What happens when the knocked out adversaries of the last chapter start waking up? How will Nedjma, Jose, and Lulu land the plane that they (canonically) don’t know how to fly? How much does Chanel Stamp actually understand human speech? All questions Kacie hadn’t thought of, and Luna makes sure to answer.
It’s pretty hard to find a hangar to land in when you’re searching a place you’ve never been to in your life, even harder when you don’t even know what a hangar looks like from above. And super hard when the pilots you knocked out start to wake up.
When the first groan came from one of the pilots – thankfully not Captain Alexander – Nedjma and Jose were pulled from their emotional and supportive mood and shoved back into stressful hysteria.
“Oh nards,” Jose whined, turning to watch the copilot start to stumble to her feet, holding her head. “What do we do?”
“Well we have two options now,” Nedjma started, sounding sure of herself. “We stay and hope the pilots are cool. They help us land, tie your dad up, and we get to leave as soon as we land.”
“As if,” Jose said, then adding, “but I wish. Option two?”
“You knock ’em out with your magic and keep searching for the hangar?” Nedjma said, but this time without a shred of the confidence from before, a weak smile and a glance at him to top it off.
Jose gave a guilty look. “That’s one spell I haven’t been able to get even a little bit right. The most that happened was mom admitted to sleeping well that night.”
Nedjma pulled her lips into a very tight frown and looked at the copilot, who was now on her feet and looking at them through what looked like the worst headache ever, and it seemed to be disappearing at a very inconvenient rate. She looked back out the window and considered the tallest castle spires that pierced the empty stratosphere.
“Then we’ll have to go with option B.” Nedjma yanked the controls up towards the castle itself, sending both the copilot and an oblivious Anti-Kenneth stumbling back into the rear wall, a surprised wail coming from the passenger end of the plane’s carriage.
“You’ve spilled my champagne on my suit!” whined one passenger the clearest. “I’ll have your job for this!”
Even Jose had to step back to keep balance.
“Whoa! Where are we going now?! And I thought we were going with numbers? And wouldn’t it be option C, anyway?”
“Whatever! I’m under a lot of pressure here!” Nedjma complained.
“And I’m not?!”
“Focus, please!” Dr. Saltzman’s voice commanded from the dashboard.
“We gotta get as close as we can before we get… gotten, then the pilots can have the plane and your dad back. And us…” Nejma gulped, and Jose cocked his head with a worried and suspicious stare.
“Anti-gravity spells are definitely not in my, uh, repi-tower.”
Nedjma rolled her eyes.”Repitoire. And not everything requires magic, you know.” Her gaze shifted from Jose to the little shimmer o f a rat on his shoulder and nodded towards the copilot trying her best to walk up the incline to them. “Can you buy us some time with her?”
Chanel Stamp gave a high-pitched squeak and a raised paw that could possibly have been an attempt at saluting and scampered down Jose. The two were watching the gleaming metal castle creep closer while the sounds of squeaking and panicked, more human shrieking came from behind them.
“Sorry!” Jose couldn’t help but yell to her.
When the castle was close enough to see the freeform-shaped windows in the new-tech castle walls, Nedjma decided that was a good time to let go of Jose’s hand and shove it onto the controls.
“Just keep it steady! I’ll be back!”
“Wha- I can’t – Hey!” Jose blustered even after Nedjma had already disappeared into the carriage hallway.
“Where is that girl going?” Louis said from the dash, her face popping out for a moment.
“Wherever it is, she better make it fast, ” Jose said, the groans of the main pilot waking up somehow audible through the copilot’s shrieks getting increasingly frantic.
“I have good news and bad news,” Nejma yelled as she reappeared in the cockpit, picking up their bags in one hand and shifting the parachutes she brought to the other.
“Good news would be nice,” Jose said, looking too stiff from nerves to turn and look.
“Then you can give up the controls. Chanel, if you please,” she said, and the mouse disappeared immediately, reappearing as she climbed up Nedjma’s pants leg. The copilot, now realizing the horrifying spector no longer plagued her, threw a new angry look at Nedjma. Nedjma threw a look back at her, though it was more of a questioning one, as if to say, ‘is revenge on me really the important thing to do right now?’ She glanced to the now unoccupied control station, and the copilot paused to sneer before rushing to take the wheel.
“Time to go!” Nedjma yelled, and Jose ran to meet her, Dr. Saltzman flying from the dashboard to do the same. The ship lurched for a moment without her to power it, but the controls sputtered back to life as the main system took over itself again soon enough.
