Kelly continued tripping her way through the rubble, followed by Jill and Betsy. The rest of the Natpack commenced arguing with the Mercs who had come running at the sound of the crash. "Look what you've done! You're going to pay for this!"
"But it was an accident!" Linda Rose wailed. "I didn't mean to drive into your garage!"
"It's a traffic hazard, it is, sticking out into the road like that!" Leslie added, trying to help.
"It doesn't stick out into the road!" roared the indignant Merc, echoed forcfully by the rest of the Mercenaries. "Yeah, she just can't drive!" The shouting rose to a roar, with each side trying to out-shout the other.
"To H-E-double toothpicks with them, I'm going to find Maureen!" muttered Jill, as she determinedly (yet blindly) strode into the house. "Ouch! Darned wall..." she continued as she tried to make her way past solid vertical obstacles.
Betsy stopped, and looked around, confused by the sound. "Is one of the car's tires leaking?" she said, looking for anything that might be a car.
"I said, psssttt!!"
Betsy and the other two Natpackers followed the noise to a dim corner where someone seemed to be gesturing to them. "Why are you saying 'psssttt'?"
"Because I'm trying to get your attention!" the mysterious Merc said, annoyed. "What are you, blind?!"
"Oh." the Merc paused, not quite sure what to say to that. "Anyway, I'm Erin, and I'm supposed to help you get Maureen out. It would have been nice if you hadn't shown up early, but I guess it's now or never."
"Well, since we didn't know when we were supposed to get Maureen out, we didn't know we were early," Kelly said, reasonably, under the circumstances. "So, where is she?"
"This way... and try to be quiet! I don't want the rest of the Mercs to hear us," she whispered, taking off at a high speed down the hallway.
Trying to follow the mysterious Merc, Kelly called, "Hey, wait up! I can't see... where are you heading?" thud!
She rebounded from a doorjamb, clutching at the edge of the door to steady herself. Jill ran into her, sending her through the doorway, then Betsy ran into Jill, sending the both of them reeling down the hallway, where they bounced off two Mercs who had noticed them entering the house. The Mercs rebounded off the Natpackers, banging their heads together, and knocking each other out.
"Oh, for sweet pete's sake!" muttered Erin, grabbing Kelly. "Stay there!" she said, then went back for the other two, dragging them along with her. "Now, hang on to each other, or we're never going to get to the dungeon!" She then set off down the stairway to the dungeons where the captive Natpacker was being tortured.
She found the right door, and, looking both ways down the hall, pulled a glove out of her pocket. She pulled it on then placed her hand on the scanner. She sighed with relief when it worked and the door locks disengaged. She pushed open the door and went in, dragging the Natpackers with her. She stopped dead when she saw the set-up in the room, then staggered when all three Natpackers piled into her from behind.
"What happened?" asked Jill, peering around Erin. "Hey, isn't that the FK episode with the strippers"?
"How can you tell?" Betsy asked. "I can't see anything!"
"Well, I can still hear!" Jill said, as LaCroix's voice blasted from the tv's speakers with the words, "Let's get naked!"
Erin headed toward the chair that was facing the television, and the three blind Natpackers, like mice, trailed after her.
"Mmmpphhhh!" said the figure restrained in the chair. "Gmmph mfpp uummpp!"
The Merc started with the helmet. When she pulled it off, she was struck dumb with amazement. She had never seen hair so... blond in her life. It shone with a pale light; it practically glowed with blondness. She stood motionless, and stared, mesmerized.
The figure in the chair glared at her with blood-shot eyes, and said, "MMMMPPPPTTHHHHHPPPP!!!"
"What was that?" said Kelly, peering toward the chair.
Erin shook herself, and started working on the restraints that held the figure tightly to the chair. "It's Maureen! Who else would it be?" she said impatiently. "Help me with this, will you?"
"Even blind, I can tell that. Maureen has red hair. This person is blond" she added, touching the pale hair that topped the head.
"Mmmpphhhhh!!" the figure said urgently. "Mpphh mmm mmmrrrrrnnn!!"
Jill found the mouth of the person, and pulled out the sock that was serving as a gag. "Aaahhhh!" Maureen (for it was indeed she) expelled her breath in a whoosh. "Guys, it is me! Get me out of this, will you?"
Exclaiming, they set to undoing the straps and ties, and quickly released the restraints. When she still didn't move, Betsy poked her in the arm, and said, "Why don't you get up?"
"They've got this acupuncture needle in my neck — I can't move anything!" she whimpered. "Pull it out!"
