Metadelinquents

Metadelinquents

Issue 19-The Prisoner: Rita caught in the deceit of Lieaceit

All characters are the property of Timothy Weaver/CrossoverManiac

"You're dead meat." Golem hoisted Gatekeeper in the air with one hand and jerked her around like a rag doll.

"Please Golem, he's lying," Rita pleaded but the cries for reason went unheeded; drowned out by righteous indignation.

"You're the liar. So, tell the truth." Golem revved her fist back, "or else I'm going to pound you into hamburger meat."

"Now calm down," Lieaceit pacified Golem. "We need Rita to clear their names." Lieaceit pointed to the boys.

Golem grimaced in disapproval. "But this faker works for the Alchemist."

"No, don't," Calvin held back Golem's arm while clutching his mask between his fingers.

The granite face girl pouted. "What is with you wimps?"

"We don't kill people," Kevin cried.

"Thank Kevin, you..."

Calvin reached back and almost back-handed Rita. "Shut up!" Bitterness reverberated in those words. "I oughta let Golem kick your ass." Though she knew she was innocent, Rita could not force herself to meet eye-to-eye with the betrayed, solemn stare. Of all of the Metas, Calvin was the most disheartened.

"Fine, see if I care." Golem let off her grip. Rita landed butt first on the ground and rubbed her sore behind.

"Whacha going to do with her," Seth asked?

"This way," Lieaceit gestured further down the tunnel. But then, he stopped and turned to Golem. "Do you mind sealing back up the hidden entrance." We wouldn't want uninvited guest now would we?"

Golem nodded. She proceeded to the start of the underground passage and, with one punch, caved in what was left of the entrance. The rumble and dirt avalanched into place and kicked up a considerable amount of dust in its wake.

--

"You're been a bad girl Rita," Punchline gloated bitterly from the other side of cold iron bars as he twisted the key like a knife in Rita's chest. "You're grounded." He looked over his shoulder at the eyes on the other side of the cell door pleading for a shimmer of mercy only to be met with spiteful judging glare.

"Punchline, believe me, please?"

"I won't let them hurt you, even if you are a bad guy."

At least he doesn't want me dead, Rita was grateful for that much.

"Now play nice with your new roommatey." Then Punchline leaped on the cell bars that rattled upon impact. "And you two behave yourselves." Punchline then did a back-flip off the bars and waved goodbye.

Rita waited until Punchline was out of sight and shook the cell door. She took a step back and stuck her shoulder out. I think this how they did in football she thought. The door didn't even budge when Rita tackled it. Instead she fell to the floor landing on her butt. Her face winched in agony. The pain was a flood cascading from her shoulder and gushing over her, and not that the aching tailbone was any better. It screamed all the louder throbbing from impact. Rita bit down and held back the scream she wanted to let out. If Lieaceit got wind of her attempt to escape, no telling what he would make the others do. Okay Gatekeeper, Rita pepped herself up, time for plan B. She hobbled to the cell door and took hold of an iron bar. She twisted and shook it a bit. It didn't budge. She went over to the next bar and, as before, twisted against it and shook it. Again, the bar held firmly in place. She hopped to the adjacent bar and tried again with no luck. And her hands burned by the friction. It was then she heard sheets ruffling behind her. A little boy that couldn't be older than four years old stirred from his nap. He rubbed his encrusted eyes and slid out of bed.

"It's tu tutt...it too tuff, Wita." The little boy stumbled. He pulled up on his pants that were way to big for his tiny legsl and waddled over to Gatekeeper. "Cant get out liet tat. Bars are tu tuff."

Rita couldn't put a finger on it, but the boy looked quite familiar. "How did you get here?" Rita bent down and draped her forearms on his shoulders. "Where are your parents? Did Lieaceit get them too?"

The boy shook his hand. "Mi parents are gown, Wita. Long time go."

Not only that, he used her name. "How do you know who I am?"

"I totd you areddy, Wita; back in ta park." No! It can't be.

"Are you the Alchemist?" Rita yanked on the little boy's dirty blond hair. "How did you get young? Did Lieaceit did this to you?" The boy only cried.

"Rit it. It hort."

Rita yanked harder. "Tell me how to get out or I really hurt you?"

