By L.A. Banks
Damali rolled up the legs of her jeans, stood up, and absently ran her fingers over the stones in her silver lining necklace as she gripped it tightly in her left hand. Then she opened the deck doors and walked barefoot out towards the deserted beach. Even with a lightweight, white tank top on, the early morning sun beat down hot rays on her scalp, face, and shoulders. She squinted toward the beach and lifted her dreadlocks up higher in a ponytail scrunchie, searching for Carlos, then let out a hard breath of frustration when she didn’t immediately spot him.
Hughes: Wow, was there any body part we DIDN’T cover in that description.
Namine: Internal organs? Body parts not discussed in public?
Hughes: Shucks, I wanted to know how her kidneys were doing.
Why did everything on the team always have to be done by committee?
Insano: Okay, show of hands. We’ve decided this week we’re all wearing the blue spandex.
Namine: I thought that was next week?
Hughes: I must have missed that memo. I get so much paperwork.
Okay, sure, every man in the house whose wife was pregnant was freaking out, and the Berkfields were having a fit because their daughter, Krissy, and daughter-in-law, Jasmine, were carrying their first grandchildren, but she and Carlos couldn’t just do an energy fold-away this close to the Bermuda Triangle! Basic quantum physics made that impossible.
Hughes: Two paragraphs in and I’m lost. What the heck is the narrator babbling about and what does it have to do with the first paragraph. It’s called transition.
Insano: Quantum physics? Really? You’re really going to try and have a “smart” character? Right, good luck with that.
The Triangle was magnetically unstable. J.L. knew that. Every tactical Guardian on the team should have been able to grasp the implications. Why they had to argue that fact with the team was beyond her.
It was simple, at least in her mind. Deviations in the magnetic field around the phenomenon were caused by micro-wormholes, otherwise known as transit tunnels--the same tunnel system that the team seemed to have forgotten that Cain had used to lead a full aqua-demon army out of Nod before.
Insano: Well thank you for explaining all of that. But you lost credit in your “scientific reasoning” the moment you used the phrase “AQUA-DEMON”
Namine: One person’s magic is another’s science?
Insano: Not on my watch it isn’t! Science is science and magic is magic. There is a difference!
Namine: Really? What is it?
Hughes: [he looks over at Insano’s lab jacket] I think he’s just upset that his science isn’t magicky enough.
Damali blew a stray strand of damp hair up off her forehead, exasperated. The damned Bermuda Triangle, just like all the other vortexes on the planet, was filled with rips in the cosmic fabric, some only a gigafraction of an inch--a tear so small that it could be represented by a decimal point and the number one preceded by something crazy like thirty-three zeros, where unstable mini-black holes of a virtual matter and mini-white holes of virtual antimatter fluxed on a dime in and out of the geometry of space.
Hughes: Blah, blah, blah. Science mumbo-jumbo nobody cares about. Blah, blah.
Namine: *blank expression of confusion*
Insano: THAT ISN’T SCIENCE! You can’t just...make up things like this and expect to be taken seriously. [Someone feel free to point out that this is exactly what he does]
Hughes: I thought scientists did that all the time, it’s not like YOU can disprove them if you don’t know what they’re talking about.
Only Cain was insane enough, and driven enough, to risk bringing the armies through a temporary black hole flux...just like the angels must have jettisoned the team through a quick flicker of a white hole opening to get them here. But neither she nor Carlos was down for chancing that. Hell, no--that’d be like trying to jump into a millisecond-turning double-Dutch rope that was changing from black to white and white to black and hoping they could snatch the entire team through on white. Not.
Hughes: Because we all know what happens when you cross the streams.
Insano: Why are we talking about angels now? I thought this was fake science.
Namine: They could be scientologists.
Insano: What? Are you trying to get us sued?
Pulling a team through that, where one burp in the interdimensional vortex could land them God only knows where, was not an option. No wonder Carlos was freaking out.
Hughes: What happened to just FINDING Carlos. Why do we need to know all of this other stuff?
Insano: Why do we need to know any of this stuff? Has this person ever read a book in their life?
