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Chapter One: A Helluva Way to Run a War By Linda L. Donahue

"I appreciate your help, Satan. Ares"—Bunny sniffed, lamenting the late War—"was always misplacing things."

"War is messy." Satan jumbled through a hundred keys on an enormous ring.

Bunny nodded. "Well, he was. Socks and underwear on the floor. Newspapers in the bathroom. And I don't know how many times I told him that he'd lose his head if—"

"Yeah, yeah," Satan said, trying a key in the lock plate shaped like a Roman shield, "if it wasn't connected to his body."

Bunny blinked. "No, that he'd lose his head if he couldn't find his helmet."

Satan squinted at Bunny then shook her head. She flipped past a couple more keys to one that resembled a sword. "Ah—this must be it. It's so ... symbolic."

Satan unlocked the steel door to Ares's private study. "This is the one place in Hell I've never entered."

"Me either," Bunny said. "Ares called it his Fortress of Solitude."

"You're kidding."

"He was a closet Superman fan." Bunny preferred Lex—the rich one.

Inside Ares's study, Bunny expected to find stacks of skin mags. Instead, weapons from throughout the ages covered the walls. Suits of armor stood on pedestals.

Satan removed a wickedly barbed cat-o-nine tails from the displayed collection. "I wondered where this went to."

Bunny threw her slender, curvy frame onto the plush seat of her late husband's throne. "Wow. This room radiates bad vibes. Everything's gotta go—except this chair. It's pretty comfy."

"Bunny—War—you're gonna need some help."

Bunny nodded. "It'll take a moving van to clear out all this junk. I could also use a painting crew, some new carpet—"

Satan groaned. "I'm not talking about redecorating. I'm talking about helping you do your job. Let's face it. Compared to the other girls, you're disadvantaged."

"Ooh, does this mean I get minions? The other girls all have minions."

"Sorry, but no. You would have minions, if Ares hadn't been hell to work with."

"That's unfair. I'm not Ares."

"Doesn't matter. The minions' union has a 'no draft' clause in their contracts—they don't have to work for War, not even in times of peace."

Bunny's lower lip quivered.

"Stop pouting and you sure as Hell better not cry. I hate cryin' women. Listen"—Satan perched on the edge of the throne and threw a tattooed, muscled arm around Bunny's small shoulders—"I'm going to give you a little help, because you need it most."

"Thanks—oops, sorry, I forgot, War doesn't say thanks."

Satan rolled her eyes.

"Oops, sorry again—I forgot, no apologies either. Oh, damn, I did it again." Bunny exhaled. "I'll never get the hang of this."

"If history teaches one thing, it's this," Satan said. "No matter how it starts, no matter how it ends, a war is a war. All you've gotta do is start something. Didn't Ares ever talk to you about his work?"

"Oh, sure. Anytime there was peace—when the wimps were in charge, as he

used to say—Ares moped, reliving past glories."

"What did he tell you about the business of war?"

"Well," Bunny drawled, thinking hard, "he said skirmishes and border disputes were easy, but to get a really good war going took careful planning and a lot of cash." As realization dawned, Bunny opened her eyes wide, careful not to raise her eyebrows, since that wrinkled her forehead. "I can do that! I know a thing or two about planning big events. I once planned my sorority's spring cotillion. How hard can a war be? There's no seating arrangements, name cards or caterers. Plus I'm a wiz at spending cash."

"Good. Whatever you need, buy it. I'll inform my accountant that you've got carte

blanche." Satan whipped out her titanium Hades Express card. "Don't leave Hell without it.

"That's so cool. Thank—" Bunny clamped her mouth shut.

"You're improving already. Just sit here awhile and soak up the atmosphere. This room reeks of war."

"You smell it too? I'm thinking air fresheners, something floral."

Satan's face drew tight with a clearly forced smile. "Try to focus, Bunny. Hopefully something will hit you." Satan strolled out with her cat-o-nine tails slung over her shoulder.

All alone, Bunny mumbled, "Fine—I'll give the fortress meditation thingy a try." But she refused to barricade herself inside it for months on end as Ares used to do. For one, Bunny was too social for prolonged periods of isolation. For another, this room was depressing. But mostly she had a promotion to win. Running Hell had to be more fun than running a war. And apparently, Satan's position came with unlimited funds.

