Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Between a Rock and an Odd Place

Darien, Hobbes, Claire, Alex and Eberts all sat at the round table, staring at one object in the center: a black envelope. Each of them had received one, but now only Darien's remained. When Hobbes had gotten his, he had immediately thought it was a bomb and had thrown it into the pot of water that he had been boiling. It was unreadable after that, not to mention a little soggy. Eberts had remembered his last ordeal with unfamiliar mail and had picked it up with salad tongs in order to burn it outside. Claire had gotten home late from work and was greeted by little bits of shredded black paper and a very happy Pavlov. And Alex had thought that it was merely another piece of junk mail and had thrown it away. Like anyone sends something important in a black envelope.

No one had known that the others had received the same letter until Darien had curiously brought his to the Agency the next day, unopened.

And now, they all sat at the table, staring at the black letter with his address written in red.

"Who's going to open it?" Darien asked the group while refusing to take his eyes off the letter.

Everyone else just slightly raised their head to stare at him. When he felt their gaze upon him, he too looked up. "What?"

"It *is* your letter there, partner."

Darien sighed. "You're right." Slowly, he reached forward and tentatively picked up the letter. As he slid his finger under the seal, everyone breathed in sharply, intent on holding it. When the first rip was complete and nothing had happened, they all relaxed and let Darien finish tearing it open. Inside was a black card, with fancy calligraphy in red ink lining the page.

"Well?" The women's curiosity was getting out of hand, and they looked at each other after they said the same word simultaneously.

Darien cleared his throat and began reading aloud. "'Mister Fawkes, your presence is requested at the residence of Dark Ravenette on the sixth day of December. Transportation will be provided. Casual dress. Be prepared.'"

"'Be prepared'? What does that mean?" Alex asked.

"I have no clue."

"We all panicked over a party invitation?" Eberts pondered.

"Who's Dark Ravenette?" Claire asked.

Everyone shrugged. A stunned silence filled the room until Darien broke it.

"I'm gonna go to it."

"You can't be serious," Alex stated.

"Why not?"

"Well, you didn't read the PS, my friend," Hobbes interjected.

Darien looked over the card again, front and back. "What PS, Hobbes?"

"You know, the part that says 'PS This is a trap!'"

"I thought about that, Hobbesy. Why would we all be invited? I mean, if this was a trap, why would Eberts get invited? No one knows about him." He looked at Eberts, who was looking a little hurt. "No offense Ebes."

"None taken Darien," he sighed.

"So, do we all party?" Claire asked the group.

Everyone looked at each other, and in one voice, they echoed Darien's earlier sentiment. "Why not?"

"What are the odds of us all getting a party invitation on our day off?" Eberts asked aloud.

Everyone went silent to think about that.


After a week of anticipation, December 6th was finally here. Darien woke up at about midday and got into the shower. The whole time, thoughts bounced around his head. Why was the Agency invited to a party? They had all talked to the Official about it, and even *he* had gotten a letter. Was this all some sort of trap? If so, who was this Dark Ravenette?

He stepped out of his shower just as someone knocked on his door. Wrapping his towel around his waist, Darien walked to the door to open it. Seeing no one through the peep hole, he slowly opened the door--

--and found a young woman standing just below the level of the peephole. Dressed in black leather pants and a red tank top, the girl appeared to be near her twenties. Her short curly and wild hair appeared to be multiple colors, ranging from bluish black to nearly blonde.

A slight smile appeared on her face as she stared at the half naked man before her. "Mr. Darien Fawkes," she started. "I am Dark Ravenette. I believe that you received a letter from me. I'm here to pick you up for the party."

"Oh," Darien stammered. "Well, I'm not quite ready, as you can see."

Dark Ravenette started to giggle. "Yes, I can see that. Um, do you" She was about to break into hysterical laughter.

"That's ok, I think I can dress myself. If you'll just wait out here for a little bit, I'll be out in a moment."

She composed herself and nodded. "Please hurry, the other guests are in the car, waiting."

Darien slowly closed the door on the peculiar little girl. As he walked away, he could have sworn he heard her say aloud, "VVSB, eat your heart out."


Twenty minutes later, Darien finally walked out of his door to find Dark Ravenette still standing there.

"Is everything ok?" She asked.

"Yeah, just needed to fix my hair."

