Moonsong, Part III: The Battle of Saint Anthony's
14 September (cont'd):
I’m surprised you’re still awake!
Just kidding. I know diaries can’t sleep. Bwa ha.
So get this. I thought I’d try being clever, and mixed both mango Cali-Calypso and nectarine Cali-Calypso into my yoghurt at the same time. You’d think the results would be amazing, right?
It was a disaster. A thick, goopy, tropical disaster. It tasted like too much and nothing at all, you know? I was about to dump the stuff in the toilet, but I think wasting any amount of Whustor’s Cali-Calypso yoghurt drink concentrate for whatever reason is practically a war crime.
So I left it outside. For the deer. Because sometimes, late late at night, the deer around here wander right up to the school and crap on the steps. And deer eat yoghurt, right?
Ah, who the heck knows?
What I do know is that you’re dying to find out what happened with the aerogirl in the cemetery. Obviously, I didn’t die, but other stuff happened, for sure.
So there the two of us were. In the cemetery, in the fog, waiting for those people from the Order to do whatever it was people from the Order do. The aerogirl tugged on my sleeve and gestured for me to join her behind one of the larger headstones.
So there the two of us were. In the cemetery, in the fog, crouched behind a headstone, waiting for the people from the Order to do whatever it was people from the Order do. The mechanical whir of the aero’s ramp being lowered pushed through the fog. The aerogirl quickly removed the rifle from her back, set the barrel in one of the headstone’s little nooks and clicked off the gun’s safety.
“What are you doing?” I hissed into her ear. “You’re just gonna shoot them?”
The aerogirl clenched her jaw and whispered, “That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
“But they’re human beings,” naïve stupid me pointed out. “Not—not deer.”
“They’re human beings who will kill us if we don’t kill them first,” said the aerogirl matter-of-factly. “You need to trust me on this, Melodia Song.”
“Okay, so side note? It’s not, like, necessary to say my whole name every time you say my name. I love that you love saying it, but—”
I shut up, strained my ears and heard the cautious clang of footsteps walking down the ramp. My breath seized in my throat. I suddenly felt very stupid for having bothered with this whole rescue operation because, clearly, the aero girl could have easily handled herself without my being there.
I heard murmuring a few yards in front of us, and the heavy, precise clicks of automatic weapons being unlocked. Two men draped in heavy-looking off-white cloaks slithered through the fog. I could see their suspicious, roaming eyes and their identically shaved and tattooed heads. The leader of the two wore a face crisscrossed with thick pink scars. His lips had been cleaved almost perfectly in half, and what was left of his nose looked like a wad of pre-chewed Whustor’s Bubble Bonanza. His companion was actually pretty handsome: high cheekbones, brooding eyebrows, a jaw that belonged on a gorilla—the whole set.
Bubblegum Nose raised his chin and actually sniffed the air.
Really? Could he smell us? Was that even possible? Did he have bloodhound DNA or something?
His eyes rolled from side to side as he scanned the cemetery. Finally, those eyes fell on the headstone the aerogirl and I were hiding behind, and they didn’t move anywhere else. The man’s big head tilted in our direction, and the butchered mess of his lips lifted into a sneer.
The aerogirl, I’m happy(?) to report, didn’t even hesitate: the crack of the gunshot spiraled out of the cemetery as a crazed echo, startling the cemetery crows into a cacophony of cawing. She had pinged Bubblegum Nose right in the skullcap and he dropped to the ground with only a small groan and a puff of pink mist. Then she squeezed off a shot at Bubblegum Nose’s handsome, gorilla-jawed companion, but he twisted his body at just the right moment, and the bullet ricocheted off chest armor that was the same color as his cloak.
Gorilla Jaw swiftly drew a rapier and, with an enraged roar, barreled towards our headstone. The aerogirl fired again but missed. When Gorilla Jaw had come too close for her to safely fire another shot, she tossed me the rifle, drew her own rapier and launched herself forward, meeting his steel with her own.
I, meanwhile, just barely caught her gun and clutched it as if it were an alien object. “What am I supposed to do with this?” I squeaked.
“What do you think you’re supposed to do with that?” the aerogirl yelled as she and Gorilla Jaw pushed themselves apart and then lunged at each other again. “Shoot him!”
“I can’t!” I said.
“I’d really appreciate it if you did, kid. The sooner the better.”
