by Dan Swanson
The pirate captain stopped moving and dropped her sword arm to her side, bringing the weapon’s point to the deck. Lady Victory broke off her attack. “This better not be a trick!” she said.
“Currrse yer soul, ye limey harlot! It’s Anamaria Saldana yer talkin’ ta, not some lyin’ popinjay. Yer lackwit meddlin’s set free th’ thrice-damned Gr’bash, the goddess of wat’ry doom ter menace the worrrld.”
“Anamaria Saldana? She was one of the most famous lady pirates in the 1700s,” Palette observed. “Captain of the Black Lusca. Terrorized the islands for years, then just disappeared.”
“Aye, runnin’ afore the scurvy dogs of Woodes Rogers, we werrre, when that cursed Gr’bash rose outer the deeps and dragged us and ‘r poor wreck of a ship to ‘r watr’y grrrave.”
“So you’re a ghost? I don’t believe in ghosts,” Miss Music piped up. At that instant, the ship rocked, and then rolled over to one side. The heroines were knocked off their feet and had to scrabble to keep from sliding down the deck before the ancient ship slowly righted itself. Anamaria floated serenely above the chaos. A giant tentacle, covered with suckers, rose out of the water and smashed down on the deck of the battered ship, tearing through the planking like paper.
“Don’t matterrr what’chr believes now, does it, poppin?” Anamaria turned to face another of the heroines, and commanded scornfully, “Ye prettified coward, strike now wit’ th’ Sword o’ Glory, ‘ere we’re dragged ta Davey Jones’ locker, an’ me fer a second time!”
Stung by the accusation of cowardice, Majique shook off a daze and slashed wildly, and her magic sword sliced into that awesome tentacle at the same time as the pirate captain’s own sword. There was a roar of pain from under the ocean. The tentacle tightened spasmodically and cracked the rotting Black Lusca in half, and then the shattered boat rocketed skyward on a bulge of water rising from the sea as the giant monster of the deep surged toward the surface.
“Demon mother! What hit me?” Back on the beach, Kali sat up painfully. She looked at the long ditch she’d dug when she’d crashed to the sand. “Must have been some magic in that explosion. Nobody’s ever hit me like that before!””
She tried to stand up, only to fall to her hands and knees, then tried again and succeeded; it was outrageous. It was enough to make a girl angry, especially one who had the powers of a goddess. “Nobody swats me from the sky like a bug! Somebody is going to pay for this big-time!” Ignoring a slight feeling of disorientation, she looked out over the channel. Just as she thought, the pirate ship was still out there. Though she knew there was something wrong with it, she didn’t bother to figure it out. Why waste the time?
She lifted into the air, hovered for an instant, and then the beach was empty until the sonic boom raised a vicious dust devil. A long, narrow finger of vapor trail pointed accusingly at the pirate ship.
Lady Victory, Miss Music, Palette, and Majique were swept out of the air almost before they knew they were falling. Lady Victory instantly sized up the situation. “We have to lure that thing to shore so we can fight it.”
“Who died and made you boss?” Kali asked in a hostile tone.
“Hey! That’s just what I said!” Tammi Paige cheered. Then she looked down at the monster rising from the deep, and her expression went from cheerful to worried. Eerie music was playing softly; Val Coppersmith recognized the theme from the 1950s movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
Lady Victory sighed. “OK, land us on that island there.” She pointed north to Grass Cay. “Then do whatever you want.” If Kali wouldn’t listen to her, there was nothing she could do about it. She had to hope the most powerful woman in the world would cool off before she did anything stupid. Bonnie Drake had a feeling that beating Gr’bash would require all their combined efforts.
In two blinks they were on that shore, where the five women and a ghost watched Gr’bash rise from the sea. A shark’s head the size of the Hindenburg rose inexorably behind the giant wave, and the mouth chomped mightily on the wrecked Black Lusca. The head shook violently in a typical shark attack, scattering the remains of the ancient warship like toothpicks.