This comment was followed by some more giggling from his tiny host. "I'm sorry. Please, let's join the others."

They both walked down to the street level, where Darien was surprised to find a black stretch limo waiting by his door. The blacked out windows all had a red tint to them, adding to the color coded theme of his host. The chauffeur stood at the back door, and he opened it as Darien and Dark Ravenette got close. Inside, Fawkes saw all of his coworkers sitting impatiently.

"Nice of you to join us, Fawkes," Hobbes said from his seat next to Claire. "What did you do? Head out and get your hair professionally done?"

"Very funny, Hobbes," Darien replied as he took the seat next to Eberts. He noticed that the driver shut the door as soon as he entered the back and then opened the front passenger door for their host. The pane of glass separated the two sections.

"Nice car for a casual dress party," Alex remarked as she looked around. The others took her lead and examined their vehicle. The plush red seats accented the black walls, and Darien instantly found the mini bar in the back. He opened it and found cold Coronas. Grabbing a couple, he tossed one to Hobbes and then offered one to everyone else. No other takers. Then, Darien proceeded to observe his friends.

It was weird seeing The Official in something other than his usual suit, but here he was, in a sweater and black slacks. Eberts practically mirrored his boss, except that while The Official's sweater was dark beige, his was blue. Alex looked pretty in a pair of dark denim jeans and a purple pullover blouse. Even Hobbes looked comfortable in his khaki pants and red V-neck shirt. Then, Darien looked at Claire, and saw something that he never thought he would see in his life. Underneath the long black knitted jacket that went to her ankles, Darien noticed something that apparently she was attempting to hide.

"Fishnet tights, Keep?"

Claire whipped her head around sharply to look at Darien, but she had already been caught. Everyone else looked at her legs to confirm the fact that she was wearing black mesh tights. She sighed and shifted her coat back so that they could see the rest of her outfit. She had a short black mini skirt and a form fitting charcoal top, complete with ankle high boots.

"It's not like I get to wear it to work," she stated, slightly smiling. "I figured, I had it, so I might as well get some use out of it." Then, she noticed that Darien's jacket pocket was shaking. "Um, Darien, why is your pocket moving?"

He opened the button and Darien the Rat popped his head out. "I decided that he deserved a day out like the rest of us."

"You brought your rat?" Alex questioned.

"So where are we going exactly?" Hobbes changed the subject.

"Let me ask." Darien knocked on the glass divider, grabbing the attention of his host. She instantly motioned to the phone set in the wall of the limo.

She picked up one phone on her side as Darien picked up his. "Yes, Mr. Fawkes?"

"Um, where exactly are we going?"

"I'm afraid I can't answer that." As those words escaped her lips, a colorless smoke began to fill the back compartment. "You'll just have to find out when you wake up."

Darien started coughing with the rest of the group as the smoke continued to fill their lungs. Then, one by one, they all began to fall unconscious. The phone fell from Darien's hands as he blacked out, and the last thing he remembered was hearing his partner mumble, "There's the PS."


As they approached their destination, Dark Ravenette pressed a button on the dashboard, cutting off the flow of the gas to the back seats. Almost immediately, the Underfunded Six began to stir. Darien was the first to come to full consciousness, and he immediately noticed that he did not have the usual "I've-just-been-knocked-out" headache. When everyone had awoken, their host's voice sounded over an intercom system. "Sorry for that folks, but I'm afraid our little establishment must remain a secret, so its location cannot be known to anyone but members."

"Members? Members of what?" Hobbes demanded.

"The I-Maniacs."

A collective "huh" sounded from the group. And then Claire looked out the window to see their location. "Oh, wow!"

Everyone moved to the window to see what she was looking at. The three story manor stretched across the landscape and seemed to be the only thing around for miles. The Victorian style turrets gave the mansion a very gothic look. The door seemed to gape like a mouth, but the entire exterior was decorated with white, blue and silver streamers with white running lights.

"This place is incredible." Alex observed.

Both the driver and Dark Ravenette got out of the limo. The doors were opened for the group, and as they exited, they continued to gaze at the magnificent yet slightly creepy residence.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Dark Ravenette started. "Welcome to the party." She ran to the front door and as she opened it, loud music flooded out. Each of the group slowly crept toward the door, and everyone started to enter, but as Darien nearly stepped over the threshold, his host shot her arm out, blocking him from going inside.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Mr. Fawkes. Not unless you like being mobbed. I *highly* recommend that you go through the back entrance."

