Landing on her Feet: Cordelia
Cordelia Chase returned to her home, thinking that this weekend should be decent enough. She'd gone to PartyTown to rent a costume, and had an invitation to what should be an excellent party, considering that Devon was obsessed with his image. So long as she avoided any lame school functions or horrible Halloween tricks, things should be as good as they got in this wretched town.
There was a blue BMW in the driveway. That car meant that her aunt Marlene was here... if she was unlucky, so were her cousins Josie and Nathan. Both of them were pretentious, spoiled twits who were certain that the world owed them whatever they wanted because they were rich.
She walked into the house, seeing her mother and Aunt Marlene sitting at the couch, with Aunt Marlene in some sort of white almost toga with a crown of silver leaves on her head. Her own mother was dressed in this rose colored long dress with a corset, cut rather low for a woman of Emmaline Chase's age and sensibilities.
"Cordelia, darling, say hello to aunt Marlene. She's invited me to go with them to a Halloween party," Her mother's bright smile suggested that this might not be her first glass of liquid relaxation.
"We'd ask if you wanted to come along, but you are still in high school," Aunt Marlene trilled, one hand waving through the air in a dismissive gesture. "I'm fairly certain that there will be drinking, and you shouldn't be exposed to such things."
"Where did you pick up that dress, mom? It's not what I'd expected," Cordelia asked, trying to find a way not to scream that Josie had best not be here.
Both of them laughed, which Cordelia had learned was not a good sign.
"Oh, we went to this cute little shop in town..." her mother answered.
Aunt Marlene chuckled, "Yes, Emmaline nearly ripped this dress out of the hands of some little blond. It was quite amusing, but I doubt the girl could have afforded it anyhow."
"Ahh," Cordelia nodded, convinced yet again that Aunt Marlene was a bad influence.
"Dear cousin Delia," Josie's unwelcome voice proceeded her down the staircase. "Too bad you're not old enough to go with us to the party. It's going to be brilliant."
Looking over, Cordelia frowned at the costume that her cousin was wearing. Fishnet tights, ankle high boots with four inch heels, a laced together fake leather dress in black, a black leather choker with silver spikes, tacky fingerless gloves that showed of what she truly hoped were awful fake nails, whiskers drawn over her cheeks with eyeliner, a knee length fake tail... and the headband with the spotted cat ears that went with Cordelia's costume. The costume that was supposed to be in a box in her closet in her room. The outfit managed all at once to be slutty, tacky, dated, and evidence that Josie had pillaged Cordelia's room... again.
Years of previous experience had taught Cordelia that her mother wouldn't care that Josie had invaded Cordelia's room and thrown things all over. Or that she might have ruined something. Or that this meant Cordelia wouldn't have the cat ears for her costume. Or that Josie would probably ruin them meaning that the costume couldn't be entirely returned. And that complaining about Josie would be worse than useless.
It was probably Josie's whole plan. The bitch.
Cordelia gave a small shrug, and moved towards the stairs, intending to go see the damage and figure out if her costume could be salvaged. "Enjoy the drunken frat boys."
Up the stairs, down the hall and around the corner before she permitted herself to scowl. Down the hall and into her room, shutting the door behind her and looking at the room. Clothing scattered on and near the bed, having been tossed from the closet. The cat costume, thrown about near the dresser. Shoes scattered in the closet, having fallen from the organizer on the back of the closet door. Her make-up kit open, with individual compacts dropped to the dresser and the floor, along with two lipsticks and several eyeliners, one of them broken.
Cordelia sighed, whispering, "I hate her."
After picking up her make-up, putting the shoes back in the organizer and getting no closer to figuring out if they'd fallen from Josie flailing the door about or been thrown to the floor out of spite that they wouldn't fit Josie's feet - either quite possible - Cordelia sorted out the pieces of her costume. The tail was gone. The headband with the ears was on Josie's head... so she likely had the tail as well. That just left the spotted leotard and tights, as well as the cat printed gloves and the page with the make-up suggestions... though the little make-up kit that had been included had vanished. "Damn her."