Anamaria Saldana wailed in anguish. “Loathsome hellspawn! I be stuck on this world ‘twixt Heaven ‘n’ Hell ’til the day ye die, trapped b’ my own foolish dyin’ curse. Today’s ter day I’ll pay yer wit’ steel ‘n’ scuttle yer bones! No quarter will ye git fr’m me, ye scurvy beast!”
The creature spit out the last fragments of the shattered schooner and continued to rise. Instead of flukes and a tail, the rear-half of the giant monster had the tentacles of an octopus.
“It’s a kraken!” shouted Palette in awe.
“Nay, ye flamin’ twit! Gr’bash be the cursed mother of all kraken!” Anamaria shouted back angrily. “Goddess of wat’rrry doom, trapped b’ me sacrrrifice and ter magic of ter Haliphrrron. Released onto the world by yer stupidity.” She lifted in the air, then rushed toward the monster, her sword extended in front of her like a mystical warhead.
Kali hung in the air, motionless. She felt within herself a disturbing affinity for the creature she regarded, a creature she knew would destroy everything she had been created to protect. Suddenly, the world around her vanished, and she was somewhere else. She floated in a formless universe of colorless gray. Gr’bash floated with her. Somehow they were of a size, and more than before, Kali sensed a kinship with this being.
The communication between these two mystical beings was as advanced and unknowable to humans as speech among humans might be to a dog. A dog could hear the words, and respond to emotions and limited commands, and just as a dog, we could understand merely the smallest part of what passed between these two.
“You appear as Kali, goddess of death, a sister to me. Yet you are not Kali. I sense that you oppose me. Know that whatever the source of your powers, you are not strong enough, false image of Kali!”
Kali wondered who was this strange, frightening being that recognized her so easily, and found the knowledge bubbling inside her. She replied wonderingly, “You are Gr’bash, a goddess of the Haliphron, the hidden octopus civilization of the North Atlantic. You seek to kill humans today. Why?”
“The Haliphron imprisoned me in a trap they created using mystical human artifacts gathered for them by that cursed pirate, Anamaria Saldana. Humans today destroyed that same trap. I will destroy humans for creating those artifacts, then the Haliphron will be next. Today I will be sending many humans to the care of your patron, Kali.”
“You shall not. Humans are under my protection.”
“Then you, too, will meet your patron today!”
The place of nothingness vanished. As best Kali could judge, no time had passed in the real world. Kali was still somewhat dazed from the magical explosion earlier, and now from the up-close-and-personal interview with an actual goddess, and one of the beast’s tentacles wrapped around her before she even saw it. The beast was drawing her toward its giant shark mouth, lined with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth the size of Christmas trees. She fought, but she couldn’t get enough a grip on the tough, slimy flesh to tear her way out.
On the beach, Lady Victory was quietly, steadily cursing Kali for refusing to follow directions while simultaneously trying to figure out a way to defeat a monster over an eighth of a mile long. “Val, can you pull some magical mystical monster poison from your pouch?”
Majique was apologetic. “Sorry, I already used it twice today. But I still have the Sword of Glory.” She brandished the cutlass she’d earlier pulled from her pouch. “It has the power to hurt that thing.” The magic of the pouch gave Val an almost instinctive knowledge of the magical artifacts she pulled from it.
“Hey! Leader lady!” Miss Music interrupted with a demand. “I wanna get into this fight right now!”
Bonnie Drake sighed. “OK, here’s what I want you to do. Jump way up into the air as high as you can, then create a roar like a rocket under your feet. If you can make it loud enough, the sound waves ought to lift you like a missile.”
“Wow! You really think so? Rocketgirl to the rescue!” Palette and Majique hastily put their hands to their ears, and Lady Victory hurriedly turned down the gain on her helmet’s hearing system. Tammi Paige leaped as high as she could, then unleashed a roar akin to standing next to a Boeing 707 getting ready to taxi, but only for the short instant it took for her to fall sprawling to the sand.