She grabbed his arm and led him away from the front, separating him from the rest of his friends. He, however, was the last thing on their minds.


The moment that the others stepped into the great entrance hall, all motion and sound stopped as the people inside looked at who had just walked in. Then, in one sudden ear shattering sound, the entire mass screamed with delight and rushed forward to greet them. Every single member of the group got a petrified look on their face as hundreds of people crowded around them, grinning from ear to ear. Throughout the crowd, several "oh my goshes" and "she really did its" were heard. The people of the Agency could not believe what was happening to them. Who were these people and why were they so happy to see them?


At the back entrance, Dark Ravenette was trying to sneak into the house, but every window she looked through showed that someone would hinder a quiet entrance for Darien.

"Why are we trying to get inside undetected?" Darien asked. "Why don't we just go in?"

She shot him a quick look. "Are you mad?" She whispered harshly. "Do you WANT us to get trampled? The quieter we get you inside, the safer it is, for both of us."

Darien thought for a moment. "Undetected is good?"

"Mm hm." Dark Ravenette looked in the window of the kitchen, partially ignoring his question. Her attention was torn away though when she felt a chill traveling up her arm and surrounding her body. She looked behind her to find Darien completely invisible and her becoming so.

"Awwwwwww craaaaaaaap!" She exclaimed as the quicksilver completely covered her. Suddenly, the world was nothing but monotone hues. She looked to her side and saw the orange illuminated form of Darien.

"Neat, huh?" Then, he quietly turned the handle of the door to their right. Carefully, they entered the house, making sure that the door did not give away their presence by squeaking. When they were finally inside, Darien closed the door and let the flow of quicksilver cease.

"That was the coolest thing ever!" Dark Ravenette nearly yelled. She calmed down. "Okay, you can go Saran Wrap again if you want to, so to get the layout of the house, but be careful since some of the girls are ready for you."

"Ready for me?"

"Thermals." She said matter-of-factly.

Darien shook his head, and both he and Dark Ravenette turned to leave the room--

--only to find a young woman sitting at the kitchen table that they had not noticed beforehand. A surprised look was on her face, and Dark Ravenette motioned for her to be silent, but the young lady's excitement was too intense.

"TUNA SANDWICHES!?" Spotfish screamed from the table. Then, she caught herself and said what was really on her mind. Jumping up from her seat, in possible louder voice, she shrieked, "DARIEN!"


From the hallway, people heard Spotfish's cry of joy, and most of them rushed to see what the excitement was about. The fans that stayed behind seemed more than happy that everyone else had left. Dark Ravenette came running from the direction of the chaos that was forming in the kitchen, eager to escape the people who would hurt her if they found out that she had been quicksilvered.

Hobbes grabbed her arm as she got close. "What exactly is going on? What is this party for, how do these people know us, and *why* are there rabbits running around?" The other agents were happy that Hobbes had mentioned the bunnies, because they were all afraid to address it themselves and then only find out that it was their imagination.

"This is your party, Mr. Hobbes, for you and everyone with you. These people are your fans. And don't mind the plot bunnies. They run free around here. They're generally harmless, until they bite you, and then you just *have* to pay attention to them." She then moved to the spiral staircase. "Enjoy yourselves. There's an open bar in the lounge to your left, dancing in the parlor, an entertainment room upstairs, and people everywhere to talk to." With that, she climbed the stairs and was gone.

All five of the group looked at each other, silently agreed, and headed to their left in search of the bar. They all needed a drink.

And a mass of followers trailed behind them.


Darien was swamped in the kitchen, and he had no escape. People were swarming in from all parts of the house, eager to see their favorite secret agent. He tried to work his way through them, but no matter which way he moved, they moved the same way. Finally, out of frustration, he quicksilvered, if only for the chance not to be followed. The crowd felt him pass as he pushed through, and by the time he had gotten to the door frame that led to the rest of the house, several of them had put on thermal goggles.

