- This is the latest chapter in a serialized novel, updated every MON, WED, and FRI.
- All chapters are archived here.
- Liking, sharing, and commenting is much appreciated. Thank you for reading!
Once inside the car, Mo began laying out their course of action.
"Okay, here's the plan," Mo said from the driver seat. "While you guys wait in here for the cops to settle down a bit, I'm going to change into a bird and go find out exactly where Dash works in the Feed station. If we just circle the building aimlessly in a police hovercar looking for Dash, people will certainly spot us and get suspicious.
"Once I locate her, I'll come back and we'll go pick her up. That way we can pull up directly to her window and it'll be a quick in and out operation. Hopefully she works in an office with a window... And let's hope D86 hasn't gotten to her yet."
"Considering the mess he's got to deal with back at the zoo right now, I highly doubt it," Yumi said from the passenger seat.
"I hope so," Mo replied. "But either way, let's not push our luck. We've got to get Dash out of there as soon as possible."
"Wait, what if someone spots us before you come back?" Andy asked from the back seat. He was laying down, aching from every joint, hands caked with blood. All the battering he had taken in the last couple of hours were catching up with him.
"Yeah, you better teach us how to drive this thing before you go," Yumi suggested.
"Hey, look! Donuts!" Andy exclaimed, spotting a pink box full of donuts on the car floor.
The donuts, although stale, were a most welcome comfort after what they had just been through. As they dug into them, Mo explained how to operate the hovercar.
"...and that's it," Mo finished five minutes later. "It's pretty easy actually. You guys got it?" He threw one last donut hole into his mouth and dusted the crumbs off his hands.
Andy answered around a mass of glazed donut stuffed into his cheeks. "I think so."
"Yeah, we got it," Yumi said impatiently, biting into a maple bar. "Go!"
Mo rolled down the driver side window. "All right. If you guys get spotted before I get back, drive straight to the station, and we'll rendezvous on the roof of the building, all right? But don't worry, I shouldn't be long." Mo morphed into a crow and perched on the widow sill. "One of you better get in the driver seat in case you need to take off in a hurry," he cawed. "All right, kids, behave yourselves. I don't want to find any stains on the backseat when I get back."
"Scram!" Yumi snapped.
Mo fluttered off, cackling to himself.
"All right, Andy, get up here," she called to the backseat.
"Wait, why do I have to be in the driver seat?" Andy protested.
"Because I'm still a little woozy from the stun blast..."
"Are you kidding me? In the last couple of hours, I fell to the floor from a ceiling and nearly lost half of my fingernails gripping for dear life three thousand feet in the air. I can't even feel my arms right now..."
"All right, all right." Yumi clambered into the driver seat. "You're such a wuss."
"Oh, come on, cut me some slack. Mo's balls were on that seat. I can't sit there!"
Once Andy climbed into the passenger seat, they sat in silence while Yumi got caught up in her notebook. The silence was only broken by the scribbling of Yumi's pen and the chewing of their donuts. They kept a close eye on the sky for any cops who might wander into the area. The night sky was stark and clear, really hitting home just how long it had been since Andy last gazed up at the stars. But even though they were finally free from their cell, being on the run kept the sense of true freedom at bay. Andy felt as if they had simply escaped into a bigger cell. He was more anxious to get back home than ever before.
All the toll on his body seemed to be magnified as well now that there was no activity to distract his brain from the pain. Andy groaned thinking about all the bruises which were sure to surface the next day. His brain also ran away with itself in this lull in action, turbulent with thoughts he never imagined he would have to contend with in his waking life. He was still trying to come to grips with everything he had just survived. Gradually the silence in the car grew incredibly oppressive. He was enclosed in a flying car with an ex-girlfriend he never dated, waiting for a naked man who transformed into animals so they could rescue an alien with a 9-to-5 at a brain tv station. Andy's dreams weren't this surreal. He felt like he needed to have a conversation to root him in this reality. He needed to hear another human voice.
"Which button was for water again?" he asked, scouring the crowded dashboard.
"The blue one on the right there," Yumi mumbled, pointing. "Above that nozzle."
Andy took one of the two cups they found resting in the cup holders and tucked it under the spout. Then he pushed the blue button and water instantly poured into the cup.
Andy took a swig. "It's amazing how it generates water just by collecting the moisture from the air, huh?" he asked.
Yumi mumbled a mindless answer, consumed with her writing. "Praxian technology. Gotta love it."
"We're probably drinking our farts."
Yumi chuckled. "How's it taste?"
"Tangy," Andy smirked. "I hope you're writing this down. This is valuable information."
Yumi grew quiet again, focused like a hawk on her notebook. Andy rummaged around in the pink box for another donut, but decided to save the rest for later.
"Man, for such an advanced race, they make pretty mediocre donuts," he said. "Hey so... you go to UC Berkeley, right? Do you have Kingpin Donuts in your dimension, right next to campus?"
Yumi looked up. "Yeah. In your world too?"
"Yeah! Now those are donuts. Whenever I would hang out in Berkeley with the Yumi back in my world, we'd hit Top Dog and then get some donuts at Kingpin for dessert."
"Whoa... that's crazy! I used to do that all the time too. I mean, with the Andy of my world..."
