"There is no way both of us are going to fit into that little drop ship," I pointed at the drop ship and explained to the docking droid. It was the same one that had met us on our arrival to the space satellite on the last leg.
"I'm afraid there is simply no other drop ships available – you are the last ones the leave and we did not have any spares," the droid chirped cheerfully. I wanted cut out his innards and feed them to him.
"Nepharia," Havok began, seeing my temper getting the better of me, "let's make the best of it and just squeeze in – it won't take long to crash…er…land in Latveria."
"That's a real comforting thought," I answered skeptically. "You first – you're going to take up more room than me."
Havok slid carefully through the opening and disappeared. I heard some shuffling about before I saw his hand stick out the portal waving me in. "Ok, I think you'll just fit."
"Nice," I said. Taking a breath, I kneeled down and thrust one leg through the portal and caught a foothold on a small ledge then eased the rest of my body down and into the cramped space.
"OW!" Havok cried, "that's my knee!"
"Sorry," I said, continuing to lower into the cockpit, if it could be called that.
"You're pinching my arm!" he protested.
"Sorry," I said again as I sat myself down.
"@^$%#$%, your light sabers are on my…"
I attempted to reach back, but there was just no room to maneuver.
"They're on my belt under my tunic," I said, trying to adjust myself so he could reach them. "Just pull them off."
He started pulling my shirt off…
"No, dammit!" I yelled. "My light sabers, you moron!"
"Ah," he said, "right." He lifted up the back of my tunic and pulled the sabers from my belt and passed them over my shoulder to me. It was too cramped to keep them on my body, so I put one in each of my boots.
"Are we ready?" the docking droid said as he stood over us.
"Wait, how do we do this?" I asked.
"Oh, it's easy," he began. "I seal you in and then drop you out. The foot pedals and joy stick will position the flaps while you descend," he explained. "Follow the beacon to the landing site."
"Any advice?" I asked.
"I am sorry," he answered. "That is beyond the scope of my programming."
"Fine," I said.
"Have a good trip," he said, then slammed the hatch shut.
"Wait!" I yelled. Before I could say anything else, we were free falling out of the space station. Havok was screaming "wheeeeeeee!" in my ear like a teenager on a roller coaster ride.
One good force choke put an end to his noise. I then turned my attention to experimenting with the pedals and joy stick positions to see how the pod reacted. Not too bad; about as graceful as a rock.
I finally found the tracer signal for the landing strip on my scope and tried my best to guide the vessel (if it could be called that) in that direction. As we descended, I could see we were coming in way too fast.
"We're coming in way to fast!" Havok yelled.
"No sh** Sherlock!" I yelled back. The ship started shuddering, making a huge racket. Havok said something, but I couldn't hear what he said. The right pedal went clean to the floor as the corresponding flap was stripped away from the ship.
"Fracking hell!" I said.
Again Havok said something. This time I felt him reach around me with one arm. I thought, This is a hell of a time to get fresh. But a second later, we were being ejected from the ship – seat and all. The screaming noise of the ship died away beneath us and there was nothing left but the rush of the wind.
"The chute isn't deploying!" he yelled.
I reached back with my mind and manipulated the packing, releasing it from the cover. Looking up, I saw a lovely red, white, and black parachute deploy and catch the air over us, lowering us gently to the ground with a jarring thud.
Havok released me and I stood up from the single seat that had been in the ship. He unbuckled himself and also stood.
"We missed the landing strip," he said.
"Really?" I answered sarcastically. "Would you like to add anything else, Mr. Obvious?"
"Not right now," he answered. "But I'll let you know."
We hiked back to the landing field where a set of tandem bicycles sat waiting. Grabbing one, we got on board and made our way to Castle Doom: all up hill.
Huffing and puffing my way up the hill, I finally commented, "I thought you were some big, bad mutant – I'd have thought you had a little more muscle to carry more of your own weight up this hill."
"Oh," he began, "am I supposed to be pedaling too?"
I almost slapped him. In fact, I was ready to push him off the side of the road – bike and all. But rules are rules and I play by the rules whenever I can't get away with cheating. And I imagine someone would notice Havok was missing eventually.
Making it to the castle, we were met in the courtyard by Dr. Doom.
He stepped before us and greeted us with a bow. "Contestants," he said. "Do you choose the Dead or Red challenge on this leg?"
I didn't give Havok a choice this time. I called out "Dead," before he could answer.
Doom smiled slightly, and nodded his acknowledgement. "Please follow me," he said, leading the way to the depths of his castle where his Transference Chamber resided.
"You will visit Mephisto's realm and convince him to release a trapped soul of your choice," he said. "Then return here."
I nodded. Doom motioned us into the chamber and we complied. There was a flash of light, a clap of thunder, and some smoke, and we were off. It was like some cheap special affect from The Wizard of Oz. Had the scenery not changed, I'd have thought I was part of some cheap stage show.
"AHhhhhhh!" came a voice, smooth as honey. "Guests! To what do we owe this great honor, Lady Nepharia?"
At first I was startled that he knew my name, but this was Mephisto, after all: major demon of the underworld. He probably knew all about the living.
"You are correct, My Lady," he said, apparently knowing my thoughts.
This is going to be harder than I thought, I thought.
"I'm sure it will be," he answered, smiling pleasantly. "But please don't tell me you are here to bail out Dr. Doom's mother – I get so tired of that."
"Um, no," I answered. "Actually, I haven't decided who I would like to take back. There are so many quality souls to choose from."
Mephisto rubbed his chin and stared off. "So true, so true," he said. "We do have a list of souls to choose from if you would like to take at look at that."
"That would be great!" I said, excited at the prospect of seeing just who he had incarcerated in Hades.
"However," he qualified, "you will need to leave something of value to you here as a gesture of good faith."
"What did you have in mind?" I asked.
"How about your friend here?" Mephisto asked, gesturing at Havok.
I stifled a smile. "Are you ok with that?" I asked Havok, not really caring what he thought of it. Leaving him with the Lord of the Underworld would get him out of my hair and into Mephisto's, which might actually work to our advantage.
"Just be sure to come get me," he said. "I'd rather not be a permanent guest."
"Right," I answered as I walked to the hall of records where the names of the souls resided. The records were amazing – they didn't just include the names of the souls, but all their personal information as well. Captain America had been there several time, redeemed several times, and had a weakness for pink thong underwear. I laughed out loud.
The endless files were full of incredibly interesting information. I don't know how long I'd been reading them, when Mephisto interrupted.
"I'm sorry to bother you," he said, "but haven't you made a decision yet?"
"No not yet," I answered. "Although I have narrowed it down to a few choices."
"Do you know how much longer you will be?" he asked, looking back over his shoulder out the door.
"Not really," I said. "There quite a few more files I'd like to go through."
Mephisto stepped over to my table and sat down. "Tell you what," he began, "I'll let you take one now, and you can come back and take another when you've thought about it a little more. How does that sound?"
"Well," I began hesitantly, wondering why he would strike such a bargain. "I supposed that sounds great. What's the catch?"
"You have to take your friend and leave right now," he said, pointing at the door.
I stood up and walked out of the hall of records to Mephisto's main hall. It appeared that Havok had totally destroyed Mephisto's throne room – it sat in flames and ruin. I looked at Havok and he just shrugged.
"I would like to have….Dr. Doom's mother," I answered.
"Fine," he said as he conjured her up and handed her over. "Go now."
"C'mon Havok," I said, waving him over to us. I activated the signaling device to return us to our regular realm within Dr. Doom's castle. I passed his mom off to him and Havok and I headed as quickly as possible to the pit stop for this leg: his throne room.