Diane Carter stepped from the shower and toweled off her lithe body before wrapping a towel around her and heading into the locker room of the aerobics studio. Several of the women who took her class were already there, in various states of undress. Diane opened her locker, took out her brush, and headed for the mirror. She knew she had to brush out her long brown hair while it was wet, or she’d have a mess of tangles to deal with!
Near the mirror, Diane noticed Liz, one of the co-eds from the college. Liz had become a regular at Diane’s class, and two sometimes had lunch together at the Student Center. Dressed in a bra and miniskirt, Liz was looking into a small box on the bench next to her. She was talking softly.
“Whatcha got there, Liz?” Diane asked as she began brushing her hair.
“It’s a ‘depoimon’,” Liz said. “I just picked it up on my way here; then I’m going to take it home.”
“A what?” Diane asked as she finished with her hair and put down the brush.
“A depoimon,” Liz repeated. “Haven’t you seen these? It’s a new crossbreed that’s been selling in the pet stores.” She lifted the lid off the box so Diane could look in.
The creature inside the box was cute, but very strange. It looked kind of like a guinea pig, with the face of a monkey. It blinked its eyes and stood up on it’s hind legs, sniffing the air. It cooed softly as Liz reached in to stroke the creature’s yellowish fur.
“A crossbreed between what?” Diane asked as she tried to image what this beast could possibly be.
“Beats me,” Liz said with a shrug. “But they’re cute, aren’t they? And very smart; they say you can teach them all kinds of tricks.”
“How big will it get?” Diane asked as she watched the small beast roll under Liz’s tickling fingers.
“They say about the size of a Chihuahua when he’s full grown. I can’t believe you haven’t heard about these; they’ve been all over the news lately.”
“Well, uh, I’ve been busy lately,” Diane said. “I’ve skipped most of the human interest kind of stories.” Instead, she’d been spending her time reading the Golden Goddess chronicle learning more about the last time her divine alter ego had appeared on the earth.
Liz put the lid back on the box and pulled on her sweater. “I’d better get Snuggles here home,” she said. “Good class today, by the way!” She slid her feet into her shoes, snatched up her gym bag and left the locker room. Diane gnawed on her lower lip. She didn’t know why, but something about the little creature had given her a funny feeling. She decided to look into these “depoimons” to see what she could learn about them.
* * *
“This must be the place,” Diane said as she looked up at the sign for “Jolly Roger Pet Shop.” She had spent the past two days researching as much as she could about the depoimons, and found out that the owner of this store had first developed them. They had become wildly popular in very little time, and now he had even signed a contract to start supplying the odd pets for pet shops across the country. Nobody seemed to have any idea, however, who he was or what techniques he had used to come up with the depoimon.
Diane wasn’t sure what she was doing her. All she knew is that she liked Liz, and hadn’t been able to shake this odd feeling that there was something WRONG with the depoimons, something that could mean trouble. “Maybe this Golden Goddess thing is starting to get to me,” she muttered. Then she pushed open the door and entered the shop.
The inside of the pet shop looked like any pet store anywhere in the country. Diane wasn’t sure what she expected, but something so odd coming from something so mundane seemed weird. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dark, then she saw the cages along the back wall, all full of depoimons in various sizes and colors. She moved towards the cages, amazed at the antics of the strange, yet cute, little beasts.
“Can I help you, dear?” A small, stooped man came out of the back room. He was clad in a ratty cardigan sweater , brown slacks and shirt, and had a mane of wild white hair that reminded Diane of Albert Einstein.
“I was just curious about the depoimons,” Diane said. “A friend just bought one, so I was wondering where they came from, what they are, that kind of thing.”
“I’m Mr. Rogers,” the man said, much to Diane’s amusement. “I developed the depoimons. Why don’t you come in the back, and I’ll be happy to answer all your questions.”
As they passed through the door, Diane chuckled. “I guess my first question is where that name came from!”