Bunny slapped her forehead. Of course Hell had all the money in the world—it owned every banker's soul.

For now, she needed to concentrate on starting a war. Luckily, people on both sides were usually clamoring for a fight.

The rocaille beads on Bunny's backless gown dug into her thighs. Tight-fitting gowns weren't designed for sitting. War pushed to her feet. As soon as she started pacing, her thoughts raced. Lavender is a good color for me. I wish Ares had hung a mirror in here. Oh, that shield works okay. I wonder if that's what they mean by dress shields. And, Ooh, these strappy sandals are more comfortable than they look.

Pushing aside her ever-present fashion sense, War perched her hands on her shapely hips and thought. Real hard. The best wars had catchy names like The Hundred Years War, The Napoleonic Wars, and World War I. The last was so popular, it had spawned a sequel and numerous songs and movies.

"I need something more spectacular. Something showy, classy and dressy." After all, war generally involved visiting other countries. Plus war usually began with a formal declaration. Ergo, battles should be conducted in full dress uniform. Considering that nowadays photographers hovered everywhere like vultures, stain resistant and crease resistant fabric was a must.

The "formal dress" memo should be sent out immediately. Bunny rummaged through Ares's desk looking for sticky-notes. Instead, she found his planner.

Sweet, lovable, but dumb-as-a-rock Ares had such a bad memory he wrote everything down—except, of course, their wedding anniversary and her birthday. Whenever he'd forgotten one of those—which was always—he ransacked a small but wealthy country for a truly fabulous gift and all was forgiven.

A horrible thought struck: Who would buy her gifts now? Oh well, war now, new boyfriend later. That she was putting work ahead of her social life was wrong, but sometimes sacrifices had to be made—human, of course.

Bunny flipped through the planner. One entry jumped out—literally. A three-dimensional hologram of a dome-shaped building hovered over the open pages. The entry read: UN Security Council Meeting. Suit and tie required. No weapons allowed on the premises.

"Perfect!" Although the "no weapons" notation surprised her. Who knew a bunch of bloodthirsty warmongers would be open to alternative strategies?

Bunny touched up her make-up, then checked to assure her gown wasn't missing any beads. She swept up her hair and clasped it with a diamond hair clip, then sashayed to Earth, topside.

First, she made a quick stop in Las Vegas, followed by a brief shopping spree. Then she flitted to New York. Being one of the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse had definite advantages when it came to instantaneous travel.

Without so much as a dyed hair out of place, Bunny materialized outside of closed double doors. Her companions—a lackey hauling her purchases and a cute Vegas card dealer—looked nervously at the posted sign. In nineteen languages, two of them no longer spoken, the sign read: No Admittance. Meeting in Progress.

Bunny pushed through the doors and stood with her arms stretched across the frame in a classic Hollywood pose.

"Excuse me, boys," Bunny announced.

The room fell silent. Quite appropriately, their jaws fell slack and eyes popped wide in appreciation. Eventually, the main speaker said, "You'll have to leave, miss."

"I don't think so." Bunny strolled inside. "War, here. I hope y'all can pardon little ol' me for barging in unannounced." Men responded to a southern accent; something about it knocked them off guard. "I won't be but a moment."

As War sauntered toward the podium, the diplomats and generals stood. Those with hats doffed them. The more gentlemanly sorts bowed.

One man stooped to speak into his microphone. "Did you say you were ... War?"

"Sure did, darlin'."

Murmurs arose—though not the awed ones Bunny had expected. The main speaker said, "I don't know what you're up to, miss, but this is no place for levity."

Bunny summoned the powers that came with being War. She snapped her fingers and created a flickering 3-D montage of some of the greatest battlefield scenes. As the stench of blood and gunpowder filled the domed chamber, the diplomats fell silent. Bunny wrinkled her nose at the smell. Her "new war" was not only a superior design, but would be popular because it wouldn't stink.

"Now I know my late husband preferred to work behind the scenes, but you'll find I'm more of a hands-on gal. That's why I've decided to attend your little war summit."

