Las Vegas, NV
On a Friday Afternoon
Emily glanced at the Charger’s fuel gauge once they passed the Las Vegas sign landmark. She almost forgot how awful the fuel economy for the vehicle was in practice. Twenty-three miles to the gallon, on average, assuming a lot of luck and minimal city driving. It was no wonder the real owner opted to replace the 19 gallon fuel tank with one almost double that capacity. Still, working around the consumption did pose a major issue. “I’m going to stop for gas before we enter the Strip.” She pulled the wad of cash from Ashley’s bag, took $100 and returned the rest to the bag. “We’re likely going to need somewhere in the range of $300 in gas to cover the 2600+ miles.”
Ashley subtly counted the remaining cash. “Those are awfully specific numbers, Carol. Are you basing them on your own costs for the trip here?”
“I had more than ample time to do the math in advance, Jessica. As for how I covered getting here, I did go out of my way to keep stops minimal.” Emily recalled one of her ‘methods’ for producing gasoline while screaming down the highway at 80 MPH. “Unless I tell you otherwise, DO NOT drink from any Snapple bottles until the trip is over.” That was an awkward confession. “…I’m going to play some music now.”
The length of time necessary to fill the large gas tank made the gas station trip longer than expected. A small crowd formed around the perimeter of the gas station in quiet anticipation of something fantastic happening. Much to the audience’s dismay, the most exciting highlight was when Ms. Marvel went into the building to pay the cashier. THRILLED onlookers saw her choose between a paper and plastic bag for a few snacks and 20 oz fruit drinks. ZOW! She left a penny in the ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ tray because it wasn’t as though her outfit contained any pockets for coins. The need for pockets was a pressing issue for another time.
Most of the would-be paparazzi left after the pumping of fuel ended. One Youtube prank channel owner named ‘EternalPrank’ tailed the vehicle in hopes of creating the next viral hit. How could he turn away a chance for the ULTIMATE clickbait video? He had no idea who or what he was following since true ‘bros’ only like things after they appeared in movies with explosions and giant blue beams. Worst case, he could just say they’re ‘girl Spider-Man and Maleficent Elsa’ or whatever else will attract the most views. His knockoff Segway took off in tepid pursuit!
“Don’t you think that was risky, ‘Carol’?” Ashley scolded the driver.
“Relax, Jessica… I know exactly what I’m doing. Keep up the act and we’ll be out of here with no issues.” Emily pulled the car into the parking garage as opposed to the valet. “The last time I checked, my friend HADN’T reported the car stolen. As a precaution, let’s try to keep instances where the car is outside of our control to a minimum.” She parked, pulled out the keys and faced the ‘where to put them’ issue once again. Necessity forced her to undo the sash slightly, slide the key ring on and retie the knot after locking the door. “I’ll get a fanny pack or something similar before we hit the road again.”
“You could let me hold the keys, Carol.” Ashley exited the vehicle; closing the door behind her. Suddenly, she realized that her costume lacked pockets as well. Her bag was too distinct for her to casually carry it in with her into the casino… again. She struggled to find somewhere to store the cash on her after placing her marked bag back into the car. “Why are superheroine costumes so inconvenient?”
Emily shoved the money down the length of her left glove. “Think of my inventory as your leash while we’re here, Jessica. I’d hate to force you to resort to that position every single time you drop something.” In one swoop, Emily took complete control of the road trip’s resources. “I’ll show you how a real shapeshifter turns the odds in their favor.” The confinement of the parking garage made Emily realize just how much she stank. “After I take a shower… and have drinks.”
The employees in the hotel lobby didn’t seem to react in the slightest to the sight of the costumed duo. Emily waved to the visible bartender in the Lobby Bar to order her ‘usual’. Saying no more about her ‘habits’ as Ms. Danvers is for the best. “Go talk with Issac at the bar while I check in. Tell him to send the drinks to Palace Petite Suite #2.” Ashley walked mumbling in the way she always does when she’s embarrassed.
“Welcome back, Ms. Danvers.” A male hotel clerk greeted. “As per your arrangement, we have kept your key here on stand-by until your return.” Any establishment is willing to make accommodations for a client who gives them a large sum of money in advance. “What is the password?”
Emily pulled the clerk into a whisper. “PS3 has games.”
“Everything checks out, Ms. Danvers. Please enjoy your stay in the suite.” He handed over a keycard along with an unmarked key for the safety deposit box. “Thank for your continued patronage, and do check out tonight’s performance of DmC: Devil May Cry done in classical theater style.” Emily and Ashley went out of their way to avoid all traces of that show.