But you know, Marzi, I wasn’t lying when I said I couldn’t do it. I’d never held a gun before that point, much less fired one and hit something I’d wanted to hit. The aerogirl and Gorilla Jaw were in the thick of it now: lunging, thrusting, parrying and twirling around the cemetery with such speed and finesse, you’d think the entire fight had been choreographed. If I tried to take a shot at Gorilla Jaw while they were doing that, I’d probably end up blasting off the aerogirl’s legs or something.
So what did I do? Did I stand there looking helpless? Did I run home to bed and weep into my pillow over my incompetence? I’m happy to report, Marzi, that I did neither of those things.
While I definitely didn’t trust myself to use a gun to, you know, shoot things, I was puh-retty confident in my ability to use a gun as a club. Because who doesn’t know how to use a club? Humans have been bashing each other with clubs since caveman days. Which means club-bashing is as second nature to me as it is to everybody else. Which meant, obviously, my chances at failure were puh-retty low, right?
At this point in the fight, aerogirl and Gorilla Jaw had their swords locked again, but Gorilla Jaw had aerogirl pressed up against a tall headstone, and his face was inches from hers, and he was sneering and smirking sinisterly, and muttering probably sick, twisted things. Skilled as aerogirl may have been with a sword, she simply wasn’t as physically strong as Gorilla Jaw, and it was this little fact that was going to screw her over in the end.
So Melodia to the rescue, right?
I hurried up to the duelists as quietly as possible, rifle butt raised and ready to bash Gorilla Jaw into next Tuesday.
Before I could strike, Gorilla Jaw half-turned and backhanded me across the mouth. Apparently, I hadn’t been as stealthy as I thought.
And maybe that moment would have been nothing but a complete embarrassment if Gorilla Jaw hadn’t been distracted long enough for the aerogirl to kick him in the chest and run him through with her sword.
He dropped his own sword and let out such a cry of anguish that I felt sorry for him.
Still, apparently he was determined not to go easily. Even with the aerogirl’s rapier jammed through his middle, he had the strength to roar until his face turned purple. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, he then yanked out a huge curved dagger from somewhere in his cloak and raised it over his head, ready to slash the aerogirl across the face.
But the aerogirl, her eyes cool as coal, swiftly pulled her sword from Gorilla Jaw’s body and sliced him across the throat with a quick, elegant strike. He gurgled and fell.
Her eyes widened a little as she looked at the body, but her face remained cool. “It’s so much different than in the sky,” she said quietly. “Up there, all you have to do is push a button and wait for an explosion.”
“This is the first time you’ve killed somebody?” I said.
“On the ground, yes. I’m not sure I like it.”
“Well, you shouldn’t feel bad. He definitely would’ve killed us if you hadn’t... you know.”
“I know,” the aerogirl said distantly.
“And you were really amazing with that sword,” I babbled on. “I’ve never seen a sword fight up close before. Like, the Fencing Club put on a demonstration last week, but this was different. This was life and death. And you were amazing!”
“I wasn’t so amazing that I didn’t need your help. Thank you for that, by the way.”
“Oh, that definitely didn’t go the way it was supposed to,” I said with a nervous little laugh. “I was supposed to, you know, save save you. Not get hit in the face.”
“It was exactly what was needed,” the aerogirl said as she began wiping down her blade with a raggedy gray cloth, “and for that I shall be eternally grateful.”
“Wow,” I said breathlessly, “I’ve never had anybody be eternally grateful to me about anything before. Just... wow.”
“It’s Francisca, by the way,” said the aerogirl.
“W-what is?” I stammered. I don’t know why I was so jumpy. Maybe because she and I had just undergone a really intimate moment? Maybe I was experiencing some kind of weird comedown. I don’t know.
“My name,” the aerogirl said. “Francisca del Bosque. Francisca Isabella de Dominga del Bosque, if you’d like to be thorough about it.”
“Wow, that’s.... that’s such a beautiful name. Is it Italian?”
“Spanish. And... one you’ve never heard of? The del Bosque part, I mean.”
I shook my head.
“Good. That’s good.”
“Why’s that good?”
“Because, Melodia Song, if one bears a name that is too old and distinguished, it often takes the form of an albatross.”
“An albatross? Wait, what?”
“You’ve never read Coleridge?”
“I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’m just glad you will speak to me as if I’m a person instead of a piece of an enormous legacy machine.”
“Can I call you Frankie?” I said.
“That’s a boy’s name.”
“But it’s also short for Francisca.”
“Since always, I guess?”
“I think we should stick with Francisca.”
“It might already be too late—”
“Trust me, Melodia Song, it’s not. Now, we need to see about getting out of here before more of these people show up.”
“More are coming?”
