Puck skated her way through the foggy streets of Austin, cutting down any hoser stupid enough to get in her way. She was mad as a wolverine. The Texas Momument Football Stadium came into view. She skated into the reception area. The Blue Nasties, Marilyn, and Billy the Cameraman were milling about. Puck locked eyes with Sam and rolled right up to her. She was wearing jungle camouflage mechanical armour with a back-mounted arsenal of guns that made her look like a space cadet.
‘What in hell are you wearing?’ said Puck.
‘Um….’ Sam’s eyes darted about nervously. ‘It’s my power armour.’
‘Your power armour, eh?’
‘Yeah. Colonel Ripper gave it to me.’
Puck gritted her teeth. Everything about Sam had been melting her igloo lately. She had defeated Girl Scout when she and Mezu were getting their bums kicked by Mammoth and Biker, she was being treated as the strongest of the Blue Nasties by everyone, and she had had the nerve to start acting like a coward again despite having already revealed herself as a secret badass who had been pretending this whole time.
Sam held up a plushie of a warthog, the mascot of the Houston Hogs football team. ‘C-care for a Hoggy?’
Puck knocked Hoggy out of Sam’s hands. ‘Don’t test me, Mountie! I know you’ve been toying with us since we first met, faking it as if you’re weak when you’ve been strong all along! Don’t get cocky, though! Don’t go thinking you’re the strongest around here just because you beat Girl Scout! The strongest slasher in the world is standing in this stadium, in this room, in these roller skates!’
Jack poked his head in between them. ‘Didn’t I defeat you at the drive-in theatre?’
‘That was a fluke!’
Marilyn poked her head in. ‘Didn’t you get beat up by Kangaroo and Wallaby at the Alamo?’
Puck roared, grabbed Sam by the neck, and lifted her up with one hand.
‘See?!’ said Puck ‘I’m the strongest! I won the Canadian Hockey Championships, I won the Canadian Skiing Championships, I won the Canadian Skating Championships, and I’m going to win the Death Game and become the Number One Slasher!’
‘You’re pathetic,’ said Mezu.
‘What was that?!’
Mezu was sitting on the reception desk sharpening his zanbatō with a whetstone. He’d been looking downcast since he lost to Biker, or was it since he killed Little Red Riding Hood? Puck couldn’t read this guy.
‘She is stronger than all of us,’ said Mezu. ‘You only humiliate yourself.’
Puck growled and tightened her grip on Sam’s neck.
Jack put his hand on Puck’s shoulder. ‘Put her down, Puck.’
‘You died and make you king?!’ said Puck. ‘Just because you fell on your head in the forest and gained a few brain cells doesn’t mean I have to do a damn thing you say! I can do whatever I want! I’m a slasher!’ She punched Sam in the stomach.
Sam’s tearful eyes made her feel bad. Then the eyes hardened. This was the same badass Sam she’d seen in the forest.
Sam balled her hand into a fist. ‘The cornered rat bites the cat.’ She punched Puck in the face.
Puck saw white, heard ringing in her ears, felt herself fly across the room and crash into wood and metal. When she recovered, she found she was lying in the remains of a trophy cabinet.
Sam ran over, once again the soft-eyed coward Sam. ‘I’m so sorry! Are you okay?’
Puck swung at her, but Jack and Marilyn held her back. She kept swinging. ‘You want some?! You want some of this, punk?! Eh?!’
‘Puck, my dear!’ Marilyn forced a smile. ‘Do please save your energy for the mission at hand! You’ll never become the Number One Slasher if you remain his unfocused, you know!’
This calmed Puck down, but she looked daggers at Sam.
Marilyn clapped her hands together. ‘Wonderful! Now, to business! I’ve decided the best way for us to win the Death Game is to take out the Big Five. If we take out the Big Five, the rest of the slashers will get scared and run. We have ten A-list slashers now, so if we all gang up on them one at a time, we should be able to do it. We will be eliminating them in this order: Pigskin, Fubsy the Clown, Shark Man, the Cosmonaut, and Colonel Ripper. There’s also been rumours of a rather dangerous slasher hunter running around called the Slasher Slayer. They’ve killed a lot of A-list slashers lately, so watch out for them.’
‘Yeah.’ Puck bared her teeth at Sam. ‘We’ve had too many slasher hunters running around lately.’
Sam shuffled away.
Jack raised his hand. ‘I’m going to kill the King in Yellow. I don’t expect any of you to join me. I’m just letting you all know.’
Marilyn laughed uncomfortably. ‘We’ve talked about this, darling. No, you’re not. You’ll just get yourself killed.’ She smiled at the others. ‘Sorry about this. Bit of a lover’s tiff.’
‘Um.’ Sam raised her hand. ‘Where are the Lonely Hearts? Shouldn’t they be hearing this?’
‘They’re making out in the toilets.’ Marilyn shrugged. ‘Big fight coming up. Might die. You know how it is. We’ll fill them in later. Oh, before I forget.’ She pulled a handful of necklaces out of her suit pocket.
‘What are those?’ said Jack.
‘They’re Third Eyes. The boys in the office and I were talking about how we could improve your teamwork the other day, and we decided that if you could see each other’s facial expressions, you’d be able to react to new situations quicker. We had an A-list slasher called Wayland the Smith use his Zone to create necklaces which will let you see through each other’s masks. I offered them to the Lonely Hearts too, but they seemed to think their masks were their faces…. Well, try them on!’
Puck put on the necklace with a snowflake talisman, Jack put on the burning tree, Mezu put on the water drop, Marilyn put on the fox head, and Sam put on the triangle of eyes. Suddenly, Puck could see through Jack and Mezu’s masks.
Jack stuck out his tongue at everyone. ‘It’s really comfortable! Pass on my compliments to the smith!’
Sam puffed out her cheeks. ‘My Third Eye is really plain.’
Marilyn crossed her arms. ‘Yes, well, you do tend to go through phases, Sam, so I thought it best to go with something neutral. It’s gone from Sam the policewoman to Sam the America News Network runner to Sam the Lumberjane to Sam the’—she waved at Sam’s power armour—‘battleship? I don’t know. One day you’re punching me in the stomach, the next you’re phoning me up at 3AM to reassure you there aren’t any slashers in your toilet. You’re volatile, Sam, you really are.’
Sam looked down. ‘Sowwy.’
Marilyn patted Sam on the head. ‘That’s all right, dear, you’re great television.’ She walked over to an office door. ‘Anyhoo, we’re here at the football stadium to fight Pigskin, and I have a man here who’s going to fill us in on his tragic backstory.’