"Aw crap, she was right," Darien said as he took off running. He sprinted past the main entrance and up the stairs, gaining a little distance between him and the mob of followers behind him. When he reached the top, he went through the first door he came too and locked it behind him. He stood there, catching his breath and listening to the hurried mass run past his hiding place. When the coast was clear, he stepped away from the door to look at the room where he was hidding. Next to him and the door was a dresser, so Darien took the opportunity to take Little Darien the Rat out of his pocket and put him on the furniture so that he'd be safe. Set before him was a huge four post, draped in silk sheets. Running from the mob had drained him of some energy, so the bed was looking very comfortable. He plopped down, ready to take a brief nap, but when he rolled to the side, he found himself face to face with a pink bunny. He yipped in surprise and backed away, falling off the other side of the bed. When he peeked back over the mattress, he found the pink bunny staring at him, wiggling its nose, and another set of eyes looking at him as well. Human eyes.

"You're a big one now, ain't ya?" Alyx Silver asked while still staring at Darien, who was finally finding his footing.

"What *is* that?" He asked while pointing at the bunny.

Alyx just laughed. "It's nothing but an innocent little plot bunny. Looks like a love fic to me. I don't think it'll hurt ya."

Darien looked confused. "And in some reality, that's English?"

Just then, Darien heard someone working a key in the lock to the door. "Hide me," he pleaded in desperation to the female on the bed. She pointed to the door on the other side of the room that seemed to lead to a bathroom. He escaped right as QSscaperGirl got the door open.

"Oh my God! What the frell was that?" She yelled at Alyx.

Alyx smiled. "Darien." She went on to pet the bunny as QSscaperGirl took off after Fawkes.

After her, Pipsqueak entered the room. She noticed the rat on the table, so she picked him up, petting him behind the ears. "Wow, that was hot and tasty now, wasn't it?" She asked the rat, referring to its owner. The rat merely squeaked in response.


Downstairs, people were still surrounding the rest of the Agency, but mostly around Hobbes. The others took this to their advantage and slowly inched away from poor Bobby. Then, each went their own separate ways.

Alex headed to the kitchen. The majority of the Darien worshippers had run off after him, so she was free to wander around the vast room. Various chips and sandwiches lined the counter, and she did not hesitate to grab something for herself.

"You know, you're gonna have to pay for that with your life," a small voice said from behind her. Alex turned around to face--air. But when she bent her head down, she saw a young boy, maybe 12 years old, staring up at her. CryptoMayvn13 just smiled.

Alex could not resist and she smiled back. "You want something from up here? Maybe one of the PB and J sandwiches?" Mayvn nodded rapidly. She grabbed a plate, loaded it with sandwiches and grabbed a couple seats at the table for her and her new friend. All around her, people ran to and fro, eager to find Darien. Alex took a bite of her sandwich. This was an odd place.


Claire headed to find the parlor. The music was carrying throughout the house, but she really wanted to find the dance floor. She passed by the stairs again in time to hear some young woman scream, "Maybe he went this way!" Sadly shaking her head for Darien's sake, the Keeper continued to explore the large manor. After she passed through a room with every musical instrument she could think of, including a glass encased oboe, she entered a room with several pool tables.

"Who needs more than *one* billiards table?" She thought to herself, but she continued on. The music was getting louder as she traveled. Finally, after she opened the next door, she found the parlor--

--which was an understatement for this room. The place had to be a ballroom, but strobe lights were flashing everywhere, and an oddly familiar No Doubt song was playing loudly from the huge sound system set up in the corner. The floor was packed with people dancing, and Claire knew that she was in the perfect place to show off her skills. Just as she was about to remove her jacket and get her groove on, a hand tapped her on the shoulder. "So, what's *your* sign?" She heard a female voice say. Claire turned around and found another woman smiling at her.

"Um..." She started, but was cut off when the other woman started laughing.

"Just kidding!" CrazyCryptoZoologist extended her hand to shake Claire's. "Welcome to the party, Keep. Go, have fun!"

And so she did.


The Official had found himself a somewhat quiet corner of the house, which seemed strangely isolated from the rest of the manor. Instead of the blaring punk music that he had heard when entering the party, this room had soothing tunes playing through a small radio. The whole room seemed to still be decorated for a different previous party-- a baby shower maybe. He sat there, enjoying his drink, with his only company being a young girl who just sat there, smiling at him. It was very unnerving, but The 'Fish decided that the quiet was worth any price. He also noticed that this room was not without its own supply of...what were they called?...plot bunnies.

Suddenly, two people entered the room, obviously in deep conversation. It proved difficult to hear what they were talking about, until the couple stopped right in front of him. The young woman pointed at the smiling girl.