"Ahhhhh! Telepart. Jut telepart."

Rita let go of the Alchemist who wiped away the tears off his rosy cheeks and snipped up the snot running from his dainty nostrils. "I can't. If I do, my teleporter might blow up."

"Wry?"

"It just will. Lieaceit warned me."

"Nooo! He pwaying a twick on you. It won't brow up."

"Like I'll believe you. It's your fault I'm in this crap." She shot the evil eye at the Alchemist. "I hope you turn into a fetus."

Just then, she saw Punchline coming down the hall.

"I got an idea. But I need your help."

In Punchline's arms was a tray with two plates of brown sauce. "Dinner time." He cracked the cell door open and slid the tray into the cell. "Boy you're lucky I found this. It was only three years pass the expiration date." He locked the cell door and said in a cheerful voice, "you two enjoy."

"I'm sorry to bother you," said Rita in the sweetest voice she could muster. "Could you get one little thing?"

"What's that, ex-bestest best friend Rita?"

"It's just that...well...I like to have butter with my ...stuff."

"No prob." Punchline walked out and came back a minute later with a stick of butter. He stuck his arm through the bars with stick of butter in hand. Rita looked away. "What's the matter?"

"I don't mean to be a bother, but I like the butter in the squeeze bottle. My mom used to give us the squeezable butter, and it reminds of her." I don't believe I'm doing this, Rita thought. And her mother's somewhere in Heaven probably ticked off she would so shamelessly use her memory of her in this dirty trick.

"Oh I'm sorry," and Punchline went back and got a bottle of squeezable butter. "Enjoy." Punchline sat on the floor and smiled at Rita. "Well, aren't you going to eat it?"

Rita stifled. "Right now?"

"Why not?"

"Well, okay," Rita grimaced and poured a little butter into the mix and painstakingly took a bite.

"See how we can still be sort of friends even after being so naughty." Punchline grinned. "If you want to fix you something else special, just say the magic words."

"Please," Rita, eyes watery and complexion a green tint, whined.

"That's right." Just as Punchline cleared the corner, Rita hunched over the grungy cell toilet and heaved. The grumbling of vomit ejected from her esophagus was so noisy, it startled the little Alchemist. She stumbled over the sink and rinsed the bile from her mouth. "I'm never letting Punchline cook for me again." Once she recovered, Gatekeeper pulled him by the shirt and lead him to cell door.

"Wat r wu doing Wita?"

"You're getting me out of here! That's what!" Rita poured the butter all over the sides of the bars and then pressed the Alchemist through the gap shoulder first. He crossed over halfway when his escape was halted. The Alchemist's head was ever so slightly greater than the gap and was snared by the bars. The little boy shrieked and yelped as Rita prodded him from behind.

"OUCH! Sop et!" The child Alchemist whined.

"Not till you're out."

"But et hurt!"

"It won't hurt as bad as what I'll do to you if you don't." Rita poured butter on the top of his head. "This is your penance for making my life hell." Finally, persistence and the suffering of others paid off. The Alchemist was on the other side of the cell. The lights in the hallway glistened off the blotch of oily butter soaked in that thatch of hair. "And if you leave without me, I'll yell for the others and we'll be here forever."

"Otay Wita." The Alchemist submitted to the command, but this diminished statute placed the controls out of reach. "Get a chair, stupid!" Rita chided in a sharp, but hushed voice. The toddler complied and lugged a chair over to the controls, climbed on top, and key in the combination on the lock. The jail door clicked, and Rita rushed out and snatched little Alchemist out of the chair. The two disappeared into the dreary corridors of the underground lair.

The subterranean maze was vast and empty unlike the cavern that the Agents of Deception were imprisoned. No stalactites suspended above or stalagmites reaching up from the floor. The monotone light gray tunnel walls, floor, and ceiling were in sharp contrast to the vivid reddish-orange interior of the cavern. It was still creepy though, but a different variety of creepy. But that could be the fact that Rita was powerless, running from her own crew, and helping her worst enemy who has been de-aged. Now that she thinks about it, the de-aging part was what was so creepy.

"I can't wait to be a hero and be famous like you said Mr. Lieaceit." Was that Kevin talking? "Can Aaron Carter play me?"

"No stupid," he's like 30 or something." That was definitely Seth.

