The spooky squad needs to get out of Marannon castle . . . but when morals and common decency get in the way, they may leave with a little less supplies than necessary. On the writers’ side, Luna and Kacie chat about written siblings, onomatopoeias, and – OH MY GOSH THERE’S SOMETHING IN KACIE’S TWIST LIST!
Beep beep beep. BUZZ.
Beep beep beep beep. BUZZ.
“Did you try her birthday?” Jose asked, peering over Dr. Saltzman (the newly reanimated one)’s shoulder.
“I did! Or at least, I think that was it.”
“You don’t remember your own sister’s birthday?” Nedjma asked with a huff, sounding happy to have another thing to gripe at her about, though with much less immediate anger. She pointed her thumb to Anti-Kenneth, who was standing just behind her and staring into space. “Even I remember this big dummy’s birthday enough to buy him a cake.”
“With his own money,” Jose added, giggling at the memory and holding up a hand for a high five.
“Well, it’s not like I can make any of my own!” Nedjma pouted, but high-fived him anyway. All three of them were pushed back.
“Would you all be quiet please! Ugh, you would all make terrible lab partners,” Dr. Saltzman grumbled. She stared at her hands before shaking them off. “I canNOT get used to this “feeling” thing yet.”
More beeps. Another buzz. The sound of the elevator coming, breaths held… and then passing Rena’s office without stopping, followed by quiet sighs of relief. Chanel Stamp’s squeaks of worry from atop Jose’s head. More beeps and another buzz.
Silence. Beeps. A trill of musical notes and a mechanical lock opening. The sterilizing gas spilled from the clear containment chamber as the door swung open.
“Yes!” “You got it!” the kids cheered, Anti-Kenneth snapping awake at the sudden sound.
“What’s wrong?” Nedjma asked. The doctor hadn’t moved yet. Then Louis shook her head, snatching the much nicer HCP suit from its chamber.
“Nothing, let’s get going.” The doctor shoved the suit in a trash bag and shoved it inside Anti-Kenneth’s sweatshirt and marched for the elevator.
“There was only one suit in there?” Jose said as he turned to follow, reaching to drag Anti-Kenneth along the way.
“Unfortunately, yes.” The elevator pinged with each level it passed. Her eyes darted over the elevator door as she thought. “We’ll have to find the other three somewhere-”
“Actually Jose found two already, but then he went left them in the yard-”
“Excellent,” the doctor said, cutting off Nedjma’s oncoming nags with a finger in the air. “One more then.”
Ding. The elevator door slid open, but it also brought a few other people in labcoats waiting inside. Chanel stamp disappeared at once and Jose shivered as something scrambled under his jacket collar to sit in an inside pocket. He managed to hold whatever noise he was going to make in a badly faked smile. Nedjma jabbed him with an elbow.
“Or we’ll take what we can get,” Louis added through lips that hardly moved, then cleared her throat and straightened herself. “In you go, subjects 34A, and 62B. I’ll see you to the castle gate with this nice security lady and we can run another test next week, hm?”
Jose and Nedjma stared at her like they’d just seen a ghost. Or maybe something else spooky that they hadn’t grown used to by now.
“In you go,” the doctor ordered nearly through her teeth, pushing Nedjma into the other two. She turned to those in the elevator, her voice returned to its normal sweetness, though pitched a bit lower to sound more like her sister disguise. “Don’t worry about them, the guard is merely protocol. These subjects are harmless.”
The smart-spectacled labcoats in the elevator stared wide-eyed until they glanced at the ID card on Louis’ – Rena’s – coat, eyes darting to the walls and clipboards and anything else they could find to mind their own business. Dr. Saltzman calmly stepped into the elevator and swiveled to face the door, only then seeing the absolute mess Rena’s lab was in, but her calm smile stayed chimp glued to her face.
The labcoats all eagerly disappeared at the next floor they stopped at, despite the other buttons pressed showing it wasn’t everyone’s stop yet.
“They’re not gonna go tell on us, are they?” Jose wondered, and no one could answer.
“This is very uncomfortable.” Nedjma shifted awkwardly.
Dr. Saltzman sighed. “We can all have a heart to heart later – oh, I can say that as not a joke now that I have one…” She quickly cleared her throat. “Right. You two need to get those suits and get out, we’re already on borrowed time. I’ll stay behind just long enough to get that alarm going again and I’ll be right behind you.”
The elevator doors slid open to the main level. The hallway here was much wider and grander than the maze of tight corners and wires they were in before, though still decked out with clear panels showing off the flashing lights, wires, and circuit boards underneath. Employees were starting to file in the building to fill their posts once more.
“This is their evil lair!” Jose whispered stiffly, going quiet whenever someone passed. “Why are we alerting them on purpose?!”
