Chapter Eighteen Outer Darkness

Darkness. Pain.

I'm gonna hurt you real bad. I'm gonna hurt you real bad.

Don't worry, Reiko, it'll soon be over.

Sorry, hon', I said you had to beg.

Don't cry, darling, it'll only hurt for a little while. Look, I'll make it go away. I'll make it go away.

"Mommy! Mommy!" Reiko shrieked.

"Reiko?" Her mother knelt, shrouding her daughter with dark, perfumed waves of hair. "I told you to practice your blocking. I'm sorry, I forget sometimes you're only little."

"You hurt me, mommy!" Reiko began to howl, tears spurting from her eyes.

"I know. I know. Wrestlers get hurt from time to time."

"I don't want to be hurt!" Reiko wept.

"Don't cry, darling, it'll only hurt for a little while." Her mother took her in her arms. "Look, I'll make it go away." She felt a soft kiss on her cheek. "See. That's my little girl, so strong and brave and beautiful."

So strong and brave and beautiful.

The sound of someone sobbing, in heart breaking, soul rending torment. Then a multitude of voices joining, louder and louder.

"Gaijin! Half-breed! Yankee bitch!" The circle of schoolgirls drew tight around their prey, grey uniforms, black hair, a babble of hyena-like calls. Their faces cloned with the same look of mob hatred. The object of their spite standing isolated, defiant amidst the tumult.

Reiko completed the breathing routine her mother had taught her. As the pounding of her heart subsided, the sickness in her stomach and the urge to scream and cry left her.

What did mom say about handling many opponents at the same time?

Her mother paused in the middle of her exercise routine, a slight frown on her face.

"Why do you want to know that, Reiko-chan? In the ring you usually only have to deal with one or two wrestlers? Is anything wrong?"

"Oh, I just wondered, mom. Remember that time when you fought four women in an exhibition match and beat them all? How did you do that?"

"Well in any group of fighters, one will be dominant or the leader. Identify that opponent and deal with them first, and the rest will lose heart." Tilting her daughter's chin up, she added, "You sure everything's ok?"

Reiko concentrated on the seething ruck. Eko Nakamura, beautiful, high cheek-boned face distorted in a snarl, stood half a head taller than the rest, almost as tall as Reiko, jammed up against her slightly shorter, side-kick, Hatsumi, all mouth amidst a podgy face.

"Reiko Hinomoto's a Yankee whore!"

Moving with the speed of thought, Reiko snaked out an arm to encircle Eko's neck, driving her leg deep inside those of the surprised schoolgirl to flip her to the ground. Instantly Reiko applied a ground hold with her foot, while the astonished Eko gurgled and choked. The watching schoolgirls were stunned into silence.

"Well, Eko," Reiko said calmly, pleasantly. "I believe you were saying something about my father"

"Uh, uh, I can't breathe! Reiko, please let me go!"

"Perhaps in a moment, Eko. You were saying?"

"He's … umph … a most respected business man, Reiko. Urgh, everyone likes him. Oh, stop, please!"

"You don't have a problem with him being American?"

"N,n, not at all!" Eko's face was turning a horrible red colour.

"You kiss the arse of all Americans that whipped your grandfather in the war! SAY IT!

"I … I … aah … alright … I kiss their arses!"

Reiko kicked Eko aside, immediately grabbed Hatsumi round the neck. The fat girl was trembling like a leaf.

"How are we today, Hatsumi?"

"Oh, Reiko, it was all Eko's idea. Please don't hurt me!"

"You remember, my mother Hatsumi?"

Y .. yes."

"She taught me this submission head lock. It's supposed to be excruciatingly painful. I've just needed someone deserving to try it on."

"No, no, don't aaaeee!" shrieked Hatsumi. Reiko waited for the blubbering to subside.

"How did you like that, Hatsumi? Now tell me about my mother."

"Wh … wha?"

"C'mon, Hatsumi, you've heard about her on television, at school. Do I need to remind you?"

"I … I … aargh, please no! She's … she was our most famous wrestler of all time. And, and … ooh, don't … the only woman to hold the Rose of Roses title for three years in a row … and, and …"

"Yes, and …?"

Hatsumi sobbed in terror, the tears flooding from her eyes. "Reiko, have mercy … I don't know what else you want." Screaming, "She's dead … she's dead, OK? And I'm so, so sorry!"

