It’s the musical episode! Jose battles his father, Nedjma battles her inability to speak her feelings, and Lulu just battles to fly an airship. Meanwhile, Luna has a suuuper hard time figuring out the twist. It’s a longer show this time!
“That’s Captain dad, to you!”
Nedjma and Jose struggled against their invisible bindings, but it was no use – their arms and legs stayed pinned. Captain Alexander tutted as he watched them squirm.
“No need for alarm!” he announced to the airplane at large. “I’ve just rounded up a couple of stowaways.”
He arched a bushy eyebrow at Jose, as if he, Nedjma, and Anti-Kenneth were nothing but silly kids pulling a prank.
The other passengers didn’t seem moved. If they looked up from their magazines or turned off their Jogman cassette players, it was almost exclusively to roll their eyes.
“Take a chill pill, man!” called someone from the line of passengers still waiting to board. “Or not, whatever. Just let us on!”
“Certainly!” puffed Captain Alexander.
A flick of his wrist, and Jose, Nedjma, and Anti-Kenneth hovered a few inches into the air. Nedjma yelped, but Jose only scowled. Clearly, this wasn’t the first time his father had used magical means of punishment.
“We’ll be taking flight on schedule,” Captain Alexander boomed. “This will be a full flight, so middle seats must be filled. Oh, and remember, this is a drug-free zone, chill pills or otherwise.”
Giving a hearty laugh, Captain Alexander scaled the metal ladder connecting the passenger areas to the elevated flight deck. Jose, Nedjma, and Anti-Kenneth bobbed along after him.
“Captain,” the pilot greeted him. Her eyes raised to the three floating strangers, then widened. “Uh – what –”
“Stowaways,” said Captain Alexander, ruffling his mustache. “They’ll be off the plane in a moment, after I search and interrogate them.”
“Uh, sir – Captain, sir Captain,” interjected the copilot, who looked about as young as Kenneth and as small as Jose. “Isn’t that security’s job?”
Captain Alexander’s answering glare was so intense that the copilot turned right back around, mumbling apologies.
“Now,” said the Captain, facing his three captives, “why are you delinquents trying to leave Ferric Mountain.”
“Ugh, dad, we call it Demonwall now,” Jose groaned. “Get with the times.”
Ignoring the pilot and copilot, who had just exchanged a wide-eyed glance and mouthed, Dad? at each other, Captain Alexander crossed his arms.
“You didn’t answer my question, boy. And I see you’ve dragged your friends into trouble. ”
He turned to Nedjma and Anti-Kenneth. The spectre was still gagged and blindfolded, but he didn’t seem particularly upset about it. He sniffed the air, groaning, Ssssllllllssss.
“Kenneth Sanders, it’s been a while,” said Captain Alexander, smiling as if he hadn’t just magically kidnapped them. “I would’ve thought you would be opposed to such a mental scheme. What’s wrong with you, anyhow?”
“Double surgery,” Nedjma interjected. “Teeth, eyes, real horror show.”
“Ah.” Captain Alexander’s voice turned dry, but another smile spread underneath his mustache. “And Nedjma, you’re as spirited as ever. Feels like it was only yesterday I saw you last, graduating Middle School with that big purple bow in your hair.”
Nedjma scowled. “Yeah, well, that was five years ago.”
“And this is now,” the Captain agreed. “So tell me – why are you trespassing on my plane?”
“We’re not!” Jose insisted. “We – we got tickets and everything!”
Captain Alexander chuckled. “You’ve always been a bad liar, boy.”
He raised his arms and a pulse of magic swept through the flight deck like a cool breeze. Jose and Nedjma’s backpacks zipped into sight, hovering right into his grasp. For a moment, Captain Alexander’s eyes drifted off, as if he’d slipped into a daydream.
His shoulders tightened.
“Dad, you can’t just search our bags!” Jose exclaimed. “That’s super invasive!”
“You brought my book,” Captain Sanders said, in a different voice than before. He sounded confused, even a little unconfident. He tossed the backpacks to the floor. “You brought Basic Spells for Basic Wizards.”
All the blood drained from Jose’s face. Nedjma stared at him. Anti-Kenneth started sniffing the air again.
“Y-yeah, just – just in case,” Jose stammered. Sweat beaded on his brow. “It’s not like I c-could actually – you know, actually use it. Because I’m not . . . not a wizard . . . or anything . . .”
“You’ve always been a bad liar, boy,” Captain Alexander said again, quietly now.
He waved his hand, and Jose’s invisible restraints fell away.
