Prince Robot IV has traveled to the detention facility where Alana once worked. It’s where she broke her husband Marko out, in fact. The prince is interviewing a Moonie prisoner, who is sitting at a table with a bag over his head.
“I’ve come a long way to speak with you, so listen carefully,” Prince Robot IV says. “My name is Prince Robot IV, and I can make life in here at least somewhat more tolerable for you. Can you understand language?”
“Fiku vin mem!”
“Good enough.” The prince pulls the bag off the prisoner’s head. “I’d like to ask you some questions about a guard who used to bring you your meals.”
Alana’s face appears on the prince’s viewscreen head. “What do you remember about this woman?”
The horned prisoner spits at Prince Robot IV’s face. The prince wipes the spittle off, continuing his questioning, seemingly unperturbed.
“I’ll take that to mean she provided the kind of humane treatment you barbarians have never afforded your prisoners of war.”
Prince Robot IV produces a clear plastic evidence bag. In the bag is what appears to be a trashy romance novel with a lurid cover. The title of the novel is A Night Time Smoke, and the author on the book cover is D. Oswald Heist.
“Now then,” the prince continues, “One of Alana’s colleagues here at the detention facility said that the Private First Class was often seen reading a particular novel. Haven’t had the chance to peruse it myself, but it looks relatively harmless.” He shows the book to the prisoner. “Tell me, does this mean anything to you? Did Alana ever try to share passages from this tome with anyone?”
The prisoner says nothing.
“Right,” Prince Robot IV says. “Worth a shot. You see, we’re having a devil of a time trying to understand exactly what happened here.” Marko’s face appears on the prince’s viewscreen. “How did Prisoner #9763572 escape on Alana’s watch? And why didn’t he take you or any other Wreath prisoners with him?”
“Marko estas perfidulo.”
“So his birth name is Marko, eh? Now we’re getting somewhere.”
After a brief stunned silence, the prisoner says, “You machine head. You there at Threshold None?”
“I fought at the Threshold, yes. Along with a lot of other brave soldiers. What does that have to do with Alana?”
The prisoner laughs. “No thing. I just like remember how much of you assheads we bury that day.”
Prince Robot IV’s viewscreen face turns to static. White noise. Tssssssssssss.
Suddenly, the prince flips the interview table over and attacks the sitting prisoner. He knocks him into the wall. The material of the wall itself is cracked from the force of the violence.
“Har,” the prisoner says through his bloodied mouth. “’Humane.’”
The prince kicks the downed prisoner, morphing his right hand into a cannon that he points directly at the prisoner’s face.
“Your majesty!” says a shocked Lance Corporal McHenry, who is peeking through the door. “What the heck are you doing?”
The image on the prince’s viewscreen is now a violent hurricane swirl.
“Commencing my interview,” the prince says. “Now be a dear and fuck the fuck off.”
* * *
Hazel (VO): Help can be nice, but some jobs are just too important to delegate.
“Nnf!” Alana grunts as she carries the unconscious Marko up a rocky incline.
“This is so stupid,” says the glowing red ghost girl who floats along after her.
“No . . .nnf. . .it’s not. My map says there’s something called the Fort and Mountain. . .nnf!. . .on our way to the Rocketship Forest. At that elevation, there’s bound to be . . .nnf! . . .snowfall.”
“Yeah, but your husband will bleed out by the time you lug him there. I know a shortcut. All you have to do is let me hitch a ride with your kid!”
“Forget it. I’m not about to share my newborn with some anonymous spook from—Uhnf!”
“I’m not anonymous. My name is Izabel.” Now the red ghost girl with her entrails hanging out has a name.
Alana sits on a ledge to rest a moment. Baby Hazel is beginning to cry.
“Hazel, please,” Alana says. “Mommy just fed you.”
“She’s not hungry, she’s gassy,” Izabel says. “You’ve been burping her all wrong. You gotta get right between the wingtips with the flat of your palm. Don’t be afraid to really whack the crap out of her.”
Hazel continues to wail until Alana follows Izabel’s instructions, striking the baby’s back with a loud whap. This quiets the infant.
“Oldest of seven here,” Izabel says, showing her I-told-you-so face. “I’m guessing you were an only child?”
“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I can’t trust my only child to someone I just met. I’d have to discuss it with my husband before—”
“Dude, your husband is gonna die!”
“Then I’ll find him . . .nnf . . .a resurrection spell.” Alana hoists Marko’s lifeless form over her shoulder again, straining beneath his weight.
“There’s no such thing,” Izabel says. “Trust me, dead is dead, and it blows.”
“. . .I’ve been burned before. How do I know your shortcut is even real.”
“I’ll show you. Come on, follow me!”
“Into the ominous cave of doom?”
“Or you can take your chances out here. But fair warning, not all the locals are as awesome as me.”
As Alana, Izabel, Marko and Hazel enter the ominous cave of doom, this scene, and this part of the chapter, comes to a close. Join us next time, when we check in on The Stalk and The Will (with Lying Cat, naturally) and finish up Chapter Three.
How does Izabel plan to save Marko, and just what does she mean about hitching a ride with baby Hazel? What is the importance of the trashy romance novel that Alana used to read at the detention center before breaking Marko out? Will our heroes ever reach the Rocketship Forest and escape from this planet?
These questions and more will probably not be answered next time.