"Golem you want to be Dakota Fanning."

"I want to be played by the Ring girl." Golem said enthusiastically.

She pulled her hand back from the Alchemist and shuddered. No, the part of fleeing from her teammates was terrifying. Why did they have to at this end of the underground caverns now?

"Ben Afleck is playing me in the movie," Seth bragged.

"But he's even older than Aaron Carter."

"I'm mature for my age." They're almost around the corner and it's too far away to turn back and not be seen.

"Okay fellows, there's time for that later." That's Lieaceit too.

The terror-stricken Rita Williams braced the wall behind her and pressed the Alchemist against her chest. She prayed that they wouldn't turn the corner; that they go pass her. And they did. Lieaceit lead the others pass them and they went by without noticing the escaped hostages trembling just a few feet away.

Rita slid down the wall and sighed. Thank God they were too rapped up in whatever tall tale Lieaceit spoon-fed them, Rita thought. But then something wet and hot nuzzled against her. Rita yelped and, in her panic, tripped over the Alchemist. Apparently, her attention didn't go unnoticed by that monster rabbit, Mr. Whiskers. Mr. Whiskers sniffed her, probably looking for a beef jerky treat, which Punchline and sometimes Kevin will give him. But as Mr. Whiskers sniffed Rita for a treat, the others backtracked at full speed.

"Come here, boy," Punchline ordered Mr. Whiskers. The rabbit complied and came running back to his owner.

"Where you think you're going?" Lieaceit sneered."

"Please, don't listen to Lieaceit. He's using his powers on you."

"Nice try Rita, but they listen to only me. And not your lies?" Lieaceit winked at Rita. The self satisfaction beamed from smirking lips. "Metadelinquents, teach her not to cross us...the hard way."

"Stand back." Golem plowed forward. She slapped her fist into her palm with such force that the cave reverberated and a bit of the ceiling flaked off. Rita shook at the prospect of Golem getting her hands on her. Scratch that. She could hear Seth grumbling from his throat. If Golem don't pound her into a fine red paste, then Seth will squash her with a sonic blast.

"Please don't let me blow up," Rita desperately prayed. She opened her portals in from Golem and Seth. The two backed away fearful of the explosion that Lieaceit said would kill Rita if she kept using the portals. She then opened portals in front of the twins and Punchline as well.

"What are you waiting for?" Lieaceit bellowed. "She's helpless!"

"But the portals," Seth objected.

"They're not going to blow up idiots!" Those words exhaled from the breath of Lieaceit felt like her brain has broken free of inch-thick chains that, moments ago, constricted around her mind.

"Thanks, stupid." And with that, Rita and the little Alchemist escaped into the portal.

"Aaaaarrrrgggg!" Lieaceit, clenching his fist and beating the walls, howled. "You morons ruined everything."

"What?!" Seth spread his arms out in shock over the shifted blame. "Who was it that told Rita she wouldn't blow up if she used the portals? That was you."

"It's still your fault; all of you."

Seth hung his head. "You're right. I'm sorry." The other Metas hung their heads down and apologized in unison under compulsion by Lieaceit's power and the slight doubt that they could have done something different.

Lieaceit huffed as he contemplated his next move.

--

Rita's emergency teleport back into the cavern was somewhat lacking in elegance. The two stumbled over each other just in front of the jail cell. "The cave floor didn't feel as hard as looked," flashed in her thoughts for a moment before common sense told her hard granite isn't that soft. Rita pushed herself off the tiny squishy thing underneath her. The little Alchemist gasped for air, which was knocked out of his lungs upon impact and coughed.

Rita frowned up and glared at the Alchemist. "I hope you're happy now!" She scowled. The Alchemist was barbarously pulled off the ground and lead down the cavern tunnel.

The tears rolling down those rosy red cheeks spoke for the aching that the Alchemist was feeling. "Wuu hurring me again!"

"You're such a crybaby. I'm not putting up with it anymore." The cave floor almost got another kiss when Rita jerked the Alchemist's minuscule arm. "You're going in the cell with the others." But there was no other inside. Rita pulled back on the Alchemist and backed away, but she walked right into grasping arms.

