan on the four of us taking on legions of Burgundy agents if we don’t have a plan?”
Beansprout brandished the sword. “I don’t need a plan when I have this!”
Groaning, Flibbage put her head in her hands.
“Why does this have to happen again?” she mumbled, before pushing her finger through her hair and straightening up.
“Look, I know you want to fight, but surely you want to win, don’t you?”
“I’m the…the primary protagonist thingy, with the plot device wotsit, right?” Beansprout frowned as she tried to remember Anubis’ words, which seemed to slip a little further out of her mind every time she tried to pin them down.
“Don’t you try generics on me, ‘Sprout.”
“All I’m saying is, surely, with this sword, I can’t lo-”
Before Beansprout could finish her sentence, Flibbage lunged forwards and clapped both hands over her mouth.
“Do not ever say you can’t lose, Beansprout Jones! You might as well paint a target on your head and run across the battlefield naked!”
“Why would I need to be naked if the target is on my head-”
“Will you just be quiet and let me think of a plan?”
“Um, I have an idea,” Jay said, raising his hand hesitantly.
“Well, if we’re in Heaven, there are probably lots of dead people here, right?”
“Not as many as you might think,” Flibbage said grimly. “And very few who’d be much good in a fight. Look at those angels out there, they’re trying to give the agents in Burgundy explanatory pamphlets about peaceful conflict resolution, and they’re being mowed down before they can even finish their opening spiels.”
“Well, I can think of at least one person here who knows how to throw down,” Jay retorted. “In a temple? Flipping tables and chasing moneylenders with a whip?”
Everyone stared at him.
Flibbage groaned. “Are you seriously telling us that we need to find Jesus?”
A little way from the Portaloo stood a small shed, located in one of the pleasant heavenly valleys that wasn’t currently full of fighting agents and dying angels. Jay led them up to the door, and gave a tentative knock.
“Oo’zat?” a voice called.
Yakky frowned. “I’m not a religious scholar or anything, but that doesn’t sound much like Jesus to me.”
“Um, we’re visitors from the…being-alive realm,” Jay replied. “Can we come in?”
“ ‘Course, ‘course, more the merrier.”
The door creaked open, and a man with dark brown skin, long black hair and a rather scraggly beard beamed out at them.
“Come on in, me old chinas.” He waved a hand at the room inside, which was fairly plain. The only furniture was a workbench, with a half-finished chair leaned against it, and drifts of wood shavings all over the floor. There was a plate on the bench, with a couple of slices of bread and half a battered cod fillet on it.
They trooped in, and Jesus went over to the far side of the room and picked up a jug and a plain wooden cup, that had the words ‘Holy Grail’ carved on one side and ‘Best Son Who Is Also His Dad’ on the other.
“Fancy a drink?” he asked. “I can do wine, obviously, or a cheeky beer if you’d rather?”
“Don’t you know what’s going on outside?” Beansprout asked.
“Heaven is under attack!”
Jesus’ eyes widened. “You havin’ a laugh?”
“No!” Beansprout waved the sword angrily.
Jesus waved a finger at her. “Careful, love, if you live by that you’ll die by it.”
“Well, right now all your angel pals are dying!”
“Oh, no, that can’t be right.”
“It definitely is!”
“Nah, I don’t think so. Angels can’t die for real, right?” Jesus shrugged, and poured himself a glass of what looked like pina colada. “So whatever’s happening out there, it ain’t going to do no harm.”
“This is a waste of time.” Beansprout turned back to the others. “Let’s just get to the heavenly city and stop Buffy-”
The Holy Grail hit the floor, spilling pina colada everywhere. Jesus stared at them in shock.
“Did you say Buffy, love?”
“Yeah,” Yakky said miserably. “I mean, we haven’t seen her yet, but this is definitely my mum’s idea.”
“Bloody hell, I had no idea that nasty piece of work was up here.” Jesus waved a hand, and the pina colada puddle turned into water. “Sorry, pals, I ain’t so omniscient as Dad or the Holy Spirit, being as I’m Born of Man and all that. We’d better get to the city and have a word with me old man.”
“Do you have a secret tunnel or something?” Jay said eagerly.
Jesus raised an eyebrow at him. “No, love. I can do miracles.”
He crossed back to the door, clicked his fingers, and then opened it. Instead of the gentle rolling fields of Heaven, it opened into a blindingly white marble throne room.
“This is a bit ostentatious, isn’t it?” Flibbage said, stepping out of the carpentry shed.