Cordelia started hanging up the clean clothing, trying to determine if it would be best to salvage the costume or try to find something new... knowing that there would be nothing worth renting at PartyTown. She'd have to go to some other place either way. Regardless, the cat costume would be ruined, and it wasn't Cordelia's fault.
They'd probably left, so there was no reason that Cordelia couldn't go now to see what sort of salvage efforts she could buy. Since PartyTown was already picked over, she might as well check out that new place, Ethan's...
end part 1.
Thirty minutes later, Cordelia Chase made her way into Ethan’s, looking over the aisles and shelves. Things had already been picked over rather effectively, though at least this shop was making obvious efforts to prevent things from being tossed onto the floor and trampled. There looked to be quite the range, from the dull and lame football jerseys and ghost sheets to elaborate outfits like the pink gown that her mother had claimed.
She decided to meander through the more elaborate and expensive costumes that remained, just for idle curiosity. There was a very impressive set of armor, complete with a sword that came to her shoulders and a shield painted with a red lion. The famous Scarlett O’Harra green gown. What looked an awful lot like a Roman Centurion’s uniform. An elaborate gown with a ruffle around the neck, done up in mostly red velvet, patterned with hearts. Some sort of science-fiction battle suit done up with scuffs, dents, and scratched numbers and symbols painted along parts of the plating, though she wasn’t enough of a nerd to be able to identify the origin of the armor. A full Klingon costume complete with the metallic sash, the weapons, and a wig with forehead ridges. A beautifully decorated but rather risqué outfit that looked like a collection of ivy leaves. A very professional and revolting looking zombie costume, complete with applications for festering wounds and popped decaying eyeball – detailed but gross.
But she’d already splurged for an elaborate costume. The fact that Josie had tried to ruin it wouldn’t make Daddy more forgiving when the bills came in.
Shaking her head, Cordelia made her way towards the aisle for make-up and other separate pieces of costuming. The place where there would be wigs, fake teeth and nails, headbands with ears or horns or antennae, fake blood and wounds, and all sorts of make-up that would be too garish and too greasy for any other sort of occasion. She did see some other people that she recognized, including Percy West wandering the rows with the less elaborate costumes, looking a bit lost, and Harmony staring at the red dress with the neck ruffle.
The only kitty ears on headbands that they had were the black ones or a set that looked pink. Pink… for the love of God, she’d stay home before going out in pink kitty ears!
Then she saw some of the other fake ears, the ones that went over your real ones, and her mind latched on to an image from the cartoons that she’d deny ever watching. Pointed ear tips over her real ears, and the special sort of sticky gum that held them in place. Some of the make-up in two different yellow and brown, with a bit of the white for added measure… and another one that had a lot of the orange color that she’d need. The smallest fake fangs, though she couldn’t quite remember if the character had sharp teeth or not. Regardless, they were cat-people, and she would have a cat costume, there was no reason not to have at least a little point to her teeth… unless she couldn’t get the pointy bits to stay in place, of course. As a delightful surprise, they even had colored contact lenses, so she could change her eyes for the night.
She finished up by finding and seizing a nice staff, which she thought she remembered that character using and might be useful against any of Sunnydale’s resident scary nightlife. At the last minute, she grabbed two cans of the Halloween hairspray, one in glittery gold and the other in almost white.
After things were rang up and charged to Daddy’s credit card, Cordelia smiled. Her costume salvaged for a mere seventy dollars. Life might be tolerable after all, especially since she doubted that she’d be seeing Josie again until noon tomorrow at the earliest.
Naturally, the costume was a bit tricky to get looking right. She ended up cutting little spots from notebook paper, temporarily taping them to her outfit, spraying a bit of the gold hairspray over, and removing the spots to add a bit more spotting and lighten the color of the costume a bit. She managed to get the ears attached, and the teeth, but her hair was still not much like the character’s. Which might be helpful for her social standing, actually… She shrugged, and used the makeup to add some spots, and to try to get the look a bit closer. A jacket that Josie had ruined the last time she’d been over made decent arm guards. She ended up just popping a large reddish oval brooch onto the leotard instead of the Insignia, figuring that it would have to do, and she wasn’t nearly artistic enough to make one herself.