“We can’t leave those spectres loose,” Nedjma answered instead, nodding to the other security guards standing at the walls and walking faster. Louis closed her mouth to give a small proud smile.
“And I’ll see you for your tests next week, same time,” the doctor declared a bit loudly, then added pointedly, “and don’t forget your belongings before you go.”
Jose took the hint and veered off to the side just outside the front door and broke into a sprint, leaving Nedjma with the drooling mess of a man who sat down to eat another fistful of fake grass.
“You could probably pass for a failed test subject.”
Jose skidded to a stop next to the still-tied-up guard to snatch his bag, pausing to tease.
“They still haven’t found you yet? You guys aren’t very good at your jobs.” He sprinted back without waiting for an answer. Najiba yelled a muffled “Hey!” after him, but it was drowned out by the first bout of “CODE COSMO” blaring once again, this time from all corners of the metal castle and its crackling loudspeakers.
The castle staff, having nearly just returned from the previous alarm, looked like a collapsing accordion as the line back inside crashed into each other and turned to rush the other way in a mild panic.
“Whoaaah!” Jose cried, dragged along by the current of people trying to flee through the gate, which, unfortunately, was not built big enough for the entire castle staff at once.
“We’re gonna get separated again!” Nedjma tried to ‘wail’ to the doctor, though she kicked herself for instinctively trying to tell Louis first.
Whether just copying the behaviors around him as usual, or from a rare spark of actual sentience, Anti-Kenneth started his own wail, balling his fists beside him and charging into the crowd. The bigger man barreled through them like a bowling ball thrown overhand instead of under. A mess of labcoats and spectacles fell to the ground on either side of him as he went, at least making a clear path for Nedjma to run after him too.
Jose’s face lit up as he saw him coming, but it slowly turned to fear when the man did not seem to be slowing down. Jose screamed as he was pushed down with the rest of the crowd, Anti-Kenneth charging down the path and straight into the city below.
“Come on,” Nedjma groaned, pulling Jose up by the front of his jacket.
Someone yelped and Jose quickly stepped off of their leg with a “Sorry!” Nedjma yanked him into a run, the two of them delving from the top down into a city neither had ever stepped foot in.
“How come you’re out of breath too?” Jose asked. Both him and Nedjma were bent over and leaning against a lamppost shining brightly with tiny, colorful LEDs, looking like an oversized kids toy.
“Well… you were all quite easy to follow… what with the path of destruction you left outside the main door…” Dr. Saltzman wheezed. “But my body hasn’t exactly been kept in…. peak physical condition in that tank.” Dr. Saltzman pointed a finger at Anti-Kenneth from her heap on the sidewalk, passersby walking around her disinterested, like she was just another fixture there. “What… is he doing?”
The man in question was peeping in and out of a metal box, looking at everyone walking by longingly in between.
“He saw a man throw away a half-eaten sandwich and has been waiting for more. It’s the only reason he stopped running.” Nedjma took a loud breath and stood up, slapping her knees, and walked over to a storefront window to look over herself. “I need some new duds. I’m getting more stares than the labcoat collapsed on the ground.”
Dr. Saltzman looked down at herself and could only nod in reluctant agreement at her own dishevelment.
“Anti-Kenny and I look fine, if not… well, usually out of place.” Jose’s plainer clothes did stand out among the array of neons and geometric shapes in smart patterns and cuts around them, but not more than a security guard for a place that isn’t the city streets. Dr. Saltzman even fit in with her lab coat now tossed in the trash, looking strikingly modern in her green pantsuit and pointy shoulder pads.
Jose whistled. “Wow, got a hot date? That’s a little fancy for a fugitive.”
Dr. Saltzman returned the joke in a dry voice. “I don’t think I have the time to catch the fancy of a lady right now, Jose.”
“Well I hope the department stores here have special suits of a certain yellow variety, because we only have 3,” Nedjma basically mumbled, but the message got across loud and clear.
Jose clasped his hands behind his head. “I am NOT going back into the castle after that. Too much in and out for one day, thank you.”
“If we don’t leave the city soon, I doubt we can even do that once they put up the alert for us.” Nedjma groaned and set her head against the glass. “With a mugshot and – Ugh, Kenneth is gonna kill me when he comes back…”
Dr. Saltzman walked to pull all of them together around Anti-Kenneth’s trash can, eyeing the cameras on the street corner but never fully turning to face them. She spoke in a low voice.
“You’re both right. We have three suits, and we can’t go back to the only place that has them to get another. We have to leave quick. You,” she looked at Nedjma, “need new… clothing, is what I’m assuming ‘duds’ are. But these all lead to the biggest problem. We’re probably on the no fly list now , thanks to the earlier fiasco. We are going to have to walk back to Fer- Demonwall. So this all means…?”
Nedjma reluctantly filled in the blank space. “Someone’s going to have to stay behind.”