Relaxing by a large pool on top of a mountain, Addison watches her sane double hide in the forests. Wearing a crimson one-piece suit that has her own face emblazoned on the stomach, she puts the mirror above the couch that she is sprawled across. Feeling restless and irritable, she snaps her fingers and creates a water column in the distance. A rain of shrimp hits the mountain and the reality-bender calmly turns a glass table into a boiling pot that spits the cooked animals into a hovering bowl of cocktail sauce. Addison indulges in her snack while she reaches out to punish the Grand Caravan for being mean to her other self, but stops when Gemma hisses from her inflatable chair. Annoyed by the mild chastising, the reality-bender creates a large termite in the water and scowls when the insect sinks to the bottom. She turns its legs into floaties, but her assistant casually pops them with the toothpick sticking out of her drink. Before Addison can come up with another way to punish Gemma, she is distracted by a spot of light on the ground. It shifts whenever she moves her head and it takes her a minute to realize it is the sun bouncing off her golden eyepatch. Plucking the beam out of the air, she tosses it at a pile of snow that is on a nearby cliff.
The projectile abruptly stops an inch from its target, which transforms into an icicle-fringed door. Cold air billows out of the gateway, but is blocked by the dome of heat that Addison is maintaining. A familiar scent in the air causes her to jump to her feet and turn her hands into lobster claws. She is about to attack when the robotic Gemma walks out carrying a white flag strapped to her back. The other assistant is immediately out of the pool, her half bikini and half one-piece swimsuit turning into a police uniform as soon as she gets out of the water. Addison steps to the side to let the two women charge and collide, the mechanical one already sparking due to the rum punch thrown at her. The fight eventually causes the pair to reach the edge of the mountaintop and one slip sends them tumbling down the side. Even from far away, the Gemmas can be heard cursing and hitting each other until they crashes into a boulder and reappear above the pool. They are dropped into waiting life preservers that hold them tight and float to opposite corners.
“I would like to offer a temporary ceasefire,” Ian says as he appears on a lounge chair. He changes his suit into ebony swimming trunks and goes about rubbing thick sunblock into his pale skin. “This doesn’t mean I like you or think you’re stronger. It’s simply that I feel we need to settle the matter of your other self. Our battles are growing tedious because you can’t focus and routinely slip away. Not that I ever lose track of you, but hunting you down like a wounded animal is very unappealing.”
“A polite guest arrives with a gift for his host,” Addison declares, her couch transforming into a throne. Water jets fire from the back and a vibrating footrest slides out, which temporarily distracts the reality-bender. “The only way this should end is with me claiming what is rightfully mine. I saw you try to turn her against me. She hates both of us and wants to be left alone, so that was pointless. The little puppy got his wet nose smacked for being silly. Next time, I’ll have you fixed.”
“Try it and you will be wearing your innards on the outside,” he growls while subtly creating a metal cup beneath his shorts. Creating a single strawberry from thin air, he tosses it to his enemy and tries to relax. “As I said before, I want to hold off on fighting until we fix this problem. Killing her could return her to you, but she may be lost forever. Another possibility is that destroying you would transfer your powers to her. That leaves me fighting an enemy that is sane and smart instead of a maniac.”
Addison taps her fingers on the arm of her thorn, every strike shaking the mountain. “I don’t like the scenario where I die. She would be a horrible me. All stable and boring and normal and wearing those dirty clothes. I bet she would never wear the beautiful dresses that I create or turn an old man into a yo-yo out of boredom. On the other hand, I don’t want to work with you since you’re very rude. It’s not polite to come back to life after I went to all the trouble of killing you, puppy. Not to mention you broke my kitty and refuse to give me the rest of her. Can’t you see that they’re miserable? Oh, they seem to have flipped upside down. Are they making bubbles or have they died?”
“Mine has the ability to breathe underwater.”
“She’s sparking a lot.”
“Must be the chlorine.”
“Well, mine is fine since I just gave her gills.”
“Then, let us get back to business.”
No longer interested in lounging by the pool, the reality-benders create a desk between them and transform their clothes. The furniture is smooth and simple wood on Ian’s side while Addison has created a gaudy surface of bone that flares up at the corners. Slacks and a nice sweater grow from the man’s skin, which sloughs off and slides into the pool. He cycles through several watches while leather loafers walk out of the icy gateway and slip onto his feet, which are immediately covered in warm socks. Wanting to upstage her smirking enemy, Addison’s ivory dress billows out with a wide skirt and a frill that rises from the back like the tailfeathers of a peacock. She rises a foot in the air due to platform stilettos that would snap the ankle of a normal woman. Bracelets, rings, and necklaces drift from the clouds to adorn her body, several of them slipping beneath her clothes. Once they are both ready, the reality-benders draw quill pens out from behind their backs.
“There is one thing we need to discuss before signing the temporary truce,” Ian mentions as a paper with the single word appears on the table. He spins his pheasant feather pen in his hand as he waits for his enemy to stop tickling her nose with her ostrich quill. “What should we do about the girl? To be honest, I forgot about her entirely until she fought to save your double. So, it is a surprise that they are still together. My personal opinion is that we should eliminate her and avoid any messiness.”
“Touch the child and our truce ends violently,” Addison replies in a tone that sends a shiver down everyone’s spine. Holding out her hand, she creates a doll of Kara and sprouts another arm to stroke the toy’s face. “She amuses me, which might be why the other me is so interested maintaining the friendship. Perhaps she connects to a piece we share. A maternal instinct that has never been satisfied. Either way, I demand that she be kept safe. There isn’t any harm in letting her stay, puppy. What messiness do you think the child could create?”
“I just have a bad feeling about her,” he mutters before signing the contract. He watches as the woman does the same, but writes his name. “You’re not . . . I’ll just change it later. Are you okay with me pushing things along if they get boring? You can do the protection and vengeance thing that I know you love. I simply want to control the pace of events. It’s such a dull task that I’m sure you-”
“Go away because we’re done,” Addison says without paying attention. A flick of her wrist sends Ian and his Gemma flying off the mountain along with the desk. “Let’s see what fun I can have with this.”