SG: Rad #97 (3/4): in my
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious.com
Fri Feb 27 03:59:12 PST 2009
(continued from part two, preceding...)
Rumiko and Lemon walked along a broad path that Rumi remembered
as leading back to the highway, and eventually Shadebeam and Slithis's
house. People were still at work on setting up the entertainments and
gathering areas for the upcoming Burning M00se festival, but they
seemed fewer and farther between than before. Esteban floated along
with them, sometimes checking readouts from the monitor she had seen
him and Coco installing earlier into Los Pantalones, more often
playing some sort of game with Coco, who was apparently trying to do a
mid-air dance timed with Esteban's hand movements. Lemon's role
appeared to be to try to distract Coco with waved hands and jumping.
Rumi watched, the problems that had resulted in her being way out here
in the desert seeming far away.
On remembering this, they immediately seemed much closer. She
must have made a face, she realized, as Coco noticed, and immediately
*You okay, Rumi?* he thought at her. His voice in her head had
the sound of a spaced-out boy, though his words seemed sober enough.
He gave her another hug, then did a pirouette.
"I'm okay," Rumi replied. "Just... I was forgetting for a bit.
I don't want to do that."
"You can hear him?" Lemon asked. Rumi nodded. "She can hear
you?" Lemon asked, this time looking at Coco. Coco grinned. "Why
can't *I* hear you?"
"Lem," Esteban started, "you know---"
"Bioelectric charge," Lemon interrupted. "That was it, right?
When she charged you up, she formed this connection to Los Pantalones,
and through them to Coco. Damn!" He spun around, then laughed.
"The answer was here all along!" He stopped, then peered at Rumi.
"But how did you generate enough current?"
"It was more like it took the charge from me," said Rumi. "And I
don't know how much current... it took me by surprise. I can't even
generate current, usually. He told you my dad's Rad, right?"
"Yeah," said Esteban. "His tan is totally wicked. How come you
don't have one like his?"
"I did when I was born," Rumi replied, thrown by how quickly
Esteban's train of thought switched tracks. "But by the time I
reached ten, it faded. Docs said it was a long-term side-effect of
the work they had to do so I could be born in the first place. The
psychokinetic abilities I inherited from my dad... they didn't play so
well with the bioelectricity on my mom's side. One side had to be
kinda suppressed, and it ended up being the bioelectricity. I still
generate electricity... it's not like they took those organs out...
but that power gets absorbed by the psychokinetics. Usually."
"But it was crazy, right?" Lemon asked. "Hottentottians don't
generate much current. I mean, more than humans, sure, but still
under a couple hundred milliamps even when flying. And the zaps don't
kill, even though they hurt like a mofo and tingle for days... and can
be kinda fun. But Los Pantalones needed more than a couple hundred
milliamps, right? I mean, that's what we figured---"
"Right," said Rumi, to forestall another ramble. She assumed he
knew what he knew about Hottentottians from talking with those working
on and attending the festivals, but refrained from correcting Lemon on
several misconceptions. One among these corrections was that a great
deal of current was required for flight. In fact, the 'tactile
telekinesis' that almost every Hottentottian possessed that gave them
flight capabilities required no more current than was used by any
flight-capable superguy on Earth, who did not have the organs the
Hottentottians had that produced bioelectric fuel. A more germane
correction would have been that fully adult Hottentottians *could*
generate more current, if they made a concerted and willful push to do
so. If they wanted to generate enough current to kill.
If Los Pantalones had forced her to generate such a current,
bypassing her genetic twists that otherwise would cause the current to
dissipate, then it was not such a mystery that she had lost
consciousness when it happened. Possibly, it was a lucky thing she
had not been more badly damaged.
"Not sure what happened," she said, aware that they were still
waiting for her to say something. "Must have been... one of those
things." She shook her head, which did little to clear it. "Look,
Esteban, you and I have to get back to Shade's house. After I told
her what was going on, she said she could teleport us to where your
brother was taken. My mom, my uncle, and Cendra are probably there
Esteban's eyes widened, and his armored lower half slid about in
the air as if he was about to wipe out. He recovered, holding out his
arms as if they factored in to his balancing act. He had, long ago
that afternoon, told her that the pants worked by tapping into his
mind and becoming an extension of it, which Rumi took to mean using
his nervous system to transmit data and receive commands. It appeared
that the interface was even more intimate than that.
