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Marionette 6/Shadow 3

"The End Of The Beginning" Part 2

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Alia's apartment...

As Marionette reached down for her shoes, she thought about Shadow.

What could he be doing in the city?

She sighed, her thoughts so clouded as she finished dressing, she didn't notice her handle appear above her and her strings starting to unravel from her body...

Shadow's Lair...

Shadow blinked, then scowled as he heard a small girl crying inside of his head.

"Blast. The link works both ways. I may have created her to be more like me than I thought..." Shadow scowled again, and turned to Rip, who was sharpening his fangs with a file, using a broken mirror he had picked up from the skeleton of a young woman.

"Rowdman. We must step up our timetable. She knows we are here."

Rip glared at him. "What are we suppossed to do on such short notice?"

The answer was given when they saw blue and red flashing lights, and the sound of a police car pulling up...

Alia's apartment...

As Alia entered the bathroom, Rainbow Excalibur piped up in her mind. "Alia, we aren't even sure if her story is true."

Alia shut the door of the bathroom, letting the towel fall to the floor and reaching for her jeans. After what I've seen her do? I'm willing to go on a little faith, she thought.

"This has NOTHING TO DO with her powers that we've seen, dammit! She looks about as old as your daughter, she acts like a little girl, and you're getting all mushy because of it! Don't let sentiment cloud your judgement!"

Exactly, Cally. She's a scared little girl, she thought back to her Stand as she pulled her clothes on, She has no one right now. She can't even remember her father, if she even had one. If what she is saying about this Shadow character is true, and I'm not saying I believe her...


...then she'll need help fighting him, and whomever he has with him.

"Bullshit. She reminds you of your daughter, and THAT'S why you've taken her in. So you could have some semblance of a family again."

Alia grinned as she finished dressing and started to brush her teeth. So what's your point?

"Alia, what if what she is saying IS true?! We could be up against monsters of all kinds! I don't know if my powers will work on things like that!"

Cally, relax. We can handle anything.

"We can handle any human. I don't know about monsters." Alia ignored her. "Oh why do I even bother..." Excalibur muttered, "Just be careful. I don't want you to get burned again."

Alia frowned, and continued to brush her teeth. She spat out the toothpaste and was about to go back out when she heared Marionette scream. She ran out of the door, gaped at what she saw for a minute, and laughed out loud.

"It's not funny, Alia! My strings came out just as I put my hat on, and now I'm can't get out up!"

Marionette's strings had emerged, shooting up out of her body and affixing themselves to her handle, which appeared in mid-air. Unfortunately, Marionette had not been ready. She had fallen over, and started spinning, which had, in turned, wrapped her strings around her body. Alia just shook her head and laughed, and started spinning Marionette in the opposite direction, gently unravelling Marionette from herself.

"C'mon, Abby. Let's get going. I'll buy you a present when we get done."

Marionette would have responded, but the world wouldn't stop spinning long enough for her to form anything coherent.
The phone rang, and Alia cursed inwardly. She gently set Marionette down on the bed, walking out to the phone. She picked it up and answered, "Alia Falcos here. What's up?"

She blinked as she recognized the voice. She lowered her voice and hid behind a wall, peeking briefly into the bedroom to see if Marionette was listening in. When she was satisfied that she wasn't, she turned back to the phone.

"What do you want?" She groaned softly as she listened to the reply. "Listen, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, I don't do those kind of jobs. Okay?" She listened to the caller for a moment and nodded. "I know, I know, it hurts people in my profession to refuse jobs like that, but that's how I feel about it. I just refuse. Why do you keep calling me and asking me to do those kind of jobs?" She listened to the caller's response, and smiled wistfully. "It was a one-night stand, Michael. You've probably had dozens of those." Michael laughed, and answered back to her. Alia giggled. "You're sweet, but the answer is still no. Try getting in contact with... yeah that's them. They specialize in that." Alia listened to Michael's reluctant agreement, then his offer, and nodded, smiling as she did so. "Okay. Next time I'm in town I'll stop by. Meanwhile, I got some errands to take care of." Michael asked what kind. Alia grinned. "Never you mind. Bye bye, Michael." She said as she hung up the phone. She went back into the bedroom. Marionette was sitting on the edge of the bed, her face in her hands as she tried to get her bearings. "You okay now?"

