(Continued from previous episode)
The episode begins with the conclusion of Punisher and Baronessy's fight against the Access-Mundi Corporation's elite team of politically-balanced eco-terrorist mercenaries. Things aren't going well for said elite team; though Punisher and Baronessy's armaments consist solely of broken glass, most of them have been reduced to various multi-ethnic smears on the pavement.
The sudden appearance of magic into the fight is enough to stun Punisher and Baronessy long enough to allow for a splashy technicolor powerup sequence:
Leader Guy looks around. "Um... guys?".
Baronessy pauses from grinding a faithful animal companion into the curb with her heel. "Oh yeah, sorry... We liquefied those other two, like, five minutes ago."
The combination of Earth, Wind, and Fire only serves to add some much-needed funk to the soundtrack, and the remaining three members are quickly crucified to a nearby wall by hundreds of Punisher-thrown glass shards. "The Power is MINE, bitch!"
Baronessy picks up a severed finger and examines the ring on it. "I've heard of these things before, Johnny... A set of pagan artifacts imbued by sorcery to allow the channeling of elemental forces from the Earth's life-stream. When used in concert, they're supposed to unleash some kind of eco-friendly Cosmic Horror."
Johnny looks confused. "So how did The Breakfast Club here acquire them, then?"
"That's the thing... officially, these things should have been personally melted down into scrap by Pope John Paul after Vatican II. Access-Mundi Corporation must have deep connections in the Church hierarchy."
A voice of indeterminate but beautiful accent lilts from a nearby alleyway.
"Oh, aye! And it has many others tendrils, besides."
Johnny and Baronessy turn to regard the appearance of a So Beautiful, It's a Curse woman in a long oh-so-cosplayable pink dress, apparently designed specifically to appeal to the opposite fetishes that Baronessy inspires. She carries the odd combination of a basket of flowers and an AK-47. The butterflies flapping around her do nothing to impair the holiness of her features.
"My name is Saerith Connor. We have much to talk about."
We cut to the downtown office of Kendo I. Punisher, where we see said face-grilled gas-lighter furiously typing at his keyboard. The unmistakable goateed-face of Vladimir Darkier flashes onto a nearby monitor.
"I'm very disappointed, Kendo. I gave you a perfect opportunity to eliminate the prodigal thorn in both our sides, and all you do is draw more attention to yourself with that damn ANGLE. I think my partner suspects that I have my own agenda... of course, he doesn't suspect that I suspect he suspects, so we should be all right, for now."
Kendo turns to the monitor.
"Vlad, no one wants to physically and emotionally torture my son more than I do..."
"I doubt it. Have you met Baronessy?"
Vladimir considers the proposal. "Indeed. With Access-Mundi's tracking camera's visuals too blood stained to function, we are in an advantageous position."
Kendo smiles from behind his mask. "Yes, I am. I have sent out my T-1200 Fridgerator Tracking Cyborg and Ice Maker. We shall have the locale, Johnny's lifeless body, and some nice Frozen-Yogurt Pops within a few hours. Kendo out."
Meanwhile, Saerith has taken our heroes to the IKEA-brand Absurdly Spacious Sewer that serves as her group's headquarters. As to be expected, the room is filled with people, and the decor is a bizarre cross of the paramilitary and the Ren Faire... In one corner, four nightmarish reptile-human hybrids train in the martial arts with a huge plague-ridden rat. In another, a confused businessman tries to deal with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who keeps prattling about angels with the names of London Burroughs. A Billy Idol look-a-like with two sets of goggles and a devil-may-care attitude, completes his adjustments on a mini-zeppelin and runs up to them.
"Hey! Welcome to LANDSLIDE! Are you the two Saerith was talking about? The ones that dropped a bridge on Ayn Man, and those mercenaries?"
Baronessy responds with a tentative "Yes..." and a glimmer of recognition.
"Great work! So you've come to join our party's glorious crusade against Access-Mundi, then?"
Punisher loses it. "Dammit! I'm not joining anyone's party unless it's Ron Paul's! I am sick of glorious crusades! I just want to get something to eat, then kill my father! Why is it so friggin' hard to do this in this town?!"
The man smiles. "Filler's one of the side effects of living in this town. And if its food you want, we've got the buffet set up over there. Herbs, potions, Strength-Giving Still-Beating Hearts Of Our Vanquished Foes, Buffalo Wings..."
Punisher's eyes light up. "Buffalo Wings? I'm there." He takes off for the buffet, with Saerith in increasingly doe-eyed hot pursuit. The man turns to Baronessy.
"Anyway, what about you, la- GNORF." The man is interrupted by Baronessy's spiked heel entering his nasal cavity.
"I don't know what the hell you think you're doing, Cyd, but I thought I told you to get out of town!"
Cyd gingerly pulls the heel from his nose and responds: "Oh, Baronessy...thought you looked familiar, but I couldn't quite recognize you without your team of Edger & Darkier lackeys. Don't tell me you still grudge me my attack on your company's child-terrorist outdoor training excursion?"
"That was our Yearly Orphan's Picnic! You friggin' killed Buttercup the Clown!" A knife (thrown from Cyd's leg holster) embeds itself in the wall millimeters away from Baronessy's shoulder.
"And the streets ran white with greasepaint and tears." (Cyd mimes "tears.") "At least none of those kids will follow in your company's footsteps." He shifts his neck to avoid the slice of Nessy's poison-diamond-tipped fingernails.
"Only because they're in therapy!" Baronessy is momentarily stunned by Cyd driving a well-placed elbow to her stomach.