Rita was restrained by Hologram Man and Shifter. Each shoulder socket felt as if they were being drawn and quartered. Both men put their full adult weight on Rita's limbs. "Where you think you're going with the Alchemist," Hologram Man snapped.

"How?" Rita asked and got slapped in the forehead by Shifter.

"I'm a shapeshifter, you stupid little girl. I turned into a snake and squeeze through the bars."

In what could have been a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting, Pretty Poison gently cradled the Alchemist in her arms and snuggled him against her chest. "My lord, we were so worried about you." Pretty Poison slapped Rita on the cheek. "Did you do this to him? Was it you that took his medication? And..." Pretty Poison staring at her hand in surprise and disgust, "why is he covered in butter?" The sticky butter was all over both of them.

"No, I..." Then Rita caught on. "That really is the Alchemist ain't it?" She asked.

"Yes," said Shifter who forcefully tilted Rita's head by the chin. "And you'll pay for what you did to him?"

"No, dunt hut Wita!" The Alchemist waved his hand around so franticly, Pretty Poison nearly dropped him. "It wuz Liesit."

Pretty Poison held him all the tighter. "That damn Lieaceit! I knew he couldn't be trusted."

"Hep Wita. Hep her beat Liesit."

"What?" Rita asked.

"He said for us to help you," Pretty Poison translated.

Is that little shrimp kidding me?! Rita was aghast with thoughts of working for the Alchemist in Mini Me form and squinted. Here were the very four that dragged what little reputation the Metadelinquents had through the mud and their little ring leader in all of his dirty-diapered glory. "Why should I trust you?" But before they could answer, "Oh, because I don't have any other choice, right?"

"Becaw we wont tell on wu," said little Alchemist.

"Oh, so you won't tell, and I free you and we both get Lieaceit?"

Little Alchemist nodded. "I Pwomiss Wita."

Rita distrustfully scowled and rolled her eyes, "You think I'm going to fall for that because I'm kid? I'm not stupid. You'll stab me in the back as soon as I let you go."

"What! You question the Alchemist's integrity!" Pretty Poison glared disdainfully at Rita.

"Why not? You should know how much of a liar he is."

Look!" Hologram Man interjected. "If you distrust us, then at least believe that we want Lieaceit as badly as you do for what he did our master."

"Boy, I wish my friends were as loyal," Rita whispered. In some sorrowful cloudy spot in her soul, Rita grieved that her own team mates weren't as devoted as these Agents of Deception were to the Alchemist, even without Lieceit manipulating them. "You bozos really do love your master."

"Just who are you calling a bozo?" Pretty Poison would have backhanded her again had it not been for Shifter catching her by the wrist.

"I guess you can help." Rita stepped aside and opened a portal. "After you," she said in mocking courtesy. The Agents of Deception complied and when through. When they went through, they were welcomed by a horrid clamor.

Ears throbbed by the caterwaul of the base alarm tapping a nerve-wrecking note in their ear drums.

"What's with the alarm?"

"It's for the emergency launch of the flying fortressing." When Pretty Poison mentioned 'flying fortresses', Rita looked perplexed. "The flying building that the Despot came in a few days ago," she answered. Pretty Poison, still cradling the Alchemist, typed in a code on a nearby computer terminal. "The flight path is to your home address."

"Oh God! They're after TJ!" Lieaceit will force Rita to give herself by threatening TJ. And it's her fault. "Oh what I've done. Why TJ?" Why not? It makes sense. No matter how far away she could teleport, Lieaceit would have TJ.

"Quit whining about your brother," Shifter spat with nary of an ounce of compassion.

"If you badguys are so hung up on beating Lieaceit, you have to follow my plan."

"Oh is that all!" Shifter threw up his hands and then grabbed hold of his hips. "As if I'm taking orders from a little girl."

"Why not? You take them from a toddler." Rita eyed the Alchemist.

The Agents of Deception turned their attention to the Alchemist. "Du as Wita says." They grudgingly nodded in compliance.

--

"Are we really going to get Rita's big brother?" Kevin fretted. The Metadelinquents were boarding the flying fortress, which awoken from a deep slumber while the jet engines yarned thunder and smoke. And the assault on TJ Williams was disheartened to the young boy. "He isn't a bad guy or supervillain right?"