She had no intention of admitting that she found the perfect boots in her mother’s closet.
Close enough to be recognizable to someone who had been a fan. Different enough not to brand herself as a geek and suffer social death. Perfect.
Even after painting on the large orange eye mask, she sighed, wondering what in the world the animators had been thinking. She looked like she should be part of some sort of glam-rock band… and that was probably what she’d tell people if they asked.
She was going to be the sexiest cat in Sunnydale. The cat that geekling fantasies were made of. And she was going to make it look good.
End part 2.
As she drove herself to the party, two things crossed Cordelia’s mind. The first, that her license plate of ‘Queen C’ could almost apply to this character as well as herself. The second – thank God that she hadn’t been drafted to escort the little bratling monsters around Sunnydale for Trick or Treating. She’d seen Buffy and Xander both get volunteered by Snyder earlier that day, and had counted herself fortunate for her rather close escape. She’d also heard a rumor that Coach might have volunteered the football players, something about improving their image after Mike Donner had gone streaking again.
She just hoped that Devon’s party lived up to the fuss he’d been making about it. Okay, she wasn’t too worried about whether or not he’d managed to get beer, let alone any of the harder alcohol. She’d seen far too much of what that could lead a person to doing, and she’d seen a study somewhere that said drinking in excess could cause premature aging. Aging was something that she wanted to avoid, though not at the cost of a permanent sunlight allergy and liquid diet. And she certainly wouldn’t be looking for the sort of fragile-minded girl who’d just fall to her knees or her back for guys on the first date. But she liked a party with good music, and she couldn’t very well remain one of the social figures of the school if she missed out on the major parties!
She was not so much surprised and appalled as disappointed and resigned that the party didn’t seem to be measuring up to Devon’s claims just yet. Granted, the converted warehouse looked pretty cool, but the rest of the party was just not quite as advertised. There was a table with refreshments, including a your choice of thickened red fruit punch that was supposed to look like blood, or melting orange sherbet and 7-up that appeared to have been spiked with some sort of alcohol. There were peeled grapes that were supposed to look like eyes, and a bowl of mixed pasta with a light dressing over it that was supposed to look like intestines, and pretzels covered in white chocolate so that they might pass as skinny bones. Very boring and unimaginative.
There was beer. She’d seen a few people holding bottles that might have been other alcohol. Of all the claims about how the party was going to be so great, why did the booze have to be the one that pulled through to happen? Dare she hope that it would cause some people to become amusing, rather than dumber, angry, and pushy? Only time would tell.
Two hours later, Cordelia sighed over her glass of punch. The music was still decent, though there had been the apparently required playing of Thriller, and the Monster Mash, the Ghostbusters theme song, and something about werewolves in London. Most of it had been more recent, some of it even from local bands, though Devon hadn’t arranged for one to play the party. Maybe he thought that would be a conflict, since he was in a band, it might look weird to hire someone else’s band to play at his party?
Or maybe he just thought another band might steal his spotlight. This was Devon, after all.
The smoke was starting to get on her nerves though. People were smoking through the club, and the smoke had a sharper scent to it, one that hinted that it was only mostly tobacco. There was enough smoke from enough people that it was forming a haze in the air, and Cordelia was certain that the smell would be clinging to her outfit, to her hair, even to her skin. Ick. The sacrifices she made to be popular…
She wasn’t that surprised by the girls in too tight clothing flocking around Devon and Rick with big do-me-now eyes. She shook her head at the cheap vinyl Super-Girl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman costumes, the naughty nurses, the microskirt with the too tight blue shirt and the plastic badge along with a pair of handcuffs looped around a belt and high heels, the fairy costume that revealed just how short Tinkerbell’s skirt really was, and what had to be either a harem girl or I Dream of Jeannie… Ah, Maria Bell, not terribly social, didn’t seem that bright, and more inclined to watch talk shows and soaps than old shows – harem girl, not Jeannie. Tacky cat-girls, a Playboy Bunny complete with bleached blond hair, a couple cheerleaders. Nothing really surprising. She did see someone dressed as a Star Fleet original series woman, in a red minidress with a single gold band at the cuffs, a couple Morticia Addams types, and a mermaid.