The main speaker said, "These are peace talks."

"Then it appears it's a good thing I've come along to clarify matters." Bunny waved the signal at her lackey.

Her human shopping caddy distributed cellophane-wrapped boxes of Bicycle cards—the ones the pros used.

"I'm sure y'all have all heard of the card game 'War.' If not, Vic, here, can fill you in." Like a game show model pointing out the next prize, Bunny swept a hand toward the bare-chested Vegas card dealer in tight leather pants. "He'll be running the table, so to speak. As soon as y'all buddy up, we can start playing."

A round of voices chorused from the curved rows. "¿Que?" "Was geht hier weiter?" "Qu'est-que-ce l'outrage?" "São louco na cabeça." "Scusi, non capisco."

Bunny tapped her foot and rolled her hand, trying to hurry them along. She considered requiring that all countries learn to fight in one language. Clearly, romance languages were too pretty, whereas even polite conversation in German, Japanese (judging by Anime dialog), or any Middle Eastern language sounded like an argument. No wonder those people were always fighting.

More foreign blah-blah-blah ensued. One man did a sort of rain dance while chanting, "Do ya sho-da, chindi ah-tad." Apparently, just about any "nation" could get into the UN with enough whining.

Bunny rolled her eyes. Was all this really so hard to comprehend? And people called her a dumb blonde, her dyed red hair notwithstanding.

"Oy! That's meshugeneh, shikse!" Finally, in English-English, a prim man said, "I say, now, see here, miss, just what the deuce is going on?"

"That's enough! Get over it, people! I'll try this one more time." Bunny spoke loudly and slowly so they might understand. "You're going to play War. I figure there'll be, oh, fifty elimination rounds. If I might make a teensy-weensy suggestion—y'all might want to place your bets carefully. You're playing for keepsies—and for the right to declare your national tongue the language of war." Surely that was an honor worth fighting for.

"Our bets?" echoed throughout the chamber.

"Silly me. My bad." With a clap of her hands, War summoned several ranking officials from the World Bank and the IMF. "I almost forgot the cashiers. Can't have any fun without money." That was true of just about everything.

Bunny swished her curvy buttocks as she strolled away, giving them a gander at her exposed back. She paused and looked over her shoulder. "Y'all play nice, now, y'hear?"

That was easy.

Too bad it didn't work.

Satan's accountant tapped his three-toed foot. Steam rose from his collar. "War—I'd like to show you something." With a remote, he turned on a twenty foot screen TV.

The UN chamber appeared in such clarity, Bunny would swear she could step right into it. "Wow. I wish my reception was that good." 

The accountant glared over his pince-nez glasses. "Watch the replay closely and try to pay attention."

On the screen, a Japanese man shoved a mountain of yen along with a stack of promises written on cocktail napkins to an American cowboy. "Okay, Uncle Sam-san, you win that round. Now, we no more hear about Pearl Harbor, understand? That debt is paid."

Throughout the chamber, the morons at the UN were using—had used, considering this was a replay—promises as bets after they ran out of money or credit with the IMF. Having lost a round, Russia made restitution for Chernobyl by promising to devote their top scientists toward cleaning the environment. France paid off numerous debts while clearing out a surprise Swiss bank account. Winning governments paid off their deficits. 

Satan's accountant waved his scrawny arms. "This is an international disaster! According to my war-calculator, a hundred years' peace is on the verge of breaking out."

Bunny huffed. "But the boys at the UN are touting my strategy as a success."

"War, whose side are you on?"

The answer, mine, probably wasn't the answer he was looking for. So Bunny shrugged, hoping to look contrite.

The accountant sneered. "Good job, War. Now see if you can undo the damage!"

Feeling a pout coming on, War stomped back to her Fortress of Solitude. Although Vic, the Vegas dealer, tried to console her with a chocolate and champagne brunch followed by a six hour massage, Bunny wasn't in the mood and sent him packing. Vic's heart was in the right place—which was probably the problem.