Mr. Rogers reached for a switch. “It’s an abbreviation. It stands for deadly, poisonous monsters!” He pulled the switch and Diane felt the floor open up below her. She plunged into the darkness and felt a sharp blow to her head before she passed out.
* * *
Diane regained consciousness to find herself tied up and, unfortunately, tightly gagged! Whatever trouble she was in, she couldn’t count on Golden Goddess rescuing her! She took stock of the situation carefully. Her arms were tied behind her back, and ropes encircled her waist, holding her wrists tight against the small of her back. Her ankles had been crossed and bound, and a thick strip of cloth wound over her mouth to silence her. A rope that went under her arms and stretched upward suspended her from a winch in the ceiling.
“Ah, you’re awake! Good!” The voice that came from the darkness in the corner was nasally and vaguely familiar. Mr. Rogers stepped out of the shadows, pulling at his wild, white hair. It slid from his head, revealing a bald head with long strands of gray hair along the sides of the scalp. He stood up straight, and reached behind his back. With a slight flip of his wrist, Diane heard a slight hiss and the man’s hunchback disappeared. He reached into his pocked and pulled out a pair of thick glasses that he donned. Even without the trademark black outfit, Diane recognized him immediately. It was Dr. Toxin!
“I don’t know who you are, my dear, or what your interest in me is, but the last time you wandered into one of my bases it was the beginning of the end! You escaped, Golden Goddess showed up, and my beloved Toxeemia wound up in the hospital. But this time, I will have the upper hand. I will destroy you, and then take over the world with the help of my depoimons! My little babies will overrun the United States. As part of the deal to call them off, I will demand that Golden Goddess be turned over to me for destruction, and that I am given back my Toxeemia. With my knowledge, I’m sure I can cure her of her wounds, and then she can rule beside me as my crown princess!”
Diane pulled on her bonds, looking for some slack. There was none. All the while, she watched her captor. A strange look came over his face, as he got lost in the reverie of how he wanted his world to be. With a visible effort, he shook himself free of his daydream. He turned to look at Diane.
“But, all the comes after your destruction. To be honest, the first time you showed up, I figured you were just someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn’t even going to bother tracking you down. But, to have you just show up like this… It must be fate! A sign that I will get everything I want!”
“Hmmmmph! Hmmm ummmmph!” Diane yelled into her gag.
Toxin smiled evilly. “Or maybe it’s NOT fate! Perhaps you know Golden Goddess, eh? Perhaps you work with her somehow. That would explain how she showed up last time; she was coming to your rescue! But I’m sure you will find that gag QUITE secure. It will be impossible for you to call for help or signal that blonde busybody! This time, my plans for you are rather simple. To be honest, I wish I had the time to do something a bit more interesting. But, ‘Mr. Rogers’ recently signed a deal to sell depoimons on the Internet at housepets.com! I have to go make sure I have enough of the little buggers to actually fill the orders!”
Diane watched as he walked over to where she hang and grabbed a piece of plywood that was on the floor beneath her feet. He dragged it aside to reveal a hole in the floor. A horrendous stench rose from the hole. Diane wrinkled her nose at the smell.
“This lab below the pet store is where I’ve done some of the finishing touches on the depoimons,” Toxin explained. “However, there were…failures in the process. This hole leads to a sewer system. I dumped all my failures down here. They drowned in the wonderfully toxic cesspool below. As will you, my beauty!”
Diane squealed into her gag as the man flipped a switch that slowly began to lower her down toward the hole. Then he turned and walked towards the steps. “Farewell, my dear! When you reach ‘the other side,’ tell them to expect Golden Goddess shortly after. Either that, or tell them to expect an influx of so-called innocents that my depoimons will kill until my demands are met!” He walked up the steps, and Diane heard the door close and lock behind him, leaving her in the dimly lit basement, slowly descending towards her doom.