Bonnie turned to Majique as if nothing had happened. “Tell me about the Sword of Glory,” Lady Victory suggested.
“Anamaria and her pirates stole the Sword of Glory from a Spanish treasure ship, and they were taking it to the Haliphron, when Gr’bash attacked and destroyed the Black Lusca. Anamaria went down with the ship, cursing the monster with her dying breath. Her first mate, Nigel Blackheart, managed to draw the Sword of Glory before the goddess swallowed him whole. Nigel cut his way out of her stomach and stabbed the Sword of Glory through her heart. The human magic of the sword wasn’t powerful enough to kill a goddess, but it did put Gr’bash into a coma, as the Haliphron had planned. Poor Nigel died when Gr’bash sank to the sea bottom. Unfortunately, when I asked for a magical weapon to fight the skeletons earlier, the pouch pulled the Sword of Glory from Gr’bash’s heart — releasing her from the coma.”
“Any other big, bright ideas, Miss Smarty Pants?” Tammi interrupted. “That one was nothing but a big flop!”
“Jump into the water and point your arms over your head, then make a really loud motor sound behind you. The noise ought to push you through the water like a jet boat!” Lady Victory suggested.
“Boy-o-boy! The Human Torpedo to the rescue!” As Tammi ran enthusiastically down the beach to the water, Majique snickered.
“You shouldn’t tease her like that,” Palette chided her red-white-and-blue-clad leader. “She’s going to get mad. It’s not fun when she’s mad.”
“If she leaves me alone for a few seconds, I can work on an idea,” Lady Victory mused. She made a mental note never to trust Majique’s pouch again; it had certainly solved the problem of the skeletons, but she would rather face a thousand flimsy undead skeletons than one angry giant lusca, who also seemed to be a goddess to the Haliphron, whoever they were. “Alex, can your power fool that monster into seeing something that isn’t there, by projecting right onto her eyes?” Bonnie asked Palette.
Alex Silverstone was startled. “I never thought of that. I couldn’t hit something as small as a normal eye, but her eyes are as big as trucks. Sure, what do you want her to see?”
“Still thinking…” She threw a gob of sand at Tammi, who was roaring like a powerboat and had actually managed to move a few feet offshore by this time, to get her attention. “Miss Music, I need you to tell Kali to keep the monster busy for a while, and get Anamaria back here!”
In the slimy grasp of Gr’bash’s tentacle, Kali started spinning her body at super-speed. Almost instantly, the friction generated enough heat to dry the monster’s rough skin, and seconds later the beast screamed in pain and threw Kali violently away. As soon as the hero was free of the terrible embrace, she could hear Tammi’s voice yelling at her out of the air.
“Hey, fire-eyes! The bossy lady has a plan. You have to keep the monster distracted by fighting it for a couple of minutes.”
Kali stopped spinning and hung in the air, swearing violently. “What do you think I’m #^@%in’ doing, playing #^@%!*& ping pong?”
“Sorry, honey, I can see you, but my super-power’s not in my ears. I’d really love to hear what you’re saying,” Tammi’s voice said sweetly from the air around her. “I’ll bet it’d work good with Alex. Uh-oh, you’d better…”
Kali never heard what she had better do. A fist made of two tentacles wrapped together smashed into her with tremendous force, and she tumbled through the air until she crashed into the sea, miles away.
“Oh, my, I’ll bet that hurt!” the air where she’d been spoke to no one in particular. “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder…”
After dispatching Kali, Gr’bash turned south and headed for St. Thomas. She could sense that, in the time she’d been trapped, the island had become infested with many thousands of humans. She was ravenous after her long nap.
At the same time, Tammi was also sending her voice to Anamaria Saldana. “Hey, patch, the British harlot has a plan. She needs your help, though.”
“Shiverrr me soul!” the ghost said to the air. “It bitter be a black-hearrrted plan, ter send ter bloody beast ter Davey Jones fer once and all!” She reversed direction instantly.