Dressed to Kill
Mark A Davis
"You have an amazing collection of dresses!" Amaryllis said. "I'm jealous!"
Eve Jaskulski, space babe agent, watched as her girlfriend looked through a colorful rack of outfits. They were aboard S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra, in orbit around earth. The room was largely undecorated, just bright white walls and smooth surfaces with a textured, rubberlike floor, but Amaryllis had discovered the storage closets, flush with the wall on one side of the room, and especially the large closet stuffed with dresses.
Eve lay on her bunk dressed as usual in a silver space babes bikini with go-go boots and a belt for her holstered weapon. She had green hair, eyes that were completely blue, and a deep tan thanks to many days spent in the sun on her girlfriend's fairyland farm in Amethyst.
Eve made a sour face. "I know," she said.
"I've literally never seen you wear one," Amaryllis pouted. The fairy girl was tall and lithe, with lavender hair and violet eyes. Today she wore the outfit that shed worn when they met -- a white blouse with a peter pan collar, and a lavender corduroy jumper dress with a very short skirt. It was the kind of mini dress once popular on earth in the 1960's.
"I don't like dresses," Eve said. "They look fine on other girls, but I wouldn't have any myself if it weren't for this froglike alien known as the King of Throga. We saved his life, and now he sends us three outfits a month, including a ball gown. Muriel gets them too -- there were four space babes who got that reward." She made another face. "So far, even the non-ballgowns have been dresses of some sort...."
Amaryllis pulled out a short black cocktail dress. "Oh, but this is so cute!" she said. "I'd love to see you in it!"
"I can show you a 3-D video if you like," said Eve. "I wear each outfit once, so that we can send back images, that's part of the deal. That's more than enough, if you ask me."
"Aw, you won't even dress up for me? You're no fun at all!" Amaryllis said.
"I'm just not that a dress wearing girl, I guess," Eve said. "They hamper your movements, and they leave you exposed. Anyone who looks up your skirt can see your underwear."
Amaryllis glared at Eve through narrowed eyes. "Eve, Dear," she said, "you spend 99% of your time parading about in nothing but glorified underwear...."
"This is different!" Eve exclaimed. "It's my uniform!"
Amaryllis sighed. She looked at the cocktail dress again. "I think," she said, "that we absolutely must visit a fancy restaurant one night, and you will wear this cocktail dress."
"Why?" asked Eve.
"Because you're my girlfriend, and you'll look very cute in it, and that will make me happy," she said. "I shall probably be prepared to ravish you afterwards...."
Eve sighed. "Okay," she said. "I'll do it. But not today, If you want any of those other dresses, you can have them."
"A tempting offer," Amaryllis said, replacing the cocktail dress, "but not all of them will fit me. You're a good deal shorter than me, Eve, and far more curvy. If there are ones that can be easily altered... oh, what's this?" She pulled out a floor-length ballgown of pale blue. "It has moving pictures!" she exclaimed in delight. Indeed, the skirt played scenes as if from a movie -- all in sepia blue tones.
"That dress," said Eve, "was the first. I wore it the night we saved the Throgan king's life, and he gave it to me as a reward. I mean really, a reward? I never want to wear that thing again!"
"But -- it's amazing!" Amaryllis said, fascinated. She stared as scenes of life on an alien world flashed by. "How does it work?"
"It's just visual fabric," Eve said. "It's a common technology in the interstellar empire. There's a chip hidden within that contains thousands of old flat screen movies from the empire's past -- really old technology that's in the public domain. I've tried watching some of them, but everything's blue, there's no sound, and a skirt does not really make a good movie screen in any case. I'm not even sure if it plays full movies, or just random imaged from the library."
"But this is amazing!" Amaryllis repeated. "I wonder, does the technology work on Amethyst? If so, I know someone who would kill to own this gown!"
Sharp fabric shot across the clearing. Eve dodged as pink silk -- apparently as sharp and hard as a steel blade -- sliced past. In the woods ahead, dresses floated in the air like ghostly apparitions. There was a princess dress -- the one in pink silk -- a black sheath dress, and a bouffant dress in pineapple with raspberry trim. The dresses did not appear as if they were inhabited per se -- no ghostly form filled them out -- but they were apparently sentient and prepared to attack.
Eve gripped a brass-and-wood steampunk blaster. "When you said he would kill to own this," said Eve, "I thought you were joking!"
"The Magician of Dressmaking doesn't like visitors," said Amaryllis. "He's a very reclusive genius. That's why he dwells out on the heart of the Foreboding Forest, and surrounds himself with magically-created guardians...."
The black sheath dress flew forward. Its sleeve shot out, becoming a sharp-edged blur. Eve almost failed to move in time -- the dress grazed her cheek, slicing it with a shallow cut. Cursing, Eve leveled her weapon and fired. Energy struck the dress, which disintegrated.