“Uh, what about me and Kenneth?” Nedjma complained.
“Captain, are we still on schedule,” asked the pilot carefully.
Captain Alexander ignored both of them.
“So, boy . . . you chose your mother, and a life of mediocrity and trash. And for five years, I thought, Well, I can’t blame the poor boy. He’s got no skills to survive the outside world. And now I find out . . . you’ve been hiding your powers from me?”
“What?” yelped Jose, shifting forwards and backwards. Now that he was free, he didn’t seem to know what to do with himself. “N-no, that’s bogus!”
“How long, Jose? How long have you known?”
“I – look, let’s say I am a wizard,” said Jose, who looked paler and sweatier than ever. “And I, er – do want to live an adventurous life. You wouldn’t stop me from . . .” He swallowed hard. “From following in your footsteps, would you?”
Captain Alexander stroked his mustache, staring at his son.
“My son, a wizard,” he said, as though savoring the idea. Then his expression soured. “But you’re no adventurer, boy. Which means you’re lying, and you’re going back to your no-good hick mother.”
“DON’T TALK ABOUT HER LIKE THAT!”
Jose and his father stared at each other for the space of a heartbeat, Jose still breathing hard in rage. Then –
An object burst out of his backpack and into Jose’s hand – Basic Spells for Basic Wizards. He flipped it open and yelled, “Soulbare!”
Anti-Kenneth perked up in excitement.
The spell exploded out of him in all directions, a totally unfocused spray of magical energy. The force of it rushed over Captain Alexander, Nedjma, Anti-Kenneth, and even the pilot and copilot.
Suddenly, a sound built in the air. It was as if someone’s Jogman cassette player had magnified in volume, and was growing still . . .
The pilot and copilot exchanged a bewildered look.
“So that’s how you wanna play it, little boy,” said Captain Alexander – only he didn’t say it. He sang it.
“Think you’ll beat me, when magic is my game.
Practiced mage, versus you. We’re not the same.
Yeah, I left you, but what’s a man to do?
Now you’ve messed up, you’ve cursed your own self too.”
“That may be true,” sang Jose, who looked terrified. “No! I am not like you. I’ve got tricks up my sleeve!”
“No more, talk, boy, I’m sending you away!”
Captain Alexander shot a spell at Jose, who yelped and dodged. Meanwhile, Dr. Saltsman appeared beside Nedjma.
“What’s happening?” she hissed. “Why is everything in song?”
Unhappily, Nedjma turned towards her and sang:
“Jose’s soulbare spell, it makes you share your heart. Specifically makes you share the music in your heart.”
“Oh, I see, because emotions create unsatisfactory magic. They distract your focus and your energy – oh my, that is genius!”
“Well . . . also kinda risky, emotions make magic stronger,” Nedjma pointed out. “I hope they don’t go too much longer.”
Then she frowned, probably because of the singing.
At once, the two of them looked back towards the dueling pair, Jose and Captain Alexander.
“Enough games, boy! You never answered me!” sang the Captain, firing off a spell – but like the others, it didn’t land. “I don’t want you, you chose your mom, not me! Curse this spell – why can’t I catch you?”
“What did you say before?” sang Jose, smiling slightly. “A practiced mage, I’m sure. Bad dad, bad enemy!”
“UNCONSCIOUS! LIGHTS OUT!” bellowed Captain Alexander.
“Problem!” yelped Dr. Saltsman, throwing herself in front of Jose, Nedjma.
Much like Jose’s soulbare spell had done a minute earlier, the spell exploded from Captain Alexander, dousing the flight deck in magical power. When it subsided, the Captain, pilot, copilot, and Anti-Kenneth were all fast asleep.
“Saved you,” said Dr. Saltsman. “These spells don’t affect ghosts.”
For a moment, there was silence. Then another track picked up, this one slower, more melancholy. Jose riffed once, seemingly unable to help it.
“I haate my daaaad. You really suck as a daaaad. I hate my daaaad. Stupid jerkface daaaad.”
Nedjma touched his shoulder.
“Jose, I know this is really hard for you, but I have something I need to say to you. The plane took off.”
“Oh no . . .”
A look of dawning comprehension washed over Jose’s face. The plane had indeed taken off. The pilot and copilot’s sleeping faces had slammed right into the controls, launching the aircraft into the air.
“FINALLY!” sang someone from the passenger section.
“We can land it if we try, or maybe let it fly – agh, I don’t know!” sang Nedjma in a panic. Dr. Saltsman ghosted to the controls and shoved the pilots unceremoniously onto the floor.