"You've got the equivalent of the Cheshire cat, and you're telling me I am *NOT* in Wonderland? There's gotta be a white rabbit around here somewhere..." Tempest then looked down at her feet in time to see a plaid plot bunny run by her, followed by a pure white one. She sighed, nodded and smiled to The Official, and continued through the room with her companion.

Charlie just shook his head. This was an odd place.


About half an hour later, Darien was trying to hide in one of the many bathrooms. This whole situation was scaring him. He knew that he usually had some good luck with the ladies, but this was ridiculous. It seemed that everywhere he turned, another woman was standing there, waiting for him. And they all had thermals!

From his hiding place, he was able to hear a commotion in the hallway. Several women were talking to each other. He strained to hear what was being said, when suddenly someone screamed, "What do you *mean* she was quicksilvered!?" Then, he heard them all take off running, obviously in search of the host of this little shindig. He sighed in relief, hoping that he was safe for a little bit. Carefully, he stepped out from behind the shower curtain, ready to exit the little side area of the bathroom, but when he opened the door, he found himself face to face with another woman. Literally.

"Well, it's nice to be able to look someone in the eye without hurting my neck," LadyBaller observed, "no offense to Hobbes."

Behind LadyBaller, a shorter and younger Postal_Girl popped her head into view. "Finding Fawkes in the bathroom. That's *SO* wrong in so many ways."

Darien stepped back in surprise. Already, they were drawing attention to the bathroom, and others would soon swamp him once again. Suddenly, he lost his balance and found himself crashing through the door to the hamper. And then he kept falling. It was a couple seconds before he realized that he had escaped through a large laundry chute. He could hear sighs of disappointment from above him.

He kept falling until he thankfully landed on a huge pile of clothes in what seemed like the basement. He stood up, brushed himself off, and turned to leave.

He stopped though when he saw the five women sitting at a nicely furnished table, all with cards in their hands. One of the ladies he recognized as the host, Dark Ravenette. The other four were not familiar and were staring at him with wide eyes.

"How did you get down here?" He asked Dark Ravenette.

"Same way you did," she said as she pointed behind him to the laundry chute. "Do you think that big pile of clothes is there by accident?"

"Mehneh," I-Baby said, turning her eyes back to her cards.

Darien got a puzzled look on his face. "Mehneh?" He repeated questioningly.

Both I-Baby and Dark Ravenette giggled.

"What are you all doing down here?" Darien asked while stepping closer to the table. At least this group of women did not seem eager to smother him.

"Just kickin' back--drinkin' some wine, eatin' some cheese, catchin' some rays..." KitKat said sarcastically.

"This is probably the most private room in the whole house. The only place for us to get our poker game on," Dark Ravenette explained. "Plus, it has the best stocked fridge known to man." She pointed to the refrigerator behind her that seemed to take up the whole wall.

Just then, the storm cellar doors that lead from outside to the basement opened, and two more guests arrived. Darien's eyes narrowed in anger as he watched Arnaud and Huisclos step into the room.

"Crapafragaleticespealadoshes!" CrimsonEyez exclaimed from her seat.

"Who invited them?" Dark Ravenette demanded, but she did not see as Emerald slunk down in her chair. They watched as the brothers took off toward the basement stairs, which were all the way across the room. Darien rapidly looked around to room for a weapon of sorts to go after them with, and noticed a baseball bat lying on a shelf.

"Not the Fear Bat!" I-Baby called out. "That's for beating your fears and your roommates only!" But Darien was not listening. He grabbed the Fear Bat and took off after Arnaud.

"Don't hurt him too much!" Emerald cried. "I still have a use for him." Everyone turned to glare at her. "What?" They all then abandoned their card game to go watch what would be the consequences of this encounter.


Meanwhile, Eberts had wandered off by himself to the upstairs level. At the end of the long hallway, he saw a door with flashing lights glowing through the crack at the bottom. He opened it and found one of the most expansive entertainment systems he had ever seen. The television was nearly the size of a small movie screen. Surround sound speakers were blasting, and he noticed that every possible game system, ranging from an Atari to an X-box, was hooked up to the TV. Four computers were set up by the wall, two Macs and two PCs, and from that he could see, they were jacked up with the most advanced technology someone could find. One person sat in front of the computers, looking terribly perplexed.