Hampered by her tight-fitting gown, War paced. Ares's weapon collection flitted past her gaze. Ares loved weapons—the bigger and noisier the better. Back in the old days—before Bunny's time—the metallic clanging of swords probably sounded like a hundred giant wind chimes. Loud, but kind of musical. Today's guns and bombs were loud in an entirely unpleasant way. And they disturbed her beauty rest.

Beauty rest. Suddenly, she knew how to keep the fight in war without the unseemly noise. At once, War set about penning the silver engraved invitations.

The invitation read: You are cordially invited to the First Annual Free-For-All Sleepover. Dress is formal, so wear your best "Black Tie" uniform or tuxedo. A full scale pillow fight will follow the banquet and ball—pajamas optional. RSVP not required as attendance is mandatory. She scrolled a flourished "War" at the bottom. Beneath that she penned "Bunny" in parenthesis with little hearts decorating the sides.

War sent invitations to all world leaders and ranking military officers with spiffy uniforms—and to a couple of sexy male models, just because. She hired a rock band and handed them her approved song list, including: "War! What is it good for?", "Kung Fu Fighting" and "Radar Love"—despite the lead singer's protest that the song had nothing to do with military radar sites.

Bunny based the seating arrangements on the attendees' zodiac charts, seating her guests with those whose suns would be in opposing houses. In key positions throughout the hall, she seated those with highly volatile horoscopes, like an ascending Mars across relationship. One world leader's chart indicated that everything he said that week would be misconstrued. War made him the main speaker.

The guests hated each other. No one wanted to attend. Yet when the night arrived, everyone did attend. Not even government leaders were dumb enough to tick off War. The event would be the social disaster of the season.

As cocktails were served, a pleasant grumbling arose. "I'm missing the World Cup for this?" And, "I have peasants to torture." And, "My fortieth wife is about to give birth to my ninety-third child. She'll kill me if I miss it." And, "Were we supposed to bring a gift?"

Realizing the oversight, Bunny groaned. She should have mentioned gifts. Oh well, next time. So long as the evening's event undid the UN disaster and garnered Satan's favor, it would be enough.

With Satan's job, Bunny could quit messing around with boring war strategies and concentrate on important things—like hiring better lounge singers and upping the dress code of Hell's swankier dives. "Renovate and redecorate" would be Bunny's creed. Hell had enough low-class, deviant bums; Bunny hoped to draw a better class of sinners to Lower Underworld—a more palatable and trendier-sounding name than "Hell."

By the main course, pheasant in lobster sauce, the guests had splattered each other with verbal mud-slinging.

"Feed your people with that, you grubby third-world beggar!" A red-faced general threw his vegetable medley at the prime minister of some backwards country nobody cared about.

In retaliation, the uppity prime minister poured a bottle of wine on his neighbor's head, saying, "We don't want your cheap charity!"

Bunny jumped to her dainty, sandaled feet. "Hey! That's good wine." One should never waste expensive wine. "I demand this childish behavior cease and desist." The guests were ahead of schedule. Breaking into war before dessert was an atrocity. Even a high society neophyte knew that much. When the squabbling escalated, Bunny stomped her foot on the marble tile. Her stomp boomed like cannon fire—that being another of her powers.

With all eyes on her, Bunny tapped her wine glass with her shrimp fork, producing a pretty tinkling sound. If nothing else, her interruption served to remind her guests who was running this little soiree war. "I'd like to announce tonight's guest speaker. Chief, president, prime minister—oh, whatever his title—that old guy." Bunny turned her gaze to the right table and a pinkish, glittering spotlight appeared. Some of War's powers were awesome.

The spotlight illuminated a brusque and tactless geezer with false teeth that kept slipping. He'd been deposed four times, which only proved what a charismatic leader he was. The geezer tapped the microphone, producing an ear-splitting metallic twang, which turned out to be the best part of his droning speech. War was sure he made a few salient points, because he counted something on his fingers, and because he counted to three. Important things always came in threes.

Bunny tapped her glass to wake the audience from the speech-induced stupor. "Time for dessert."

Dessert was thirteen kinds of chocolate whipped into a hellishly delectable devil's food cake. Three of the kinds of chocolate didn't exist on Earth—not that any of the geezers or snooty aristocratic types appreciated that fact. She should have invited their wives. Women understood the value of chocolate.