Marionette nodded. "Yeah. I just got caught off guard, that's all." She then looked at Alia's head. "Wasn't your hair red when I first saw it? Why's it black now?"

Alia blinked, then smiled. "Oh that. I just dye it so it looks better for tournaments. You ready now?" Marionette nodded. "Okay. C'mon, let's go."

"Will this take long?" Marionette asked.

"Nah. I don't think so."

Six hours later, at the police station...
The captain's office...

Note to self: Have Cally *MAIM* stubborn bitch if she does not agree with me in the next few minutes.

A vein on Alia's forehead pulsed and her left eyebrow twitched as she tried to convince the captain, who seemed INTENT on being an ass, to at the very least let her watch over Marionette. The past six hours had gone on for far too long in Alia's opinion, as Alia had been bounced around from person to person, higher and higher up the list of ranks up to this vile, disgusting, evil, sinister, demonic, stubborn BITCH who simply refused to listen to reason, sighting that they had to follow procedure, and detain their only suspect, which, unfortunetly, was Marionette.

Alia absolutely HATED procedure hounds like her.

The captain, an aging, extremely tall Latino woman clad in a red worksuit paced by her window, occasionally flashing glares at Alia as she stated her case for the seventh time.

"This girl is the ONLY suspect we have in the murders. We need to keep her here," she said. She whirled, placing her hands on her desk and leaning forward, showing an expression of utter exasperation. "For crying out loud, woman, we have the GOVERNMENT wanting to talk to Marionette! I have people from the CIA and agencies I've never even heard of interested in her! Do you really think I'm going to risk my career just because some street fighter bitch I've never met says 'I think she's innocent?'" The captain said as she waved her head at the last four words, a mocking tone in her voice.

Alia was just barely controlling herself.

Rainbow Excalibur giggled inside of her mind. "I can take her out easily, boss."

Shaddup, Cally, she thought. Out loud she said, "Do you really think you CAN contain her? Your officers saw what happened, and the security cameras in the cell proves it. She stood up and looked the chief straight in the eye.

"Captain Chavez, answer me this. Do you TRULY THINK that you can handle someone like Marionette, as you insist on calling her?"

"Do you?"

The two women glared at each other. The argument had reached a stand-off.

Outside the office, in the waiting area...

Saying that Marionette was bored out of her mind would be putting it lightly. Obviously Alia had encountered some problems in getting the chief, and the captain, and nearly everyone else in the building to believe that she could take care of her, and she had been sitting here ever since. She had tried to talk to the policemen, but they all seemed scared of her. She tried to talk to the criminals they had brought in, but they just glared at her in a manner that scared her, stared at her handle and strings, which floated above her in mid-air, or just said weird words that she didn't understand. (She REALLY needed to learn how to read, and soon.) She wanted a coloring book. She wanted her toys. She wanted a cookie.

She at the very LEAST would love to sit back in this chair, but her stupid key wouldn't let her sit down all of the way. She tried taking her hat off, as putting it back on is what brought her strings and keys out in the first place, but that didn't work, and she certainly couldn't take her clothes off in the middle of the station. (She didn't understand how Alia got them off to begin with.) But now she was just bored.

She contented herself with trying to read what was on the shirts of some of the criminals that were brought in. It was interesting at first, but most of them involved ugly men in multi-colored underwear saying dumb-looking sentences.

(Although she did think that one of them, a dark-skinned man with a picture of a blue bull on his underwear was kind of cute.)

The door opened, and Marionette turned to see who was coming in next. For some odd reason however, she froze when she saw them.

One was a massively built man in a trenchcoat and a hat which hid his face. She couldn't make him out clearly, but when she tried to sense something from him, all she felt was emptiness. He was dragging two criminals in handcuffs with him, a surly-looking bald man clad in orange leather and wearing sunglasses, the other a slutty-looking woman with blue hair who looked like she was about to fall out of her clothes. Using instincts she didn't know she had, she reached out with her mind and looked 'into' them, peering at their essence. Unlike the trenchcoated policeman, they had something to see, but the aura of madness and savagery she found in them startled her so much she pulled away almost instantly.

It was the other policeman that frightened Marionette the most.