"She's sending us?" he asked, sounding incredulous.
"I told her about... the stuff that happened," said Rumi.
"Including the dream."
"Dream?" Lemon asked. His eyes flicked from her to Esteban and
Rumi did not feel like going into details, and there were some
details--such as the fact that her aunt, Akane Moroboshi, had
apparently projected herself into the dream from wherever she now
lived--that she could not reveal. But she wanted to tell Esteban as
much as she could. His situation was hers.
The version she revealed left out Akane's identity--Rumi referred
to her as 'the Green Lady,' as that was how she had appeared in
Esteban's dreams--and the entirety of the second half of the dream,
which had been personal to Akane and to Rumi, and would have meant
nothing to Esteban. But she did tell about being suspended above the
jungles of Central America in 1899, and seeing a bronze-gold airship
called the _Subtler Than Light,_ commanded by an 'evolved bonobo' who
looked human and was named Capella. She told him about a floating
bronze-gold bubble occupied by a gorilla-sized bonobo named Erasmus
Fancy and four others, and Los Pantalones, being flown by a boy in his
"My grandfather," said Esteban. "James Cartier."
"No... way!" Lemon exclaimed. He gaped at Esteban. "Dude!
That's so crazy! He was in my dream that one time, too! In one of
the Cities of Gold! You remember, I told you the Green Lady said---"
"You know her, too?" Rumi asked.
"She's been in three of my dreams," said Lemon. "All stuff that
had either happened or was going to happen. The Green Lady said
that's just how it happens when she shows up."
Rumi nodded. Akane had said something similar to her.
Coco, who had been enjoying being cradled in Rumi's arms, looked
at Esteban, and immediately floated over to him. Esteban had a look
close to panic, for no reason that Rumi could see. Lemon, however,
seemed to know more about it, and placed a hand on Esteban's shoulder.
"Hey, Este," he said. "We talked about this, remember? You can
"But I've only got half a suit," said Esteban. "What good is
only half a suit? It didn't save my great-grandfather. I mean... I
don't think it did. He never went back to the East Coast. How can I
think I can...?"
"Can what?" asked Rumi.
"Be a superguy," Lemon replied, still looking at Esteban. "Ever
since he and the armor... I mean, ever since he got the armor... he's
wanted to be one. Dreamed of it, even."
Rumi did not ask if it was one of the 'significant' dreams that
accompanied a visit from the Green Lady. It was significant, all
right, but not in that sense.
"Something will happen," said Esteban. "I don't know everything
about why the armor does what it does. You remember what happened the
first time I tried to fly, right?"
"Dude, that was crazy, sure," said Lemon, "but I totally pulled
you out of that dumpster before anyone saw. And you've gotten so much
better at it now. I mean, look at you! You're totally in control and
stuff. You'll be awesome!"
Rumi watched Esteban's face as Lemon spoke, and saw the tension
pass. It was clearly not the first time Lemon had had to give Esteban
a pep talk. She thought about her initial impression of Esteban,
about how he was a boy who spent far too much time in his room instead
of being out with friends, and how different he seemed when he was
around the one who was clearly his best friend. Had she been the one
trying to give Esteban some confidence, Rumi thought, she would not
have had such an effect.
"Okay," said Esteban, exhaling the last of his panic. "Okay."
He waited a few seconds, then threw in a third 'okay' for good
"Besides," said Lemon, indicating Rumi with a vague hand gesture,
"you're going to be with the girl of your dreams, right? No worries!"
"What?" Rumi asked.
"What?" Esteban asked, though the look he gave Rumi was not one
that suggested he had no idea of what Lemon was talking about.
Rumi thought fast. Aunt Akane had visited Esteban in several
dreams, more than one of which included Rumi. Akane had said that one
of them was the kind of dream where Esteban out to at least know who
she (meaning Rumi) was. Which could have indicated a variety of
activities, but was probably not along the lines of playing Parcheesi.
Lemon turned from Esteban to her. "Nothing. I shouldn't have
said anything. You just met, right? Crazy talk. Just crazy. Don't
mind me, I babble. Ask them." He waved at Esteban and Coco, the
latter of whom nodded. "Still, I'm in L.A. when school's in. Dad has
custody of me and sis then."