"I do believe you are, Hatsumi. Now has anyone anything else to say? No? Just get out of here, all of you."

The pack of schoolgirls slunk away, one by one. Reiko remained sitting cross-legged on her own.

A hand fell on her shoulder. "Reiko, are you alright?"

"Fujiko?" Reiko stared dully into the distance. "Yeah, everything's fine."

Pain. Pain.

You know you're going to have to submit. Make it easy on yourself.

Shut up, just shut up, will you?

The truth. You don't want to accept the truth.

"You know you're going to have to submit. Make it easy on yourself." Fujiko slightly tightened her hold, pulling back on Reiko's head.

"That's not how mom taught us." Reiko writhed tenaciously. "We keep fighting right until the end."

"Ok, you asked for it." Her sister's voice was detached. She wrenched violently at Reiko's head, causing her to scream in agony.

"Yes! I submit, I submit!"

"You're so predictable." Fujiko released Reiko, sounding bored. "You become more and more like her every day. A clone."

"What if I do? I'm proud of it."

"Proud? Ha!"

Reiko got to her feet. "I'll best you next time. I'm getting very close."

Fujiko said, "There may not be a next time for quite a while." She brushed a blonde tress back from her forehead.

Reiko said, "Surely you're not going yet? You're in line to win the Japanese championship in your first full year as a professional. No one's done that since …" her voice trailed off.

"My flight's booked to New York. Someone has to do this."

Reiko sat down disconsolately in the middle of the practice ring. "What's the point?"

"You have to ask? You saw the copy of the autopsy, the real autopsy, yourself."

Reiko said, "If it's a copy, how can it be the real one? In any case its lies, all lies. Mom would never have taken drugs."

"You're being obtuse. How do you know what mom might have done?"

"I know – and so do you. She loved us too much to risk her life in that way."

Fujiko said bitterly, "Maybe she cared more about winning than us. She was always away on some tour."

"She often came back to help us train."

"Of course!" Fujiko's hazel-coloured eyes rolled up ironically. "So she could turn us into little clones of herself. And how well she's succeeded in your case."

"Shut up! Just shut up, won't you?!"

Fujiko bent over Reiko, turning her chin up to face her. Reiko stared back sullenly at her sister's fine-boned features.

Fujiko said remorselessly, "If this autopsy was fake, why did the tournament directors suppress it? Because it's the truth. Mom died in the ring because she took performance drugs. You don't want to accept the truth, do you Reiko?"

"I know what I know. We aren't even sure if they did suppress it."

"Ok, then someone has to find out the truth. You stay here and cherish your illusions if you want. I'm leaving." Fujiko turned away.

"Fujiko!"

"What?"

"Let's not part like this. I'll come to see you off at the airport. I – "

"Come if you want. I don't care either way."

You don't want to accept the truth. I don't care either way.

I don't care either way.

"Nanami!" Reiko exclaimed in surprise. "What are you doing here? We're not supposed to meet before the match." She took in the young women's delicate features, her wide dark eyes briefly meeting Reiko's, then sliding away. As always, Nanami Yoshida was immaculately made up, her long, black hair well brushed and gleaming. But something about her pensive expression seemed foreboding.

"Hello, Reiko." Nanami nervously stroked her cheek. "I'm sorry. I have something to ask you."

Reiko glanced left and right along the corridor, gestured to the locker room. "Alright, come in quickly."

Once inside, Nanami stood uneasily, apparently uncertain how to begin. Then, as if impelled to speak, she said abruptly:

"Reiko, you remember our last fight? The one where you beat me within three minutes with a submission?" Reiko nodded. Nanami flashed her an embarrassed glance. "The match you won easily, as you have every time since you became champion of Japan."

"What does that … " Reiko tried to interject but Nanami continued as if she'd said nothing, her words now coming in a passionate rush.

"When you humiliated me and hurt me, like you humiliate and hurt all of us, over and over. We haven't got a chance, and I'm sick of it."

"Nanami!" Reiko cried out. She added more gently. "Look, I can see you're upset, but I'm sure when you think about this afterwards …"

"Afterwards!" Nanami gave a short laugh. "It'll be the same as always! You're bigger and stronger and faster. You make us all look pathetic. A laughing stock."