"Eewwww!" they all said in unison. "I'm not pulling it out, you
"I hate needles!"
"Oh, don't be such sissies! Please? Pretty please?" Maureen pleaded. "Think of Natalie — she'd be able to do it!"
They couldn't resist that appeal, so they decided to do it together. "Okay, one, two, three, pull!" Maureen sort of shook herself as sensation flooded back into her deadened body. Then everyone watched in amazement as she got out of the chair and promptly started jumping and bouncing around the room.
"Um, Maureen? Are you okay?" Betsy asked, afraid that the Merc's torture had totally deranged her mad friend's mind.
"Tell me I can't bounce, will they! Well, I'm still a Natpacker, and I'm gonna bounce all I want to!" Maureen said, bouncing over to her friends. "Besides which, I needed to restore the circulation," she said, ever the practical one. "But now I guess we better get out of here."
The other three started bouncing along with their friend, then they all started for the door. The Merc, bemused by the experience that is the Natpack, followed them as they bounced out the door.
The four Natpackers made their way up the stairs out of the Merc dungeon, followed by Erin, their mysterious Merc benefactor. Maureen was leading, since she was the only one who still had eyeglasses. When they got to the top of the stairs, Maureen stopped suddenly and tried to back up. Betsy said "Ow!" as Maureen stepped on her toes, Jill said "Damn!" as Betsy's elbow caught her under the chin, and Kelly said "Eep!" as Jill almost knocked her off the step. Erin just stepped down a step and waited for the Packlet to come to a stop.
"The halls are crawling with Mercs!" Maureen hissed under her breath. "How are we supposed to get out of here?"
"I don't know," Betsy said. "We've got a limo outside. If it's still working, we can get away from the Mercs."
"Great! Now all we have to do is get past the Mercs."
"Hey! Let's get Erin to get rid of them!" Jill suggested.
Three sets of semi-blind and one set of corrected-vision eyes turned to the Merc standing behind them on the stairs.
"Oh, no! I've done what I was paid to — I'm done!" Erin whispered, afraid that her fellow Mercs would hear them. "The rest is up to you."
"Well, the only problem is, if the Mercs catch us, they might wonder how three half-blind Natpackers managed to get me out all by themselves," Maureen mused.
"That's right," Kelly added. "It's in your own self interest to get us out of here before they start asking questions."
Erin fumed, as she considered that they were probably right. "All right, but I expect a bonus payment for services above and beyond the call of duty!" She considered the best way to clear the way for this seeing-impaired bunch. She suddenly remembered the security alarm — if she could trigger the alarm somewhere in the house away from where the rest of the Pack was, all the Mercs would run toward it, and the Natpackers could get away.
"Okay, here's the plan," she said. "I'm going to trigger an alarm. When you hear it go off, run that way for the limo," Erin said, pointing to the left.
"Which way?" Jill asked.
"That way," Erin growled, pointing to the left again.
"Okay, I know which way to go — you guys just follow me," Maureen said. "All right — loud noise, run like hell. It's a simple plan, but it should work."
The ear-piercing shriek of the Merc's alarm diminished in the distance as the dented and bruised limo raced in reverse down the alley. It stopped suddenly, throwing Natpackers hither and yon over the seats, as Linda Rose reached the end of the alley. She put the car into drive, and turned the vehicle around to drive almost sedately down the street.
"What a piece of luck!" Leslie said. "What else could have knocked down a wall of a garage and still be drivable?"
"Yeah," piped up Kelly. "It's a good thing we weren't in my little car!"
"Man, you guys really know how to mount a rescue," Maureen said admiringly. "A limo, yet. This is the life!"
"Yeah, once we dragged you into it when you stopped to clear away the bits of that garage door," Betsy commented accusingly.
Jill looked at Maureen, surprised at how sedate she was. "Maureen, how can you be so calm?" Jill asked. "After what they did to you, I'm surprised you're not a pile of quivering jelly!" She shook her head, and said admiringly, "You must be the strongest person in the world!"
"No, not really," Maureen said modestly. "I had a secret weapon, you see."
"What's that?" several people asked eagerly. After all, you never know when you might need a way to survive torture.
"I just kept two images fixed firmly in my mind," Maureen said. "Kermit... sigh ...and chocolate." She smiled beatifically. "What else could you need?"
A moment of silence met this pronouncement, until the driver asked, "So, where are we going now?"
Maureen didn't even pause. "To a beauty parlor! I will not go blond into that good night!!"
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