by Chris N

I was out having brunch with a new acquaintance from the Navy named Mick Tanner and his wife, Jenny. Sounds simple enough, right? Good food, relaxation, scintillating conversation…everything one might want in a quiet afternoon. Though for me, of course, "quiet" is a very relative term, and even when I'm not on a mission, I tend to run into the wrong types of things at the wrong possible time frames.

"So, Ivan, what are you going to order?" Jenny asked me while perusing the menu.

"I dunno yet, I'm still browsing," was my reply. Of course, I was trying not to notice her low-cut dress, so that Mick wouldn't notice me noticing.

"I think I'm going to have the filet mignon," Mick announced. "I heard they make it quite good here."

"On your paycheck?" Jenny queried. "We eat mac and cheese for dinner three nights a week, for Christ's sake, and you order something this extravagant for yourself at this restaurant? Are you going to order me the same?"

"Well," Mick replied to his irate wife, "I can only afford one plate of the filet, and since I'm the one working to earn this money, and you aren't…"

I continued to study the contents of the menu and tried to 'zone out' the incessant bitching of my companions for brunch as I noticed the front door of the restaurant quietly open; I've seen vampires enter rooms before, so I am all too familiar with that subtle type of entrance that seems almost consciously designed to cover for itself. The person entering the establishment was a fairly tall Asian woman with attractive features and a close-cropped haircut, wearing a stylish ebony close-fitting outfit that appeared to be both form-flattering and designed for freedom of movement at the same time. I could swear this was similar to something I saw Catwoman wearing before. For some reason, this woman struck me as ominously familiar, but I wasn't quite sure why at the moment.

"Don't start that shit again, Jenny. I never implied that you seem to be getting fat!"

"Then why don't you ever want to touch me anymore, Mick? You haven't even noticed me in this dress. But Ivan noticed me, right, Ivan?"

"Yea. I mean, no! I didn't!" I again tried to focus my attention back on the mysterious Asian woman who just entered the restaurant, phasing out Mick and Jenny's 'discussion' as best I could, and trying not to get drawn into it myself.

"What!" Jenny exclaimed. "So are you agreeing with my husband that this dress makes me look fat?"

"I never said you looked fat in that outfit, Jenny!" Mick countered. "I said it was 'inappropriate', not that you looked fat."

"And why was it 'inappropriate'? Because it showed off too much flab? Is that it?"

"I didn't say that!"

"But it's what you implied with that word, right?"

I obviously had to say something, so I could focus my attention back on that Asian woman, and figure out why she gave me such a case of the heebies.

"No, you're not fat at all, Jenny," I told her quaintly. "You look fine in that dress."

"What!" Mick exclaimed again. "How would you know, Ivan? Were you staring at my wife's body?"

"No! No, Mick, I wasn't! I just don't want her to be self-conscious about being fat!"

"So I am fat, then! That's why your eyes are so focused on that slim Asian broad over there!"

"No! That's not what I meant! What I meant was…"

"This is the last time I go out to brunch with you!" Mick yelled at his still fuming wife. "You always draw the attention of other men with that skanky shit you wear, and then you embarrass me like this!"

"I bet you would rather be with that Asian woman too, right, Mick?"

It was time for me to excuse myself to get a closer look at that Asian woman. Something told me that I had to discern her identity, and fast. "Um, I have to go to the bathroom. Order a Coke for me if the waiter comes around while I'm away."

"Oh fine, Ivan, leave!" Jenny retorted. "You're too embarrassed to sit at a table with a fat chick!"

"No!" Mick hollered. "He's embarrassed to sit at a table with a loud-mouthed, self-conscious, bitchy…"

As quickly as I could, I took off to the men's room. Luckily, it was unoccupied, so I could peek out the door bereft of suspicion, using as much of my stealth skills as I could muster. And when I did so, I noticed the Asian woman in question was sitting close to a table seating a young Arabian girl who was flanked by three Arabian-looking men in elegant suits and ties. Was this the daughter and two bodyguards of some diplomat or high-powered politico? And if so, why did it bother me so much to see that striking Asian woman sit near…

…wait a minute. It can't be. Think, Ivan, think! I remember seeing a mug shot of that chick someplace before, I think when I was scanning some of the MONSTAAH archives in the past…I know she isn't a suspected vamp or mutant or anything like that, but where did I…?

I then noticed a small object near the Asian woman's waist that I at first took to be a dark metallic belt buckle…only to observe the fact that she was slowly withdrawing a black-painted sai from a slot hidden comfortably on her pants. At first it startled me, until I suddenly realized who she was and what the likely tableau being played out before me was about to encompass. She was Lady Shiva, the world-renowned--and greatly feared--master assassin. And that thin, older Arabic man must be foreign royalty of some sort, accompanied by a daughter and three bodyguards. I could almost swear I saw his pic somewhere while scanning the Naval database in the past. Lady Shiva is going to assassinate this man, and possibly his daughter too, on American soil. Those bodyguards don't seem to realize what's going on; I only stumbled on it due to blind luck. The same type of blind luck that always seems to land me in situations like this! I can't believe that is really the Lady Shiva!

But I was awestruck for long enough. I had to stop what was about to go down here, no matter the risk to my personal safety. She wasn't a monster of any sort, but she was perhaps even more dangerous than at least half the monsters I have gone up against before, both alone and alongside my fellow members of the Boogie Knights. But I have to stop this!