Meanwhile, EternalPrank continued his search for the unwilling prank subjects. Inspiration hit him like a bolt of lightning: Why not make LOOKING for the subjects INTO a secondary prank video for additional attention? Asking random people if they had seen ‘girl Spider Man and Maleficent Elsa’ only resulted in three unfunny responses, two fights [that ‘IT’S JUST A PRANK, BRO’ barely averted] and a lot of ‘epic fail’ for his secondary channel InfernalPrank. A lead finally came in the form of an off-duty Caesars employee who happened to be a diehard DC fan. That employee proceeded to spend the rest of his free time that night damage controlling for Wonder Woman (2017) on-line.
Emily wasted no time making her way to the suite. The thought of continuously paying for an unoccupied suite for a few months is insane to most people. Emily had seen footage that you never will, which is EXACTLY why that plan made sense to her at the time. She ran through her procedure of showering and detoxifying until she noticed the neither Ashley nor the drinks had arrived. Ashley’s phone was still back in the car, so that ruled out calling her. Luckily, the landline offered a speed dial to the lobby bar. “Issac, where are the drinks? You know that my money is good.”
“I can’t do that this time because some underage kids exploited the service. You’re free to come get them in person whenever. Your friend over here is a real virgin.” Emily could hear the finger points over the phone.
“I thought that was obvious.” Emily thought on how much she had left to do. “Give me twenty minutes. You’re the best, Issac.” She hung up the phone before performing a check for any indicators of surveillance in the room. Satisfied, she made her way towards the security deposit box with unmarked key in hand... Very much like the film Pulp Fiction, never directly showing the contents adds a layer of mystery. It’s not as though she converted most of the money from Randi into casino chips and spent the rest on a few firearms. Oh wait, that’s exactly how it happened. Mystery solved.
“I knew that going to ‘The Gun Store’ was the best option!” Emily gloated as she adjusted the complimentary ankle ammo bag into a general purpose ‘purse’. For perspective, imagine that bag Lightning wears on her left leg. Everything else from the box fit into two unassuming briefcases. All she had to do now was cash out discretely, take the maximum in hard cash and have her last drink before her AA coach materialized again. Ashley’s hygiene could wait until a Motel 6 in Utah. Actually, scratch that: Colorado. There was nothing to do in Utah.
Ashley had lived a pretty sheltered childhood apart from the sporadic ‘witch stuff’ including but not limited to LARPing The Wicker Man, ‘intense’ girl scouts and mandatory old wizards’ home visits/mall walks. She didn’t know the first thing about bars beyond pretending to like sports and not eating the nuts. “Go team!” She feigned interest between stirs of her ‘Perma-virgin Mary’ (simply diluted Campbell’s tomato soup with a celery stick). Issac reassured her that Ms. Danvers was coming within the next twenty minutes. Ashley was too caught up in the drink to hear EternalPrank start his video just outside the bar.
“What’s up, Youtube! It’s your boy EternalPrank ready to get you all an EXCLUSIVE SCOOP.” The aspiring Youtuber moved the camera into ‘selfie’ mode as he walked backwards uncomfortably close to Ashley. “I was out looking for some mad pranks for my madmen, and madwomen, and I bumped into some REAL LIFE SUPERHEROES, ziznic! I’m here with my gurl, girl Spider-Man and I’m about to get the 411 on some rad pranks.”
Issac ran the necessary diversion. “Filming isn’t allowed in here, kid.”
“I’m not a kid! I’m 19, which makes me an adult!” EternalPrank retorted. Issac pointed to the apparent ’age 21+’ sign in response. “Fine, we can go film this prank somewhere else. COME ON, GIRL SPIDER-MAN.” He made the mistake of grabbing Ashley by the left arm.
“You really shouldn’t have done that, kid.” Ashley broke EternalPrank’s grip easily thanks to the passive skill boosts from the costume. “I hope that Youtube revenue will cover the medical bills.” It was at that moment Ashley remembered that the extent of her fighting prowess was garnered from random episodes of Power Rangers. Still, it was more than EternalPrank’s Sigh Quon Do. Time slowed to a cinematic 22fps second from the moment of starting the punch until impact. Ashley couldn’t make out EternalPrank’s last second defense.
