“Your daughter?” Arc-Wielder asked. The serpentine vines that held him upside down turned him right side up and placed him gently on the ground in front of Gaia. The hero corp. warned Arc-Wielder that Gaia was out of everyone’s league. Her reputation diminished a bit over the past four years; but, as powerful as she was, she usually kept to her own town. The heroes learned if they didn’t try to mess with her, she wouldn’t bother with them too much. Arc-Wielder, however, wanted to make a name for himself.
He was in her clutches two minutes after his first heroic act. Arc-Wielder tried to defend himself, but his electricity had no effect on her. Green vines shot out of the ground to grab his ankles then pulled him down into the earth. He was dragged fast with no idea in which direction he was being pulled. After what felt like several minutes, he saw light again.
He found himself dangling in the air staring at an upside-down woman with a bodice formed from brown and green vines. Her hair resembled a bundle of roots tied back atop her head; he recognized her instantly.
“PLEASE DON’T KILL ME, GAIA!” he pleaded. His blue mask, and cape, were lost somewhere in the Earth. His face was flush with the worry of his impending demise and the strain of all the blood rushing down. Gaia sighed and rolled her eyes. Four thick earthen spikes shot upward faster than Arc-Wielder could react. In an instant, he felt his head supported by four thick columns as the points missed his head by centimeters.
“I wouldn’t have brought you to my forest if I was going to kill you,” she said. “I brought you here to talk…,” Gaia added. “…to my daughter.”
“Why me?” Arc-Wielder asked once he was on his feet again.
“Because she needs your help, Greg,” Gaia said. Arc-Wielder’s eyes shot wide.
“How’d you know my name?” he asked. It took all his heroism to stay in place and not start taking steps backward. Not only was she out of his league entirely, she apparently knew his secret identity. Trying to run wouldn’t get him very far, but he hoped he could at least earn a sliver of respect by pretending to keep his cool.
“Mr. Gregory Quaid, you’re 28 years old, single, and own a moderately successful business. I wasn’t the entire reason for your move here, you’re expecting to grow your business even more here,” she said. Gaia’s smile grew wider as Greg’s face lost color. “The hero corp. hasn’t quite figured it out yet; but, I’m the actual, literal spirit of the Earth. I know everything.”
The brown roots atop Gaia’s head suddenly fell off her head and the vines that were wrapped around her torso loosened. Greg watched a mid-40s soccer mom appear from underneath the roots and vines. He never would have guessed she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt under all the greens and browns.
“Keep my secret and stay alive,” Gaia said. She smiled and offered Greg her hand. “My name is Gale Stone, and my daughter’s name is Cadence.” Greg accepted her hand; but, instead of a handshake, he could only tremble slightly at the contact before pulling away.
“How.. uh..,” Greg swallowed his nerves. “How can I help your daughter?” Gale sighed again, but with less annoyance this time.
“My little girl’s all grown up. She’s gotten men in her head and she’s decided she wants to get married.” Gale locked her jade eyes with his dark brown set. “That’s where you come in.”
If Greg had not been terrified out of his wits, he might have had a different, more helpful reaction. But, this all-powerful woman forced her trust on him and now she seemed intent on bringing him into the family.
“You’re kidding!” Greg laughed as soon as the words came out. It was a nervous, high-pitched laugh as he broke eye contact. He quickly looked around the forest clearing to find an escape path. That was the first time he noticed there wasn’t one; they were surrounded by a thick wall of trees. “I can’t marry your daughter!” he said. With no way out, he locked eyes with her again; they were colder this time.
“What do you mean, exactly?” she asked. Her voice was flat and her smile was gone.
“I’m honored! I really am!” Greg said while shaking his head. “I can’t marry a supervillain’s daughter! What if the hero corp. finds out?” Greg’s question was answered by a sharp lash across his cheek; one of Gale’s vines swayed like a snake in front of Greg as if expecting the need to give him another one.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Gale asked. This time she had an edge of frustration in her voice.
“Your daughter? You brought me here to talk to me about her…,” he said. “I’m successful and single. She wants to get married…,” Greg made several gestures with his hands as he explained his thought process. Gale immediately burst into a fit of giggles. Greg thought he was safe for a moment until he was suddenly upside down again. He felt vines roaming all over him; constricting and exploring his clothing as if trying to find a way in.
“As if a Zero like you is good enough for my daughter,” Gale continued to laugh. Greg knew he was going to die. He closed his eyes to wait for the inevitable. It started with another slap against his cheek.
“Hey, open your eyes idiot,” Gale said. He did.
“OOOOoooooooh. Shit.” Greg sighed as he felt his cheeks growing flush again; from the blood rush and embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” he said. The vines placed him on the ground again. He reached out and grabbed his business card from one of the vines; it was the site he saw the moment he opened his eyes and felt like a moron. Then, he knelt to grab his open wallet from the ground. “Your reputation, you know…,” he said.
“Are you going to help, or not?” Gale asked. Greg eagerly nodded, with a mock tip of the hat.
“Quaid’s Wedding Plan and Design at your service.”