She looked normal enough. A beautiful dark-skinned woman that looked to be a mix of African/Native-American in terms of skin color, with an athletic build and clad simply in black sneakers, blue jeans that hugged her curvacious legs, and a maroon-colored jacket. Her long, silky-looking hair, which seemed to have a vaguely bluish tint to it, flowed behind her as she walked. Marionette reached out and 'looked' into her, only to encounter an aura of such intense evil and hatred that she yipped, scared, and drew back out immediately. As she did, the woman turned to her and grinned. Marionette smiled weakly as she stopped her comrade and walked over to her. The woman leaned down and smiled, looking Marionette over. Marionette fought the urge to whimper, settling instead for swallowing hard. Marionette shivered as the woman looked her over, her gaze icy. Tears welled up in the frightened girl's eyes.

"What do you want from me?" she asked in a quiet, scared voice.

The woman spoke then, but not with a woman's voice. "I truly did make you into the perfect creature. You have all of my powers, all that is lacking is the ruthlessness to make full use of them," the woman said in a deep, all-too-familiar voice.

Marionette's eyes widened as she realized to whom she was speaking. "You!" she whispered.

"Yes indeed, little one. Do not fear. For whatever happens, I will collect you, and finish your training," said Shadow as he walked his host body over to the partner, speaking in his host's voice. The partner nodded and took the criminals over to the front desk and speaking with the clerk. Marionette couldn't here everything the partner said, but as soon as they were done, the clerk handed him a key which he used to unlock the criminals' handcuffs. The trenchcoated man and Shadow then began to lead the two criminals back towards the interrogation chambers. As this happened, Alia and Captain Chavez emerged from the office, apparently having reached at least a truce. They shook hands and the captain went back into her office. Alia smiled as she came up to Marionette.

"Abby, the captain and I have reached an agreement. I need to explain to you what's going on."

Marionette stood up and pointed to the retreating forms of Shadow and his group. "Alia, wait please. It's Shadow, he's here!"

Alia looked over at the four and shook her head. "It's just a couple cops that are going to interrogate some scumbags they picked up, it's okay. Now..."

Marionette, rapidly becoming frantic, gestured frantically after them. "No no no! It's Shadow, please, I know him! He's in the lady cop's body!"

"Abby, please..." Alia said, just wanting to get out of the station.

"Alia, no! Why won't you listen to me?!?" Another wild instinct, one that she later assumed Shadow implanted in her when she was changed, kicked in and she shouted, "FATEOR TUI MALUM!"

Shadow's group, which was about to get out of sight of the policemen and women in the station, suddenly floated back out, landing in the center of the main lobby. The male cop and the two criminals started to sprout fur and swell out, their screams of rage and pain becoming animal howls. As for the female cop, she froze stock-straight, stiff as a board, as Shadow was forced to reveal himself, emerging from the top of the policewoman's body in the form of a mass of darkness. When the glow of Marionette's spell faded, there were three werewolves and a demonic shadow with glowing white eyes in the center of the room. The policemen cowered away from the sight, the more experienced cops drawing their guns.

Alia froze, her mind having trouble processing what she was seeing.

"Abby? What's going on? What did you do?" she asked, her voice cracking as she backed away slowly from the beasts. She knew what they were, she just never really had believed it. She had seen one of them, the dark, trenchcoated one, before, when she first saw Marionette after she escaped from jail. But she had been observing from a distance then, and wasn't sure of what she saw. But now, here she was, confronted with not one, but THREE werewolves, and what appeared to be some kind of shadow demon.

The demon answered for her. "What she did, my dear, was use the knowledge I implanted in her when I made her. She has all the same powers I do, as well as, apparently, all of my magic. That, I believe was a revelation spell?"

Marionette shrugged. "I... I guess. I don't know what it meant, it just seemed like I had to say it."

Alia was starting to regain her composure, as was most of the department. "What are you?" she asked, getting ready to summon her stand if she needed to.

The demon chuckled, stroking his 'chin' with his shadowy claws, his host mimicking the action. "My name, I believe, is Malken T'Arousi. But for my purposes, you may call me Shadow."

Shadow. So this is the thing that turned Abby into this marionette-creature.

"But who would you be, my dear woman? Not her mother, of course. My Marionette killed her, along with several other people in the park yesterday. Or rather, I did while I was controlling her body."

Marionette's eyes flashed bright red at this. Alia looked at her, then back at Shadow. "My name is Alia Falcos. I'm her protecter."

"An arrogant assumption to make about my creation, Miss Falcos."