"And you're telling me this..."
"Hey," he said, spreading his hands, "if you're not the girl of
his dreams, maybe I can be the boy of yours."
She should have been angry at what she said, or the wink he threw
in, but his smile was such that the emotion was never more than a
thought. Aunt Shadebeam was right, it was a smile that would lead no
place good, and for a moment, it was a place Rumi found appealing.
Only, she told herself, for a moment.
"Lemon, lay off," said Esteban. "We've got to get to Shade's."
Rumi wondered at the tone of Esteban's words. It sounded like
jealousy, but she had only met Esteban that day. Not that time
mattered--she had been smitten with Aran the day on Planet California
she met him, and was trying to resist it with Lemon. But she had
never thought she was the kind of girl someone would fall for like
that, and it felt strangely good to realize she could be.
Still, if Esteban's dream was at all prophetic... well, she liked
him well enough, as a friend. And he was on the average side of
handsome. So... not impossible, but not likely, either. Best, she
thought, to not assume she knew what Esteban's dream had shown.
"Right," said Rumi. "Shade's. Let's go."
Esteban was still looking at Lemon, and seemed to want to say
something else. But he just nodded, then floated next to her as she
walked. Their path took them through a narrow passage partially
occupied by a group of mages trying to both keep a large sphinx statue
animated and teach it the rules of volleyball. Rumi squeezed around;
Esteban and Coco floated over.
"I'll see you later!" Lemon called to them. "I'll just be over
there! Doing... doing that thing that's fun! And..." She missed his
last words, and did not turn back for clarification. Esteban and Coco
floated down to her side.
"I'm sorry about that," said Esteban. "He's kind of... who he
is. I mean---"
"I get what you mean," Rumi interrupted. Then she saw his
expression, similar to what it had been earlier when Shadebeam had
scolded him for using a stolen teleport-spell-laced bead to bring her
here, and checked what she had been about to continue with. She took
a breath, then gave him a smile. "He's fun to be around, you gotta
give him that."
"I just wish he could, you know, dial down," Esteban replied.
"Not all the time, I mean, just... once in a while." He took a
breath, let it out. Rumi tried not to giggle when she saw Coco mimic
the action. Esteban saw, grinned, and swatted at Coco, who stuck out
his tongue and flew a few feet away.
*He is right about one thing,* thought Coco.
"He... I know," Esteban said. He sighed. "I do good when I'm
not thinking about it. Like when I... um...."
"Like when you caught me when I was unconscious and falling,"
said Rumi. "Thank you for that."
"You're... welcome," said Esteban. "I think, ever since I bonded
with Los Pantalones and read great-grandfather's journal, I knew I
wanted to follow in his footsteps. Or contrails... doesn't that make
more sense? I mean, if he flies most of the time, he's not leaving
"It works," Rumi replied. "Come on. Aunt Shadebeam's waiting."
She rose from the ground, employing her psychokinetics to fly
alongside Esteban and Coco.
"I don't know who won the race between you and him earlier," she
said, "but I bet I can get to Shade's house first!"
"You're on!" Lemon replied, a grin breaking over his features.
"I... hey, Coco! No head starts!"
The bonobo ignored them, flying between floating work-mages
carrying what looked like an enormous tentacle with a sock puppet at
one end. Rumi and Esteban took off after him, laughing as they flew.
Rad blinked, and tried without success to open his eyes. Small
hands were over his lids, keeping them shut. A weight on his back
told him the hands belonged to a monkey, likely of the demon-looking
variety. He was sitting on a flat surface, and his body hurt far less
than he would have expected from the unchecked plunge he last
remembered being on.
But being kept blind by a monkey would not do. He tried to blast
it back... and nothing happened. He tried to bring up his
psychokinetic shielding... and nothing happened.
"What's going on here?" he asked. At least, that's what the
voice that came from his mouth asked. Rad was quite sure he had meant
to say 'like, whoah, what's, like, going on here, like, y'know?'
A cacophony of monkey noises around him revealed that the monkey
on his back was far from the only one in the vicinity. The two hands
over his eyes disappeared, along with the weight on his back. He
opened his eyes, and saw he was on the deck of the _Subtler Than
Light,_ surrounded by demon monkeys. Some held cutlasses. Others
held daggers. Still others held overlarge but unmistakably gunlike
objects, not aimed at him but close at hand.