"C'mon." Reiko sounded embarrassed. "You're being too hard on yourself. All you need is to train harder like I do and maybe …"

"It'll never be enough!" Nanami's voice had taken on a whining note of self-pity, mixed with an edge of bitter anger. "Since Fujiko left, there's been no one who can compete with you. No one. And you take it out on the rest of us. Its not fair either because your father …"

"Wait just a moment!" Reiko spoke sharply. "I'm the champion because I'm the best wrestler, and there's an end to it."

"Whatever you say." Nanami sounded resigned. "Look, we both know the result of this match is a foregone conclusion. And so …"

"And so you're going to quit, Nanami …"

"It doesn't have to be like that." The slighter built wrestler was now looking at the floor. "Look, we can make it look as good as you like. You can even let me seem to get on top for a while. The fans will love it. And then … whenever you want … I'll go down. Only …" her tone was tiny, fragile. "Only please don't hurt me like you did before."

Silence fell in the locker room. Nanami's head remained bowed as if in supplication. The seconds passed.

Suddenly her chin was seized, her head forced upwards to face Reiko.

Reiko's eyes were like stones, staring directly into her opponent's fear-widened ones.

"Don't worry, Nanami." She teased a bead of perspiration so that it trickled down the wrestler's cheek. "I won't hurt you like I did before. When I was little, my mother taught me a certain submission hold. All this time I've only had occasion to use it once. I think I'll try it on you in this match. It'll be a good lesson for you."

What happens if we go across and can't come back? Will we be like lost souls?

Like lost souls?

Darkness, all pervading. Darkness from the pits of hell.

Its what we in the profession call an overdose. I'm afraid this IS going to hurt.

Pain, the pain is fading. The darkness is fading. And, now … light.


Dr Cutter said softly, "So you see how it is."

Reiko became aware she was lying on the floor. She ached in every muscle. Her clothing felt tighter than usual.

She felt her arms, her legs. They seemed to have thickened, like tree trunks. Her stomach muscles too, were tighter, stronger. On her breast the derm had darkened the skin to the blackness of a tattoo, forming a distinct shape. The image of a winged demon.

She whimpered. A battered looking Benikage was instantly at her side, supporting her. Dr Cutter stood above her, the same crazy grin on her face. She spoke again.

"How do you feel about the new you?"

A wave of sorrow, like a wall of blackness descending, overcame Reiko. She wept uncontrollably.

Dr Cutter said, "There, there. It's hard to deal with at first. I felt the same. But you will thank me, in the end, for showing you the truth. And you will never need to cry again. You just won't want to do it."

Benikage put an arm around Reiko protectively. She said, fiercely, "Akumabito! Monster! What have you done to her?"

Patronisingly, Dr Cutter said, "I haven't done anything to her. I have revealed her true self. Anything else that happens is down to Reiko to decide."

Benikage indicated Reiko's bulging muscles. "And these?"

Cutter sniggered, "A useful side-effect! A strong body to accompany a strong mind. You could have chosen this too."

"Akumabito!"

Reiko abruptly stopped crying. She said, "Take your hands off me!" and roughly pushed Benikage aside. The ninja looked astonished.

Reiko's voice had changed. It was harsh, uncaring. Her eyes stared almost as madly as the physician's, filled with anger and hatred. She leapt easily to her feet, stretched herself, then swaggered arrogantly forward to confront Dr Cutter. Face to face, they looked strangely alike.

The doctor stepped back, as if to better examine Reiko, stroking her chin, and nodding.

"Just as I predicted. You have all the signs of complete transformation. Magnificent! You will be the crowning glory of my collection."

Reiko said nothing, but a sneer passed across her face.

Dr Cutter said confidently. "You see everything now, don't you? How your mother manipulated you, even from beyond the grave. And your father did nothing to stop it." She laughed. "He even gave you her name, rather than his own. How pathetic!"

"I see. And it was, very pathetic."

"The part of you that resented that control, and that was sick of being so nice to everyone … " Cutter's tone showed her complete contempt for the idea "… that is the Doppelganger Soul I have freed forever."

There was a groan from behind Reiko. Dixie Clemets, eyes bleary, hair askew, staggered forward.

She gasped, "Reiko, remember!"

Reiko turned to regard the Texan cynically. She said, "You're not looking too good, Dix'."

Dr Cutter gave a loud bray of mirth. "Cowgirl! This time you're too late to rescue little Reiko. Who's not so little anymore." To Reiko, she said, "Why don't you show your former friend how strong you've become? Beat her within an inch of her life!"