Lieaceit squinted and frowned up. This Metadelinquent was a real pest. "Rita's brother works for the Alchemist also." He whined.

"Oh, okay. So it's not bad to beat up on him."

"Whatever," Lieaceit huffed.

But just as they got on the elevator, both the blaring alarms and bellowing engines grew silent at the same time.

"What's going on?" Calvin asked.

"Gatekeeper, that's what." Lieaceit spur them back into the compound. He and the Metadelinquents rushed back in determined to apprehend Gatekeeper knowing full well how elusive she can be.

About fifteen minutes later, the search took them to the compound garage. It was big enough to hold hundreds of cars though it only held some trucks and lots of trailers.

Lieaceit gestured to the truck trailers. "She could be hiding inside one of those. Check each one." The group separated into their individual members and scattered through the vast parking lot. Each child darted from one trailer to another. Dusk reached inside with his shadow while his brother Dawn illuminated the interior of another. Golem were lifting them up and checking underneath.

"Yoohoo!" Gatekeeper waved from the far corner of the parking lot. "I'm over here." Punchline, who was closer, rushed towards her as she ran behind the closest trailer. When Punchline ran around, he was greeted by Deathtone.

"Just missed her," Deathtone said. "But I looked through the portal. She teleported to another part of the base, maybe she's still in the parking lot." Punchline nodded and continued the hunt.

Not far from where Punchline were, Golem was turning the place upside down, literally. She raised a trailer up and shook it as if the trailer was a box of cereal with a prize inside.

"I'm not in there stupid." Golem looked over her shoulder. Rita was behind her smirking at her.

"No, you're the stupid one for showing your face here." Golem slammed the trailer down hard, which coiled up and shrieked in pain before coming apart. Golem bolted towards Rita, but she was too fast for the granite-hide girl. Rita slid underneath another trailer, near the back end.

"Can't catch me, rocks for brains."

"Oh yeah." Golem lifted that trailer up. But Rita was not there. However there was someone inside. She heard yelling when she lifted up the trailer. She flips it open end down and all of its contents fell out including an angry Deathtone.

"Do I look like Rita to you?"

"Well, what were you doing in there?"

"Whadda think rocks for brains!"

Golem tossed the trailer to the side and picked Seth up by the collar. "Don't you ever say that to me again!" She balled up her fist and shook it in his face. The others, upon hearing the commotion, rushed to where Golem and Seth was. It was then Golem realized that the person in her hands weren't Seth at all, for there were two Seths right in plain sight.

"Shifter!" Golem sneered.

"Finally sunk in, rocks for brains. By the way, figured out yet our master plan was to lure you away from Lieaceit." Shifter snickered. The Metadelinquents stampeded back towards the entrance of the underground parking lot towards Lieaceit.

"Don't worry, Mr. Lieaceit!" Kevin called out reassuringly. "We'll save you."

"Isn't the entrance on the other end?" An exhausted Punchline huffed out.

"Shut up and keep running, clownboy." Golem snapped. But just as the Metadelinquents almost closed the distance between them and the front of the underground parking lot, Lieaceit cried out for help...on the opposite end of the cavern. The others turned and witnessed their new leader face to face with old one. They did a double take and saw the deceitful mirage conjured up fading into vapor, and in its place was Hologram Man and Pretty Poison. Pretty Poison reached out to Punchline, who was the closest Metadelinquent to her, and tapped her fingerss on his neck where there was no clown make-up.

"Please marry me!" Punchline leaped into her waiting arms. "I always wanted to be a bride."

"Punchline, get away from her!" Golem cried out but Punchline could only see the pheromone induced love of his life.

Pretty Poison put on her best remorseful lost love look she could muster. "I would, but those your friends want to take me away from you forever."

"Not if ain't breathing." Punchline pulled away from Pretty Poison and jumped on top of Mr. Whiskers. "Charged!" He ordered his pet monster rabbit. "I'm going to kick your asses and then I'm going to get me a wedding dress." Punchline swung his clown hammer and nearly clobbered Seth on the top of his head. "I'll be the pretty bride ever."

Pretty Poison face faulted. "That boy isn't for real is he?"

"I hope not." Hologram Man shuddered as he cast another illusion. The scenery distorted and melted into a piece of surreal art. The disorientation proved most beneficial to Punchline who did hit and run attacks on the others dipping in and out of the illusion much as Diamond Joe did.