"Ok, which one of you is head monkey?" Rad asked. Again, he
compared what came out of his mouth from what he intended to say
("Like, okay, dudes, which one of you is, like, head monkey dude,
y'know?"). At once, he became alarmed. Something had happened that
had not only robbed him of his psychokinetic abilities, but had also
affected his brain, causing him to drop key words out of his speech.
"Take me to your leader," he said, hoping the monkeys would be
able to understand despite all the missing words.
The monkeys did seem to understand, for they made gestures
indicating that he should stand. He did. Next, they made gestures
indicating he should 'walk this way.' Before he could reply with a
hypothetical statement indicating what else he could do if he could
walk that way, they added the gesture to not make that sort of
statement. Rad withheld the statement. They walked.
Before ducking his head to enter a turret, Rad looked back at
the bulky shape of the _Vander Harkness._ Its movements were quiet
again, or perhaps they only seemed that way as he was inside the
shielding the _Subtler Than Light_ possessed. A fire raged unchecked
at one of the _Vander Harkness's_ corners. But the _Subtler Than
Light_ was not pressing its advantage. Not yet, at least.
If the deck of the _Subtler Than Light_ resembled, at least in
superficiality, an enormous version of a nineteenth-century warship
deck, its interior was sleek, rococo-styled, and submarine-like. Not
a cramped Earth submarine, to be sure--this was more along the
extravagant stylings of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,' only with lots
of rococo ornamentation larded onto the walls and door frames.
Moreover, it seemed the occupants liked their botany, as there were
leafy plants and ferns and even the occasional potted palm tree to be
seen. They passed other monkeys, who regarded him with a small amount
of curiosity before returning to their work.
"Rad," a voice crackled in his head. "...sssst...ssou there?
"I'm here," he said. The demon monkey leading him gave him a
strange look, but did not stop. "My powers went away. And I suffered
some kind of brain damage, which is affecting my speech. I hope you
can understand me."
"...sssink this is the frequen... hello? Rad?"
"Still here," Rad replied. He and his captors had reached a
ladder, and Rad obeyed when the demon monkey indicated he should climb
down it. "Did you hear what I said before?"
"Yes," the voice answered, with a bit more clarity. He
recognized it as Elizabeth Tirkoff's. The onetime Healer was on board
the _Vander Harkness,_ and had apparently suspended her efforts to
telepathically locate the underground base now that Mighty Guy and
himself had opened up the way to it. "I can understand you fine,
possibly for the first time in my life. Did they fire something at
you that made your powers go away?"
"I don't think so," said Rad. He reached the bottom of the
ladder, another extravagant corridor that, in addition to fearsome
armed demon monkeys, also had a fruit bar and chocolate fondue
fountain. "It happened when I flew directly over their vessel. I
weakened and fell. I think the monkeys must've teleported up, caught
me, and teleported me down, otherwise I'd be in rougher shape."
"What are they doing with you?" Dr. Gigawatt's voice broke in.
"Are they interrogating you? You must resist their attempts to get
information out of you! Bhossi and Cla'rabhelle are rushing their
adjustments to our shields, but we need time! Do not let them torture
"Mmph?" asked Rad. He finished his chocolate-coated strawberry
and repeated. "What?"
"I'm okay," Rad interrupted. "I think I'm being taken to see
The door at the far end of the corridor opened. The lead demon
monkey wiped the chocolate from his (the demon monkey's) mouth and
gestured that he should enter. He did, noting that none of the
monkeys followed him.
What he had expected to be a control room of some sort was, for
the most part, empty. Even the bronze-gold walls, which curved all
around, were free of ornamentation. An oval window--or possibly a
viewscreen made to look like a window--showed Dodger Stadium, and the
battle taking place in the parking lot. The stadium must have had a
backup generator, Rad thought, as its lights were still on, though the
surrounding area had gone dark due to the loss of the nearby power
station. They were too high up and too far away for Rad to pick out
details of the battle.
Rad walked to the opening, and found it was indeed a window. The
glass was thick, and somehow metallic to the touch. He guessed it was
actually nectarisite, the same metal that formed everything else on
the ship. Two buttons and a lever on a ball bearing were at the lower
edge of the window. When he pressed one button, the scene below
seemed to magnify. The lever oriented the picture, though the 'glass'
did not tilt or otherwise move.
