By Christian Laforet
Robi-Jo squeezed her eyes tight. A scream escaped her lips as her toes plunged through the surface. A chill instantly passed through her body. She wondered briefly why a chill, but her brain insisted that the lava was so hot, that it felt cold. It made sense, she guessed. It wasn’t until she swallowed a mouthful of salty liquid that she started to think that she was not being burnt alive in molten rock. She opened her eyes, and although it stung, she saw that she was submerged in water. Pushing with her legs, she swam upwards.
She found Felicia and Sam already bobbing on the surface. “What the crap?” she yelled to get their attention.
Sam surveyed the endless ocean which stretched across the horizon before looking back at Robi. “I teleported us to Teardrop, the water earth.”
“Oh gee, you teleported us? I hadn’t noticed.” Robi-Jo waved her arms around. “Maybe—and this is just a thought—in the future you could not wait until we’re about to die a horrible death before doing so!”
Felicia nodded. “Yeah, it’s kinda jerky. The whole, making us think we’re gonna die thing.”
Sam frowned. “I’m sorry, would you have rather me leave you in the hands of that narcissistic psychopath?”
“Well, she has a point there.” Felicia shrugged.
Robi-Jo was already fuming, but the smirk that Sam shot her way, sent her over the edge.
“I’ve had enough of you!” She grabbed a hold of Sam and pushed her under the water.
“Whoa!” Felicia tried to wade away, but was somehow pulled into the mix.
When the pirate ship reached them, Robi was in the process of dunking Sam’s head under the surface, while in turn, Sam was twisting one of Felicia’s arms, who was doing her best to bite through Robi-Jo’s leg.
“What do we have here?”
All three women stopped and turned their attention to the massive boat and the man standing on the mast.
He wore a billowing white shirt, tight brown pants and shiny black boots. The wind sweeping off the waves set his unruly hair flapping. He held his arm out towards the threesome, a flintlock gun pointing directly at them. Behind him, snapping in the breeze, there was a large black flag with a skull and crossbones painted across it.
Felicia ejected Robi’s leg from her mouth. “Oh great, pirates.”
It only took the crew of the ship minutes to haul the girls from the surf. Once they were aboard, the pirates surrounded them on the deck. Most of the men turning their attention to Robi-Jo.
“What the hell are you all looking at?” she snapped.
“Oh, hey, look at those,” Felicia blurted as she finally got a gander at her friend. “Hey, remember how we were wearing those skimpy tops? Yeeeeah, I think yours fell off while we were fighting.”
Robi snapped her head down, her checks instantly turning red. Crossing her arms over her chest, she spun towards Felicia. “How come you didn’t tell me?”
Waving her hands defensively, Felicia shook her head. “I swear I had no idea your—your—you were hanging out. Besides, it seems like the sort of thing you should have noticed.”
“I noticed,” Sam said casually.
Robi shook her fist at the girl, and instantly regretted it when a series of whistles and catcalls came from the surrounding pirates.
“Enough of this! Who is in charge here?” Sam demanded.
The crowd parted as the man they had seen earlier pushed his way through. “I am. The name’s Captain Zack, and this is my ship, The Em-Jay.”
“Excellent. We need to get to the nearest city.” Sam started towards the man, but stopped short as dozens of swords and guns were leveled at her. “What’s going on?”
Captain Zack let out a laugh. “What, you think I’m gonna just let three complete strangers, who, by the way, are nearly thirty nautical miles from the nearest port without a boat, get on my ship and begin giving orders? Not gonna happen. Instead, because I think it’s pretty clear that you three are agents of The Dread Rainbow Emperor Shawn, I’m gonna lock you up.”
Sam opened her mouth to protest, but the pirate captain cut her off.
“Strip that one,” he said pointing towards Sam, “of her gear. And then throw them into the hold. We’ll let Red Bird decide what to do with them.” He started walking away before turning back. “And get the other two some clothes. We don’t need the distractions they’ll cause.”