"What do you think Rita has in store for Satoshi? Think she'll kill him for us."

"You know these superhero types; probably going to trick him into confessing. She isn't going to kill him."

--

"You're going to die Lieaceit." Maybe had Rita made this threat earlier, Lieaceit wouldn't have taken it so seriously, even for a moment. Those words were radiating waves of regret, bitterness, and anger and only superceded in the vacant stare of utter loss in Rita's eyes.

Lieaceit laughed off the chill down his spine. He wasn't going to let this little girl psyche him out. Not ever. "Do you really think you can trick me that easily? Look at you, you look ridiculous." Lieaceit scoffed and pointed to the scarf tied and duct taped around her forehead.

"Don't bother talking. I can't here you. But you can hear me. You turned me into a criminal and threatened my family. I have to kill you." Right behind Lieaceit, a portal opened in mid-air, high enough the clouds floated in front of the portal and the difference in air pressure between the underground base that resided just below sea level and the high altitude created a strong gust of wind, though not strong enough to suck anyone into it. Rita tilted her head down. "It's all your fault I'm about to become a murderer." But suddenly, Lieaceit slung her by the arm into the portal.

"Don't worry, you won't." But as he turned around to walk away, he was again face to face with Rita.

"Isn't life unfair?" Another portal opened on the floor. Lieaceit lost his balance and almost his life teetering over the edge of another portal. He clawed the ground resisting the pull into the portal leading to certain death only to inch into another opening portal. "You can throw me through my own portal a hundred; a thousand times. I only have to throw you threw it once."

"Wait! I give up! You win!" Lieaceit pleaded.

"I can't hear you." Rita tugged on the scarf.

Lieaceit took out a notepad and jotted down sloppily, 'I'LL LET YOUR FRIENDS GO'. Rita was breathing harder. He's begging for his life. How could you do this Rita? How could you kill a defenseless man? No, he's not defenseless. He still has her friends under his control.

"You're lying." Rita opened a portal underneath Lieaceit, who fell through to his waist. He held himself up bracing his weight with his arms.

Lieceit mustered enough breath to yelled in terror, "PLEASE DON'T KILL ME! YOU'RE SUPERHEROES! YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSE TO KILL!" Even though Rita couldn't hear, there was little room for doubt that those were pleads of mercy. But what if he just turns around and orders the Metadelinquents to kill her? He struggled against the pull of gravity; arms quaking under the strain and exertion. Isn't there another way to save your friends? But isn't that unnecessarily risking their lives? And the entire world? And T.J's? She almost forgot about T.J.

Tears lined Rita's cheeks; her voice cracked from the mental turmoil of her dark deed. No way in hell will she take a chance on hurting the ones she love trying to save Lieaceit no matter how she didn't want to go down that dark path. She didn't have luxury of being innocent. "You won't feel a thing. I promise." And with that, Rita widened her portal and Lieaceit went tumbling to the earth.

--

The other Metadelinquents were still trapped inside the illusion. The cross between a rainbow composed of neon colors and a Halloween strobe light wasn't meant to deceive so much as it was to disorient. So powerful was the delusion that Dusk wrapped his shadow around what he thought was Punchline and Mr. Whiskers, but shadow seemed to have veered off course, and Calvin was left holding an empty trailer. The shadow then dissipated when he was struck in the head by what looked like Golem who then transformed into Seth. But unfortunately for Shifter, Dawn was close enough to him to see what was going on. Kevin flashed Shifter in the eyes with his light power.

"That's for beating up on my bro...," Kevin said before being overwhelmed by the realization that they were fighting for Lieaceit. The others came to the same epiphany at the same time. The Agents of Deception leveled off their assault as the Metadelinquents have given up except for a moment by Punchline, who was still under Pretty Poison's control but a quick word from her make him stop.

Rita teleported to her comrades who were now free of from Lieaceit's mental manipulations. "Are you okay," she asked. "You know I didn't sell you out to the Alchemist right?"

The others looked confused torn between what they knew of Rita, what Lieaceit told them, and what was before their eyes.

"But isn't the Agents of Deception working for you?" Kevin pointed out.

