My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Phoenix: Chapter 21

Mark drew breath through his teeth as he eased himself off of the pegasus. I had a feeling that he could use a few riding lessons that didn’t involve him clutching the waist of the person in front of him with his hood up, trying to think happy thoughts.

Xavier led the two pegasi away, supposedly to park them somewhere “safe.” I wasn’t about to doubt his judgment on what that meant, so I didn’t ask questions.

Mark and Key looked at each other. I knew what they were thinking.

“I have an idea,” I said. I zipped up my hoodie and pulled down my hood so that I could brush about half of my hair over my face. Then I put my hood back up.

“You look emo,” Key said, giggling a little.

“Do I look phoenix?”

“No,” she said. “I can’t see your feathers. But can you see your hand in front of your face?”

“Not very well,” I said, holding up my hand to test. I could see the general shape silhouetted against the moonlight, but couldn’t see my charm bracelet on my wrist. “But it should do. All I have to do is go up to the room, right?”

“Right,” she said, still unsure.

We walked into the hotel, leaving a note for Xavier on the ground. I kept my head down. Nobody gave me a second glance. I leaned against one of the nasty puce-colored walls while Mark paid the lady for our two rooms. I was sharing with Key; Mark with Xavier.

Xavier came in holding the note, and Mark regrouped with us, holding the card to the room. Xavier looked at me quizzically, but Key shook her head and he nodded. There were several unspoken lines shoved in there.

I bumped into walls twice on the way to the elevator, and three more times while we tried to navigate the place and find our room. There was nobody around to notice, so it didn’t matter, but the others still sniggered a little.

The night was uneventful after that, surprisingly. We stayed. We left. I think I heard someone speaking French, but apart from sounding weird, it didn’t make any difference for us. I suspected that it didn’t translate into “THEY’RE OVER HERE! Come on, follow me, get the fire ready!” since we weren’t immediately pursued by dragons and/or screaming civilians. Key even said that French was a second language for Canada, and that it was totally normal here for some random dude in the street to be speaking a different language.

We ate breakfast at some little diner that served the most amazing maple syrup you could ever imagine, grabbed some heavy winter coats and backpacks from a supermarket, and enough snacks and sandwiches to fill them twice over. Xavier and I let Mark and Key stuff the packs with all the stuff. The two of them were, for some reason, way better than we were at making the Chips Ahoy fit next to the Subway and the bottle of 7-Up, with the Cheez-Its on top. Key even had the idea of taking the bags out of the boxes, which meant that some of the crackers and cookies and stuff got a little crunched, but fit better. Eventually, it all fit.

And then Mark revealed his cell-phone-tinkering invention.

“It’s a radio,” he explained, “tuned to the Epselan base’s magical frequency. Every place on Earth has its own unique magical frequency, and if there’s something being broadcasted, this device will get to it. It’s designed to pick up magic. I learned how to make these while I worked with the Agency when I was younger.”

Key pursed her lips a little. I knew she was still feeling sour toward the Agency, but she looked eager to see what the radio would do, like a girl waiting for an exciting explosion.

Mark’s radio was just a box with a few wires sticking out of an edge, but he insisted it was tuned to the magical frequency of the Epselan base.

Whatever it was, it fizzed a little and smoked slightly. Mark tapped it on the side.

“Nothing,” he said, disappointed. “Nothing at all. It doesn’t work.”

“Or the base isn’t broadcasting anything,” Key said. “I bet we could hear plenty of angry rants from the Agency. It would be entertaining on the ride, at least.”

Actually, as we took off, it wasn’t entertaining. It was scary. After listening to angry voices in several languages, we heard the English version. I recognized Ian’s altogether-too-miffed voice as he announced that we’d gotten away with Xavier and “two pegasi” and were being tracked. He rattled off a set of coordinates and said that any mages near that area should be looking for us, and warning of our abilities: Mark’s genius and his polar bear side, Key’s computer cracking, my magic and flight abilities, and Xavier’s conversation with pegasi. It also reminded the dragons searching to send in updates of their location every ten minutes so that they weren’t lost.

“We’ve passed that area,” Key said, shocked.

“They have dragons following us,” Xavier said.

“If you hadn’t suggested that Phoebe use magic, Key…” Mark said, and shuddered. His face was white.

“I couldn’t do it again,” I said. “Not that well. But at least we know the radio works.”

“It’s not good, though,” Key said. “It’s not good news. We know that the Epselans aren’t broadcasting anything from the base. It’s… odd. And it doesn’t bode well.”

“What do you mean?”

“It just doesn’t sound good,” she said, shaking her head.

“Does Mark still want to take a train?” I asked.

“What?” Key asked as a rush of wind went by.

“Does Mark still want to take a train?” I repeated, more loudly.

“Why don’t you ask him?” she said.

“His mouth is full,” I said.

“Mnah!” Mark said, through a mouthful of peanut butter Ritz sandwiches.


“Mnah!” he repeated.

“Swallow,” I commanded, and he almost grinned but thought better of it.

“No way,” he said when his mouth was clear. “I still hate traveling like this, mind you. But it would take too long to get a train, and I’m not leaving you alone anyway.”