Then, the laws of physics intruded: Opposites attracted. Having flunked physics, Bunny was only vaguely aware of that law. If her teachers had explained how the laws applied to relationships, and in particular how those laws applied when mixed with an endorphin-inducing dessert, she might have foreseen this result. And she might have attended class more often. But that was water over the damned.

All that mattered now was stopping the numerous whining and crying sessions. "You do understand," sobbed one dignitary.

"If I'd only known of your distress, I would have done something," a weepy-eyed leader said, blowing his nose.

"Are you people freaking kidding me?" War hadn't brought these people together to talk. This time her stomp didn't work. The effect, unfortunately, could only be used once per war—only one temper-tantrum allowed, was how Ares had explained it.

At a nearby table, a U.S. Army general gave sage advice on how to raise a  rebellious daughter. In reply, the Muslim leader nodded, saying, "So, if I give her some slack, she'll come to her senses. But what about the tattoo and belly ring?"

"It's a phase," the general said. "You should see my kids. One is covered in tattoos and the other wears a green mohawk."

Across the room, an African king lamented the woes of having multiple wives. The men at his table agreed that it sounded like a good idea until they considered the "that time of the month" issue and holidays. The thought of visiting ten mothers-in-law over a single Thanksgiving caused one man to faint.

"It's worse," the African king continued. "I'll never save enough college funds for my eighty-seven children—and that's just counting sons. Thank goodness, my daughters are on the barefoot-and-pregnant track."

"How's that Internet scheme working out for you?" asked the zealot leader of a small, often over-run country.

"Terrible. Everyone's doing it," the king complained. "People have started figuring out those spam letters are bogus."

All around, the conversations sounded more appropriate for a psychiatrist's couch or for crying into a drink at a bar than at a prelude to war. Phrases like, "Tell me all about it," and "Then what did you do?" were bandied about. Worse, the various leaders, delegates and military generals were bonding. When one table planned a joint family picnic, Bunny ran to the podium.

She pulled a cord hanging from the ceiling, releasing the netted pillows that had, until now, created the illusion of billowing clouds. Pillows fell with a squishy plop.

"Pillow fight!" War shouted into the microphone and stomped her dainty feet so hard she nearly broke a strap on her sandal. Curses, but that one tantrum rule was sticking. Still, it didn't mean she couldn't throw an ordinary, mortal-style tantrum. "That wasn't a request!"

A few guests made half-hearted attempts, poking more than swinging their pillows. They giggled like third graders. Two rolled on the floor, kicking up their feet. Before long, they settled down for a nap.

After that fiasco, War returned to Hell. As she stormed past the front offices, Satan called, "So, how's it going? Been to any good pillow fights lately?" Satan snickered.

From across the hall, the accountant poked his horned head out the doorway. "What's next? Meditation and mediation? Or maybe a love-in?"

"Hey. War is hard." Bunny glared at the needle-nosed accountant, wishing she had a better comeback. Lacking one, she stomped off in a huff.

Once settled into Ares's throne, Bunny grabbed the TV remote. Reality shows were on seventy-five of the eighty-two stations that Hell picked up. For the past decade, Satan had promised to go with the dish, but never got around to making the call.

While flipping through several infomercials—another of Satan's bright ideas—Bunny tried to figure out how and where she'd gone so wrong. Apparently she wasn't ready to instigate a worldwide war. Although big-scale events were showy, she was new to the job. The logical answer was to start small. Maybe a civil war or a coup.

The U.S. was the obvious choice. Americans liked to lead the world in everything else—so why not in warmongering?

On the television, an announcer blared, "Back to Battle of the Bands!"

Bunny perked up. "That's it!"

Satan was a big fan of musicians—and vice versa. She'd make a deal with a musician in a heartbeat. On a lark, Satan had invented disco, rap, boy bands and grunge rock. Yet her all-time greatest achievement had been the minuet. Once people touched each other while dancing, morality tumbled downhill.