Namine: I’m starting to think they haven’t.
Hughes: Nope, just wrote one and it wasn’t very good, as we can see here.
After a moment of walking to calm down, Damali steadied herself. The team was panicked, and her gut told her that was why unity was so hard to achieve right now. Everybody had to chill. Marj and Berkfield had their parental worries about Krissy and Bobby, as well as their kids’ spouses and unborn grands...just like Marlene and Shabazz
Hughes: I’m sorry, was that a name or a sound effect?
Namine: I think it’s a name, but it’s hard to tell.
were no doubt scared to death for her and Carlos. Maybe Yonnie and Val, along with Rider and Tara, would be the balances of sanity this time out, she prayed, Inez and Mike were too freaked-out about the whereabouts of little Ayana and Mom Delores, rightfully so, to be of much help. But Bobby, J.L., Jose, and Dan
Hughes: Anyone else getting character overload right about now? I think I’ve read about 50 names and this is only chapter one.
Insano: I’m just wondering what the hell sort of baby book they pulled these names from.
Hughes: Maybe they just drew Scrabble tiles from a bag and went from there.
would probably have a cow once they finally learned she was pregnant,
Insano: Also is everyone in this chapter pregnant?
Hughes: [loud voice] IT’S L.A. BANKS’ FAVORITE THIIIIINGS! And YOU have a baby! And YOU have a baby! EVERYBODY HAS A BABY!
too...which was why she knew Carlos needed to go take a long walk before he’d said something about her state that had been forbidden by the joint Neteru Kings’ and Queens’ Councils. Why was everything always so hard?
Namine: Because otherwise the author wouldn’t have been able to take time with useless description?
Hughes: Because if it was easy this would be a much shorter book?
Insano: Because you’re an idiot and are probably ignoring every smarter option?
She’d left the team to its collective squabbling about the potential next steps to take without looking back. They’d still be at it by the time she got back, she was sure. This was the part of communal living that Carlos couldn’t stand; she knew her husband well. After the team meeting, that Scorpio was going to need a private, quiet place to get his head together. Fury waves had been coming off his body so intensely that they were threatening to either fuse the Turkish rug to the hardwood floors around him or start a blaze.
Hughes: I’m pretty sure radiating while angry is not a sign of a healthy person.
Insano: Also I’m pretty sure any “wave” that threatens to set something on fire isn’t going to fuse rugs to floors. IT WOULD SET THEM ON FIRE.
That’s when he simply got up and left the villa.
Yeah, Carlos had to get up, get out, and walk it off. It was easy to understand. The darkside had jacked with Carlos Rivera’s cash flow,
Hughes: and had completely wiped out the Rebel forces to boot.
Insano: Wait are they just pretending “jacked” is a legitimate verb? I call bullshit. Actually this entire chapter would make an English teacher kill themselves.
Namine: Or simply anyone who likes to see language used correctly.
which represented major disrespect where he came from, and she knew his old street ways were wrestling within him. That part of him would never fully die. It would always resonate in his being, no matter what. Once from the streets always from the streets. Mess with a brother’s money? Oh, hell to the no.
Hughes: *finger snap* Girl please.
Damali just shook her head as she searched the beach for him. Some things were simple embedded in the man’s DNA.
Hughes: Seriously, I don’t think this author has heard of such a thing as TRANSITION. When did this become about the end of the world?
Namine: Just now. Because the author said so.
with a wife and a baby on the way, the darkside was playing to all of her husband’s deepest fears--all of which centered on basic survival. For Carlos, she knew cash meant flexibility, maneuverability, strength, a backdoor escape. If he was liquid, he could flow like the water sign he was and get out of whatever. But they’d taken that option away and Senor Rivera wasn’t having it.
Namine: Of course he’s not having it, they took it away.
Insano: So if they turn up the heat on him, maybe he’ll just evaporate and this story will end.
By the time she found him, his aura was radiating so much heat it had turned the sand around him to glass. Actual grains of sand had fused together right under him without burning him and then had quickly cooled from the trade winds and surf.