Diane Carter’s slender, shapely form swayed and danced on the end of her tether as the dropped lower and lower. She was a researcher, damn it! She had never wanted to be a superheroine, it had just happened to her! She couldn’t handle stuff like this. Her areas of expertise were aerobics and ancient artifacts, not supervillains bent on taking over the world! She yanked on the ropes holding her wrists until the bit into her flesh, and tears of anger and frustration clouded her vision.
Once the moment of panic had passed, Diane blinked the tears from her eyes, shook her head and took a deep breath to steady her nerves. That was enough of that! She didn’t have to continue invoking the power of the Golden Goddess. Her avataristic alter ego had been given to her for a reason. When she first discovered the power of her belt, she had decided to make the most of it. She HAD chosen this life. She HAD chosen to come to this store as the all-too-human Diane rather than the mystical, divine Golden Goddess. She WOULD find a way out of this death trap. She had to. Because if Toxin planned to kill people until Golden Goddess was turned over to him, and there WAS no more Golden Goddess. A chill clutched her heart. He was insane enough to wipe out the entire population of the United States, just to make his point.
Diane’s ankles were just passing through the hole in the floor, and her eyes had adjusted enough to the darkness that she could see into the hole. She was actually being lowered into a sort of “pipe”, which seemed to be made out of concrete. It reminded her of a well, but with a concoction of toxic sewage on the bottom, rather than water. Just how toxic that concoction was was proved as another waft of the stench drifted up to her nostril. She wrinkled her nose and fought the urge to vomit into her gag. The one thing that she DIDN’T know, and which worried her a bit, was how deep this “well” was. She could hit the sludge on the bottom in a minute, or in an hour. She had no way of knowing.
Diane began to swing her legs back and forth, causing her body to swing. The hole that she was descending through wasn’t that wide and soon her feet were touching both sides on each swing. She began to “drag” her feet along the wall, forcing her body to double up in the narrow tube. Soon, she was stretched out with her feet against one wall and her shoulders against the other, her body wedged tightly in place. As long as her muscles held out, she could stay here a while. She had learned this move doing some spelunking in cave while on archeological digs with her father. Who would have guessed that it would save her life now?
Diane fought another wave of nausea, and her head began to swim from the odor. This was a powerful reminder that her solution, while clever, was temporary at best. She had to get out of here, and fast! She leaned her head back and twisted her face as far as she could, rubbing her cheek on the rough cement. The wall of the pipe was damp, and Diane, grimaced, hoping that the moisture was just water, afraid to consider what other possibilities there were. The concrete was harsh against her soft flesh, but she could feel the cloth around her face moving. She felt herself slip slightly down the tube, and then redoubled her efforts.
“FINALLY!” the beautiful brunette said as the gag slipped from her mouth. “I invoke the Golden Goddess!” Diane felt that familiar surge of energy from within, as if someone had opened up a doorway at the center of her being, and flooded her with power. There was a feeling of comfortable warmth flowing over her, as if she were in a hot shower. When the feeling subsided, Diane Carter had vanished from the face of the earth, and her in place was the tightly tied form of Golden Goddess!
With her enhanced strength and stamina, Golden Goddess would be able to hold herself in this pit for much longer than Diane had. However, Dr. Toxin STILL had to be stopped, and with her enhanced senses, the heavenly heroine found the stench of the hole MOST offensive. She had no desire to stay her a moment longer than she had to. “Gateway of the Void,” she said.
The Gateway opened directly below where Golden Goddess balanced in the pipe. She relaxed her muscles, and dropped down through the dark disk. She landed on the floor above, next to the hole. She grinned slightly at what some physicists Diane knew would think if they saw space being warped in this way. Here she, standing on ground, with the rope that was holding her up rising out of the hole at her feet! She allowed the Gateway to close, severing the rope. Now she just had to free herself from her bonds. “Sword of Fire,” she said, summoning her favorite of her five elemental weapons.