“Probably yes. These two have been following me since the Atlantic Crossing Station. There’s no way they disembarked from their aero without reporting my coordinates first.”
“What exactly did you do to get these people so angry?”
Francisca’s brow creased a little as she thought. “It’s complicated.”
“Liar. It’s not that complicated.”
That hadn’t been my voice!
Both Francisca and I looked down at the ground to find Bubblegum Nose propped up on one elbow and very much alive.
Marzi, bear with me. I’m aware this seems like the perfect place for a cliffhanger, but it’s not.
If Bubblegum Nose had just been some common brute, some thuggish hired gun or brainwashed loon, you can bet I would’ve made his surprise resurrection a cliffhanger and already gone away to polish off another bowl of yoghurt.
But Bubblegum Nose wasn’t just another brute, and soon you’ll see why. Just bear with me.
Okay, so there we all were: Surprise! Bubblegum Nose was alive.
He muttered something in Spanish and Francisca replied, also in Spanish, sounding a little angry. Then she raised her sword and leveled it at Bubblegum Nose’s throat.
“Uh, guys?” I said quickly. “Maybe a little translation service? My Español starts at hola, peaks at quesadilla and ends at chihuahua.”
“My apologies,” Bubblegum Nose said in heavily accented English. “I merely suggested that what she is doing is wrong, and that she should really consider the desires and intentions of others before continuing with her crusade.” He sneered a little when he said that last word, and I really began to wonder what it was Francisca Isabella de Dominga del Bosque was up to.
The girl of the hour gave a derisive little snort and said, “Were you being considerate when you tried to kill me?”
“You know whom I serve, terrorist. Do not pretend these attacks are a surprise.”
“Okay, so, uh, thanks, everybody for switching to English,” I said, “but, um… I think there are still some holes? What I mean, is… I can understand you, but I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Go ahead,” said Bubblegum Nose. “Tell the child what it is you’re up to. If you’re not too ashamed to speak the truth.”
“What I’m ‘up to’ is the destruction of a potential super weapon,” said Francisca, “and I’m not the least bit ashamed.”
“That is because you know not of what you speak, terrorist. That which you speak of is a symbol of the Great Enlightenment we should all strive to obtain. It symbolizes the hope that we humans will someday escape our base, tribal natures once and for all; that we will elevate such things as logic and Imagination to the level of the stars.”
“All the lofty words in the world won’t mean spit if that thing falls into the wrong hands,” said Francisca.
“If what falls into the wrong hands?” I said. “I really hope I don’t sound like I’m whining, but you guys still haven’t really told me anything. I mean, you say—” I nodded at Francisca “—this mystery thing is a super weapon, and you say—” I nodded at Bubblegum Nose “—it’s the greatest thing since Whustor’s Caramel Creme Nut Balls.”
Bubblegum Nose frowned. “I’m sorry, since what?”
“Not important. The point is, your opinions cancel each other out and that isn’t helpful. Like, at all. So just give it to me straight. Why are we all standing here? Why is this guy dead? I promise I can totally take the truth, whatever it is.”
“I will gladly speak if I can sit up,” said Bubblegum Nose. “And I will only sit up if your friend promises not to stab me.”
“Would it even make a difference if I stabbed you?” said Francisca. “I don’t understand how you’re even still alive.”
Bubblegum Nose rapped his knuckles against the side of his head and was rewarded with a sharp clanging sound. “I have enough metal plates in my head to outfit a battleship,” he said gruffly. “It will take more than a headshot to end me, terrorist.”
“I promise it won’t take much to fix my mistake,” Francisca said, raising her sword again.
“Wait,” I said, holding out my hand. “I want to hear what he’s gotta say.”
“And what could he have to say besides more lofty nonsense?” Francisca demanded. “He’s a lunatic from a company of lunatics.”
“There are no more lofty words within me, if that’s what you’re afraid of,” Bubblegum Nose said, carefully pushing himself up against one of the headstones. “I have only a story. About a girl. A brilliant, sad girl, who was on the brink of losing all hope, and was only saved by the mercy of the Moon.”
Not that is a good place for a break. Just imagine, Marzi: if, on my way to get more yoghurt, I fall down the stairs and break my neck, you’ll never learn Bubblegum Nose’s story. Heck, you’ll never learn Bubblegum Nose’s real name. That’d be a real bummer, right?
Well, I’m not going to break my neck, Marzi. I promise. I’d pinky promise if you had pinkies. But you don’t, so I can’t.
But what I am going to do, is get some more yoghurt. Grape Cali-Calypso this time. Yum.
Back in a Jiff