Insano: I’m sorry what? When did the mumbo-jumbo magical powers stuff start? I thought this was supposed to be science! Fake science true...but at least SCIENCE!
It was eerie to see him sitting all alone, yogi-style, wearing jeans and a red T-shirt,
Hughes: I thought yogi-style was a green tie with a white collar and a hat?
Insano: Oh so that’s why he’s angry. He can’t find any picnic baskets around the place.
Namine: No picnics at the end of the world, I guess.
hovering several inches above the beach in heavy meditation, aura glowing white-hot silver and him taking in long, deep breaths, practically shaking with rage. A deep crimson V of sweat marked his shirt as his broad shoulders and back slowly expanded and contracted beneath it.
Stopping for a moment, she wrestled with how best to approach him. He needed to know that she was on his side, even if she didn’t agree with the waste of energy being expended on rage. They had shit to do and had to do it quickly before Mr. Fontaine as the resort began to inquire further.
Insano: I’m starting to think no one read over this story.....at all. Either that or the resort is a sentient being.
Namine: At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were.
Hughes: [monotone voice] I’m afraid I can’t let you do that Mr. Fontaine.
Caribbean sun beat down on Carlos’s bronze skin, making the silver aura around him shimmer until she had to partially shield her eyes with her hand. Small beads of silver perspiration cast a glow to his damp hair, and his normally ripped, athletic frame had bulked ever so slightly, adding bricks to his abdominal six-pack, chest and thickly-muscled biceps. He was two seconds from a full vamp battle bulk, she could tell, and the only things missing were the sabertooth-length battle fangs.
Hughes: They can do that?
Insano: I’m pretty sure they can’t. Also no one said this was going to be about vampires!
Damali sighed quietly and tested the brittle surface of the beach before she stepped onto the smooth, shiny coating, wondering as much about how to restore what had once been pale pink sand to its previous pristine beauty as she was worried about how to restore Carlos’s peace. He was creating an ecological disaster while in angry-meditation repose.
Hughes: I’m pretty sure angry and meditation don’t go together like that.
What the hell was he gonna do when he finally came out of the trance?
Insano: Maybe he’ll burrow into the earth and become a diamond.....
...I think this explains those Twilight vampires.
“You’re levitating,” she said calmly, walking toward him as she murmured a prayer that their conversation be Light-sealed.
Hughes: *as Damali* You also turned all the sand to glass, but I figure I should just be Captain Obvious about one crazy power at a time.
Carlos opened his eyes, pure silver staring back at her as he unfolded from the yogi position and
Hughes: Into the BooBoo position.
stood. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” he said in a low, furious tone.
“Okay, so they messed up our money--”
“No,” he said evenly, cutting her off. “What the darkside did was box us in, bleed us out, and make us have to come out of hiding to eat...a daylight exposure move. Sudden death. Old-school vamp. Starve ‘em out.”
Insano: Okay so they are sticking with the vampire thing? What was all that crap about black holes and pregnant people and horrible, horrible fake SCIENCE?
Hughes: The black hole warped it into magic?
She nodded, having to give credit where credit was due. “Yep. Okay, but we’re still unrecognizable, courtesy of the Light. Last I checked, that side was providing for us, any ole way. We got here safely, which is more than you can say for a lot of people. We ate well. Got cleaned up, rested, and got new clothes--anywhere there’s a church mission we can pull in resources so we’re not raiding stores and gift shops like thieves. So what makes you think we’re gonna be without for long? Might not be as fly as we’re used to, but we won’t be completely piss ass out, and you know it. This just pisses you off because it’s definitely gonna cramp our style--a lot.”
Hughes: Did I mention I’m still confused as to what’s going on and who I’m supposed to care about? Because I am.
Insano: Nothing and no one. There, solved your problem.
Carlos looked away from her and folded his arms over his bulked chest.
“Do not let your ego get a chokehold on you, brother.
Hughes: Even if that WOULD be interesting to see.
Insano: Wait...that’s her brother? I thought they were dating or ugh why am I even trying to follow this?!
Namine: I think it’s an expression...at least I HOPE it is.