"That sounded a lot like compassion, Baronessy. Regret. Righteous anger." Cyd clucks his tongue and wags a finger at her, though he has to withdraw it quickly when she recovers and tries to slash it off with his knife. "And here I thought a professional hard case like yourself would hate babysitting orphans."
He throws a shoulder at her, but she flips him onto the floor. As he struggles to get up, Baronessy places the sole of her shoe on his throat and gradually increases the pressure.
"I did. D&E gave me a good incentive not to crush their windpipes, that's all. Would you happen to have a similar offer?"
Cyd grins rather widely for a man whose death seems imminent. "Oh, I got plenty of offers for you, babe," he says, a little hoarsely. "You may act tough, you may work for the third most evil law firm in Neo York City, but you can't fool old Cyd: there's a soft spot somewhere on the chunk of lignite that shoves your blood around, and one of these days - I'm going to hit the bullseye."
Baronessy frowns, though she lets up on the foot pressure a little. "How many metaphors did you cram in there?"
"Enough?" says Cyd hopefully.
"I don't think so, Cyd. Sleep on it before you hit on me again." Baronessy lifts her foot - only to give Cyd a light kick north of his temple. He spasms once, then loses consciousness.
"Buffet," Baronessy murmurs.
Soon enough, she's grabbed a plate and begun to work her way along the line of silver trays and sterno cans. At the other end, Johnny is already quite a distance into his second plate of Buffalo Wings. Saerith hovers at his elbow like a tragically beautiful (or is it beautifully tragic?) hummingbird.
"My people - of whom I the last - spoke of you," she says dreamily. [To avoid tedious repetition, the reader should assume from now on that all of Saerith's dialogue is declaimed in a "dreamy" fashion. -ed.] "'He Who Carries Out the Penalties' is one of the key figures of our lore - the demigod swathed in leather who rises again to slay a great demon, to drain the ichor from a mechanical knight, to break the power of the elemental annulets of dread Ka'Blanayd...all deeds which you have achieved tonight..."
Johnny acknowledges her with a "hmmm." He pries a fleck of chicken bone from his back teeth and flicks it into the sewer channel. "These, uh, these wings are pretty good, but you wouldn't happen to have any boneless, would you? Or bleu cheese dip? Either's good. Either/or."
"Of course. Holbein!" The most radical anthroterrapin save one breaks from the sparring exercise and makes a bow toward Saerith. "To the surface, my brother! Return with the cheese azure for our guest!" Holbein rolls his eyes but wheezes an assent from somewhere in his mutated vocal cords. He leaves via a set of concrete stairs.
"Hey," says Johnny, "nice service you got here."
Saerith blushes and inclines her head. "Johnny," she says, "our lore also mentions a consort for the Forcible Redresser. A woman-" she bats her lashes pointedly "-with eyes of different colors."
Johnny's own eyes soften as he flashes back to the girl we saw remembered back in the second episode. We see again, in silent, slow motion, a more innocent Johnny bidding farewell to a girl with long red hair. She laughs as she nods to accept his sentiment, then she brushes a stray lock of hair from her face. It reveals a left eye of green, an odd twin to her right blue eye...
Back to the present, in full sound and motion. Johnny, uncharacteristically wistful, makes a closer study of Saerith, and we see what he sees: a woman of extraordinary beauty - extraordinarily different from the girl of his memories. Her light brown hair is plaited in braids and twists in classic rebel princess style; her face is dreamy, but quite serious; and her eyes are of a crinkly gold familiar to anyone who has ever unwrapped a chocolate coin.
His notice doesn't escape her notice; she smiles, dreamily, but also a little triumphantly. "You're looking at my eyes, aren't you? Keep watching."
A few seconds pass. Abruptly, her irises start to shimmer and waver. Soon they've changed from gold to Number-Four-Pool-Ball purple.
"You see?" she whispers. "They change. They're of different colors."
We cut to Holbein, the Twentysomething Mutated Turtle, emerging from a Trader Joe's on the surface. Cheese dip carton and bagged celery clutched in his three fingered hands, he scuttles back toward a conspicuously ajar storm grate. Suddenly, a flash of light from a nearby vacant lot catches his attention. The groceries drop to the ground as, maw agape, he watches a cloud of electricity coalesce into the form of person.
Then the electricity's gone, leaving a naked, muscular man kneeling on the lot. He rises, and turns violent red eyes on Holbein.
"Holy shit," Holbein croaks. "It's TV's Robert Patrick!"
The man advances on him.
"Man, I loved your stint on The X-Files! My brothers are all like, 'no way, dude, Doggett sucked,' but I really liked the new dynamic you brought. Oh, and don't even get me started on The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest! So. Ahead. Of its time. Do you think we're ever going to see a Season 2 box s-ugh!"
The T-1200 Fridgerator Tracking Cyborg and Ice Maker (for it is he) has shifted his arm into a blade and put it through Holbein's torso. A wave of coldness, visible as a swiftly advancing line of frost, precipitates along the blade and into the impaled turtle.
"Awww, dude!" Holbein whispers numbly as the frost mounts on his hide. "We coulda partied! I was saving a couple...spliffs...coulda showed you...my Stargate: Atlantis...fics..."
âStay COOL!â the T-1200 grits, and he retracts his arm. Holbein totters back as his body stiffens, then falls and shatters against a chain link fence.
A rippling sound: suddenly an exact double of Holbein stands amidst the wreckage of the late turtle's body. He picks up the groceries, brushes a stray chunk of shell off the celery, and stalks towards the storm grate.
âTonightâs forecast: A FREEZE is coming!â