Once Golden Goddess had freed herself, she stepped up to the hole and held out her left hand. “Bow of Water.” The Bow appeared in her fist, and she drew back on the string, causing a mystic energy arrow to appear. She fired into the pit, allowing the cleansing power of the arrow to detoxify the mixture. She knew people would continue to dump stuff into the sewers that were poisonous, but at least she had helped a little. Now, she had to find Toxin!
* * *
Clad in his customary black outfit and matching black lab coat, his thick glasses back in place, Dr. Toxin sat before the computer and studied the orders that were coming in for his depoimons. He clicked a couple of computer keys and the display changed to a series of projections of how many of the creatures would be scattered throughout the US, and in what concentrations. Then he programmed the computer to take into account how fast they could breed, once they’d been activated. According to his calculations, he could have hundreds of thousands of the poisonous monsters in key locations within six months. He smiled and gave an evil chuckle.
Just then, an alarm went off. He clicked a new key on the computer, and a small pop-up screen appeared in the lower-left-hand corner of the giant monitor. On it, he saw Golden Goddess flying towards the entrance to his underground lair. Curse that woman! How had she found him? No matter. This time, he was ready for her. He watched as the Chariot of Air, which today resembled an actual Roman chariot, landed and vanished like a puff of steam. Golden Goddess strode towards the door, her long, shapely legs covering the ground quickly. Toxin sneered as he got up and went to prepare his special welcome.
* * *
Being in touch with nature had it’s good points, Golden Goddess thought as she stepped into the old, abandoned copper mine on the outskirts of Roperville. She could sometimes connect mentally with the minds of animals, and she had done so with Liz’s depoimon. She had received an impression of where the little thing was born. The odd little animal was cute, in a strange way, and Golden Goddess had a hard time believing that it could actually be all that dangerous. Even when she touched it’s mind, she could sense no evil. But, if Toxin were involved, the evil was there, no matter how deeply buried!
Golden Goddess’ miniskirt and vest outfit hugged her soft, voluptuous curves as she strode down the mineshaft, the soles of her high-heeled boots crunching softly in the gravel that lined the floor. Her keen, piercing blue eyes searched the gloom. Snuggles had an idea where he had come from, but his mind didn’t hold exact directions. Toxin’s lair was down here somewhere, but she would have to find it on her own.
Suddenly, a steel wall slammed down behind Golden Goddess, cutting off her retreat and plunging her into darkness. Seconds later, however, hidden halogen lights flashed to life, blinding her for a moment with their brightness. She dropped into a fighting stance, prepared for action, but nothing happened. After a few moments, she began to walk down the mine again.
“Said the spider to the fly,” she muttered as she advanced, her every sense on the alert.
It was through those senses that she was able to detect something wrong in the split second that the secret doors on either side of her opened up. From each door, dozens of bizarre creatures spilled, and began to assault the avenging avatar.
The creatures were about five feet tall, fiercely muscled, with dark leathery skin. They had pointed ears, yellow eyes with pinpoint pupils and wide mouths that were full of needle-like teeth. As they attacked Golden Goddess, she saw thin, white foam collecting in the sides of the beasts’ mouth. Then she saw no more, as she lost herself into the fury of combat.
“Sword of Fire, Shield of Earth,” Golden Goddess said as she spun backwards, kicking at one of the creatures that got too close. Once she was armed, she began to slice at the monsters with the Sword, which inflicted powerful psychic wounds without killing. The Shield filled the air with clanging noises as monster after monster was smashed with it. However, by sheer force of numbers, the creatures were driving the heroine back. No matter how many fell to her sword, others kept coming. They seemed to have no fear at all. Golden Goddess began to consider the idea of using the Gateway to put some distance between herself and her demonic attackers. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her right thigh. She looked down to see one of the monsters biting her leg. She pounded the beast’s head with the hilt of her sword and then stepped back to summon the Gateway.
Before she could say the mystic words, however, she collapsed to her knees. A sudden wave of weakness and sickness wracked her body, and she dropped the Sword and Shield, which vanished without her force of will to hold them on this plane. The strange assailants were on top of her in a second, driving her to the ground.