In this manner, he was able to zoom in on the battle taking place
in the lot. Demon monkeys appeared and disappeared too fast to
follow. Pseudo-zombies and pseudo-ninjas fought them, displaying
surprising speed and strength, though it was often wasted on their
quicker and cannier foes, particularly when the zombies and ninjas
stopped to raise their hands and wave them about for no discernable
reason. Rad guessed a local radio station was playing a song telling
listeners to throw their hands in the air like they did not care.
His friends were on the ground now, doing their best to suppress
the battle and keep casualties on all sides to a minimum. Even Guido
was showing uncharacteristic restraint, using one of the lightest
grenade launchers Rad had ever seen him wield. Mighty Guy sailed by,
still hampered by monkeys who had discovered his ticklish zones. He
was lost to sight, but the implosion of a nearby warehouse revealed
where he had landed.
They were holding their own, but little more. Though HotFlash
and MeltDown were still in good fighting shape, Confusion,
Criticalman, and Guido had not been in the field in quite a while, and
it showed. At the moment, everything was chaos, but Rad had the sense
that the demon monkeys were gaining the upper hand, and they soon
would have the perimeter around the elevator shaft secured.
And then what? The monkeys could not get down the shaft
directly, else they would have done so already. So they were keeping
it open... so the _Subtler Than Light_ could do something.
"Hey, guys..." he started, hoping to get Dr. Gigawatt's thoughts
on the matter. He heard the door hiss behind him, turned... and
immediately clenched his teeth to keep his jaw from dropping.
"Hello, Mister Former Emperor Rad Moroboshi," said the woman
before him, her voice silken soft--not quite catlike, but close
enough. "I should say 'thank you for dropping in,' but that's rather
gauche, don't you think?"
Though about a foot shorter than he, she projected stature as she
walked toward him. Though she wore a black uniform that was clearly
military in nature--an impression back up by the insignia over her
left breast: three starbursts with a circle around the center burst--
it did nothing to lessen her voluptuous curves, or the appealing ways
they shifted as she moved. Her gold hair was shoulder-length and
braided in the back, and her eyes seemed a bit large for the rest of
her face. Her lips were lush, red, and at the moment curled up at the
edges. Were it not for the short, gold fur covering her face and
neck, she could have passed as human. Her perfume reached him, an
exotic scent he could not immediately identify, save that he liked it.
"Hi," he said, mildly relieved that his voice, though still
dropping important words such as 'like' and 'babe,' did not tremble.
"My name's Joe Moroboshi. 'Rad' is what everyone calls me."
She smiled. Though he saw no gaps, her teeth seemed sharp.
"Rad, then" she said. She stopped about a foot-and-a-half from
where he stood, then crossed her arms. "Just what should I do with
"Rad," Chalandra's voice crackled in his head. "Do not trust a
single thing she says. If that's who we think it issssqqrrkkkk...."
All at once, his head was quiet. He frowned.
"I had you brought here so we could be alone," she said. "People
listening in through your implant is not 'alone.' So, I cut them
off." She held no control, so Rad did not see how she had
accomplished this. "Now... Rad..."
Before he could stop her, she grabbed the collar of his t-shirt
and pulled him forward, so that he was bending down to the level of
her face. He felt strange, off-balance, defenseless... and oddly
"...why do you act in defense of the wanted fugitive Erasmus
Fancy?" she asked. "He is no more a friend to your world than he is
to ours. You should be *glad* we have come to take him away!"
Rad remembered what Cla'rabhelle had said before about Erasmus
Fancy being considered an arch-criminal mastermind by the Hidden
Empire. But he knew little more about him besides that. So it was
time to stall.
"You never told me your name," he said, wishing she would let him
regain his balance.
"My name is Capella," she replied. "I'd ask if you were happy to
see me, but..." She paused, inhaled, then smiled her sharp smile.
"...I guess I don't need to."
Then she kissed him, and the world melted away.
(continued in part four, following...)
Elizabeth Tirkoff appears with permission of Eric A. Burns-White.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Gary W. Olson. All Rights Reserved.
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious dot com
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