Reiko thoughtfully flexed her new muscles. She looked at Dixie, an arm raised in mute appeal, at Benikage, crouching in readiness, then back at Dr Cutter, smirking in anticipation.

She said, "Nobody's gonna order me around, lady."

"What … what did you say?"

Reiko said, "My mother may've been manipulative, my father may've been pathetic. Not as manipulative or pathetic as you, Dr Cutter. One moment you ring the Liberty Bell, the next you expect us to grovel under your jackboot."

She spat deliberately on the marble floor.

"You've no more left behind the part of you that's Anesthesia than you have resentment, jealousy or petty vindictiveness. 'Enhanced?' Ha! You're not the first of a new master race, you're a schizophrenic mess."

An expression of puzzlement crossed Dr Cutter's face. She said, "I brought you to birth, I showed you the truth, created you. You owe me big time. Do as I say. Crush that retarded hick under your boot like an insect."

Reiko suddenly stretched out one arm, and seized Dr Cutter by the throat, lifting her effortlessly into the air. Cutter choked and struggled in disbelief.

"You think that I'm grateful to you for involving me in your half-arsed schemes? Think again, lady! I go my own way."

Cutter managed to gasp, "Help me!"

The black masked wrestler sprang into action. As she approached, Reiko flung Dr Cutter aside, just in time to counter her opponent's attempted grapple. Ducking around, Reiko kneed the rubber-clad woman in the stomach, then executed a leaping uppercut of unstoppable speed and power. She took hold of the still-dazed wrestler and, turning her upside down, dropped her head first with a stunning pile driver. Then she quickly sat on her opponent, to hold her paralysed between her legs.

Dixie and Benikage moved smartly forward to flank Reiko protectively.

Dixie said, "You're finished, Cutter. You're outnumbered three to one."

From behind Dixie came the sound of someone coughing and retching. Then Aisha said, "Make that four to one."

Regaining her feet and brushing herself down, Dr Cutter seemed to have recovered something of her aplomb.

She said, "Fortunately I need only one. I happen to have brought along another of my little experiments. Lady X! Come up here now!"

The last comment was uttered into the mobile phone she had quickly produced. For a moment nothing happened. Then, from outside the mansion, a strange mechanical howling could be heard, as of an engine pushed beyond its normal safety limits to the point where it was about to explode. The sound was loudest from the direction of Aisha's decorative windows, the stained glass figures of dealers, pimps and johns seeming to stare out in reproof. The screeching gained in volume, until the building appeared to be shaking, causing all present to cover their ears.

Dixie shouted, "Everyone hit the deck!"

There was barely time to comply with her order before the glass of every single window shattered, the multitude of coloured shards flying across the room in a deadly hail. The arena and stage provided just enough cover to shelter the cowering group.

Silence fell. The wrestlers cautiously regained their feet, except for Reiko, who was still pinning Cutter's henchwoman to the floor.

Strands of mist were drifting through the now vacant window frames, moonlight mingling with arc lights, fog with dry ice to veil the ring in a luminous cloud of vapours, shot through with silver and red. In the very centre of the mist-shrouded arena, a woman crouched, her head bowed. Her sudden appearance seemed to defy reasonable explanation, although it could conceivably be inferred from her position that she had just landed after leaping through the shattered windows. But considering their height above ground level, a superhuman level of agility and strength would have been required.

Slowly, and a trifle jerkily, the woman rose to stand tall and statuesque. Her height was remarkable, the body frame powerful looking, limbs long, but elegant. The metallic sheen of her clothing mirrored the moon, her hair confined in a long pony tail glimmering silver in the cold light. As she became fully erect, she elevated her head to look directly towards the group gathered round the stage.

Aisha gasped, "Oh my god!"

Dixie exclaimed, "What in tarnation ….?"

This time the effect they were witnessing almost certainly wasn't the result of reflected light or contact lenses. The woman's eyes glowed from within to form two red points of light which projected forward to shine on them like laser beams. Eyes which had nothing about them of humanity.

The woman took several steps forward, a faint whining noise accompanying her movements,. As the mists drew aside, her hybrid nature became clearer. While the upper arms, upper legs, joints, breasts and parts of the belly showed soft flesh, much of the rest of the body was encased in hard steel. Rather than being some kind of external armour, the metal appeared to form part of her very substance. The waist and hips were almost entirely replaced with machine parts designed to swivel and pivot. Even the face was mostly plated with metal, the exceptions being the surprisingly sensuous mouth, high forehead and proud chin. If any expression could be discerned, then it was one of serene indifference.