Currey seemed excited, and very content to carry me across a bunch of freezing Canadian sky. I’d found out that it was late September in the hotel, and it would be nice not to stick around too long here. I hated the cold, but somehow knowing that dragons were after us made me not want to complain about it. At least Mark was in his element—in other words, totally freezing cold—and didn’t seem so ready to throw up as he had been.

We headed northeast for a few hours, along the coast. We were skirting this big area of ocean water and trying to find a place where we could cross easily.

“I vote we cross it now,” I said, staring at a map propped up on Currey’s neck. “Or we could get lunch in that little town. Waterside. You see it?”

“Yeah,” Xavier said, although he looked a little red. Key was hugging his waist and was asleep with her head on his back, and Xavier didn’t look terribly comfortable with this arrangement. Key was, after all, blonde, and took care of her appearance, and having a twenty-five-year-old girl sleeping on him was awkward in more ways than one.

“You need a haircut,” I pointed out, as more and more of his brown hair got into his face. “Take this.” I dug out one of my headbands from my backpack—being careful not to dislodge Mark, who was also sleeping (and snoring, but I won’t go into that) and sent it to Xavier by magic.

He stared at it for a few seconds, before releasing his handhold on Silvester’s reins and put it on. He looked goofy with the purple headband making his brown hair stick up everywhere.

“So are we going to cross?” I asked, staring out over the blue water. “We’re right near Waterside—or… what is it? Cape Enrage?—and we’re going to need food.”

“We have enough to feed an army in our packs,” Xavier said. “We should just land, make another magic-dug well, and feed and water the pegasi. They need to graze for a while. Then we can cross.”

That sounds wonderful, Currey said.

So we landed, woke up Mark and Key, and let Silvester and Currey go. We ate lunch out of our backpacks—pudding cups, bottled juice, giant squished sandwiches. All manner of salty chips, Cheetos (Mark applied some to his sandwich as comfort food), and the kind of chocolate muffins and frosting that would make any nutritionist cringe—or, if we’re talking about what Mark and Xavier ate, make any nutritionist throw up. Teenage guys.

An hour later, we were back in the air. We crossed the outcropping of water, landed on the other side, ate some more and let the pegasi drink again. After Mark and I stared at the map this time, we decided to head southeast and toward another area of water. Across from where we planned to meet it was another outcropping of land, and we planned to make use of it no matter who or what was waiting on the other side. I hoped it wasn’t a big city—our map wasn’t very descriptive.

“Wait,” Mark pointed out, and I knew he’d realized we were going into this blind too. I hoped he wasn’t about to try to stop us from doing it, or make us go over a safer path over land, so that we had a place to hide. Instead, he said, “Let me tune the radio to that spot and we’ll see if we can pick up any dragon stuff from there.”

We sat around the radio for ten minutes or so, waiting for any signals.

“Ian ordered the dragons to send in reports of their position,” Key said finally. “They’re not there.”

“How would the Agency get their reports?” I asked. “The mages don’t know where the dragons are. That’s why they have to report, right?”

“The Agency has a better machine than this,” Mark said. “We’re just kind of tapping a phone line to a certain place, sort of. They have an entire phone, with an answering machine. Nobody’s calling us, and we don’t want to receive calls sent by other people, so we don’t need or want one of those machines. This little thing, though, is great.” He tapped the side of the radio.

“We’ve been here too long,” Xavier pointed out. “We need to keep moving. Dragons fly faster than pegasi.”

So we kept moving. We crossed the water, landed, and let the pegasi rest again, munching on sandwiches while we could.

“Currey, get out of my hair,” I said, dispelling the pegasus’s nose.

I want some sandwich, he said. I tore off a chunk and handed it to him. Currey ate it, smacking his lips with every audible sign of enjoyment. Xavier laughed.

“You read him well,” Xavier said.

“He doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination,” I pointed out.

Silvester sniffed, and Xavier gave him some sugar. “He’s getting jealous,” Xavier said.

From there, we followed the curve of the land around Scots Bay, until it had been dark for several hours. It was starting to get cloudy, anyway.

“Let’s land in Arlington,” I said. “It’s nearby. I think we can make it if I use a little extra magic.”

“It’ll make us more conspicuous,” Xavier warned. “The Agency is probably looking for your kind of magic—phoenix-y magic, you know? We can’t keep doing this.”

“I know,” I sighed, “but we need to be at the Epselan base as quickly as possible.

“If they figure out that’s where we’re headed,” Mark said, “then they’ll send dragons straight there.”

“Just do it for now,” Key yawned. “I’m not a big fan of camping. It looks like it’s going to rain.”

Then I’m not a big fan of staying in the sky much longer, Currey said. And I’m getting tired, too.

“All right,” I said, and did the magic. It was a quick spell, didn’t require any items, and was still bloody hard to do.

But soon the ground was swimming past—it almost felt like it curved if you looked down. Mark shut his eyes and reached for the Cool Ranch Doritos again, trying not to throw up. I wondered what kind of non-nausea tactic involved eating more.

In Arlington, I repeated the emo charade, Xavier parked the pegasi, and we all slept like rocks. But that didn’t keep me from having dreams.

One! Two! Four! Eight! Sixteen! Thirty-two!

Dear butterfly, we have it in for you.

And an apologetic smile.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 12th, 2011 at 5:06 pm and is filed under Phoenix. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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