The other dresses moved swiftly. Eve fired again, but missed. The hem of the bouffant dress became a malformed fist which struck Eve squarely in the face.
As Eve stumbled back, dazed, she heard Amaryllis cry out. Distracted, Eve was enveloped by the bouffant dress. It constricted her until she could not move.
Amaryllis slashed with a kitchen knife, but she was hampered by the garment bag she carried containing the moving picture dress. She was also a farm girl, not a trained fighter. The pink princess dress avoided her blade and struck her, then flowed around her. In moments both girls were wearing the animated dresses. They were unable to move on their own; the dresses controlled them. They turned and marched deeper into the woods.
"This doesn't look good," Eve said.
"I don't think the wizard would kill us..." Amaryllis replied.
They came to an open clearing where sat a small stone castle. An old man waited, tall and thin, dressed impeccably in a pink silk suit with silver buttons and a stovepipe hat. He had wild white hair down to his shoulders, and wire-rimmed glasses that perched on a hooked nose.
The dresses marched the two girls up to this man and paused. They were still unable to move.
"Well," he said, "two girls travel deep into the Foreboding Forest, intent on bothering the Sartorial Sorcerer, do they? What business do you two have with the Warlock of Weave?"
"Hail, great wizard known as Cocoa Champu..." Amaryllis began.
"Wait," said Eve. "His name is Cocoa Shampoo?"
"No," Amaryllis said irritably, "it's Cocoa Champu. It's spelled with a C. You can always recognize a Cocoa Champu design by the double CC initials. That's his trademark, his brand. Now don't interrupt!"
She turned back to the wizard. "Greetings, mighty Frockmancer," she said. "My friend and I have come to bargain."
The wizard's eyes narrowed. "I see that you have brought something with you. A dress? It had better be fabulous, for I have little interest in ordinary raiment.
A portion of the princess dress lifted the garment bag from the girl's unresisting fingers and held it out for the wizard to inspect. He unzipped it and pulled the bag back, revealing the pale blue ballgown with the moving images on the skirt. The wizard's eyes grew wide.
"What is this?" he asked. "Never have I seen it's like!"
"My friend," said Amaryllis, "comes from another universe, where people travel between the stars. This is a common fabric in a place called the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire. It shows images from what are called movies -- moving pictures that tell stories. This dress apparently has access to thousands of such images."
The wizard stared at the dress as the images moved past. Several minutes went by before he finally spoke.
"I will trade for this," he said. "One dress from my collection, or other item of clothing -- any item that you would like."
He snapped his fingers, and the two dresses that Eve and Amaryllis wore -- or did the dresses wear them? -- slid away. Both girls stumbled, surprised to be under their own power once again. Still entranced by the moving picture gown, the wizard spared a sidelong glance at Eve, dressed in her usual silver bikini. "Certainly one of you has need of my creations," he commented.
"Hey! I like my uniform just fine!" Eve retorted.
They made their introductions. The wizard, it appeared, had a great many titles -- the Thaumatailor, the Mage of Smocks, the Costume Conjurer, the Ensemble Enchanter, the Shift Summoner -- but he told them that Cocoa the wizard would do just fine.
"Allow me to guess that which you've come for," he said. "Perhaps it is the Ball Gown of Beauty? When worn, it will make any girl twice as attractive, and will transform men into passably cute women...."
Amaryllis shook her head. The dressmaker pursed his lips. "No? Well, you two are both quite pretty already, so perhaps not. I do have a dress that will make one ugly, and one that will transform the wearer into a crone, and one that will make one look obese...."
"I don't know why any girl would want those," said Amaryllis.
Eve said, "Oh, but those would be very useful as disguises."
"Yes, exactly!" the wizard exclaimed. "I have a full line of dresses useful for disguises! Do you wish to look like a preteen peasant girl? I have a dress for that! Or how about my matronly housewife dress? You can be a wicked witch with a simple change of clothing, or a beautiful princess -- that gown comes in multiple hair colors! Or how about a dress that makes you look like a man?"
"A man... in a dress?" Eve asked, dubiously.
"Well, yes, obviously," said the wizard.
"Those are not what I've come for," said Amaryllis. "What I'm looking for has more... utilitarian applications...."
"Ah, then perhaps the dress of flying?" the wizard suggested. "The Dress of speed? I have a mermaid gown that really does turn you into a mermaid in water -- and it's made of water resistant fabric of course...."
"Is everything you make a dress?" asked Eve.
"Not at all!" the wizard replied. "I have quite a few skirts as well! There's a beautiful a-line stealth skirt in black, for example, or a wraparound skirt of wisdom, or my miniskirt of strength... I also have several aprons that aid one in becoming a better cook...."