Smoldering debris—the remains of The Sensation’s palace—littered the charred ground surrounding both sides of the lava lake. A group of men, all clad in rainbow armor surveyed the scene.
“I think I found something,” one of them shouted.
Amidst a small pile of ash, were the burnt fragments of a Fresh Choppers shirt. Clinging to the fabric was a white piece of plastic. Gloved fingers pulled it from the ash. “Hello, my name is Robi-Jo,” the soldier said, reading the name tag.
“We must report this at once to his most dreadfulness!”
The soldiers hoped onto heat-powered craft and rose on the thermal currents radiating off of the lava. As soon as they disappeared over the lip of the sheer cliff of the great chasm, a shadow dislodged itself from behind a massive rock.
The robed figure walked over to the same pile of burnt clothing and began picking through the grit. “I know you’re in here… Ah ha!”
Soiled fingers clutched the object tightly. An arc of blue light enveloped the person, and in flash, they were gone.
“We’ve reached our destination, ladies,” the pirate captain announced as his crew led the girls back up to the deck.
“And where the heck is that?” Felicia asked as she adjusted the loose—and very soiled—pirates clothes she’d been given.
Captain Zack stretched his arms out towards a sprawling, floating city. “Welcome to the market city of Fresh Choppers.”
Buildings, huts and boats of all sizes rocked gently as the whole city bobbed on the water. Thousands of people scurried across the hundreds of docks which connected all parts of the city. Stalls with every kind of seafood imaginable stood propped against any structure big enough, or sound enough, to support them.
“You mentioned a ‘Red Bird’ earlier, who is that?” Sam asked
Zack smiled at her. “’Red Bird’ is the code name for the leader of the resistance here on Teardrop. She’ll know what to do with you lot, especially if she suspects, like I do, that you’re agents of the Emperor.”
Felicia raised her hand. “Hey, hi, yeah so, what do you guys do to the agents of the Emperor anyways?”
Instead of answering, Captain Zack nodded his head towards the right as he walked. Felicia looked and saw several wooden cages hanging above the water. Inside were human remains, or at least they looked human, it was not completely clear. It seemed that the seagulls of Teardrop were like the seagulls of Earth, they’d eat anything.
He led them into a non-descript building just east of where The Em-Jay was docked. Inside, they were met by a group of men all heavily built and carrying various weapons. At the back of the space was a lone table, sitting behind it was a blond haired woman.
She nodded towards Zack. “It’s nice to see you again, Captain.”
“As always, Red Bird, the pleasure is all mine.”
“So,” she opened her hands palm up, “what did you catch today?”
“These three ladies were taking a nice little swim just past Zil reef. I suspect they are Rainbow agents.”
Red Bird leaned across the table to get a better view at them. “They don’t look like the kind recruited by the Emperor.”
“That’s because we’re not,” Sam proclaimed. “We’re on a mission to destroy him.”
With a burst of laughter, the rebel leader rose from her seat and walked around the table to look into Sam’s eyes. “Now that’s funny. You do know that the Emperor is not on Teardrop, right? How in the worlds could you possibly destroy him?”
“We don’t have time for this. Just know that I’m telling the truth.”
“And why should I believe a single word out of your mouth?”
Sam stepped forward and rolled up her sleeve. “Because I have this!”
Red Bird gasped.
“What’s that supposed to be?” Robi-Jo craned her neck to look at Sam’s arm.
“This,” Sam said as she held her exposed arm for all to see, “is the mark of Veets.”
Felicia scratched her head. “The mark of whatsit?”
Sam cleared her throat. “Veets is the legendary seer who predicted the coming of The Dreaded Rainbow Emperor. He foresaw that one day, a person would be born with a special birthmark, this birthmark, and that person would be responsible for finding the chosen one who would bring the Emperor’s reign of terror to an end.”
The rebel leader shifted her eyes between Felicia and Robi-Jo. “Are you saying that one of these two are the chosen one?”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Sam couldn’t help but to snort. “God no! These two are…special, in a different way.”
Red Bird shook her head. “Then I don’t understand, who is the chosen one?”