Having been a college cheerleader, Bunny knew all about football. Luckily, the college bowl games were just beginning. With a few wads of cash flung in the right places, she got another bowl game on the schedule: The Apocalypse Bowl, held, appropriately enough, in Hell, Michigan. Based on a variety of criteria—cutest quarterback, prettiest jersey colors, and whether the tight end had a tight end—Bunny chose the University of Michigan verses Kansas State. Blue and purple looked nice together.

For the first time in her life—or more accurately, afterlife—War was more interested in half-time than the game—or more truthfully, than the football players. For her "Battle of the Bands" she selected four marching bands, based on the ferociousness of their mascots.

Sadly, no one used live mascots anymore—just goofy-looking, costumed kids. Having a real wolverine or wildcat on the field could have proved interesting. No matter. That "tossing Christians to the lions" thing had been done to death. If Bunny remembered correctly, which she realized was about a 50-50 chance, martyrdom had been Death's idea, back when he was trying to make the whole dying concept more entertaining.

Bunny wished she'd been around back then. In those days, the boys—the late Horsemen—were so much more fun-loving. That was before their midlife crises when they started taking up stupid hobbies, like ice-fishing.

Finally, the players, covered in sweat and grime, their arm muscles bulging, exited the field for halftime. Bunny sighed appreciatively.

The marching bands, along with their school's mascots and cheerleaders, gathered in their assigned corners. Grambling's Tiger band scurried onto the field in their famous fast-shuffle style while playing their school fight song. Every band played their fight song—it was in the contract.

From the other corners charged the Arkansas Razorback band, Kansas State's Wildcat band, the University of Michigan's Wolverine band—the latter two a given since their teams played. Their mascots and cheerleaders pranced along the sidelines to support their battling bands.

All four bands played at once. The ensuing mishmash of blaring horns and squealing woodwinds assaulted the crowds. At the 50 yard line, the bands met and the brawling broke out—as per their contractual agreement. This time, War had taken every precaution.

Fringed epaulets and tassels flew. Decorative cording was shredded. Tall, plumed hats toppled off and were trampled in the crush. It was everything War wanted—except for the migraine-inducing cacophony. Apparently, bands played poorly while fighting. It only proved what Ares had long tried to explain—War was noisy.

A tuba player crowned another band's conductor with the instrument then shoved the tuba over the conductor's head. The player then snatched a drumstick and banged arrhythmically against the brass instrument. Two trumpeters flanked a clarinet player and blasted reveille in his ears. That one went down screaming.

A piccolo player found a rather creative use for his instrument, one that elicited a painful "Ooooh" from the wincing crowd. War pulled out a pink notepad and scribbled down the piccolo player's name. Later, when he reached the afterlife, she'd introduce him to Vlad the Impaler, as they had something in common. As for the impaled victim, he was farting in A minor.

Mascots and cheerleaders fled the sidelines in screaming panic. Pompoms exploded in a burst of orange, black, purple and gold streamers. The Razorback mascot lost his foam head. Willie the Wildcat kicked the foam razorback head between his feet like a soccer ball. Behind the goal post, Grambling's Tiger huddled in a striped ball. The Wolverine mascot, apparently a gymnast, had managed to climb the goal post. Meanwhile, the cheerleaders ran in circles like a herd of scared sheep.

Just when War thought things couldn't get any better, a mottled sea of purple and blue uniformed players ran onto the field, their shouts a glorious battle cry. After all, football players were modern day warriors.

Then the unimaginable happened. The players stopped the fight.

War shouted from the bleachers, "No!" She readied a tantrum stomp, as this was a new war, but decided to save it—just in case something worse came up. It usually did.

In short order, the battling bands were dragged, carried, or chased off the field. War slumped. Another fiasco. Satan would never promote her. She was stuck being War for eternity. Could her afterlife get any worse?

Her finger snagged on her lavender gown, ripping a stretch of beads. War stared at her broken nail in horror. That was the last straw.

Bunny eyed a pair of approaching football players with fire and brimstone in her eyes—another cool trick that made her pupils turn red hot while sulfurous smoke spilled from them.

In evening gown and low-heeled sandals, War jumped over the railing. She landed lightly on her feet, all those years of dance training paying off. She struck a sexy pose and the two players skidded to a halt. That last ability wasn't one of War's powers—just Bunny's natural talent.