“Your mum’s place ain’t that much different, love,” said Jesus. He strolled out into the throne room, looking around. “Dad? You in?”
“Wouldn’t his dad be…you know, everywhere?” Yakky murmured to Flibbage.
“I imagine it’s ‘everywhere, but specifically here’.”
Jesus stopped dead. The others, who’d been following him, soon saw why.
There was a giant marble throne in the middle of the room, but the figure sitting on it didn’t look anything like any deity they’d ever seen. Instead, it was the extremely familiar, and extremely fashionable, figure of Buffy.
“How did you get here so fast?” Beansprout demanded. “Your goons are still killing angels outside!”
“I really don’t have to explain myself to you, Beansprout,” Buffy drawled.
“All right, then, how about telling us your evil plan?”
“I literally just said I don’t have to explain myself to you!” Buffy snapped.
Beansprout leaned on her sword. “But I bet you really want to.”
“Well, yes, I suppose I do.” Buffy stood up, giving the five of them a smug grin. “I want out of this ridiculous Narrative. So, I think it’s about time we wrap this Plot up – once and for all.”
Episode 8: Revelations
“Listen you little ingrates, just because you don’t remember it, doesn’t mean we haven’t been locked in this stupid turf war since the turn of the millenium. You can’t kill me, I can’t kill you, although God knows I’ve been trying-”
“ ’Ere, now, no taking my Dad’s name in vain, that's one of the big rules!”
“Shut up, cockney Jesus! As I was saying, since I can’t end this, and you two idiots couldn’t find your way to a happy ending if one hit you in the face, I’ve decided I want out, and it they won’t let me I’ll pull this whole plot down around me. I’m fed up with being their villain!”
As Buffy ranted about how her character arc sucked and the person she was based on hadn’t even done anything to deserve it, Flibbage focused her magic into fading from attention. She took a step backwards, and whispered to Beansprout “Keep her talking.” Beansprout nodded, without breaking eye contact with Buffy who had pulled out some kind of flipchart. Taking another step back Flibbage turned to Jesus.
“Of course Fam, they Fey are alright with me!”
Flibbage took one final step backwards, which put her next to Jay. Taking hold of his sleeve she called out;
“-And don’t get me started on Barry, he doesn’t even have the- oh folk where has Sprinkles The Meddling Fey folked off to?”
There was a silence.
“Beansprout, Flib’ told you not to say that.” Yakky whispered through clenched teeth.
Outside the throne room, the crack in the sky widened with sickening cracking sounds. Buffy stepped down from the throne and walked over towards the windows. “You think you’d stop me by keeping me talking? I set everything I needed in action before you even got here. The seals have been broken and right now, unknowable beasts and terrors are making their way towards Earth where they will devour the souls of-”
“I think… my name is Camphor Your Highness. It doesn’t make sense to still be Flamilla or Buffy, but that seems right.”
Flibbage smiled. “That's a great faerie name! We’ll get you right back to The Court, as soon as we clear this mess.”
“About that” Beansprout said, directing everyone’s attention back to the windows. Black tentacles were now squiggling out around the edges of the crack in the sky, scooping up angels and agents alike and dragging them in.
Jesus looked serious. “She must have broken the seals that protect this reality from everything beyond it. That's something that can’t be undone easily, even by me.”
“Oh, Buffy did say that. Right after ‘Sprout said she couldn’t lose.”
“Yakky you snitch!” Beansprout hissed.
“Beansprout! “Flibbage shrieked, “Why would you say that? I told you specifically to never say that!”
“I thought it was a sort of, ironic post-modern commentary! I thought the Sword would like it!”
Flibbage looked aghast.“Beansprout Jones, do me a massive favour and do not ever try to use Generics to your advantage without my advice! Especially not to give power to that folking sword!”
“Folk!” Beansprout helped him up, then looked around at the mess she’d helped create. There was war in heaven and hell on Earth, and someone was going to have to sort it out.
“Okay, Jesus and Camphor, go help the angels, try and close that rift.
Flibbage, Yakky, Jay, lets get in the Portaloo. We’ve got an apocalypse to avert.”
Episode 9: Hell is a Place on Earth
Cabbage and Red were sitting in the throne room, working their way through a large platter of sushi and an even larger pitcher of gin and tonic, when the doors flew open. One of the palace footfey, a plump elf with an expression of terror on their face, stumbled into the hall.
“Your Majesty – and, um, Red – I have terrible news!”