"Only because Lieaceit was the real traitor," Pretty Poison interjected. "I wouldn't try to save you little brats otherwise." Pretty Poison looked down to Punchline bear hugging her. "Will you let go of me!"

Punchline let go only to get on his knees and plead with Pretty Poison. "Only if you buy me a pretty white for our wedding." Pretty Poison replied with a kick to the chest, which was enough to jolt Punchline back to his senses.

"What did I ever see in you...beside the mind-control pheromones? And why were talking orders from Lieaceit."

"You were under his control. We were all under his control. Remember." Rita pleaded. "And I'm not on their team. In fact, they're going back to the cave where I found them."

"You lying little witch!" Pretty Poison spat. "We had a deal: your friends for our freedom."

"Well what do you expect, Poison?" Hologram Man spoke. "She did kill Lieaceit."

"WHAT!" All of the Metadelinquents said in unison. Rita didn't give an answer and just stared at the ground armed folded over her chest.

"Why else would they be free of Lieaceit's control?" Hologram Man circled around Rita. "The only time anyone broke out of Lieaceit's control was when he slipped up and said something to contradict himself. 'Go back in the cave'?! Ha! She'll kill us like she did Satoshi."

"That's not true. I didn't have a choice."

"Thanks for fessing up." Hologram Man winked. Dawn and Dusk looked away from Rita.

Seth glared saying to himself, "I hope I'm not next." Golem didn't know what to think and was still trying to grasp the situation. Punchline was preoccupied with a splitting migraine.

"It doesn't matter what I did," Rita declared, "you're going back in your cage."

"Aw but which Agents of Deceptions." The room was invaded by carbon copy ghosts of the toddler Alchemist and his Agents running in every direction imaginable.

"Just because you broke your promise to the Alchemist doesn't mean the Alchemist will break his word. Your identity is safe. He's far more honorable than you'll ever been, Rita Williams."

"Everyone, split up and search the base." But then, a tremor escorted by thunder buffeted the subterranean tunnels for a moment before dying off.

"Nice going, Rita, they got away." Seth scolded. Next to him, was Punchline weeping over the lost of his one true love.

"The Alchemist said he wouldn't tell, right?" Kevin whimpered.

Golem shook her head. "He won't, but only because he got plans for you. You might be better off if he did."

"He can make all the plans he want, but we'll stop him, right?" The others didn't look too enthused.

"I don't want play superhero anymore," Kevin said.

"'Play superhero'?!" Rita slung him by the collar. "You think...cough... I'm playing a game." The arms gripping Dawn shook violently. The tidal wave of guilt and abandonment and failure had reached their peak. "I killed for...cough...for you. And if I didn't do it you'd still be Liea...cough cough...Lieaceit's slaves."

Calvin wedged himself between Rita and Kevin. "Get your hands off my brother," he threatened. His shadow extended behind his brother.

Deathtone smirked at Rita and Calvin's spat. "Better watch out, Calvin. Rita might kill you too."

"Shut up Seth!" Calvin snapped. Deathtone quieted down after a little chuckle.

"No, I would never do that to any of you." Now every square inch of Rita quaked.

"She won't," said Punchline. "She barely killed Lamo-ceit."

"Thank you Punchline."

"But you're suppose to be the good one," those black eyes stared through Rita's soul. "I need you to be good. Let me be the bad one. I'm a good evil clown, but I'm still an evil clown. You can't even keep yourself good." Punchline hopped on Mr. Whiskers' back. "Good bye, bestest best friend, Rita. Hope you quit being a superhero." And with that Punchline and Mr. Whiskers disappeared into the darkness of the underground labyrinth.

"Can we go now?" Seth bellowed with absolutely no concern for Rita.

"I want to go home too," Kevin cried. Calvin nodded in agreement.

"Golem?!" Rita seemed to beg.

"No, I only fight the Alchemist. I don't want to be a superhero. Find someone else, Gatekeeper." With that, Golem disappeared into the shadows as well.

Gatekeeper stamped her foot. "Fine! Be that way!" The others didn't bat an eye and went on their way. Rita vented her frustration and kicked some wreckage left over from the battle.

