In the wake of losing Dr. Lulu and Anti-Kenneth, a new member joins the team – Kenneth. Meanwhile, Luna and Kacie apologize profusely for some crummy audio (seriously, we’re really sorry about the hiccups, folks).
ill you tell me what’s going on now- oof.”
Anti-Anti-Kenneth put a hand over his stomach while Nedjma eyed the people around. She didn’t have to reach very far in this crowded, diagonal tram car to elbow him; it seemed like with each stop down the mountain, the more people that got off, the more it filled up again. The dizzying array of neon shapes and LED sunglasses that seemed to be the latest fad on the mountain made her nauseous every time the car swayed with another turn. The increase of oxygen from the altitude would help if the pressure weren’t changing just as much.
Nedjma flexed her hand in the motion that would summon chanel stamp, but never did the full flourish to make it work. She frowned, cradling her hand instead.
Kenneth looked almost out of his mind- whether from falling asleep at home and waking up on an entirely different mountain, the talk of necromancy coming from the cops earlier, his sister and her kid best friend telling him to sneak away from said cops and him being too disoriented to fight it, or the fact that neither of them would talk no matter how many times he threatened with a monster noogie. Jose’s face was screwed up into a frown that looked like he didn’t know whether to get angry or cry. That seemed to confuse Kenneth the most.
Their sleek, chrome mountain tram slid to a stop at the end of the track and the door slid open. A shorter, half lit, and yellowing plastic mountain tram waited for them across the platform. The last of the passengers dismounted to the platform steps, each of the bunch having to fight the current flowing to the exit to get to the other tram. Kenneth obediently followed them for now, though he towered over the two kids with a glare at everyone else and pushed people out of the way if they tried to come between them.
Now in a nearly empty tram, they had some room to breathe, though the public bathroom smell prevented much of that. Each of them climbed the stairs and fell into a seat in the back.
“Spill it,” Kenneth commanded. He caught another elbow from Nedjma and eyed her. “I’m not kidding. And there’s only one other man in here, and the old guy’s asleep. Spill, or I’ll donk you two right now.” He held up a fist, one knuckle raised above the others for maximum noogie pain to illustrate.
Nedjma licked her lips and sighed through a clenched jaw, seeming to finally accept who she was really dealing with now.
“We need your help,” Nedjma finally got out, after some obvious internal pep talk. Kenneth raised his eyebrows and jutted his jaw forward in an obvious, With?
“We have to get back to Demonwall.”
“But we can’t fly.”
Kenneth jerked to face her. “What? Why the heck not?!” The old man sleeping in the front halted his snoring for half a second, and Kenneth lowered his voice, rubbing his knuckles like he was warming them up. “You’re gonna have to do better than one sentence at a time, or I swear you’re grounded until you’re fifty. Jose too.”
Jose gulped and faced the window, hugging his bag on his lap tighter, obviously wanting to stay out of it.
Nedjma took a long, deep breath, still stalling. “Okay. You wanna know what happened?” She paused before shooting their whole story out in one breath. “We met a ghost necromancer at the hospital and she needed our help with these spectres that’re going to take over everyone’s bodies like zombies and you died and it happened to you so we took you to Marranon mountain by plane but Jose’s dad was captaining it and he caught us so we highjacked the plane a little bit and got to the castle and into the castle and stole some suits and the ghost necromancer became just a necromancer but then we got caught at the store after we escaped the castle and she got taken away and you woke up.”
“You left out the part where we-” Jose started to mime jumping from the plane but cut himself off when Nedjma gave him a hard look. “Where we, uh… really taught my dad a lesson.” He turned the gesture into a weak punch and gave an even weaker smile.
“That guy always was a tool.” Kenneth seemed to buy it, until the rest of what Nedjma said caught up with him. He nearly blew up, or internally combusted, not caring about who else might have heard anymore. Nedjma did her best to explain what they planned to do, and a well timed digital wanted poster at the next station they stopped at helped corroborate.
Jose pulled a suit from his bag and held it out for Kenneth with timid hands as soon as they left the last stop on the tram line.
“There is no way I’m letting this happen, or getting into that tiny suit.”
Kenneth grumbled, picking awkwardly at the yellow fabric. “This thing is riding up my-”
“There it is,” Jose said with a gloved point to the unmanned gate, the sea of purple clouds of miasma waiting less than ten feet down the slope and behind the fence. The gate’s watch house was small and long abandoned, even the digital replacement system set up looking old enough to be something in their house. A simple camera and keypad were set up next to the gate lock, but the red light on the camera was flashing erratically with a weird buzzing noise. Nedjma tried the gate, just to be sure, but no dice.
“We need a code,” Nedjma said, stating the obvious, and Jose slipped inside the unlocked room without a word and started digging. Nedjma cast a worried glance at each of the two boys, both with very different flavors of worry. She opened her mouth to say something to Kenneth but thought better of it, heading inside to help Jose. Kenneth only rose an eyebrow before staring at the keypad in contemplative silence.
“Are you… doing okay?” Nedjma asked, reaching through the awkward silence between them as she searched the dusty, cobweb filled desk. Jose rifled through a rusted filing cabinet.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” he answered, but his voice sounded sour.
“…Do you want a hug?” she asked, standing to face him with hands out in invitation. Jose took it without an answer, hugging her a little tighter than she expected.
“He’s still out there somewhere, I know it. We’ll find him again.” Nedjma rubbed his back and Jose sniffed from behind her, pulling away with a shaky breath. Turning away to continue his search, he mumbled a small, “Thanks.”
“Anytime,” she answered softly, doing the same.
Filing cabinets? Old redacted and yellowing files on people and places that didn’t matter and probably didn’t exist anymore.
Desk? Dangerously old gummy worms and a scattered deck of cards.
Boxes in the corner? Repair tools and a pair of keys with no lock in sight. She took the crowbar though, tying it to her back with a length of rope.
“Might come in handy,” she told Jose with a shrug.
“Why are you taking so long?” Kenneth griped, peeking through the hole in the dust covered window.
“There’s no code sticky-note anywhere, just a bunch of junk,” Nedjma answered. Kenneth sneered, though not at her. He disappeared toward the gate and after a moment, the sound of metal sliding unwillingly made the two jump. Nedjma and Jose shared a look before racing outside to see Kenneth walking through the gate that was, indeed, open.
“How-” Jose started.
“You just had to pull a little harder,” he said in a flat voice. The two of them looked at the still-blinking keypad with smudges on some of the numbers, and then back to Kenneth. He had a look on him that almost seemed to say, Are you going to ask, or do you want me on this team?
Nedjma and Jose shared another look that ended with unsure nods, walking through the gate with mouths shut. Kenneth gave a satisfied nod himself before pulling the gate shut with a loud clang behind them.
“That’s what I thought.”