Sam filled the woman in on her mission. She started with the failed attempt at reaching the Dale prime on Earth, then their exploits in retrieving the pieces of Dale on hEarth.
“That’s…quite a story. I would not believe such a tale, but you do bare the mark of Veets. What do you need from us?”
Sam rolled her sleeve back down. “I need the Dale pieces we’ve already collected and my gear. After that, someone to take me to your Dale’s final resting place. We have to scavenge as much of him as possible.”
Reb Bird slowly nodded her head as she listened to Sam’s requests. “All of your belongings will be returned to you, but there will be a problem retrieving anything of our Dale. You see, it wasn’t the Emperor’s men who killed him on our world, it was the Siren.”
A hush fell over the room. Even the beefy rebel soldiers rocked nervously on the balls of their feet at the mention of the Siren.
“What’s the ‘Siren’?” Sam asked.
Red Bird returned to her seat behind the table. “The Siren is not a what, it’s a who. A long time ago there was a girl from a small floating village to the south, who got lost in a storm while trying to reach Fresh Choppers. The girl, her name was Stephanie, was said to have the sweetest voice in all the seas. During the height of that terrible tempest, when it became clear to her that she wold not make it through, she comforted herself by singing her favourite childhood lullaby. What Stephanie did not know, was that there was something evil, something ancient riding in that gale. This malevolent force heard her beautiful voice. It came to her as the waves crashed all around, and made her a deal. If she agreed to sing its terrible melody, it would keep her safe from the storm. Afraid for her life, she agreed.
“Upon returning to her village, Stephanie immediately attempted to tell her friends and family what had befallen her, but when she opened her mouth, only song came out. The singing was so intoxicating that everybody who heard it lost their senses. To make things worse, when the people were in this state, something inside Stephanie began to rumble. Before she could stop herself, she devoured those poor people whole.
“Now she haunts the Gascogne Isle, luring any foolish enough to wander too close, into her deathly clutches.”
“Wow,” Felicia whistled. “That’s kinda effed-up.”
“So, are you going to help us or not, Red Bird?” Sam leaned on the table, facing the rebel leader.
The woman shook her head. “First, I think we’ve come far enough that we can drop my code name. Call me Robin. And secondly, the answer is no, we’re not going to help you. I can’t spare any resources to your cause. Nobody who has ever set foot on Gascogne Isle has returned. It would be foolish to waste trained soldiers—men and women who can fight against the Emperor—on such a hopeless quest. I’m sorry.”
Sam slammed her hands down on the table. “Don’t you see? If we don’t stop the Emperor now, it will be too late. All the worlds will fall to his will.”
“Again, I’m sorry.” Robin stood up and left through a door at the back of the room.
“What are we going to do?” Robi-Jo asked as she walked along the busy docks with Sam and Felicia.
“We’re going to return to Captain Zack’s ship and retrieve my stuff, then, we’re going to try and find a way to get to Gascogne Isle.” Sam spoke quickly, her voice thick with frustration.
Felicia slowed her pace. “Um, am I the only one who heard that there’s a girl on that isle that hypnotizes and then eats people? So, maybe we shouldn’t go there…just saying.”
Sam spun on her. “If we don’t get enough Dale parts to rebuild him, everything—everyone—you’ve ever known and loved will be gone.”
Robi stepped between them. “Okay, okay, we go to this isle and find whatever is left of Teardrop’s Dale. The real question is, how are we going to get there? Last I checked, we don’t exactly have a boat.”
“That’s not true.” Captain Zack stepped out from behind a food stand. “Robin has made her decision, but The Em-Jay is my ship, and I can do with her as I please. If what you say is true,” he locked eyes with Sam, “then I’m obliged to help you in any way that I can.”
Christian Laforet is the author of the short horror collection, The Space Between Houses and co-founder of Adventure Worlds.
The Space Between Houses is available through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Space-Between-Houses-Christian-Laforet-ebook/dp/B00P5N8TRS/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-ueredtext&ie=UTF8&qid=1420681234&sr=1-2&keywords=the+space+between+houses