Not that the guys costumes were much better… some pirates, a few zombies, a vampire, some football jerseys. Tinfoil armor and a plastic sword near the punchbowl, Dave Alvarez who played defensive tackle had gone as the Frankenstein creature or maybe Herman Munster. Oh God, someone had come to the party as a NASCAR driver… Superman near the stereo, too scrawny Batman near the kitchen, another Batman dancing with a cheerleader and a naughty nurse, a Wolverine in the blue and yellow talking to Marie the harem girl…
She was a bit surprised to see Harmony in that revealing ivy leaf outfit, with her hair dyed red. The red hair clicked on the memory, allowing Cordelia to place the costume as Poison Ivy, one of the recurring enemies of Batman… Harmony was carrying it off surprisingly well.
Cordelia shook her head, wondering if the smoke was affecting her brain. Why else would she be thinking that Harmony was carrying out something well, on her own? Everyone knew that Harmony wasn’t the brightest bulb on the sign, and there were rumors about the extreme measures that she might have taken to pass last year. As she did, she could feel her hair brushing her shoulders, not the normal silken softness, but harsh, coarse and scratchy. It was going to take a while for her hair to recover, between this smoke and all the colored hairspray that she’d used. The smoke also burned at her eyes, or maybe that was the orange contacts… The music was loud, though the speakers were placed well and things balanced enough that the bass didn’t warp the songs beyond recognition. Then again, Devon was in a band, and if he couldn’t keep the speakers balanced, who’d hire him to play?
She raised the glass of punch to her lips, trying to figure out if this was really the best way to spend her evening. It was better than time with Josie, though with Josie off at the drunken frat party, that wouldn’t be an issue Probably better than staying home alone… That was when the world twisted, the colors briefly flashing opposite, the shadows crawling, the sounds doing that funny Doppler ripple thing. It made her feel like there was something crawling inside her head.
This was a bad thing.
End part 3.
The first thing that she did was put down the too sweet cup of fruit juice that smelled like it had started to ferment. She was in a strange place, a room filled with harsh smoke and loud music that sounded like something that the twins would play. She didn’t recognize anybody else in the room… Such a strange collection of people they were!
Across the room, a pale man in dark clothing with a red lined cape was hissing at a masked man in yellow and blue. That argument jarred to a halt when the man in yellow and blue shot metal claws from the backs of his hands.
A blond in a tiny green dress was giggling, with shimmering round wings on her back leaving a scattering of sparkles behind her.
A red haired woman garbed in leaves coughed, muttering about needing fresh air before she staggered away from the smoke. Fresh air sounded quite appealing, so Cheetara followed the red head.
It turned out that they were in a city, with fresh air, somewhat backwards technology. She could smell the ocean nearby, with mingled scents of fish and seaweed. Looking up, she blinked, not recognizing any of the constellations. “The stars are wrong… this isn’t Thunderra.”
Looking around as people in strange costumes wandered along the street, she whispered, “Where am I?”
A growl came from the nearest alley, not quite right to be one of Slythe’s mutates.
The man that emerged wasn’t a mutate. He wasn’t a Thundercat. He looked almost like a human, except for his bumpy forehead, yellow eyes, and sharp teeth. More disturbing, he stank of old blood, death, traces of decay, and evil.
He snarled at her, “Hello tasty. Maybe we can play before dinner…”
Everything about him was revolting. Well, perhaps not the color of his eyes, but the malice, the hunger and cruelty in them made even those hideous. The implications of his words weren’t any better… violence, lust, and a raw carnivorous streak. She had no intention of becoming dinner, or of becoming this man’s plaything first.
The women of Thunderran noble houses were not raised to be pretty playthings. Rare were the noblewomen lacking some measure of training in the skills of war, though those skills had seldom been needed until Slythe had seized control of the mutates, declaring war against various powers and planets.
Her claws raked across his face, narrowly missing the eyes but leaving a bloody scalp wound that would obstruct his vision. Less than a heartbeat later, she’d kicked him in the stomach, sending him back into the alley.