"I'm NOT your creation!!" Marionette screamed, her voice deepening, losing some of its childish tone as the red glow in her eyes brightened. "My name is Abigail Murdock, not Marionette! I'm not your servant!"

The policemen cocked their guns, waiting for the right moment to shoot down at least the werewolves, who seemed to be waiting for the word from the demon to strike.

"Oh, but it is, Marionette. The girl you were is dead. And if you'll come with me, I'll tell you why."

Shadow's raised his claws. The werewolves grinned, and the one Marionette recognized as Rip Rowdman told the others to get ready.

"REBOARE!" Shadow shouted, snapping his ghostly fingers, his host mimicking his actions againa. An extremely *LOUD* crash of thunder resulted, deafening everyone except Rip, the two other werewolves, Shadow, and Marionette. Shadow laughed and ran for a door which led to a stairway to the roof. Marionette snarled and flew after him, her demonic side in control. Alia called for her to stop, but had to dodge back when the lead werewolf slashed at her. Alia just grinned at the creature.

"I saw you fight Abby the first time, but I never got your name. Who might you be?" ^Cally. Get my shield NOW.^

"Right boss." Her stand faded from her mind as it went to retrieve her weapon and fighting outfit from her apartment.

"Name's Rip Rowdman, luv. Me mates back there who are making bloody sushi h'out of those coppers are Dug and Roxy. We'll be the last thing you'll ever see. RAAAR!"

Alia dodged back as Rowdman slashed at her. She looked quickly over at the cops and saw that Rip was right. The two other werewolves were slashing at the cops, laughing wildly as they dodged bullets with ease, each officer they met up close dying horribly at their claws and teeth. Alia was forced to backstep again as a stray bullet ricocheted off of the floor.

Rip laughed. "Ye can't win, girly. Just let us take the girl."

"NEVER." Alia snarled. Rainbow Excalibur returned and wrapped herself around Alia's arm, placing her shield in her grasp. All Rip saw was a bright flash of light as the woman he was fighting suddenly gained a weapon. The raven-haired fighter grinned, readying her shield and beckoning to the werewolf. Rip growled savagely and attacked.

The police station roof...

Marionette floated after Shadow with unnatural speed. But still Shadow was faster. Moving his host quickly, he ran up the staircase which led to the roof and disappeared. Marionette drifted up after Shadow. Coming out on the roof, she looked around and saw Shadow standing near the edge, facing away from her and looking out at the city.

Marionette's Darkstalker instincts made her think to herself, ^Good, makes things easier,^ Out loud, she said. "We end this, Shadow."

Shadow turned to her and smiled. "Is that all you want, Marionette? Revenge?"

"Stop calling me that! My name is Abigail Murdock!!"

Shadow shook his head. "You're a fool, child. There is nothing you can do against me. I am invincible."

"I don't think so," Marionette, still running on her demonic instincts, glided forward, lashing out with a wild punch. Shadow retracted partially into his host and flipped backwards, kicking Marionette in the head twice. Marionette grunted in pain from the impact and crashed into the roof. Shadow landed with the ease of a gymnast from the attack and laughed.

Marionette shook her head, trying to clear out the black spots from behind her eyes that blossomed up with the pain of crashing. She turned and growled at Shadow.

"I'll make you change me back. I SWEAR it!" Marionette snarled.

"Oh PLEASE!" Shadow said, putting his hands on his host's hips and laughing wildly, "Even if I could remember how, I wouldn't do it. Aside from that, if I DID change you back, you'd be a helpless little girl. The perfect victim for me. Give it UP, Marionette! Either way you slice it, I WIN!"

"No," Marionette said, her voice deepening as her demonic side took over even further, "You won't win, Shadow. I won't allow it."

"Come on, then," Shadow taunted, beckoning to her.

Marionette growled, and was about to trying another flying punch, when a merry voice chimed out from one building over.

"Oh, come now, kiddies! That's no way to behave!"

Shadow and Marionette blinked, turning towards the sound of the voice.

A powerfully built old man in a grey karate-gi jumped over to them in one bound. He grinned wildly at the two of them.

"Hello and howyadoon? Don't believe you've introduced y'selves yet. Who is you two?"

Shadow and Marionette traded looks. Shadow spoke up first.

"I am Malken T'Arousi, former Apprentice to the Seven Lords of Makai. I now wish to be called Shadow. This is my creation and unwilling servant, the former Abigail Murdock, whom I've dubbed Marionette," he said, ignoring Marionette's glare.