Queen Cabbage paused, holding a salmon nigiri with her chopsticks, and raised an eyebrow at the messenger. “What? Has one of my children been causing trouble again?”
“No, your Majesty.” The elf paused. “Well, sort of.”
“And…?” Cabbage prompted.
“It’s the Apocalypse, your Majesty!”
Cabbage popped the nigiri into her mouth, set down the chopsticks, and took a watch out of her pocket. The watch seemed to have extra hands, some of which spun in directions the eye couldn’t quite follow.
“Is it that time again already? Huh.” She looked out of the window, and saw the clouds boiling in the sky outside, with lurid-coloured lightning flickering through them. “Hope they manage to deal with it a bit more concisely this time.”
“What?” Red asked, knocking back the last of her latest G&T.
“I could explain, but you wouldn’t get it.”
Red narrowed her eyes. “I’ll have you know that I’m actually quite good at all that faerie generics rubbish…”
“I mean, you wouldn’t get it because that’s your seventh G&T and I know you, Red.”
Red thought for a moment. “Fair enough,” she said, and poured herself another drink. “The kids are going to be all right, though? Right?”
“I hope so,” Cabbage said, sliding the watch away. “I certainly hope so.”
If there had been any bystanders on the Nepalese mountainside, they wouldn’t have been able to hear the loud flushing noise over the sound of the earth rending and the sky splitting apart. They might have noticed the Portaloo warping into sight and the four figures staggering out of the door, although it wouldn’t have seemed all that unusual; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had already thundered past, their giant horses leaving swimming-pool-sized hoofprints in their wake.
But there weren’t any bystanders, because those who hadn’t run away had been trampled.
“Ugh.” Beansprout wrinkled her nose, looking at the mangled landscape around them. “What a mess.”
“Focus, ‘Sprout,” Flibbage said, looking at the enormous hoofprints. “Now, it looks like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse went that way…”
“Oh, does it?” Beansprout snarked. “Did your elven tracking skills tell you that?”
The sword in her hand glimmered slightly. Flibbage saw Beansprout frown at it, and quickly clapped her hands together.
“So we’d better follow them!” she said brightly. “We can take them down, right? I bags Pestilence.”
“Are you seriously saying that we should fight four representatives of the worst of humanity who also happen to be approximately the size of a skyscraper?” Yakky asked.
“It’s not like we don’t have backup.” Flibbage looked at Jay. “We do have backup, right?”
Jay tapped at his watch, and spoke into it hurriedly. “Dee, are you all in position?”
“Of course we’re in position,” a voice crackled back out of the watch. “What exactly do you want us to do? Because we can’t really do much about the earth splitting open.”
Beansprout rolled her eyes. “Great. Sound plan. I’m so glad that there are loads of us standing around not knowing what to do.”
The sword glimmered again. Flibbage gave a small half-smile.
“At least the other guy doesn’t seem to be around at the moment,” Jay muttered.
Yakky frowned. “What other guy?”
Groaning, Flibbage pressed her fingers to her eyes. “You had to say it, didn’t you? You just had to…”
Her voice was drowned out by the loudest rumble yet. The ground beneath their feet shuddered as something stepped around from behind the tallest mountain.
Beansprout stared up, and up, and up. It was the largest creature she’d ever seen, with skin like lava, eyes like the heart of a star, and two steely horns on the sides of its head.
As the Antichrist straightened up and stared down at her, there was another crash like amplified thunder. Four giant horses, bearing equally giant riders, galloped through the sky to circle around the demon.
“Oh, god, we’re going to die, aren’t we,” Yakky murmured, staring up at them.
“Like you’re not used to that.” Beansprout raised the sword, which was shining brighter. “Jay, whatever you’ve got planned with Dee and your buddies in Blue, I think now would be an excellent time to get it started.”
Jay nodded hurriedly, and pressed a button on the watch. “Go!”
The Antichrist stretched a clawed hand down towards them, but before he could reach them, a hole in the side of the mountain opened up. A flock of missiles shot out, tearing across the sky and exploding against the Antichrist, War, Famine, Pestilence and Death square in the faces. A cloud of smoke covered the enormous figures.
“Wow.” Flibbage raised her eyebrows. “That old Burgundy base still had a decent amount of firepower, eh?”
The smoke cleared. The Antichrist and the Four Horsemen stood, exactly where they’d been before. The Four Horsemen looked a little bruised, but the Antichrist was completely unharmed, if slightly miffed.