I know you and Yonnie loved having such deep pockets...but if the entire planet blows up, how much does that matter?”
When he whirled on her, she knew she’d accidentally pushed the wrong button.
“It’s not about that, D!” he shouted. “It’s about being able to move, roll smooth without a trace, buy supplies and ammo, and have the basic cover we need when we need it. Don’t make this about some old bullshit, Damali. Not this morning. Don’t go there.”
Insano: She had pressed the “act like a thirteen year old boy” button.
“All right, all right, my bad,” she said, holding her hands up in front of her. “But you have to admit--”
“I don’t have to do jack shit but get this family out of here in one piece. How am I supposed to do that when they have all my closest land options in a direct route through the Bermuda Triangle?”
Hughes: *sings* Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama. Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go?
Insano: *sings* Jamacia, off the Florida Keys ...There’s a place called Kokomo
Namine: *sings* That’s where you wanna go to get away from it all...
“Uriel said to wait for word.”
Carlos briefly hung his head back and closed his eyes. “I know. And I was ready to do that. But where are we gonna wait, D?” He opened his eyes as he opened his arms and simply stared at her. “They dropped us at a hotel where we can’t pay the bill. Even if I could successfully jettison us out of here, the humans at the hotel will by rights call U.S. authorities, which will alert the darkside to our last location--here--which will put pure Hell hot on our trail.”
Insano: The Darkside. So what is this anyway? Star Wars: Vampire Edition?
Namine: No, that would actually be interesting.
“Uriel said to wait for word,” Damali repeated calmly, not blinking as she stared at him.
Carlos let his breath out hard. “Yeah, I know.”
“You try the Kings?”
Namine: Yes, but Elvis was busy.
He stared at her for a moment. “You try the Queens?”
Hughes: Go Fish. How about Jacks?
She nodded. “Seems all of Heaven pretty much emptied out searching for the pupa.”
Insano: *reading from a dictionary* Pupa “The nonfeeding stage between the larva and adult in the metamorphosis of holometabolous insects, during which the larva typically undergoes complete transformation within a protective cocoon or hardened case.”
Hughes: Seems like a lot of hassle for a bug.</font>
“And in the meantime, we’re ass out.”
Hughes: *sings* You do the hokey pokey and shake it all about.
Namine: *sings* That’s what it’s all about.
Damali fought a smile. “Yeah, I guess our credit card problems aren’t top priority, given what the Light is hunting...or as much of a priority as trying to contain the pale horse of the Apocalypse, huh?”
Hughes: Seeing as the stables were full this was a very difficult task indeed.
“I don’t even see how you can crack a smile at a time like this.” Incredulous, Carlos raked his fingers through his hair and shook his head. “We’ve got a serious problem, boo.”
Insano: Her? Her? You were the one throwing a temper tantrum...like a minute ago!
“Yeah, I know,” Damali said, finally going to him. “Listen...I wasn’t making fun of you; I was just trying to put things into perspective. So, we leave Mr. Fontaine a Rolex--which should cover the nights we stayed, along with a note saying that due to the Wall Street crash, everything liquid we had got jacked.This way, we’re not breaking cosmic law by stealing, which means the darkside can’t track us...then we--”
Insano: Yeah, good luck bribing Darth Vader with a Rolex.
“We what, D?” Carlos pulled away from her to begin pacing. “What the fuck are we supposed to do!”
“Go to the hills, and--”
Insano: never be heard from again?
Hughes: be alive with the sound of music?
“That’s just it, Damali. They’re hills, not mountains!
Hughes: Then this is the perfect time to start making mountains out of molehills isn’t it.
The whole island is only twenty-one freakin’ square miles big. You can get from one end to the other in an hour.
Insano: Here’s a wild idea.....LEAVE THE ISLAND.
Namine: But that would actually make sense.
Hughes: Maybe it’s like Gilligan’s Island and they can’t.