Dr Cutter said, "Lady X is a cyborg constructed from the DNA of famous wrestlers - to which I conveniently had access – and the latest cybernetic technology available to my company. While the goal of my research was to produce alternate personalities who were superior but fully human, Lady X was designed purely for military purposes. Although far less flexible and limited in her ability to think independently, the fact she is part machine makes her more than ten times stronger than a normal human, or even than an enhanced one. As you have temporarily thwarted one of my projects, its appropriate that I'm going to use the other to punish you."

She sighed. "In a way, its such a pity. Bringing you all into a state of snivelling subjection through my drugs would have been so much more … artistic. Dixie, I'd have shown you the real meaning of pain and humiliation. As for our wonderfully naïve kunoichi, I'm sure I would've thought of something suitably perverse to subject her to. Aisha's already damaged goods, of course, but everyone likes to see a stuck up celebrity suffer. And Reiko, my little Japanese kitten, I was particularly looking forward to enjoying you. Ah well, I shall have to be content with a massacre instead."

Lady X surveyed the group of wrestlers, her laser eyes coming to rest on the masked woman in Reiko's grasp, then on Reiko herself.

Chuckling, the doctor said, "Excellent! Lady X, you have identified the main threat. Eliminate her!"

Lady X strode forward purposefully. Benikage shouted out, "Keep away from her, all of you!"

Ignoring the ninja's warning, Dixie vaulted into the ring to stand in the way of the advancing colossus. Her feet were planted firmly apart, her fists bunched.

She said, "When I step aside for a machine, it'll be time to draw ma pension. If you're part human, ya can bleed. Ya'll have to get by me first."

The cyborg continued forward remorselessly, with no sign that she was even aware of Dixie's presence or intentions. Taking a short run up, Dixie launched herself into a flying drop kick, aiming at the exposed flesh she could see above the metallic juncture of the waist.

The Texan's full weight and strength were behind the kick, as she crashed into her target, but Lady X merely stopped and staggered slightly. Dixie rolled to her feet, and aimed a ferocious punch at the same location. This time the cyborg reacted by seizing hold of Dixie's arm before it could connect. Rotating from the waist in a smooth, mechanical motion, she sent Dixie flying across the ring, to land in a crumpled heap. Not sparing her downed opponent a glance, Lady X resumed her confident progress, stepping smartly through the ropes.

Bravely, futilely Aisha tried to block her path. She said with braggadocio, "Now I'm only gonna warn ya once ..."

Almost casually, the automaton swept her aside and sent her sprawling.

Reiko had already delivered a stunning blow to the masked wrestler's head and was beginning to disentangle herself from the hold, but now Lady X towered above her. The woman with red eyes reached out a silver gloved hand.

Clearly enjoying herself, Dr Cutter shouted, "Kill her, kill them all!"

Lady X froze, her arm extended.

Furiously Dr Cutter repeated. "Kill her! Obey my orders, you malfunctioning piece of metal!"

Lady X did not move.

Behind Reiko, Benikage began to chuckle softly. "So, Demon, your puppet will no longer dance to your tune? Someone has cut her strings, perhaps?"

Anesthesia's alter ego aimed a vicious look at the ninja. "What is it? What have you done?"

Benikage laughed again. She said, "It matters nothing if I tell you, as you can do nothing. During my infiltration of your base, I discovered your metal monster and reprogrammed her."

"Impossible! I examined your profile and you do not possess the skill."

"You are correct. However if you have penetrated our organisation to that extent, you will have heard of Professor Hiroshi Namura. He provided me with a modem allowing him to hack into your systems remotely. He learned that Lady X was an illegal project, which you concealed from your multi-national executive board, and built with misappropriated components. These included an electronic brain, hard-wired with what he called the Three Laws of Robotics, the first being …"

"No robot may harm a human being, or through inaction allow a human to come to harm." Dr Cutter slapped her thigh in frustration. "The miserable pervert! He must have lusted after you to grant you this favour!"

"I always believed him to be my friend," Benikage said, with dignity. "And perhaps he suspected that I was to be betrayed. When he found you had rigged a bypass to allow the cyborg to kill, he restored the original programming, along with an anti-tamper device to short-circuit and destroy the robotic brain if any further interference occurred. And so when you activated Lady X …"

"She tried to prevent me harming her." Reiko indicated the wrestler in black, still slumped unconscious at her feet.