“It’s just a prank, bro…” EternalPrank barely blurted out in time. He landed HARD on the marble floor of the larger lobby. On the bright side, he now had an audience… even if it was for all the wrong reasons. “Where’s my camera?” He fidgeted, searching for it; priorities on par with the average GoPro user who didn’t outlive the product warranty. “This is a social experiment, everyone! You’re all going to do nothing because it’s a girl Spider-Man! That’s cool since it’s still epic. Catch me on Youtube! ETERNALPRANK ARMY FOREVER”
EPIC GIRL SPIDER-MAN BEAT UP FAILED PRANKSTER 2016 GONE SEXUAL
Emily’s words from earlier finally took root in Ashley’s mind. Ashley wasn’t about to kick this guy’s ass; Spider-Woman was. The separation of the self from the illusion is the true power of shapeshifting. New confidence became more apparent with each step towards her opponent. “I’m not doing this because you’re a man or that you touched me. I’m doing this because you’re an asshole.” Ashley threw EternalPrank into the lobby’s fountain with enough force to make the statues shake. “Serves you right for...” The unmistakable sound of cracking from the statue above EternalPrank killed the ‘mighty speech’. “attacking…” The collapsing statue knocked him out. “Me… Carol is going to kill me for doing this.”
Speak of Mephisto, the elevator doors opened in time for Emily to see the statue fall apart. Without a word, Emily walked past Ashley, put down one of the suitcases and shook her head. “Fix the situation while I cover my own damages. Meet me at the car with that suitcase when you’re done.”
“I doubt you had someone go ‘mom’ on you when you broke your first vase.” Ashley pouted. “He’ll be fine, I hope.”
“I don’t care about that guy or whatever happened here. Simply replace the statue so we can be on our way.” Emily stepped aside to grab a random video camera that seemed related. “Destroy this while you’re at it, Jessica. We have no reason to give TMZ a trail.” She kicked over the camera in Ashley’s direction. The location of the camera gave her an excuse to finally pick up her drinks from Issac. Ashley was alone for this case.
Running a finger over the injured human body revealed that most of the damage ranged from superficial to minor. The remnants of the statue confirmed the composition to be a slightly fancy plaster. With confirmation of the material, making the ‘subject’ into a rigid canvas took priority. Ashley let her sadistic side out through opting to wake up EternalPrank for the process. “Yes, bro. We’re about to do a REALLY cool prank. I’m going to make you into a female statue. Doesn’t that sound completely epic?” His body deteriorated into dust too quickly for him to reply. His eyes said everything before vanishing. “It’s just a prank, bro.”
The dust fell into the fountain below where, for the sake of expedience, the dust and water was already forming into a malleable plaster. Time limitations forced her to salvage the chunks from the statue she could and fill in detail where necessary. She tended to the snapped legs first since the feet were still attached to the base of the display. Liberal use of plaster and some tricks created a sturdy pair of legs in no time. The torso remained relatively unscathed apart from a few major details. Special attention went into repairing the explicit breasts and the curvature. Getting the texture right for the molded skirt took considerably more effort than any other section. Arms are pretty much ‘legs with different ends’, which made repairing them quite easy.
All that remained were the banes of any sculptor: the head and the hands. Artisans can spend decades trying to perfect the representation of the two elements separating humanity from the beasts. How might someone TRULY capture the look of intelligence on the human face or the implied dexterity in the hands? Ashley’s solution to this conundrum was to copy the necessary parts from the surviving statues. One final inspection confirmed that the replacement statue seamlessly integrated with its plaster sisters. The appearance of the custodial crew to clean up the lingering dust DID somewhat detract from the new artwork, but was alas necessary for the art. Ashley took a bow in front of the invisible crowd that appreciated the feat of repairing a genuine replica of an old Hollywood statue in less than ten minutes. Her solution for the camera problem proved to be far less refined. She turned it into three Zune MP3 players and one KIN Windows Phone. No one ever touched those devices.
Emily returned to the lobby again, now without the suitcase she had taken. In its place was a binder almost thick enough to constitute a phone book. She gestured for Ashley to exit the lobby quickly with the suitcase. The sheer amount of things Emily had to do to in order to claim a million-dollar check could be a story in its own right. A lot of arrangements under the table, Nicholas Cage, a drug-dealing queenpin named ‘Marie Curie’ and a lot of government secrets converted that money into $10,000 cold hard cash, $300,000 in an offshore account and all of her debts paid. The binder contained all of the receipts in the event of the IRS billing ‘Ms. Carol Danvers’ as a legal entity. Her tax returns would be said to rival the complexity of graduate school Physics notes.
The two shapeshifters made their way to the parking garage in a rush. Emily’s somewhat panicked actions suggested the worst was yet to come. By the time they reached the Charger, Ashley had had enough, “What’s wrong, Carol? Did we piss off the wrong people? There were witnesses who can verify that man attacked me. Were the police called?”
Emily undid her sash again to free up the keys. “No one seemed to care about the fountain, actually; you seemed to have done a public service for the staff at countless casinos. The reason for the rush is…”
<-TO BE CONTINUED—