Hide? Hide where, boo? You wanna go to the place called Shadow Mountain here, which is a really big hill--or maybe wall-up underground in their crystal caves that look like you’ve entered Level Seven of Hell? No, no, better yet, we can hide in Hungry Bay or Mangrove Swamp with you being pregnant! Or maybe we’ll just hang out at the golf course green of the Duns Resort until we bump into Tiger Woods and then I’ll ask him if he has a coupla C notes so he can drop on--”
“Or maybe we could just go to a church, and call the Covenant?”
Namine: Without Quasimodo here?
She stared at Carlos. He was starting to get on her last nerve. “The oldest church on the island, Marlene said, is the Cathedral of the Most Holy. To me it’s as good a place as any to wait for word from an archangel, don’t you think?”
Insano: Cathedral of the Most Holy. Really? Half the characters name’s sound like you threw darts at an alphabet but the church just gets called “The Most Holy?”
Carlos gave her his back to consider as he put his hands on top of his head and walked off a ways. She’d wait. She knew the drill--he had to blow off enough steam to let good, old-fashioned logic kick in. The fact that Father Pat was no longer around had simply closed off the Covenant as an option for support in her husband’s mind.
Insano: Wait...so they are married? Why did she call him brother before?
Hughes: Slang-term? Then again, this book is messed up enough to HAVE siblings marry so I wouldn’t put it past the author.
She could feel it, knew it as much as she knew her name. There were so many things eating the man up from the inside out that it was obvious he couldn’t think straight.
“Listen,” she said quietly after a moment. “The Light always works in code and yet always provides. We’re in Bermuda, man. No one knows who we are, courtesy of the Light. Truth be told, we could eat off the trees and live off the fish in this weather for a long time, if we had to, and we’ve avoided the pale horse plagues for now. We could still be scraping in the streets of D.C. trying to get past military checkpoints. So, there’s gotta be something about why we got dropped here, of all places.”
When he didn’t immediately respond, she pressed her point, trying to give him something positive to hang on to. “Did you ever consider that maybe the Light put us here because during this all-out war, even the darkside would be afraid to send their troops through the Triangle to risk their resources right now? That network of interdimensional tunnels fluxes both black and white, right? So, this could be the safest place at the moment...I’d bank on that, since an archangel set us down here and not in a hot zone. Make sense?”
Hughes: None of this has made sense. Why are you asking now?
To her relief, she watched the intricate tumblers in Carlos’s mind begin to turn with that new awareness, as though her words were the necessary lubricant to get the heavy mental gears that had been paralyzed by age to move.
Namine: Carlos is a robot?
Hughes: If he is, it sounds like he needs some oil.
Insano: He needs to be scrapped altogether.
Damali motioned to her necklace. It was important to give the man who knew she wanted to rip out en entity’s heard something more productive than vengeance to focus on.
“Twenty-one square miles--do the math,” Damali looked at her husband in an unblinking gaze. “Two plus one is three, a trinity. Even after the Light sent old man Cordell back to rejoin his D.C. team, there are still twenty-one members of core Guardians and clerics combined on our team--eighteen Neteru Guardians here with three remaining members of the Covenant back in the States. This place is made up of seven main islands within the cluster of tiny coral islands and islets--seven, Carlos. A lucky number; a power number. C’mon, I thought you were a betting man.”
Insano: *writing numbers and lines on a white board*
I’ve got it! She was right! The numbers! It all makes sense!
*Traces the numbers together to spell out “she is nuts” and holds it out for people to see*
Carlos looked out to sea, his eyes glazing over with a seer’s mild trance. “Yeah. Blackjack. Twenty-one, a trinity. All right, I hear you. Spanish mariners got here in 1503, which when you do the math comes to nine...an end number. But if Bermuda is being represented by an end number, and they let us off outside the Bermuda Triangle--why would they drop us near what is also known as the Devil’s Triangle, baby? Cain got his troops through this way before, and you know his granddaddy, old Lu, is crazier than him.” Carlos turned to look at her, the trance suddenly gone.
Damali shrugged and looked down at the necklace in her fist. “Let’s ask Pearl.”
Hughes: Yeah, maybe Pearl can explain this mess better than you. Although somehow, I doubt it.</font>
Insano: Can we ask Pearl to explain what the hell that was?
Namine: Any explanation would help at this point.