Certain that any halfway intelligent male would consider that a clear enough of a refusal, she turned to walk away. Maybe there was something that would help her figure out what planet this was and how she’d ended up on it. A spaceport, or a communications hub of some sort…
That same growl from the alley was her first warning that the yellow eyed not-human wasn’t a halfway intelligent male. There was also the scuff of his shoes against the compressed stone as he leapt at her.
Fortunately, her line was the favored of the swiftest of cats. She had plenty of time to spin around, bringing her staff to strike against his chest as he lunged. Though she hadn’t expected it to slide between his ribs… was he wearing no armor at all?
His body turning to dust was an even bigger surprise.
What sort of strange and horrible place was this?
end part 4.
The biggest problem was a lack of information. She didn’t know where she was, how she’d got here, or why she was here. She didn’t know what other dangers might be in this place, if there were more people like the yellow eyed man who’d wanted to play with her and eat her, not necessarily in that order. No idea who or what was in charge of this place, or if she’d found herself in some sort of lawless border territory.
This was something that she could work on. A search of the city would reveal what species had the majority presence, and perhaps if they were also the ones in charge. She could find a space-port and figure out where ‘here’ was, and maybe, just maybe how she’d arrived here. This would be simpler as she was of the House of the Cheetah, and had all the speed that was the birthright of that House. Taking a breath, she darted away, seeking to get a fast overview of this place.
It took very little time for Cheetara to determine that this city had some serious problems. She found an abundance of burial sites, well maintained and sickly sweet with flowers and decaying flowers that had been left on the memorial stones. The names seemed of a strange pattern, and judging by the dates, there were many, many people killed before old age could claim them. There was no space-port to be found, though there was an airfield with craft capable of in atmospheric flight. Even if they did seem quite primitive. There were even a few scattered individuals with bionic augmentation or replacement parts. She didn’t understand how a place without a space-port could have effective cybernetic replacements, though there were a few unfortunate patchworks that suggested that the skill of their doctors was quite lacking.
She also discovered that the world seemed to have recently become infested with strange, often horrible creatures, many of which showed a definite tendency of predatory behavior. She was attacked several more times, though most of them were willing to admit defeat and fled to seek easier prey. She made a point of trying to kill all the ones that smelled of blood, decay and evil, like the man with the yellow eyes that had attacked her. That might have made the city some small degree safer for the inhabitants, but it was still utter confusion. There were scattered individual of so many other races, so many different types of being, many of which she had no name for. She did see a couple wretched mummies, though they seemed to lack the power and speed of Mum-Ra.
She just had no idea how so many different non-humans could be here without a space-port. Had there once been a space-port that had been destroyed, leaving the world populated by the descendants of the crashed ships, then there would be less variation, and more than one or two of the various other types. It just didn’t make any sense to her.
“I’m wasting time,” she murmured to herself. All her running around had left her muscles burning, and she needed to rest soon. “One of the few things I am certain of is that this town is dangerous, and I need to rest.”
Cheetara had searched the whole town, which had signs that she could barely read, some of which proclaimed the town to be Sunnydale. The written language of this place was a bit different than the Galactic Standard. More interesting was the place called Sunnydale Zoo, with an assortment of animals in enclosures, presumably for the education of the public. Some of them seemed almost familiar, similar to the totems of the Thunderran Noble Houses.
With some reluctance, Cheetara left the Zoo. Perhaps when she had a better idea of how she’d arrived here, she could return and look at the totem animals again. In the distance, she could hear lupine howls, and she could feel herself shiver. There were old stories about lupine invaders, savage brutes that had attacked, ripping into the Thunderran peasantry with their jagged teeth, looting and pillaging before leaving again in their silvery ships. It had been part of what made the early contacts with the mutates so disturbing.
The next set of howls seemed even closer.
“I need to get somewhere safe, somewhere sheltered and defensible,” she murmured. One hand gripped her staff, and she figured that between her training and her speed, she could easily take a lupine if one attacked her. But the problem was, there had been more than one howl. One lupine, she could defeat, but a pack would be too many. At best, she would be ripped apart by savage fangs and claws. At worst… well, she suspected that their ideas might match that rude yellow-eyed man who’d fallen to dust.