“Ga…,” Golden Goddess said, trying to create her escape. “Gatew… way of…” She collapsed to the ground, plunging into the darkness of unconsciousness instead of the darkness of her interdimensional doorway.
* * *
Golden Goddess was surprised when she woke up. She had expected to be killed while she was knocked out. She still felt ill, and the spot where the creature had bitten her felt hot and itchy. She knew instantly that it had been some kind of poison. For now, however, she was alive, which surprised her. She was also bound and gagged, which didn’t surprise her at all.
She was tied to a wall, spread-eagled between two pillars. A large ball-gag was tightly strapped into her mouth, silencing her and preventing her from summoning her weapons. The room was filled with dozens of little depoimons, which was the most surprising aspect of all. The monkey-faced, guinea-pig-like beasts meandered around the room, sniffing the air and basically ignoring the helpless heroine, except for when a few would occasionally come up to feet, sniff her boots and then go about their business. If this was supposed to be the end of Golden Goddess, she couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to happen. If Toxin had wanted to get rid of her, he should have left her with those other creatures, not these fluff balls!
“Awake at last, I see!” Dr. Toxin’s voice came over a speaker in the corner of the room. “I’ve been waiting for quite some time! But, actually, an ordinary human probably wouldn’t have recovered from the depoimon’s bite like you did!”
Golden Goddess’ eyes grew wide in confusion and fear. THOSE things were depoimons? But, how…? Toxin’s evil chuckle came over the loudspeaker. “I can see you’re surprised. Allow me to explain. The cute little creatures you see before you are what I call depoimon “A”s. They are smart, cuddly and excellent pets, just as advertised.
“BUT!” Golden Goddess listened intently, her heart gripped with an icy fear as to what the “but” could be. “When they are exposed to certain levels of radiation, they transform into depoimon “B”s, the creatures you met in the hall. THEY are poisonous, deadly killing machines that only I can control. And, my dear, YOU are about to experience the transformation first hand…
“It would have been too easy to just let other depoimons give you a strong enough dose of poison that not even you could recover. One of the more interesting aspects of the transformation is that it takes an enormous amount of bodily energy, which the depoimons need to replenish. They will devour any kind of meat they find. And if that meat is still alive, they will rip it apart and eat it while it dies. You’re going to feed this group of depoimons, Golden Goddess! Then, nothing will stand in my way! Farewell, my dear. You were an interesting opponent, but nothing I couldn’t handle!”
The blonde beauty heard the PA system click off, and then the lighting in the room changed. A soft, purple glow filled the air. Golden Goddess could feel a difference in the air around her. As she watched, the depoimons scattered towards the edges of the room, curled up and went to sleep. Within moments, their soft hair began to fall out, as if they were molting. The creatures began to grow at an astronomical rate, and the soft pink flesh began to darken and stiffen. Their ears began to grow longer. The adorable little pets were becoming killer monsters right before her eyes!
“Gtwy fff dddd,” Golden Goddess said. The ball-gag was too effective. She had to get it out of her mouth before she could do anything. She pulled with all her might on the bonds at her wrists, but they had been tied too tightly, and the rope was too strong. However, the pillars to which she was tied were old. She had the feeling they were made from original supports from the old mineshaft. They also didn’t seem to be attached all too firmly to the floor and ceiling of the room, which was composed of the dirt and rock of the mine. The divine dare-doll edged her right foot up against the pillar and began to push against it with all the strength and leverage she could muster. Then, she began to pull with her right arm, as hard as she could. It seemed hopeless, but it was all she could think of.
Golden Goddess lost track of how much time passed. Her foot and wrist grew tired and sore, and she didn’t seem to be making ANY progress. The depoimons had grown almost to full size, and some were even beginning to stir. Then, they began to wake up, and sniff the air. One of the creatures turned around and spotted her. With a hissing roar, he ran at the morsel displayed before him.