“I’m a dreadful singer,” she said, as she inspected the controls. “But I’ll try to put this in a way that fits the mood.”
So, naturally, she rapped:
“So the plane is in the sky
But I think it’s worth a try
To navigate, to fly
There’s a good chance you won’t die.
Time is of the essence
In our spectre-slaying quest
And out of all our options
This one is the best.
With my ghostly magic powers
I’ll manipulate the dashboard
Nedjma on steering, Jose maps,
Drive us forward!”
She cleared her throat. “Ahem. Did you get all that?”
“I’ll watch windows and these maps to keep the airship on its course. Nedjma steering, Saltsman powering, and we’ll move like a force!” Jose rapped back, setting aside Basic Spells.
“Jose, you were amazing, and I didn’t even mention,” Nedjma rapped. “Your spellwork – well, that deserves attention.”
“And the spell you chose, what a clever choice!” said Dr. Saltsman. Then she frowned. “Oh, rats. I forgot to rap.”
She ghosted into halfway into the dashboard, before looking back at them. “I’ll be listening for any disturbances. Shout if you need me. Or, well – sing, I suppose.”
She disappeared into the dashboard, and immediately the dials whirred to life. Jose jumped to face the map. Nedjma reached for the wheel, but hesitated.
“I’m . . . scared, Jose,” she sang. “Can we do this?”
A new song was building in the atmosphere, which meant Jose’s spell still hadn’t worn off. This one was upbeat. Even . . . hopeful.
Jose sang back: “I don’t know how to fly a plane, but I think that we can. What do you say?”
Nedjma stared at him. Did he look different? Then she grinned and took the wheel . . . and sang.
“I don’t know how to fly a plane, but when we’re together, I know we can.”
They sang these lines again, then sang together, harmonizing in the way only childhood best friends could do without rehearsal.
“I don’t know how to fly a plane, but I think that we can! What do you say?”
“I don’t know how to fly a place, but when we’re together, I know we can!”
“Jose, are you feeling okay?” Nedjma asked musically. “You can tell me anything.”
“I’m fine, I swear,” Jose returned in song, not meeting her eyes. “I don’t wanna talk about it. Besides, right now, we’ve got things to do.”
“Why is there so much singing up there?” Dr. Saltsman’s voice issued from the dashboard.
Nedjma ignored her.
“Jose, I need you to know, you are my little brother. My family.
Jose, you are not alone. You’ve always got a sister. Yeah, you’ve got me.”
Jose, come here and take my hand. You are my closest friend, it’s you and me.
Jose, leave the past behind you. Let the future find you –”
“Guys! Focus!” yelled Lulu.
“If we think we can, that’s how we do! Just you and me!
You are meant to be – to be with me. My family!”
With one final refrain, the song started fading.
Jose’s gaze drifted away from the maps, towards the unconscious Captain Alexander. Nedjma took his hand and sang quietly, “I know we can.”
Dr. Saltsman’s voice rattled through the dashboard. “Well, that was just adorable. And (with a lot of my help), we are truly flying the plane.”
“Whoa,” said Nedjma, wide-eyed. “This has gotta be the craziest day of my life.”
Then she laughed a relieved laugh, because she’d spoken the words rather un-musically in her usual grumbly voice.
“I’m glad that’s over,” said Jose. He looked out the window, watching the clouds as the last traces of magic and background music faded away.
Nedjma lifted one hand from the steering wheel and touched Jose’s shoulder.
“You sure you don’t wanna talk about it?”
Jose didn’t answer for a second, still watching white condensation swirl outside the airplane.
Then he cleared his throat and put on a smile. “Nah. Like we said in the song, we’re leaving him behind.”
Nedjma looked doubtful, but she let it go. A few minutes passed in silence – excluding the shouted questions of a few concerned passengers, like, “Why did I just harmonize with the AC?” and “Hey! Why did my fiancée and I just rap battle about getting the window seat?”
With each question, Nedjma and Jose glanced at each other, smiling carefully. They seemed to be speaking with their eyes: Hey, I know that was weird and vulnerable. But we’re good, right?
“I’m gonna loot him,” Jose announced suddenly. He stepped away from the navigation and faced his unconscious father.
Dr. Saltsman’s silvery head popped into sight. “Excuse me, did someone just threaten ‘loot’ a person?”
“I like it,” said Nedjma. “Daddy narbo deserves a good looting.”
“I . . .” Dr. Saltsman sighed. “I am inclined to agree, though thievery goes against my better nature.”
Nedjma snorted. “Then why’d you choose two medicine thieves to help you save the world?”