"Now we're getting warmer," said Amaryllis.
"You have a surprisingly large catalog of items," said Eve, "for someone who hides in the woods and surrounds himself with guardians meant to drive people away."
"Yes, well," said the wizard, "while I love designing magical clothing for women -- I don't like people that much."
"Have you considered mail order?" Eve asked. "Selling online?"
"That's so impersonal," said the wizard. "I like to know who I'm dealing with."
"Except that you don't like people," said Eve.
"Exactly!" he exclaimed. "But it's nice to know what a customer is like before you refuse to do business with them." He studied the two girls for a moment. "Is this item of clothing for you," he asked Amaryllis, "or a friend?"
"A friend," she replied.
The wizard looked Eve up and down. "I sense that you are something of an adventurer," he said.
"I am an agent for the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes," Eve replied. "My code name is Eve the Explorer."
"I see. Then perhaps it is the Dress of Spontaneous Weapon Creation that you seek...."
"Yes," said Amaryllis. "That is exactly it."
The wizard clapped his hands together. "Wonderful! I happen to have a lovely lavender Lolita pinafore dress with a mid-knee skirt that pairs with a very nice blouse of white silk with Peter Pan collar and Juliet sleeves. It's extremely cute, and can summon any weapon you need at a moment's notice!" He looked Amaryllis over and added, "I'll even throw in a peasant dress for you as a bonus -- one that grants additional strength and endurance...."
"That," said Amaryllis, "would be more than fair." She glanced sidelong at her friend. "But will it fit?"
"All of my dresses resize magically to fit whoever wears them," the wizard said. "Allow me to retrieve the dresses in question...."
Several minutes later, the wizard returned with two hangers containing a yellow peasant dress with a brown corset, and an elaborate pinafore dress in pink and lavender. The lower hem of the dress depicted a scene of cute bunny characters stabbing and shooting each other with all manner of weapons.
Amaryllis held up the pinafore. She grinned, and handed it to Eve.
"Well?" she said. "Put it on!"
"Me?" Eve said, staring at the dress.
"Yes, of course you, Dear Eve," Amaryllis said.
"No thanks," said Eve. "It's far too cute -- not my style at all."
"Dear Eve," said Amaryllis, "This dress is my gift to you."
"Well I appreciate the thought," said Eve, "But Amaryllis, I told you I don't do dresses. Thank you, but... I mean, I don't want to sound ungrateful, but... the last thing I need is another dress...."
Amaryllis grinned. Violet eyes sparkled. "Indeed, Dear Eve, but you also told me that you wear each gift once. I want to see you in this for the rest of the day. We'll have dinner in Amethyst, and then go back to my farm, and once we're in my bedroom, then you can remove it. Do I make myself clear? After tonight, you may do with the dress as you wish."
Eve knew she was trapped. She glanced at the wizard, who said, "You will want the proper undergarments for that -- your bikini, as beautiful as it is, will not do...."
Several minutes later Eve wore the Lolita dress, while Amaryllis had changed into the yellow peasant dress. "I feel like a fool," Eve muttered.
"But you look so cute!" Amaryllis said. She glanced back at the wizard. "How does it work, exactly?"
"Simply think of the type of weapon you desire," the wizard said, "and then lift your skirt up. The weapons will then appear."
Eve frowned. "Seriously?" she asked. She concentrated a moment, then lifted her skirt. Something struck the ground with a thump. She retrieved a long-barreled steampunk rifle with a polished wooden stock, copper fittings and blue steel shaft. There was, however, no barrel -- just a strange collection of coiled copper tubing, and what looked like something meant to conduct electricity.
"Ah!" the wizard said, as Eve cradled the weapon. "A subsonic immolation assault rifle! Very nice!"
Eve sighted along the barrel. "And this works?" she asked.
"Yes, of course," replied the wizard.
"This dress," said Eve, "has practical uses. If only it weren't a dress...."
Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, stared at his new sidekick -- a young girl with dark skin in an elaborate pink and lavender dress. There were murderous bunnies decorating the hem. "You call yourself Ex Habitu?" he asked. "What does that mean, exactly?"
"Out of the skirt!" the girl replied. "Like so!" She lifted her skirt, and six Bowie knives dropped from it.
"So you keep knives under your skirt?" Grandpa said. "I don't see how that's very practical... I mean, you'd have to be very careful when you sit...."
"No, silly!" the girl said. "It's a magical dress -- it can produce any weapon I think of!"
Grandpa's eyes widened. "Really? Give me a Walther PPK- 7.65mm," he said.
The girl lifted her skirt. The weapon dropped out. Grandpa retrieved it and inspected it.
"That's the real deal, all right," he said. "Where did you get that dress?"
Ex Habitu said, "Would you believe I bought it off of Ebay?"