In moments, Golden Goddess was being attacked by a swarm of the horrid monstrosities. She could feel them clawing and biting at her. Blood seeped from several wounds, and chunks were torn from her boots. She struggled to keep from panicking, for if she panicked, she knew she was dead. She focussed all her will power on one small depoimon, “the runt of the litter,” who was struggling to get into the melee of beasts around her. If she could touch it’s mind, only for a second… She implanted the idea of the monster biting into her mouth, ripping out her tongue. The depoimon paused a second and then jumped upon the backs of it’s comrades, coming at Golden Goddess’ face. She grimaced as the horrid teeth came at her mouth, slicing her lips before the dug into the ball gag. The depoimon, surprised to find its way barred, used its claws to sever the leather strap and tear the gag away.
“Sword of Fire!” Golden Goddess gasped. The blazing blade appeared in her hand and she slashed her bonds, swinging the Sword in a wild arc, striking down depoimon after depoimon. In between blows, she freed her other wrist and her ankles. Then, she summoned a Gateway and dove inside it, letting the cool interdimensional void claim her and begin to heal her wounds.
* * *
The room was long and narrow, and each wall was covered with wire-mesh cages holding depoimons. Dr. Toxin strolled down the length of the room, punching information into a palm-sized computer he carried. “Soon, my pets,” he said. “Soon you will be in your new homes, preparing to lead the way for my claiming control of the world and getting back my beloved Toxeemia!”
“In your dreams, Toxin! The simple dreams of a small-minded would-be tyrant!”
The insane scientist spun to see Golden Goddess striding toward him. The Sword of Fire blazed in her hand, and her eyes were narrow with fury. “It almost worked, little man. But now it’s payback time!”
Toxin looked around wildly. He wasn’t prepared for a confrontation. He spun and ran down the length of the room towards the door, entering commands into his computer as he did. He could hear Golden Goddess’ heels clicking on the floor as she raced after him. She was getting closer, but so was the door. At the last possible second, he swung through the door, and locked it behind him.
Golden Goddess used the Sword to slash through the door. She was not about to let him escape! He had too much to answer for! She saw that the other side of the door lead back out into the mineshaft. Dr. Toxin had already reached the edge of the downward shaft. “I’ve set the self-destruct for my headquarters, Golden Goddess,” he sneered. “If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me!” He took a step forward and dropped down the shaft before the heroine could stop him.
From behind her, Golden Goddess heard a series of explosions, getting closer, louder and stronger. She wanted to go after Toxin; she was sure he had somehow escaped. But she had to escape herself, first. In anger and frustration, she called up the Gateway of the Void and leapt through it just before the tunnel collapsed.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Liz asked.
Golden Goddess stood in the girl’s dorm room. “Not really. But the government has rounded up the rest of the depoimon. Unless you want to give up Snuggles, this is the only thing I can think of. Left as he is, he would be too dangerous for you to keep.”
“What would the government do with him?”
Golden Goddess sighed. “To be honest, I don’t know. I believe they plan to put all the depoimons in a secure facility to live out the rest of their natural lives.”
Liz shook her head, her eyes filled with tears. “I can’t bear the thought of Snuggles locked up like that. Do it.”
Golden Goddess summoned her Bow of Water and drew back an arrow aimed at Snuggle’s cage. She fired, and the energy bolt coursed through the furry little body. Snuggles collapsed to the floor. Liz cried out as Golden Goddess stepped forward and touched the creature.
“I think it worked,” she said. “I don’t sense any of the unnatural feeling I got before. I think I washed away Dr. Toxin’s evil genetic tinkering.”
“So what will happen to Snuggles now?”
“Now, he should grow up just the way you thought, with no chance of him becoming a deadly monster.”
After letting Liz thank her, Golden Goddess left the room and the dorm. All in all, she felt pretty good. Her one regret was that Dr. Toxin was still at large. But she knew that they would one day meet again!
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