At that moment, several people were sitting on couches around the screen, watching four players go head to head with a round of kung fu fighting. Eberts was not sure, but he thought that they were playing Dead or Alive 3. The action stopped though when they noticed Albert standing in the doorway.

"Um, hello," Eberts stammered.

All four players jumped up from their seat on the floor and held out their game controllers, offering their character for Eberts to play. "You name the game, Mr. Eberts," one of them mentioned. He just smiled. This was his kind of party.


Hobbes was left by himself at the bar. At first, he was slightly upset that his friends had ditched him with complete and total strangers, but then he realized that he was the center of attention. For a group of nothing but women. Things were looking up for the little tiger. He sat there, making small talk with anyone who managed to get over their awe long enough to say hello, until things got a little bit more relaxed.

"It's nice to see you again Bobby," Hobbeschick said to him at one point. "When you said you would call me, I did not expect to wait five year."

Hobbes stretched his memory to think about when he might have met this woman, but for the life of him, he could not remember. He turned to the bartender and asked for some water. The alcohol was starting to get to him, and he knew that being drunk in a situation like this might end up being a fatal choice.

Sandy just smiled as he receives his order, and then she mentioned, "Just as a drop of sea water contains all of the same qualities as the ocean, so too does a human being contain within it all of the mysteries and powers of the universe."

Bobby stopped as the glass was right at his lips. He had to stop hanging out with Fawkes so much. This philosophy stuff was actually starting to make sense.

Suddenly, when Hobbes was not looking, the Swiss Miss brothers dashed by, with Arnaud trying to shed as much clothes as he could while running, They were followed by Fawkes carrying a baseball bat, who was followed by a group of women.

"And there they go, faster than the speed of light," the bartender observed.

"Oh sure, but what's the speed of *DARK*?" Pensive asked as she jumped off her barstool to join the chase in order to save her Arnaud.

Hobbes turned around right as she left, but he missed all of the excitement. Then, Emma peeked her head up from around the corner, taking him mind off whatever had been going on. "Bobby, were you and Darien just singing 'The Lumberjack Song?'" When he shook his head no, she ducked back out of sight. He sighed and was about to gulp down some of his water when he felt arms surround his neck.

"Come to momma!" Adel said before pulling him close.


Huisclos dove into a nearby closet and slammed the door shut. He knew that Darien would chase after his brother no matter what, so he should be safe. He thought about how he got here in the first place. When he received the letter, he had been sitting in his jail cell, staring at the wall. His darling brother had organized an escape later that day. Someone had sent an invitation to Arnaud as well, so he was not about to strand poor Huisclos alone on the night of a festive occasion.

And now he sat here, huddled in a closet. Traded one prison for another.

All of a sudden, the door whipped open, and Hei-Mao stood before him, hands on her hips. "You're a braver man than I am, Gunga Dinn. I would have ran out of the house if I was in your shoes." With that, she closed the door as quickly as she had opened it, leaving Huisclos alone with him thinking, 'This is an odd place.'


Darien continued to run after the now clothes-less Arnaud, bat in hand, determined to seriously maim, if not kill, the man. Finally, he got DeFohn cornered at the end of a hallway. In his fervor, he took a swing at Arnaud with the bat.

The other man quickly ducked, narrowly escaping intense pain. "Why did you just swing at my head with a *bat*?"

"Well," Darien started, sarcasm dripping from his voice. "It's a FEAR BAT, and I have a fear of spiders, but since there aren't any here, I thought I'd take it out on you!" With that, he took another swipe at Arnaud, but again he missed.

Arnaud ripped the mask from his face, allowing himself to be completely invisible and possibly evade Fawkes for a few seconds longer. He pushed past Darien and attempted to slam though the crowd that was standing behind them, watching the conflict. However, it was like trying to walk through molasses, and he feared that he would not be able to get free before Darien would reach him.

Darien quicksilvered his eyes in order to follow the path that his enemy was taking, and just as he was about to take after him, a familiar pain ripped through his brain. He fell to his knees and noticed that Arnaud was taking this opportunity to escape completely through the mass and probably out the front door. He quickly glanced at his tattoo, noticed the eight red segments and realized that all of this hiding from devoted fans had taken its toll on his sanity. Then he looked up at the crowd around him. His bloodshot eyes opened wide as he saw everyone in the mob pull a syringe full of blue liquid from behind their backs. They all had slightly sadistic smiles on their faces, and something told him that this was not counteragent that they were carrying. In fact, he could smell it: blue kool-aid.

