The Stalk fires over her shoulder as she flees from the giant warthog creatures that are pursuing her.
“Hell,” she says. “FUCKING HELL!”
Into her phone, she says: “Phone: call The Will.”
“Incoming call from. . . The Stalk,” says the phone on The Will’s personal spacecraft. He’s sitting at his kitchen table eating what looks like breakfast cereal out of a huge salad bowl.
“No,” says The Will. “No way. I’m never picking up for that bitch again.”
“LYING,” says Lying Cat. The two share a look.
“What do you want?” The Will says to The Stalk, after answering the phone.
“Nice to hear you, too, Will. How’s my favorite duo these days?”
“We’re busy, real busy.”
“I bet. Look, I found those two deserters and their gross kid, the ones Wreath High Command is offering a boatload for?”
“So you’re calling to gloat?”
“I found them,” The Stalk says, the warthog creatures still hot on her many heels. “But I haven’t captured them . . . yet. This planet is trickier than I thought. I could use a partner.”
“Actually, maybe it’d be best if you and I just kept our distance,” The Will responds.
“What . . .? This isn’t about the Dortminster assignment, is it?” She’s continuing to fire at the warthogs while the conversation continues. “Will, we’re Freelancers! Sleeping around is in the job description!”
“You’re a professional all right. Anyway, good luck with your big career.”
“Oh, fuck you, you self-righteous piece of . . . bald! I hope Lying Cat takes a massive shit on your stupid cape tonight.”
“Call ended,” says the phone on The Will’s ship.
“Mmmrn,” says Lying Cat as the ship passes a giant lighted sign that says SEXTILLION.
“Women,” says The Will.
* * *
Izabel, the glowing red ghost girl missing the lower third of her body, bows as much as a person with nothing but entrails below the waist can, and she says, “Right this way, ladies.”
She is addressing Alana and baby Hazel, of course. Marko is still draped over Alana’s shoulders. All of them are standing in front of what appears to be a giant wall of fire.
Alana says, “You do realize you’re the only one here who’s no longer flammable, right?”
“Chill,” says Izabel, “this inferno is just another mental mirage we use to mess with trespassers. But if you let me tag along, I can help you navigate these Hopscotch Tunnels. My parents built them to hide the resistance from invaders like you guys.”
“Back up, your family were terrorists?”
“I think they prefer ‘freedom fighters,’ but whatevs. The whole rebellion thing was never really my bag.”
“Then how did you . . .?”
“ . . . get my ticket punched? Stepped on a random landmine. Don’t know whose. I guess it’s my patriotic duty to stick around and, like, haunt the enemy, but my heart was barely in the fight when I was alive. Just gimme a little peace and quiet already, you know?”
They are standing beside a subterranean river. There is a boat at the near bank. It is long, with a high prow and stern, sort of like a gondola.
Alana pauses as she regards Izabel. “This soul-bonding thing,” she says. “Will it hurt my girl?”
“Only on the day it ends,” Izabel answers.
Hazel (in VO): Rich kids get nannies, but the rest of us have babysitters.
“Fine,” Alana says. “Just make it fast, please.”
“Sweet,” Izabel says, touching the infant to bond their souls together.
Hazel (in VO): Izabel was my first.
As Alana puts Marko into the boat, Izabel says, “You won’t regret this, ma’am.”
“Call me ma’am again, I find a way to kill you a second time.”
“please . . .” Marko says, in a small, weak voice.
“Great news, hon,” Alana tells her husband. “I bought us a ride in some sort of magic boat, so you should be catching snowflakes on your tongue in . . . no time . . .”
“. . .please tell my bride I loved her . . .” the still unconscious Marko is saying.
“Marko?” Alana says. “Marko, I’m right here.”
“. . .Please tell Gwendolyn I loved her so much . . .”
Izabel and Alana both looked shocked.
“Who the fuck is Gwendolyn?” Alana asks.
END OF CHAPTER THREE