By the time Shiva had almost fully withdrawn her darkly colored sai under the noses of everyone in the restaurant, including the experienced bodyguards beside her, I found myself diving out of the bathroom and shouting…only to run directly into the waiter carrying glasses of soda to Mick and Jenny. The soda was all over the waiter and me, staining the white portions of both of our outfits, and I managed to inadvertently knock out one of his teeth when my elbow inadvertently struck him in the mouth as I hastily tried to get up. Considering the circumstances, I hope the government will pay his dental and clothing bills rather than saddling me with them. As this unintended display carried itself out, I tried to shout the magic words as much as possible.

"Ooooph! Ow…shit. Assassination! Assassination attempt!"

Hearing those words, Shiva suddenly switched her gaze to me, and at the same time the three bodyguards noticed the sai. Despite all of this forewarning, they wouldn't be fast enough to save their own lives. As the first one drew a piece and pointed it at her, Shiva resembled nothing short of a human-shaped bolt of lightening as she slashed the man's wrist with the business end of her sai and crushed his trachea with her elbow…all in a single simultaneous move. The man dropped his piece and began his ascent to the floor, blood streaming from both his wrist and his mouth. In another swift movement, Shiva plunged the edge of her slightly rounded blade into the throat of another guard while a reverse punch to the sternum of the third and final would-be-protector shattered it, driving shards of bone into his heart and lungs. He managed to let out a brief yelp of muffled pain as blood exploded from his mouth. The blood sprayed a screaming Jenny as an equally astonished Mick leaped up and pulled her under the table, his own face covered with a dead man's blood and salivary fluids.

This astounding task done-all within mere seconds--Shiva turned to the horrified young woman and her dignitary father.

"And now, my happy little sheik, you will see how eating at a seemingly innocuous restaurant like this will not save you from suffering the fate I was hired to inflict upon you."

Knowing I had less than three seconds before she turned her boast into two more deaths, I was finally at my feet, rushing towards Shiva.

"Lady Shiva, I work for the U.S. government, and I ask you to cease and desist…ooollph!"

I barely saw her round house kick hit me square in the chest, knocking me back against the wall. In another quick second, her dark-colored blade, still covered in the blood of two men whose lives she remorselessly snuffed out, was at my throat.

"And a rather insipid government agent you are, aren't you? You are not worthy of the effort it would take to kill you, especially since I am well aware that you are not part of the sheik's entourage, but merely an 'innocent bystander.'"

I thank the Fates that Lady Shiva has some semblance of a code of honor coupled with that annoying superiority complex of hers. Pretending to almost faint before the blade at my throat, less than half an inch from piercing my own trachea, I then managed to move faster than I ever have before and grasp the metallic blade of her sai with both of my hands…and to release the most intense spark of bio-electricity that I could muster, the energies quickly using the metal of the sai as a conduit to travel up her arm and into her entire body. I stood amazed by how well she weathered such an unexpected "point blank" surge, as it was an entire ten seconds before she released the weapon into my hands.

She then dangled on her feet for a few seconds, resisting her body's insistence on shutting down, but before she could get her bearings once more--and before her reflexes were back up to their full degree-I slammed the blunt, heavy end of the sai against her face several times, smashing her lip and probably cracking her facial bones. She still didn't go down. Summoning an incredible array of will power and resilience, Lady Shiva plunged her four non-opposed fingers at my throat, hoping to crush my larynx with a spear hand thrust.

It would have worked had she been the peak of her abilities. At this point, she was still nursing a severe electrical shock and several smashes of the bludgeon end of the sai to her face, so I was able to use her confiscated weapon to block her move to my throat. I could hear her fingers crunch upon sudden contact with the metal. Having timed the whole thing as perfectly as I possibly could, once her fingers impacted with the metal, I released another spark, this one as large as I could manage with the energy remaining to me. The torrent of bio-electric forced instantly traveled up her arm and into the rest of her body once more, the impact of this second shock sending her clear through the air so that she came crashing down on Mick and Jenny's table, smashing the wood to pieces and spilling the entire culinary content of the table onto the husband and wife team of whiners. Hasn't someone called the police yet? The point may well be moot, however, since if they did, Shiva would have likely killed them, anyway.

"Oh my gawwwddd!" Jenny screamed. "Mick, Ivan threw that woman on top of us! Heeelllllppp!"

Oh, geez…she would have to land there, wouldn't she?

"You not only call me fat, but you take me out to brunch to this insane place with this insane friend of yours! Omg, there's blood all over me! Oh my gawwwwdddd…!"

At this point, Jenny vomited all over the floor, ruining what little remained of anyone's appetite in the place.

Sliding Shiva's now unconscious body off of himself and his wife (it's about time she lost consciousness!), Mick ran up to me and swatted me on the shoulder.

"Ivan, pay whatever bill we might owe and find your own way home! I'm sure you understand!"

"But wait, I…"

With that said, Mick proceeded to drag the still screaming Jenny out of the now beleaguered establishment, his wife vomiting a second time upon seeing the bloody bodies of the three bodyguards on the floor in the front of the restaurant. The few other patrons and employees were quick to vacate immediately after the melee ended.

The sheik walked up to me and put his hand on my shoulder, his still terrified daughter cringing behind him.

"Do not worry, young man," he said reassuringly. "My government will compensate the restaurant for all the damage caused by this incident, including the reimbursement of your bill, and we will do our best to keep it out of the papers. That was truly extraordinary, to thwart someone as efficient as that woman is in the killing arts. Please understand that this entire incident must remain…excuse me, but I am feeling rather nauseous right now…"

I managed to leap out of the way just in time to avoid his vomiting on my shoes.

I thank the Fates for this small favor.