Lori stood near the front of the group, and her smile was a bit larger than everyone else's. "Okay Darien, open wide. This won't hurt me a bit."

The group laughed as Darien screamed, "Aw CRAP!"


Back upstairs, Eberts had just won another game of Goldeneye when someone demanded a rematch. In the middle of the game, his opponent got a little overconfident. As she set a trap with proximity mines, Devilbird turned to Eberts. "Game over--I win." But just as she said that, her hand accidentally slipped over her controls, and she watched in horror as her game character took one misplaced step backwards, setting off the trap and killing herself.

They all just sat there in shock. It had seemed like no one was going to win this round, and then this happened. Eberts slowly put down his controller, then suddenly threw his arms in the air. "I am the man!" He jumped up and did a happy dance, but paused mid-booty shake as he realized that everyone was staring at him, especially his challenger. He calmed down and extended his hand to her. "Ma'am, good game." Devilbird smiled, shook his hand, and then reset the TV so that they could hook up some Tekken action.

From the computers, Will Vesham also excitedly leapt out of his seat, yelling, "Now....ha! See, it's a...a..." He repeatedly pointed to a banana graphic that filled the screen of the comp he was working at. "...problem, but not an info-tech problem!" He paused and looked at everyone around him. He was one of two men in the entire room. Then, it suddenly dawned on him that he was probably the only male I-Maniac at the party. "What am I doing here?"

Eberts watched as Will left the room. This was an odd place.


Darien was running through the house once again, but this time he was not chasing after Arnaud. He was practically running for his life. He had an entire horde of women chasing after him, ready to inject him with needles full of blue kool-aid.

He rocketed up to the bar and forcefully grabbed his partner's arm. "Hobbes! Keeper! WHERE!?"

Bobby looked at Fawkes and noticed that his eyes were nearly completely red. "Damn it Fawkes, I don't know where she is, but you better find her fast."

"You know it's bad when he's the voice of reason," Erin said from her seat, referring to Hobbes and staring at the nearly insane man before her.

Suddenly, Darien's mob appeared around the corner, eager to catch him. Darien saw them, screamed, and took off running once again. Erin jumped off her barstool, anxious to help save the invisible man. Hobbes watched as she left him. "How come Fawkes is able to steal my women even when he's on the verge of madness?"

"Wow, it seems like someone forgot to take their anti-jealousy pill!" FawkesFox exclaimed as she too left the bar to join the chase.

Hobbes slammed his drink down and also took off after Darien, hoping to save his partner before they tore him apart. One thing was for sure: this was an odd place.


Darien ducked into the music room, slammed the sliding doors behind him and clicked the latches shut. Hopefully, this would buy him some time to find Claire and get a shot before all of these people caught him and turned him into The Invisible Giant Kool-Aid Man. As he turned around, he found that he had walked in on a serious debate, one of such intensity that they failed to noticed he had entered the room. A brief tidbit of what their conversation clued Darien in that they were discussing simple philosophy.

"It's simple," IMANRULES said. "I am an invisible man... I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids--and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."

Sammie added her own little argument. "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."

"That's not entirely fact," Darien said without thinking.

"Facts are the enemy of truth," Samus said, not realizing at first that he was the one who said something. Then, the women stopped mid-conversation, turned and saw Darien standing at the doors. One look at his eyes, and they each reached for their own personal syringes of blue kool-aid.

Darien ran straight though them and escaped through the other door just as everyone on the other side of the barrier managed to get the latch undone.

He shot through to the pool room, and tried to hide under one of the curtains that blocked the windows. He listened as all of his pursuers dashed past him and waited a few seconds before deciding that the coast was clear. Slowly, he stepped out from behind the curtain, just as another shot of pain coursed through his skull. He clawed at the back of his head, even though he knew that never helped.

"I need to find Claire!" He yelled at himself. "What am I doing hiding and wasting time?"

"I don't know," another voice answered him. Darien looked up to see Qs9300agent standing there with a pool cue in her hand. "Maybe you're just trying to find answers to something, or maybe you've finally gone mad."