“You too, big bro!” Nedjma dragged Anti-Kenneth to his feet and ran down the hall, followed by Dr. Louis’ ghostly form.
Jose stopped for a second beside his dad on the floor, a nasty lump beginning to form on his brow where he had fallen.
“I’m officially uninviting you to the holiday gatherings. Especially Founders Day.” Jose gave a big and angry raspberry that was cut short by Captain Alexander’s first stirrings of consciousness, startling him into running down the hall after Nedjma and the others.
“I don’t really want to ask, but what’s the bad news?” he asked, catching up about halfway down the carriage hall.
“Bad news is,” she started, opening the door to the balcony and causing the chandelier in the hall to chime as it swayed in the harsh wind. “Anti-Kenneth can’t go on his own! You’ll have to take him!” She shouted over the wind, dropping the bags to put her parachute on, wearing her backpack on her front.
Jose reeled, offended.
“Wha- why do I have to?! Are you calling me small?!”
“Well, you have to admit that your body mass is less than-” the doctor started explaining, her ghostly voice somehow perfectly clear through the noise.
“Thank you, I am aware!” Jose pouted before snatching the parachute from the floor and throwing it on unhappily. He pulled Anti-Kenneth away from the open door, who had been leaning half out the door to bite at the wind as it pushed his cheeks around his face. Jose shoved his own bag at Anti-Kenneth and gave him a stern look.
“You get to carry my bag then. You lose my stuff and I’ll… I don’t know what I’ll do but it’ll be really annoying and inconvenient for a long time!” Anti-Kenneth gave him an empty stare and Jose sighed, helping the child-man into a harness.
Nedjma was already out on the balcony, looking below at the castle grounds and gripping the railing so hard her knuckles turned white.
“We got this, Nedj,” Jose yelled, the crack in his voice betraying his own fear. He clipped a cord from Anti-Kenneth’s harness to his and pulled it taut. “That’s probably good,” he mumbled, quiet enough not to be heard.
“Jose, this is crazy, maybe we can wait until we land-”
Jose set a hand on her shoulder.
“I promise. We got this.” His voice was as set as his smile and Nedjma started to return it despite her worry.
Until the plane started to steer away from the castle, no doubt because the pilots regained control.
“I’ll get him over, you two just go!” Dr. Louis appeared behind Anti-Kenneth, who had turned to continue biting at the wind. Thanks to that, at least, his sunglasses stayed taped to his hat, pressed to his face by force. The doctor held him up and dangled him about a foot off the balcony, much to Nedjma’s surprise. “Honestly, the time you both spend dawdling! We could be at the base of the mountain by now!”
With the two looking like the direction shift had been more motivation than the nagging, they gave each other a meaningful look before climbing over the railing together. A moment of hesitation while clinging to the other side was swiftly dismissed at the sight of Anti-Kenneth basically tossed over the railing after them.
Nedjma and Jose screamed as they fell through the open air. Anti-Kenneth, dragged along by the short cord connecting him to Jose, seemed to start screaming just because they were.
“We have to spread out!” Nedjma screamed over the deafening sound of wind that was much louder than before, the roar of the plane propellers quickly disappearing behind them. Nedjma tried to flip over to face the ground using various swimming motions and managed it with some difficulty, while Jose tried his best to pull Anti-Kenneth closer by the cord so he could too.
“Ready to pull?! This has to be the one!” Jose said, pointing to the only bright orange handle on his harness. Nedjma nodded and yanked hers. She was pulled back away from Jose with a grunt just before he did the same.
Both of them veered away from each other before they got ahold of the handles on each side of the Twunkie yellow parachutes, but despite their best efforts, neither of them really knew how to steer one.
The castle loomed ever nearer, but they seemed to be heading right past it to the other side of the city below.
“Jose, do something!” the still crystal clear clarity of Dr. Saltzman’s voice rang. She looked worried as she was pulled along by her grip on Anti-Kenneth, though it’s not likely it was for her own safety. Jose wracked his brain in a panic for the simplest, quickest spell he could think of.
“Gust!” he shouted louder than he ever had, which was an accomplishment for the all-time champion of shout-chicken. Jose was never too embarrassed to yell weird things in public if it was to beat Nedjma at a game.
“Why are you summoning more wind!” Louis yelled, exasperated, but it turned out to be just what they needed. The extra burst of wind pushed them just over the edge of the castle wall and into the gardens for a painful landing in the fake trees.
They were scratched up and bruised, but safe. But neither of them could be sure of the other, because as far as they could see, they were stuck in the trees alone.
Or, at least, Nedjma was.