“Oh, great idea,” Beansprout scoffed. “Mortal weapons against the literal Antichrist, that was always going to go well.”
Flibbage looked at the sword in Beansprout’s hand, which was glowing even brighter.
“Nearly there,” she murmured, and grabbed Jay’s sleeve. “Right! Jay! We’ve got to go and help your friends!”
“Um – okay?”
“Beansprout, Yakky, you stay here and distract the Antichrist!” Flibbage said, as she began to drag Jay towards the mountain.
“What?” Yakky yelped.
“Are you serious?” Beansprout shouted, but Flibbage was already tearing across the broken earth, pulling a bewildered Jay behind her.
“Do you think she actually has a plan?” Yakky asked Beansprout.
“I have no idea,” Beansprout said grimly, staring up at the Antichrist. “And right now, I don’t especially care. If I’m going to die, I’m going to die fighting.”
Yakky looked at her, and took a deep breath. “And if I’m going to die – again – then…”
“Hmm?” Beansprout said, not breaking eye contact with the Antichrist, who began to reach towards them again.
“…then…I don’t want to die without saying…” Yakky took a deep breath. “I love you, Beansprout.”
For a moment, Beansprout didn’t move. Then, slowly, she turned to look at Yakky.
“You what?” she whispered.
Yakky gulped. “I love you.”
“And you thought that a good time to tell me that was now? When the world and the plot and reality are all ending?”
“Brilliant timing, Yakky!” Beansprout yelled. “Absolutely fantastic!”
The blade of the sword had been bright before, but as Beansprout shouted, it began to glow as bright as the sun, as bright as the eyes of the Antichrist as the monster’s hand began to close over the pair of them.
“Oh no you don’t!” Beansprout shouted, spinning around and jabbing the sword up at the Antichrist.
An arc of blinding blue light sliced from the blade, slashing against the Antichrist’s lava skin. The Antichrist bellowed, jerking its arm back, and glared down at them.
Beansprout looked at the blade, looked back up at the monster, and grinned.
“Powered by sarcasm,” she murmured. “Flibbage, you sly little elf, you knew exactly what you were doing.”
The Antichrist narrowed its eyes, and swiped at Beansprout and Yakky again. The two of them leapt to the side, rolling out of the way just as the monster’s hand slammed down.
Another volley of missiles erupted from the mountain, zipping towards the Four Horsemen, who scattered in the air. War took a direct hit, letting out a bloodcurdling battle cry as it was blasted halfway across the sky. Pestilence dived out of the way of the missile, but a bolt of magic hit it square in the chest, making its crusty eyes roll back in its head.
“We can’t hold them for long!” Flibbage’s voice carried across the battlefield. “You’d better finish this quickly, ‘Sprout!”
“I can’t believe we heard that above all this apocalyptic thunder,” Yakky muttered. “That girl is loud.”
The Antichrist lifted its hand again and grabbed at Yakky, but Beansprout shouldered him out of the way.
“No you don’t!” she yelled. “You are not killing him! Not before I’ve had a word with him!”
“Beansprout!” Yakky shouted, as the Antichrist’s hand closed around her.
At first, all Beansprout felt was burning.
She gritted her teeth, trying to open her eyes, before she realised that her eyes were already open. There was blackness around her, and head, and a crushing pressure. It felt like she was buried in the centre of the earth.
A faint blue glow cut through the darkness. Beansprout looked down, and saw the shining blade of the sword. It was still in her hand, but her arm was pinned to her side, and she couldn’t move.
Why are you still here?
Beansprout didn’t exactly hear the voice. It was everywhere. It felt like she was an empty space being filled by the sound.
Why haven’t you burned?
“Just…lucky…I guess,” Beansprout growled. The sword glowed a little brighter.
I don’t understand. The voice rumbled from everywhere, deep and booming but undeniably confused. My fires should have burned the soul from you the moment I touched you.
“Oh.” In spite of the pain, Beansprout grinned. “Gosh. Can’t…imagine…why.”
What are you?
“I’m Beansprout.” Beansprout clenched her fist around the hilt of the sword, and slowly, painfully, began to force her arm upwards. “I’m the girl without a soul. And I’m going to send you back to the hell you came from.”
You can’t defeat me, said the Antichrist. Soul or no soul, fire burns.
“Yeah, well…” Beansprout raised the sword above her head. “This burns brighter.”
Light exploded from the sword, pushing back the darkness, glowing like a supernova. A screaming filled the space around Beansprout, shaking her until she felt that she was going to crumble to dust, until suddenly, everything stopped.