She got attacked by a pair of those yellow-eyed dead people in a park. This took a little more fighting to get rid of them, and one of them called her something, but she had no idea what the word ‘cheerleader’ meant, or what manner of insult it might be. The long nails of the first one had left several scratches on her arm, not very deep, but enough to sting. She couldn’t help but wish for some antibiotics to smear over them, unwilling to dwell on what sort of bacterial filth might have encrusted those jagged nails. She also suspected that the scent of blood in the air might be unhealthy in this chaotic mess.
She ended up retreating to a small cave near the beach. It wasn’t much, but it felt slightly more defensible than any of the buildings, and it was small enough that she could be certain that she was alone in the cave, and there was only one way for anything else to enter. She hadn’t been able to contact anybody that she knew. She could only hope that things would be better in the morning.
End part 5.
Cordelia Chase blinked, her whole body aching. She was leaning against a rock, in a cave, with sand and sand-grit muck on the bottom of the cave. She was certain that she’d managed to get both of them in her hair along with the awful cigarette smoke, and the two colors of horrible hairspray, and… And why was she in a cave anyhow?
Images came crashing back, of monsters, of people with gleaming metal arms and red eyes, of people with fur that moved too fluidly to be a bad costume and ears on the tops of their heads that twitched. Of vampires lunging at her in the darkness, and of herself spinning and kicking, clawing and shoving her staff between their ribs, twisting out of the way of the gritty dust that they’d become. Memories of moving impossibly fast through the town looking for a space-port.
Memories of being Cheetara, noble woman of Thunderra.
She moved towards the mouth of the cave, noticing as she put her hand on a stone that her nails looked longer, sharper than she remembered. That they looked like claws. “Oh my God….” Cordelia whispered. “This isn’t real, it can’t be happening…”
Except that her voice sounded just a little different. A little throatier, more like Eartha Kitt, with just a tiny hiss on the s. Her teeth had kept that slight point that she’d decided added to the whole cat-person look.
She wasn’t wearing tights anymore. Instead of the bodysuit that she’d added a few more spots to last night, the spots seemed to be on her skin, and she was wearing a leotard, with the boots and the gloves, and a gleaming red jewel with the cat-insignia of Thunderra. She had claws now. And her ears had changed, no longer normal human ears with fake points glued on, the points were real, though they seemed a bit more delicate than before.
“So much for getting the deposit back. Now where’s my car? Is it still outside the place for Devon’s party?”
No sooner had she decided to go investigate than she found herself leaping from the cave, springing from her crouched landing on the sand to a run towards the middle of town that would make the track team lay down and weep. Faster than she’d though possible, faster than a cheetah, faster than a car.
As fast as… as fast as Cheetara.
Her costume had stuck. Not only that, but it seemed to have become a little more than a costume. Pointed ears and teeth. Claws. Spots on her legs. She found herself hoping that the orange around her eyes was make-up instead of natural coloration. At least she had the speed and the knowledge of how to fight.
Her car was still there. She even still had the keys. As she slid behind the wheel, part of her felt awkward and uncertain, whispering that this machine was so primitive… Another part was caught by her reflection in the mirror. Most of the orange that had formed the mask-like pattern around her eyes had been smeared away, but her eyes were still a bold orange, with the slit pupils. Thundercat eyes.
“Colored contacts and hair dye… I don’t know what I can do about the spots, maybe concealer?” Cordelia murmured, trying to figure out how she could hide this.
As she drove herself home, she found herself wondering just how much of Cheetara had remained. Would she have all the memories of a Thunderran Noble? Would she have the Sight Beyond Sight? Considering what she already knew of this horrible town, that wasn’t something that she intended to check in Sunnydale.
The biggest question was – why had she changed last night? How many other people had changed? Was she now the only Thunderran? Cordelia didn’t have answers to those questions. But she had an idea where to start looking.
end part 6.
End Mutated Halloween 3: Landing on Her Feet