Salivating, a strapping player in Michigan's blue and gold jersey gushed, "Can I help you?"

War swished nearer, staying beyond spittle range. Though her eyes were ready to shoot fire, literally, she kept her tone sugary sweet. Wild contrasts kept mortal men confused and off guard. "You can explain why you stopped the fight."

"We're already on probation for fighting, ma'am," the other player, the one in the purple jersey said.

Bunny glowered. "Ma'am? Do I look like a ma'am to you?"

The Kansas farm boy quickly amended, "I mean, miss." He swallowed hard and regained some of his country-boy, easy-going composure. "May I be frank and ask you a question, seeing as you're War?"

"Sure, Frank, ask away."

"Uh, my name's not—never mind. Does it seem right we should be on probation when we won the bar fight?"

War shrugged. That was a good question, one she'd have to look into. For the time being, she answered, "I didn't make the rules, but I'm sure of this: To Victor goes the spoils. Did you have anyone named Victor on your side?"

"I don't think so," the K-State player said.

"That must be it. The other guys had a Victor." War perched her hands on her hips and glared at a blue-and-gold-clad University of Michigan player. "What's your team's excuse for interrupting the Battle of the Bands?"

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the field. "They were tearing up the turf and we still have half a game to play."

"So? It's only grass."

"Someone could get hurt," he explained.

War harrumphed. "There's bound to be a few bruises in war!" She paused, impressed. She sounded a lot like Ares.

"We had to stop the fighting," the K-State boy said

"Yeah," the U of M player agreed. "There's scouts in the stands and we have our pro careers to consider."

War cocked her head. The fact that opposing teams could cooperate boded ill for war's future. Maybe she should have tried harder for rival teams, or at the very least, for teams where none of the players stood a chance at getting a pro contract.

Oh well, hindsight was 2020—although what hindsight had to do with the year 2020, she couldn't say, considering that was in the future.

"Fine. If that's the way you want it. Play by the rules. See if I care." Bunny vanished in a sulfurous puff of smoke.

Back in her Fortress of Solitude, Bunny finally understood why Ares had spent so much time there. Starting a war was hard work. Then there was all the bad press and funding cuts. If she'd known that before, she would have appreciated how hard Ares had worked in order to buy her nice things.

War poured herself a drink—a cherry atom bomb—and slung a leg over the side of the throne. The fizzy, alcoholic drink tickled her nose. As the bubbles reached critical mass, she held the glass aside to give the fluffy mushroom cloud space to expand. After the fallout settled atop the drink, making a sweet foam, she drew a deep sip, soothing her frustrations.

Her natural blonde personality rose from beneath her dyed hair. So what if she made a lousy War? It wasn't as though any of her fellow "Horsewomen" were any better at their assignments. Horsewomen—that was a laugh. They much preferred limousines to horses—but Satan had yet to approve that request.

Sara Lee hated dieting. Zoe was squeamish and old people disgusted her. Butterflye was scared of bugs, obsessive about bathing and hated the smell of pus. Yeah—they were all "well-suited" to their tasks. However, being a natural blonde, Bunny didn't care.

Well—she cared a little.

So, ensconced in the Fortress of Solitude, she gave the whole war gig another thought. Bloody battles would never be her thing; blood stains were hard to get out. A war made by pushing buttons and launching bombs was noisy and lacked pizzaz.

Maybe boxing matches between world leaders? Or wrestling matches? Except for the cheering crowds, they were a quiet means of settling disputes. A few bloody noses was an acceptable mess. As a bonus, wrestling and boxing had scantily clad, sweaty men. Plus the crowds bet on the outcome—whereas betting on a battlefield winner was in bad taste. For once, war could be a profitable business—to someone other than arms manufacturers. There might even be a television reality series in this. Dollar signs danced through War's mind.

She raised her cherry atom bomb and made a toast. "To war and its long overdue makeover."

She looked over the collection of antiquated weapons and suits of armor. The current decor didn't fit her philosophy of war.

"I think it's time to redecorate. Maybe pink." After all, war didn't have to be ugly and Satan had yet to rescind Bunny's carte blanche. Now that a woman was running things, war would have class.

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