The old man giggled. "Not much on originality as it pertains to names, are you?"

Shadow's host flushed angrily as Shadow's eyes flashed. "My creativity comes from spells, old one."

Marionette blinked and finally recognized the man. "You! You were the one who told me how to get out of jail!"

The old man giggled and did a handstand. "It's true, it's true! I did free you! To learn more, you'll see that you both must come with me."

"The only place I'm going is home with Alia! Who do you think you are anyway?" Marionette shouted.

"NO ONE tells me to go anywhere I do not choose to go! Anything you could tell me, you ancient fool, I can learn on my own!" Shadow roared.

"I rather doubt that," the old man said, folding his arms. He grinned widely, took a fighting stance, and said, "As for who I am, Shadow, I am your father."

Shadow blinked, staring at the strange old man. Marionette looked first at Shadow, then at the old man, then back to Shadow, then back to the old man.

"I just don't see the resemblance. And I still what to know your name."

The old man giggled. "I am his father. Believe or not, little puppet. If you agree to come with me, I'll explain everything. Alia can come too, if she wants. That charming Rip fellow, too. But not those two werepunks. They are unimportant."

Marionette bit her lip. She did want to learn more about her new body, and about Shadow. And if Alia could come too...

Shadow simply couldn't stop staring at the old man. At the moment, all he could remember about his father was that he was a shadow trapped in human form. If what the old fool said is true...

"As for my name... Well, for my real name, I'd have to remove your tongues, chew them up, run them through a blender, and put them back in your mouths, tying them in with leather string."

Marionette winced at that image. Shadow chuckled, getting a brief memory of a fun torture session.

"Since choosing new names seems to be the most popular thing, I looked through a bunch of video game magazines and found one I liked. The character, ironically enough, looks exactly like me," the old man began to power up, his muscles bulging as a scar on his shoulder began to glow. He laughed insanely.

"I'm an April Fool's Day joke. I don't exist. But you'll still be beaten anyway. Prepare yourselves, little ones! My name is Sheng Long, and you must defeat me to stand a chance!"

Meanwhile, as all this was happening...
The police station lobby...
Or what's left of it, anyway...

Dug and Roxy watched Rip and Alia fight out of the corner of their eyes, even as they battled with the totally unprepared police officers, dodging bullets, kicks from the more skilled fighters in the force, and nightstick swings from anyone they got close to. They had killed about twenty of them so far, and their muzzles and claws were stained with blood. They were concerned, and wondered if they should help.

Alia and Rip were kicking the crap put of each other.

For her part, Alia was learning something. One: Only POWERFUL Darkstalkers, like Abby and most likely this Shadow character, could see her Stand.

Two: Rip had fought Stand users before, and learned how to take them down before the Stand could make a difference. This she learned the hard way when Rip tagged her with a Quick Cutter, avoiding a sword swipe from Excalibur.

Three: He had never ever EVER faced a Stand user who was also a trained martial artist, and a damn good one at that, and that's the only reason she had lasted so long..

Rip peeled himself out of the wall that a double kick from both Alia and Rainbow Excalibur had done to smash him into it, snarled at her and charged again. Alia readed herself, holding her shield at an angle which would bounce Rip out of his charge and into a slash from Rainbow Excalibur. Excalibur shaped her sword into it's largest shape, ready for the werewolf.

Rip grinned, showing bloodied teeth. Good. She's gotten cocky. Just before he connected with Alia's shield, he jumped straight up. Alia and Excalibur flailed, missing completely. Rip bounced off of the ceiling and dived straight down, spiralling into Alia's chest. The drill kick knocked the wind from Alia's lungs, and she lost her concentration, no longer able to maintain her stand. Excalibur screamed and flickered out of exsistance, retreating back into Alia's mind.

Cally, you okay? she thought, silently gratefuly for her Stand's ability to take damage for her.

"Need... time... Gotta... recharge..."

Right. I'll take it from here. She rubbed her head and hopped to her feet, surveying Rip as he snarled, closing in on her. Alia herself was still stand, but her body was bleeding in several different places. Also, her arm was smoldering from where she blocked a Howling Inferno. Rip, however, looked like hell. Excalibur's sword slashes as well as strikes from Alia's shield had given Rip bloody tiger stripes. Teeth were missing from his mouth where Alia had punched him, and from the way he was holding his chest, Alia guessed that he had some broken ribs.

