This time it’s Luna’s turn, and our growing team of oddballs are heading to that plane ride. Getting caught as a stowaway is bad, of course, but it matters more by whom.
A “plane” is a contraption that carries things and people through the air, so in a way, the name still made sense. It was the old word for the big, usually white, bird-shaped contraptions that did just that, only those were a lot bigger and a lot faster than what they used now.
Their ride puttered through the sky towards the station and it looked more like one of those mutated mountain goats stuck in the fencing that surrounded the village. Their bloated stomachs bulge around the knot-tied rope because the goats were too dumb to untangle their horns themselves. They watched it land in the hatch in the station hangar just as they neared the front doors.
“Nedj, do I smell?” Jose asked, lifting his arm and holding out his shirt for Nedjma to judge for herself.
“Grody! I’m not going to put my nose in your armpit, Jose,” she said with a disgusted shiver, earning a teasing laugh from the boy.
“I just don’t want people to be able to tell we hiked all the way here,” he said, taking a handful of hand sanitizer from a pump on the wall and shoving it under his shirt. They watched the more well-dressed clientele of the airport walk by in their fancy shoes that clacked with each step. Many of them eyed the two obvious country bumpkins with backpacks packed to the point it looked like the seams would burst if they shoved one more thing inside.
Better to be over-prepared than under, Dr. Louis had nagged. I’ve never had to bring a living body down the mountain, so you can’t be too careful.
“Easy for her to say,” Nedjma grumbled to herself. “It’s already way hard lugging a huge backpack up a mountain, but it’s much worse dragging a big brother with a tiny baby brain along too.” She glanced at the taller man just behind her that still looked like her brother in every way, and a somber expression crossed her face. Then the somber look broke when he reached up to try and pull his sunglasses off yet again. Nedjma smacked his hands away.
“No!” she yelled in a whisper, feeling like she was babysitting the neighbor’s twins again. Anti-Kenneth groaned through the cotton in his mouth. “We’re going to a place that has loads of souuuuls, remember?” She mocked his droning tone, but when he slurred something though the cotton that sounded vaguely an echo of her “souuuuls”, she took that as a yes and yanked him along.
“You ready, Nedj?” Jose asked as they neared the first turnstile.
“You better make this work,” she said, nearly letting her voice shake as she tried not to stare at the woman manning the kiosk. The woman looked hardly awake, probably from working this early in the morning, but to the two nerve-wracked teens who knew they stuck out like a sore thumb here, she was someone who could throw them in the Faraday dungeon before their adventure even started.
“I’m a master wizard in training, remember?” Jose replied, but he sounded just as nervous as she did. He pulled his library card from his pocket, mirroring all the businessmen and women in front of them with their boarding cards. A clang as the turnstile unlocked for the next person. And the next. Jose’s hands got clammy around the little plastic card. It was finally his turn. After all that effort to find a three-person group in the parking lot and get Chanel Stamp to steal their pass long enough to use a copy spell on it, it would be a total disaster to let it fail now. Keep the spell up for just a few more seconds, and they were basically home-free.
He held his card over the reader on the turnstile, letting his hand hover there while it read the code. One second. Two. Three. And a beep. And a clang. Jose almost dropped the card from his sweaty hands in relief, but that would have revealed that it wasn’t quite the right card to use. Jose stepped through before the woman could stop him, Nedjma following behind until the woman’s “ma’am? Sir?” stopped them dead in their tracks. Nedjma turned almost a little too fast. Jose threw a knowing look at Nedjma’s furious-looking face, one that he knew meant she was actually at the edge of her nerves.
The woman hesitated at the sight, but stumbled on. “Is he alright?” she asked, waving a hand to Anti-Kenneth. He began to reach for a sandwich she had sat behind her kiosk, and Nedjma yanked his hand back. He groaned something else incomprehensible through the cotton.
“Oh, no, he’s fine,” Nedjma answered not at all naturally. “He just had dental and eye surgery, so he’s very loopy right now.” Nedjma waved her finger around in a circle next to her head to illustrate, and Anti-Kenneth groaned once more, moving to take the sandwich again, but she held his arm in place. That seemed to convince the woman enough, or at least make her uncomfortable enough to just let them go, because she nodded and wished them safe passage, turning back to the rest of the people in line.
Dr. Louis phased her face out of a wall just up ahead, sticking a thumbs up alongside her exaggerated but still glowing smile. Nedjma’s face twitched as she mouthed some more curses at her, telling her to leave. Whether she could read them or not, the Dr. got the message and rolled her eyes, phasing back into the wall. The cold trail she left in the Kingdom of Verithiel let her know she was following along at nearly the same pace.
“Okay,” Jose whispered. “Three… two… one… gotta motor!” They all took off down the corridor as soon as they passed the corner, not willing to wait and see how long it took for the real boarding card holders to show up. They ran to the terminal, where passengers for their plane were already lining up to board. Nedjma was nearly barreling through the line, pulling along a wobbly Anti-Kenneth with Jose pushing him from behind.
Suddenly being in the nice, rosewood lined cabin with velvet seats was enough to make her freeze. It smelled like lavender perfume and fancy wine, and the sparkle of the glass chandelier totally distracted her from the loudly complaining passengers she pushed out of the way to get on.
“Are we safe now?” Dr. Louis whispered from behind the curtain that covered the stewards closet. Jose and Nedjma shoved their bags in the closet with her and Jose pointed to the hall for them to keep going.
“We still have one possible obstacle, and if we get caught,” he started, walking down the aisle stiffly, glancing every which way. “Don’t worry about the dungeons, we’ll be killed to death.” Dr. Louis followed down the hall, staying just inside the walls.
“Is it really that dangerous? We really should have talked about this before, included it in our plans-“
“What?” Nedjma almost laughed, clapping Jose on the back from behind him. “Do you know how many planes there are? We’d have to be toootally unlucky to be on the exact same one. Relax, we’re fine on that account at least. Now if you would stop that-!” Nedjma pulled Anti-Kenneth’s hands away from his sunglasses, having nearly pulled them from the tape keeping them on his hat.
“Nearly to the back balcony,” Jose whispered to himself and gave a nervous laugh. “Yeah, totally unlucky…” Jose jerked to a stop and did a 180* so fast he went dizzy for a second, but no one but other passengers were filing down the hall. Nedjma stopped to look at him weird.
“No sight of that horrible mustache yet,” Jose explained meekly, and then thrust his arms to his sides, falling to his knees.
“Jose, what-!” Nedjma tried to yell before she did the same thing, not managing to get the rest out through gritted teeth.
“Looking in all directions for incoming attacks means up as well, boy-o. I taught you better than that,” a voice bellowed from above before a portly man slid down the metal ladder next to them. The strong jaw made the handlebar mustache look unnecessary, instead making him look like an old timey boat man from those kids books. “And stop calling it horrible, you won’t convince me to shave it off no matter what you and your mother say.”
Jose slumped, utterly defeated.
“Yes sir, sir dad.”