Darien growled in frustration and decided to run through the side door instead of the main door that his followers had used to leave. He found himself in front of a huge staircase with no other choice but to climb it. When he reached the top, he opened the door and discovered that he was on the third floor. The room he had entered seemed fairly quiet, so immediately he knew that something was wrong. Add to that the fact that all of the walls were covered with mirrors. Needless to say, he was slightly unnerved. Frantically, Darien spun his head around, but everywhere he looked, his own ruby eyes glared back at him. It was taking everything in his power to keep it all together. There were too many people here--too many people that could get hurt if he lost it.

He crossed the room and turned the doorknob to get into the next area, and found two women in there, going through closets. Clothes were thrown everywhere. The two girls looked up as he stepped into their domain.

"Darien!" I_JOY exclaimed. "Can I have a hug?"

"Hey D," Invision interrupted. "Ya got any fashion tips for a less-than-fashionable chick like myself?"

It was getting hard for Darien to deal with all of this. He ran out of that room and out through yet another door. 'This place is like a maze for a lab rat,' he thought to himself, and nearly paused as the truth of that statement really sank in.

He encountered a large catwalk that stretched across a huge ballroom. Looking down, he scanned the crowd, wildly looking for his Keeper among the crowd. To his relief, he found her talking to Hobbes. They seemed to be discussing something important, because each of them kept looking around them, and Claire had her patented scowl on. In desperation, Darien called out to her. Amazingly, she heard him over the music and as she looked up at the catwalk, he jumped off, hoping to land gently. As he was airborn, nowUCme cried out, "Holy crap! That was the greatest thing I've never seen!"

Darien hit the ground and rolled, easing any injuries to merely a couple bumps and bruises. Claire rushed over to him, with Hobbes right behind her, and quickly knelt by his side. "Darien, are you ok?"

"Fix me," he pleaded with his eyes wide. "Before they get to me."

Hobbes rushed to retrieve Claire's coat, where she had a shot of counteragent stored away in case of emergency. He watched as she stuck the needle into Darien's arm and slowly pushed the plunger down. Darien shivered as the counteragent entered his system and then visibly relaxed. Claire gently touched his cheek, happy to see he was ok.

Lizzy the Lizzar leaned over the witnessing group, and stared down at Darien. "So... did you ever screw your Keeper?" Hobbes shot her a look that nearly screamed death.

Claire looked around her. This was an odd place.


Finally, all of the chaos died down. Every crazy woman put away her syringe for another day, and the agents carefully led Darien back to the main entrance. When Claire, Bobby and Fawkes reached it, Alex appeared from the kitchen, a little jelly left on her lips, Eberts strolled down the stairs, a look of accomplishment on his face, and The Official found his way out of the side room.

"I think it's about time that we headed on out," Hobbes stated. "This has been hours of fun for poor little inviso-boy here." He then turned to Eberts and whispered, "Plus, I think some of the ladies here are trying to get in my pants."

MsBoyd overheard and replied, "No, Hobbes... I'm not trying to jump your bones!" Then she giggled. "At least, not *yet* anyway."

Dark Ravenette moved to stand before them. "I'll have the driver bring the limo around. I must say, it was incredible having you all here."

"Okay crew, let's saddle up," Alex announced to her group.

Iwomans_sister scoffed. "'Saddle up,' yeah, that's about as real as her hair color." All of the I-Maniacs laughed at that, and even Claire gave a little chuckle.

The six exited the mansion the same way that they had entered, through the front door, and noticed that the limo was waiting for them already. They all got in the car, and when they glanced back at the house, they saw everyone standing there, waving good-bye to them. Then, the smoke began to fill the car once again, and all of them nodded out.


Darien shot awake with a start. Quickly looking at his pet's cage, he found little Darien running around in his exercise wheel, having a great time. Fawkes thought to himself, 'I thought I left him there on accident. Was there a "there?" I was dreaming, wasn't I?'

He fell back on his pillow, and realized that if something like that had actually occurred, he would probably be sore and exhausted at that moment, but he felt fine. "It *was* all a dream! Man, that was an odd place!" He said aloud to no one in particular.

Darien rolled over, all set to fall back asleep and enjoy his day off. He cracked his eyes open, just to glance at his clock, but screamed and propelled himself backwards when he saw what was sitting on his night stand. There, wiggling its ears at him, was a black and red bunny.