Rip, however, was smarter than Alia thought. When the blank-air scent of Rainbow Excalibur had vanished, Rip knew that the advantage was his now. He smiled.

Alia charged Rip. The two of them started to duel, trading punches and kicks.

Unfortunetly, Alia's skill without her Stand was nothing compared to Rip's. The werewolf's superior strength and speed took control of the fight quickly. Alia tried a hammer punch, but Rip parried it and stabbed her in the stomach. She threw a quick high kick, but Rip caught her leg and bit down hard on the knee. Alia screamed in agony and staggered back. Rip tried to tackle the weakened human, but Alia managed to roll underneath the werewolf and throw her shield. Rip easily dodged this desperation manuever by jumping straight up. The shield bounced off the wall and ricochet towards the firefight between the cops and the two werewolves. It bounced again off of the wall behind Dug, flew towards him, and sliced his leg off at the knee. The shield bounced back and embedded itself in the wall next to the front door.

Dug howled in agony as his limb fell off. Roxy turned towards him, only to be mobbed and held down by police officers, who were tired of losing their own. Roxy watched helplessly as the other cops pulled out their guns and shot Dug to death, blowing his head into chunks. She tried to fight away from the officers, but Captain Chavez, who had, upon hearing the commotion, gone to the armory, shot her with a powerful tranquilizer.

Rip kicked Alia in the stomach, and threw her against the wall, then turned when he heard gunfire.

"DUG! NOOOOOO!!" he roared and turned to attack Captain Chavez, when Alia, who was taking any and every chance she got while fighting him, shouted out.


Rainbow Excalibur, fully recharged, flew out of Alia's body, her sword literally blazing. She raised her flaming blade above Rip's head and slashed THROUGH him. Rip screamed as he reverted back to human form.

He turned and growled at Alia, who was getting up, holding her ribs, and coughing as she did, a cocky grin on her face. Rip snarled, his accent thickening to its worst.

"Dumb bitch. H'I can do my h'attacks h'in my 'uman form, too. 'OWLING H'INFERNO!"

Rip leaned back, took a deep breath... and gagged. Alia chuckled, her Stand floating above her, and started walking towards the werewolf.

"What the..." Confused, Rip tried to will himself back to his werewolf form.

Nothing happened.

"Oh shit..." he said as he started to back away from the still advancing red-haired fighter.

Alia grinned. "Something to know about stands: each one has their own special trick. That one was mine."

Rip grinned weakly.

Alia grinned back. Then she leaned back to deck him.

Then the roof fell in.

Alia and Rip stumbled back as Marionette, Shadow, and the charred remains of Shadow's most recent host fell through the roof, along with several chunks of the upper floors. The two Darkstalkers shook themselves off, looked at each other, looked up, and then at an absolutely befuddled Rip and Alia.

"Umm..." they both said, "Run."

Marionette and Shadow did just that, running over to their respective allies as Sheng Long, still laughing like a lunatic, landed right where they had just been.

"Heheheheh. Give it up, you two."

Shadow grunted. "I am helpless in this state, Rowdman. KILL HIM."

Rip whimpered as he looked at the muscular fighter. "I'd love to, but Marionette's bitch 'ere sealed off me damn powers!"

Sheng Long blinked at this, then looked at Alia, who had put herself in front of Marionette, and had picked up a stray baton that a policeman had dropped. Marionette, her human side back in control, cowered behind her. Rainbow Excalibur kneeled next to her, whispering words of encouragement even as she brandished her sword in a menacing fashion towards the old man.

"Is this true?" Sheng Long asked, "Is your stand the Stand Of Sealing?"

Alia blinked, but didn't drop her stance. "I guess so. That's her main power."

"And is she sentient?" Sheng Long asked, very interested now, "Does she think for herself, even though she still obeys in battle?"

Alia blinked, and looked and Excalibur. The Stand just shrugged. Alia frowned and looked at Sheng Long. "How do you know so much about us?"

Sheng Long took that as a yes. "Incredible... The Dark Traitor, The Beast Paladin, The Spirit-Weilding Valkyrie, and the High Priestess... Malakon said I'd meet up with them all, but I never dreamed I'd find them all at once, and in such a short time."

"What are you talking about?!" Marionette wailed.