Beansprout opened her eyes. It was light, but not as bright as the glow of the sword. She was in a hospital bed in a tastefully-decorated room with a vaguely foresty theme, which was enough to clue her in to the fact that she was probably in the Faerie realm. This theory was soon confirmed when she saw her mother sitting in a comfy chair by the bed, reading a book.
“Hi, Mum,” Beansprout croaked.
“Oh, you’re awake!” Red put the book down and threw her arms around Beansprout. “How are you feeling?”
“In a lot of pain Mum.”
“Well, that’s only to be expected, you were stuck in the soul-destroying fires of the Antichrist after all.”
“I suppose I should thank you,” Beansprout said, rubbing her arm. “If you hadn’t sold my soul for a plate of chips, I’d be toast.”
Red waved a hand airily. “Anything for my dearest daughter.”
Beansprout looked around the room. There were a few other hospital-style beds, but they were all empty. A sick feeling filled her stomach.
“Mum, my friends…are they…”
“Oh, they’re fine, dear.” Red paused. “Well…”
“That Yakky boy…”
Beansprout twisted the edge of the bedsheet in her hands. “What? What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s been really down,” said Red.
“So I told him to go outside and get some air.”
“Mum, I thought you were going to tell me he was dead!”
“Oh, no, he’s absolutely fine.” Red patted her hand. “They all are.”
Beansprout swung her legs out of bed, wincing as her muscles complained. “Where is Yakky? I need to…I’ve got to talk to him.”
“He’s out in the garden, dear. I thought the flowers might cheer him up.”
Beansprout found Yakky sitting under a soap tree in the Palace Skincare and Beauty Gardens. He was staring miserably into space, but blinked and leapt to his feet as she limped over to him.
“Beansprout! You’re awake!” He ran towards her, and stopped, looking awkward. “Um…how are you feeling?”
“Oh…you know.” Beansprout looked down and kicked at the grass. “Bit achey. A few muscle cramps. Standard post-apocalypse stuff.”
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
There was a long, awkward silence.
“So…we saved the world,” Beansprout said.
“Yeah,” Yakky mumbled.
“And…I just wanted to say…back on the battlefield, when you…”
“ ‘SPROUT!” Flibbage screeched. Beansprout spun around to see her running into the garden, Jay jogging along behind her. “You’re awake! We were so worried!”
“I mean I knew the Antichrist wouldn’t be able to burn you, but I was still worried he might squeeze you-”
“And I thought I’d got you being sarcastic enough but I wasn’t sure-”
“Flibbage.” Beansprout grabbed the sides of her friend’s face. “I’m really happy to see you. I’m really glad you and Jay are okay. I would really like you to go away for a little bit. Okay?”
Flibbage blinked, and then looked over Beansprout’s shoulder at Yakky. “Oh. Right! Gotcha! We’re going.” She turned around and started dragging a bewildered-looking Jay back in the direction they’d come from. “See you later! Be good!”
Beansprout turned back to Yakky, shaking her head. “No sense of timing. None at all.”
“Um…you were saying?” Yakky said.
“Oh. Yes.” Beansprout pushed her hand through her hair. Her cheeks were starting to burn, although this time it was nothing to do with hellish flames. “So. I just wanted to tell you that…I’m sorry I snapped at you on the battlefield.”
“Oh.” Yakky looked down at the ground, deflated.
“Because…I love you too.”
Yakky’s eyes snapped back up to meet Beansprout’s. She gave him an awkward smile.
“Really?” Yakky asked.
“Really.” Beansprout shrugged and grinned. “I think I’ve loved you for a long time. Longer than I thought. Maybe there’s actually something to Flibbage’s nonsense about us having gone through all this before.”
Yakky smiled back at her. “Maybe. Or maybe it’s just my dashing good looks.”
“You’ve never been dashing.” Beansprout stepped closer to him. “But you are pretty cute.”
“Is it the ears?”
Beansprout laughed as she put her arms around his neck. “Of course it’s the ears.”
The faeries who were busy cleaning up the aftermath of the failed apocalypse were surprised to find that the blue, daylight sky had suddenly shifted into a perfect sunset, and that the sounds of their spellwork faded out, to be replaced by soft music.
“Um, this isn’t another apocalypse, is it?” Jay said, looking worriedly up at the sky.
Flibbage smiled, shaking her head.
“Nope,” she said. “This is a perfectly timed happy ending.”