"And then I got in her way." Dixie looked none the worse for wear. "Wasn't she supposed to avoid hurting me too?"

"She continued to carry out her first priority," said Benikage. "Until given a direct order to kill."

"Kill! Fiddlesticks!" Dr Cutter looked exasperated beyond measure. "Enough of this nonsense!" Her expression suddenly changed, as something seemed to occur to her, and a cunning smile played across her lips. "But you have forgotten one important point. Your precious law cuts both ways. And I still control Lady X!" Addressing the robot directly, she commanded, "Lady X! Come with me, we're leaving."

"Wait a moment!" Aisha's resentment at her treatment by Dr Cutter was evident. "We're going to let her high-tail out of here after all she's done?"

Benikage put a restraining hand on her arm. "We cannot prevent her," she said softly.

"How true! The dog can't bite its master!" Dr Cutter was backing towards the service lift, making sure Lady X was between her and the group of wrestlers.

"Dr Cutter!" Reiko called after her, a curious expression on her face. "What of Fujiko?"

Dr Cutter paused, and considered. She said, cruelly, "All you need to know, Reiko dear, is that she hates you."

"You've talked to her?"

"She came and went. What else is there to say, other than …"

Reiko indicated the black-clad wrestler at her feet. "And her?"

Dr Cutter tittered. "I can see what you're thinking. Well, why don't you take a look? I always applaud the desire to see the truth unmasked."

Dixie knelt and pulled the wrestler's rubber skullcap forward over her face.

Bright red hair was uncovered, then a pale visage, eyes tight shut.

Reiko said slowly, "Candy Cane!"

"You were expecting maybe Selina Kyle? Or someone more closely related to you?" Dr Cutter evidently relished Reiko's obvious disappointment. "Keep her, the little brat. I could only gain her compliance with huge and frequent amounts of the drug. Of all the ungrateful, wilful, selfish little scapegraces I have ever met …"

Dixie rasped, "Get out of here, or so help me I'll tear your heart out before that machine can do anything."

Dr Cutter was by now standing in the elevator. Lady X moved forward to join her. The medic said abruptly, "Lady X, stop!" The cyborg stood motionless, facing the lift. Its master continued, "So Reiko, you truly want to know what happened to Fujiko? Come here, and I'll show you. But come without your bunch of sidekicks."

Reiko moved forward, but Dixie put a hand up to prevent her "Reiko, it could be a trap!"

Reiko said, "I've got to know!" She shouldered past Dixie and approached the lift.

Dr Cutter laughed. "Yes, you have to know or your life will be meaningless. Come closer." When Reiko was so near that her small, upturned nose was practically touching the scientist's longer one, Dr Cutter said, confidentially. "You see, she was given this mark. The same one you will have till the day you die."

"What mark?"

"Like this!" As if by magic, a scalpel was in Dr Cutter's hand. She struck out rapidly at Reiko's face. The Japanese woman leapt back, but the blade left a bloody cut from above her eyebrow to the bottom of her cheek.

In a rage, Dixie surged forward to the threshold of the lift, but Lady X spun and lifted her off her feet, to kick helplessly. The Texan shouted "You'll pay for this, you hell-spawned psycho!"

"Dear, dear!" Dr Cutter tutted, her finger on the lift button. "So full of sound and fury!" She nodded to Lady X. "Release her!" The cyborg sent the Southerner sprawling backwards. Dr Cutter surveyed her enemies with contempt. "None of you yet realises the full extent of my revenge. And the delicious thing is, you will each of you bring it upon yourself. Cowgirl, you will have only the bottle to ease your pain; poor Doggy, you'll be lost without your master; Reiko your quest for Fujiko will be futile. I wish each of you the worst – and now I must leave."

Aisha asked, "Hey, what about me?"

Dr Cutter said, "Your fate is to be the perpetual outsider. Appropriately enough." She laughed mockingly. "I consign each of you to your own private hell – the devil be with you all!" The lift doors closed on her insane laughter.


*Akumabito! (Japanese Slang) means 'Demon!'

Selina Kyle: otherwise known as Catwoman. Evil Rose's black costume might be imagined to resemble hers.

Some references in this chapter were to the preceding story, A Rose By Any Other Name. If you haven't yet read it, now's your chance!

And stay tuned, there's yet more to come!*