Sheng Long grinned and folded his arms. "I am called Sheng Long. I am Shadow's father, whether he wishes to admit it or not. Shadow cannot remember his past, and Marionette has expressed curiosity about her new form. I can offer Shadow his past, as well as a second chance at greatness."

Alia looked at Marionette, who was still clinging to her leg. "What does Marionette get?" she demanded.

Sheng Long grinned. "I cannot offer her her original form back. That is impossible. But what I can offer her is a chance to control her demonic side. Completely."

Marionette blinked and stood up. "You can? Really?"

"Abby, wait a moment."

Sheng Long grinned. "Take your time. You have until tomorrow. Both Shadow and Maironette can move between Makai and Earth freely. If you accept, meet me in the forest grove that was the former lair of Rip's pack in Makai."

Before any one of the four of them could say anything, the old man vanished.

Shadow turned to Rip. "COME. We leave."

Rip shook his head. "Not without Roxy," he said, and turned to captain, who was hoisting the unconcious werewolf, now in her human form, on her shoulder.

Every surviving cop in the room pointed their gun at him. They had lost ten of their own today to these monsters, and were not about to let him do anything more.

"I'm sorry, but Roxy here is the prime suspect in the murder of Andrea Murdock. I'm afraid I can't let her go," Captain Chavez said, an arrogant grin on her face. Alia grinned to herself. The deal that she and Chavez had worked out was that Marionette could STAY with her if she could find a more likely suspect for the murders. Lucky for us that one just walked right in.

Rip growled. Shadow shook his head and opened a reality portal right in the middle of the station. "Rip, it's a lost cause. Aside from that, 'Dad' said only you could come. Let's go." Shadow drifted through the portal. Rip stared at Captain Chavez, and then turned to Alia.

"Will my powers come back?" he asked.

"In a day. That's Cally's max right now," Alia said, leaning down to hug Marionette, who had fallen to her knees again.
Rip nodded and turned back to Chavez, who had walked out of site. "I'll be back," he snarled, before running into the portal, which closed behind him.

A young cop retrieved Alia's shield and gave it to her. That was all the attention paid to her and Marionette as the station started doing it's best to clean up the massacre.

She bit her lip. "Abby, what do you want to do?"

Marionette stared at the spot where Shadow and Rip had vanished. Slowly, she turned to Alia. "I want to go with him, Alia. When I saw Shadow, I just... I just lost it. I was going to kill him. If this Sheng Long person can help me learn how to control my demonic side, I have to go with him. Even if it does mean putting up with Shadow as a travelling companion."

She frowned. "Will you come with me? Please?"

Alia sighed, then smiled. "I meant it when I said I was your protector. No matter what, I'll be with you," she said. Then she chuckled and ruffled the girl's hair. "I care about you, kiddo."

Marionette grinned, then hugged Alia. Excalibur smiled and drifted above their heads. Something was nagging at the back of her mind, but she decided to keep silent.

The two women stayed in their hug for several minutes before Marionette broke it off. Tears were in her eyes. Alia smiled and wiped her eyes dry. They both stood up.

Marionette said, "This forest is in Makai. The monster world. Are you sure you're ready for this?"

Alia grinned. "Of course I am. I mean, how could it be."

Excalibur couldn't resist. She had to say it. "You'll be SORRY!" she sang, drawing out the last word, withdrawing back into Alia's mind as she did.

Marionette giggled, and reached forward to open a portal, "Okay Alia. We're going in. Things are going to get very weird for you."
Marionette ripped open a portal and they both stepped through. Rip and Shadow were off to one side, sitting near a drained husk. Alia looked around the wide grove of trees for a moment, then looked back to Marionette, who was closing the portal behind her.

"I don't see what the big deal about this place is."

Marionette grinned. "Look at the trees again. Look closely. Then look at the sky."

Alia stared for a moment. Then she noticed that all of the trees had eyes.

And they were all LOOKING at her.

Alia's eyes widened. She looked up.

The sky was no color Alia could think of. For the first time she noticed that it seemed to be perpetually night.

Then the sphinx flew above the forest.

Alia made a strangled squeaking noise.

Marionette giggled. Rip smirked. Shadow just shook his head at her.

Finally, she managed to say, "Oh shit, Toto. We REALLY overshot Kansas this time."

To be continued...

Marionette & Shadow are copyrighted to Capcom.  The original characters are copyrighted to me.  So there.