“Limited options,” said Dr. Saltsman, rolling her eyes. But she couldn’t hide a faint smile as she sank away. Also half-smiling, Nedjma turned back to the steering wheel. She waved her hand over her shoulder and Chanel Stamp appeared, squeaking indignantly as if to say, About time!
Meanwhile, Jose kneeled down and riffled through his father’s pockets. He withdrew nothing but a set of keys, packs of gum and cigarettes, and one suspicious-looking napkin.
That was, until he reached the last pocket.
“What the . . . ?”
It was a secret little pocket, hidden inside of Captain Alexander’s aviator jacket. The fabric didn’t match the coat’s interior, as if someone had added the pocket later on.
Reaching inside it, Jose’s fingers closed over something soft and velvety. He withdrew the tiny drawstring pouch and opened it.
“Gold?” He blinked, as the realization settled in. “GOLD!”
Nedjma barely had time to say, “Huh?” before Jose zoomed to her side. “Look, look!”
He pulled open the pouch and revealed two hunks of glittering stone.
“Whoa,” said Nedjma, her eyes popping open. “D’you think it’s real gold?”
“No idea . . .”
Jose stared at Captain Alexander one last time, holding onto the sight of his absent father as if he would never see him again. Perhaps, that was exactly what he’d just decided.
“I don’t wanna be like you,” he said. “I wanna be a community wizard. Solve problems. Keep families together. Not tear them apart.”
He cleared his throat, itching the corner of his eye, then looked at Nedjma and held up the pouch.
“I’m keeping it,” he said, slipping it into his discarded backpack. “And, um . . . I’m changing my name.”
Nedjma’s eyebrows shot up.
“Last name,” Jose corrected quickly. “Mom can keep his, if she wants, but I’m gonna use hers. Shane. Jose Shane.”
“That sounds . . .” Nedjma thought a second, then smiled. “Amazing.”
She took Jose’s hand, pulled him close, and did something very unexpected. Perhaps it was the lingering effects of the soulbare spell, or perhaps she was just feeling more affectionate than usual, but she wrapped Jose in a firm hug. Chanel scampered down her arm and curled up on his shoulder.
A little startled, Jose took a second to hug back. When he did, he melted into Nedjma. Little sniffles and shaky breaths quivered through him.
Expectedly, since no one was steering, the airplane dipped sideways.
“GUYS!” Right as several passengers below screamed (very non-musically now), Dr. Saltsman’s upper half leapt out of the dashboard. Her glowing blue eyes swept over Nedjma and Jose, then lifted towards the heavens. “Teenagers.”
She ignored the fact that she had herself had died as a young woman, and didn’t appear (physically, at least) much older than the two hugging teens. She snatched Nedjma’s hand and dragged it back to the steering wheel.
“Do I need to do everything?” she tutted, sinking out of sight yet again.
Quietly, Jose took his place by the maps again, rubbing a fist under each eye. Nedjma chivalrously looked out the window to pretend she didn’t see.
A minute passed in silence, broken only by Chanel Stamp, now pitter-pattering across the dashboard. The lack of noise was especially jarring after the last fifteen minutes.
“So like, if this college thing doesn’t work out, at least we’ve got singing careers,” said Jose.
Nedjma snorted. “You can sing, I’ll write the lyrics.”
“As if!” Jose cracked a smile. “Then they’d all be goth, like, ‘uuhhh, no one understands me, oooooh sadneeeeess–”
“Better than ‘I don’t know how to fly a plane’,” Nedjma countered. Without the spell, her singing voice sounded flat and unsteady, but she and Jose grinned anyway.
“And did you hear Saltsman?” Jose laughed. “She’s a wicked rapper!”
“Totally bad,” Nedjma agreed, shaking her head in awe.
A pause fell between them. Chanel Stamp squeaked once, nibbling on a button.
“Also . . . uh, I meant what I said,” Nedjma blurted out. Chanel’s button must have become suddenly fascinating, because she stared at it instead of meeting Jose’s eyes. “I know the soulbare spell makes you tell the truth, and uh, pour out your heart or whatever. But I wanted you to know – you know, spell-free. Um. Yeah. So . . . yeah.”
She took one hand from the steering wheel to scratch the back of her neck. Jose caught it in his grasp, squeezing once.
“Thanks, Nedj. Love you.”
“L . . . love you too, Jose.”
Still hand in hand, they let their voices drift away. Their eyes drifted too, straying back to the cloudy scenery.
An hour later, a stunning sight broke through the cloudy scenery: an enormous, unfamiliar mountaintop.