"Hey, when you guys were just friends, before you started dating, did you ever go to a late night diner called Lucky Penny in San Francisco and snort sugar off the table one time?"
"Oh my god, yeah! The waitress was so pissed and annoyed with us, she--"
"--refused to give us our change!" Andy finished.
They broke into a hearty, confused laugh. The first real laughter between them. It was so strange; they were reminiscing over a shared memory... which they hadn't shared.
"Wow, that is hilarious," Andy said.
"It's so weird! All these eerie parallels..."
Yumi chewed on the end of her pen. An awkward silence followed as they dodged eye contact. Through the deep silence, Andy could hear the faint buzzing of crickets outside. The reflection of the moon shimmered over the flowing river as black as ink in the night.
"Hey, so, I'm really curious about something," Andy said at last. "I told Dash to let Yumi know about my residence in the zoo to persuade her to come join me. But when Dash told you that, you assumed I was your Andy, right? So that means the Andy in your world has been missing for a month as well?"
Yumi pondered. "I've been thinking about that, too. Dash is really smart. She obviously singled out the perfect ringer dimension where those events coincided, making it near impossible for me to pass up the opportunity. Yeah, Andy has been missing in my world as well. When Dash told me he had been stuck in some alien zoo, I was relieved in a way. I thought he had run away with Alicia, my roommate, on some romantic holiday. She's been missing for the same amount of time as my Andy. Well, I was probably right all along, it turns out..." Yumi turned away from Andy, unable to hide the hurt on her face.
Andy ached with sympathy. "I'm so sorry, Yumi... How did you find out?"
"My friends told me. Turns out everyone knew but me. I'm so stupid..."
"No, you're not. Stop it."
"No, I am. To have stuck with him for this long. Anyway, he went missing before I could confront him about Alicia, so when Dash miraculously showed up to grant me my wish, I couldn't resist. It didn't matter to me that I would be signing away my life. I knew I would escape somehow. Especially with Andy here. Don't get me wrong, it was the story that drove me to Praxis, not him, believe me. I'm through with him. But the Andy from my world could talk his way out of anything. Despite his issues with infidelity, he's also the boldest, bravest person I know. He's not afraid of anything. It's those qualities which attracted me to him in the first place. I knew as long as he was with me, I wouldn't be stuck in the C.I.S. Zoo." She hesitated for a moment, then continued in a whisper. "Okay, in all honesty, maybe I did nurse a glimmer of hope that he would come around if we went through this together. That he would become faithful to me and we could get back together... But don't ever tell anyone I said that..."
Andy listened patiently without interrupting. He could see Yumi simply needed a sympathetic ear. When it seemed she had exorcised everything she needed to, he finally spoke up . "Listen... I want to apologize on behalf of this evil twin of mine in your dimension. I have no idea how I turned out to be such a douchebag over there, but..."
"He's not 'evil,' he's just--"
Yumi was cut short by a brief burst of static followed by a voice.
"Unit KP-5794, do you copy?"
Yumi and Andy jumped in their seats and stared at each other, stricken with panic.
"A296? F34? Hello? Are you guys there?"
Yumi snatched the receiver off the dashboard and shoved it into Andy's hands.
"Answer it!" she hissed. "If you don't answer, they'll get suspicious!"
"Why me?" Andy squealed.
"Because there were two guys in here, you doofus!"
Before Andy could protest any further, she clicked the button on the receiver and crammed it over his mouth.
"Uhhh," he stammered. "Yeah. I mean, copy! That. Copy that! We're here. In the car!"
Yumi shook her head in despair.
"We just got a call for a 091," said the voice on the other end.
Not having any idea how to respond, all Andy could do was stare helplessly at Yumi. Luckily the voice -- presumably a cop at the police station -- answered for him.
"I know, shocking, right? I was speechless too when we first got the call. And get this, the call came from D86! That's right, 481(4)-0427.05.03.D86 from the C.I.S. Zoo of all people. The suspect is his daughter, 503(4)-0717.04.23.B101! Anyway, D86 is on his way over to the Feed station right now where B101 works. We need you guys to meet him there and make the arrest. You'll find B101 in the main control room on the top floor."
"Shit!" Andy blurted out loud. Then he slapped a hand over his mouth and cringed. Yumi grimaced and dropped her head into her free hand.
"Excuse me?" asked the Praxian.
"Uhh," Andy mumbled. "Shit. I... uh... I have to take a shit."
"That's... great. Be sure to include it in the paperwork," the cop retorted sarcastically.
"Um... Copy that," Andy said. "Well, we're on our way. To the Feed station, I mean. Uh... Over and out?"
"Whatever," said the cop, followed by a click. Then all was quiet. Yumi released the button on the receiver and threw it back on the dashboard.
"Shit shit shit!" Andy sputtered. "What do we do? Should we wait for Mo to return or--"
Suddenly Andy was hurled back into his seat as Yumi launched the hovercar into the air.
Like it? Hate it? Feel free to post your comments below, I'd love to hear your feedback. And if you're enjoying this novel, I would be eternally grateful if you could click those like and share buttons below. It would be really encouraging and help spread the word. Thank you! (Apologies for any typos you may come across. This book hasn't been professionally proofread.)