--

Rita teleported back home a few blocks from the house in a back alley. She had time alone to contemplate all that had happen in the last few days. And she had time to think up an explanation of where she's been. As she went around the corner, T.J. ran out the house and hauled Rita in by the collar of her shirt.

"WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN!" T.J. didn't give time for Rita to answer. "On second thought, don't! I'm not in the mood for some !#& story!"

"I'm sorry..." Rita said apologetically.

"Not as sorry as me! You have any idea how worried I was? WELL, DO YOU!" Rita shook her head. "I thought so!" T.J. paced around the room. "I couldn't call the police you know. If I did, I'd lose custody, and you'd be some foster kid in a foster home with a foster family! Is that what you want?" T.J. forced Rita to look him in the eyes. "Don't stare at the floor when I'm talking."

"NO THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT! 'I was better off letting them take you way' remember."

"I didn't mean it, and you know it."

"Sounded like you did."

"Well, I didn't. You'd think I'd put up with your crap if I didn't have a choice? Oh and you're on restriction for the whole summer. I can't trust you at home by yourself, so you're stuck with me. My boss's letting me bring you to work. So get ready to spend the next 60 hours a week at the hardware store."

"Okay," Rita groaned.

"Don't 'okay' me you little brat!"

"Can I go to my room now?"

"Not till I'm done."

"Look here, I've put up with a lot of crap. I had to quit college and work for next to nothing while you sit back and have it easy."

"I DON'T HAVE IT EASY! YOU DON'T WHAT THE HELL YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!" Rita sidestepped T.J. and ran into the house.

"Rita!" T.J. cried out to the angry little girl fleeing up the stairs.

T.J. hobbled inside and exhaustively unhinged the wall phone off the mount and dialed. "Hey, Brad, it's T.J. Rita's back home."

"Where was she the last week?"

"She wouldn't say. And I blew it," T.J. palmed his forehead and paced back and forth wrapped around the phone line, "lost my temper again. Rita probably hates me even more." T.J. unwrapped the phone line from around himself.

"Dude, I told you to chill out. Yeah, she messed up running away, but she's been through hell these last few months. Cut her a little slack; she's only eleven and a half. It's a lot to ask of a little kid. Look, call in sick tomorrow and sleep in. You need it. And don't worry about work; I'll fill in for you."

"Thanks. I owe you one."

"No problem, bye."

"Bye," but the line was still open. "Didn't I tell you to get some sleep? T.J?" But Brad was speaking with the wrong person. Rita eavesdropped on the conversation on the other line. She hung up and hopped in her bed.

"Well, at least T.J. still cares about me." That pinpoint light of hope lifted her spirits quite a bit.

"Maybe they're right," Rita contemplated eyes poised on the ceiling. She was just a kid. What was she thinking? What was Mr. Impossible thinking? It would so easy to back to living like a normal little girl, doing normal girl things, getting into normal little girl trouble. And that, in the end, is why superheroes wear masks: so they can bow out and leave the insanity in the funny books where they belong...

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"Oh who am kidding!" Rita clinched her petite hands into a tiny fist thinking about what was said over the food. "Brad and T.J. thinks they know what I've been through. And they think I'm buckling under the pressure. Wrong on both accounts! I was close to breaking, but now I've been through the worst part, I'm ready to take on anything. The Metadelinquents are coming back, and we're going to save the world even if it hates us; for you, T.J. and for Dad. Because," she reflected on the image of the pleading Lieaceit holding on for dear life; memory so vivid she could hear Lieaceit's fingernails scratching the floor just before falling to his death, "too much has been sacrificed already to stop."

--

Standing below the bedroom windows as Rita switched off the night lamp was man in a designer suit and tie and red scarf draped over the back of his neck and just below the stylish thick mane of brown hair. From the front of the house only his backside was visible in the cool luminescence of the streetlamps. The luxurious antique red cane on his personage twirled around with the dexterous flick of his wrist. It glowed bright white and molded into a red leather-bound notebook. He habitually thumbed the pages of the book. "Oh boy this is going to be so much fun. So, you're all 'gung ho, never give up and never surrender' huh Rita? Well, me neither." He spun around facing away from the house exposing his clean-cut, handsome face except for one imperfection. "I love it when my prey puts up a fight." The blemish in question was a blotch over his left eye that looked almost like an eyepatch.