So, suffering some writer’s block for the last week. It’s not that I don’t know what to do with Cole and Jimmie, it’s just getting them from point A to point B. I’ll be able to push through in the next day or so.
Till then, I drew this today. Well, ok, I drew it yesterday, then scanned it, then re worked it in Inkscape today. I really like how it turned out.
This is Decker, by the way. One of my Champions Online characters. Yes, I do use female characters when I play MMOs. I use male ones too, but whatever.
Point being, turned out nice. I accidently formed a way of using the pen tool that I really like. I think I’ll try at free handing a new picture soon without drawing it on paper first. Saving trees…so, you know, Captain Planet and all that.
“Did you notice that the Joblins are wearing suits?”
Jimmie shook his head at Cole. He pointed up at a floating rock nearby, and they both jumped up to it. They kept running, which was for the best, since several Joblins were close behind.
“I didn’t notice,” Jimmie admitted. “I’m not figuring this the best moment for fashion critique.”
Cole grabbed Jimmie’s hand for a second, and pulled him towards a smaller floating island off to the side. They leapt at it as the Joblins overran the rock they were on. A few continued to shadow them from below.
“I’m sort of relieved is all,” Cole admitted breathlessly. “I mean, we’re being chased, and I honestly think they want to kill us.” She looked back for a quick moment. “But at least they’re dressed. I think if they were naked, this would be a lot worse.”
Jimmie dared a glance backwards. The Joblins were gaining quickly, but at least they’d lost Dilla somehow. Jimmie couldn’t help noticing that Cole was right; Joblins wore little black suits like miniature undertakers. He couldn’t decide if that made them more or less terrifying, but it was nice to see they had ties flapping in the wind, and nothing else.
Jimmie looked forward again just in time for the next jump. This time, he and Cole landed on the underside of one of the islands. The sudden reverse of gravity turned them around, and they almost ran back towards the oncoming horde of Joblins. The Joblins didn’t seem to have the same disorientation as they leapt up to the same island.
“There was a second half to the plan, right?” Cole panted. Her lungs felt like a furnace, and her chest was on fire. “I don’t think running is going to be enough.”
Jimmie gave a nod. The Joblins were gaining; partially because they knew how to use the islands better, but mostly because Cole and Jimmie were slowing. Neither of them had ever had to run this much, or push themselves this hard. Adrenaline was the only thing carrying them at this point; and even that was running low.
Jimmie pointed ahead. “There’s a grove of trees,” he forced. “If we can get there, maybe we can lose them.”
“That’s a pretty big maybe,” Cole said. She pointed ahead at the lack of islands.
Cole and Jimmie didn’t slow. They both leapt from their last island, and swan dived towards the ground below. They twisted in the air as the ground’s gravity righted them, and landed hard feet first before bouncing again. Most of the laws of physics were lost on Omira, but one still stayed true so far. Jimmie and Cole were heavier than the Joblins, so they bounced further. They may have not lost the Joblins, but they had a better lead at least.
Jimmie looked back at the Joblins. One of them had broken from the pack, and was barrelling down on him and Cole quicker than the others. Jimmie couldn’t help but notice that this one Joblin was wearing a sweatband and sneakers.
Cole didn’t miss it either. “That’s uh…” she stated, not sure what to declare that to be.
“Yeah,” Jimmie agreed. He watched, hypnotized, as the Joblin ran at them. Jimmie considered running again, but changed his mind. Instead, he turned and faced down the Joblin rushing at them.
Jimmie balled his fists, and swung as hard as he could at the Joblin. Jimmie had to swing low to catch the smaller creature, but he managed to clock it pretty good in the side of the jaw.
The Joblin toppled backwards. It rubbed its jaw where Jimmie had punched it, and hissed. The Joblin showed the full of its teeth as it screamed fury at Jimmie. “JAWBS!”
Jimmie blinked back in shock. He’d expected things to turn out different. He felt Cole grab his shoulder, and didn’t struggle as she urged him back into a run. “Keep moving, Ryu!” she insisted
Jimmie stared back for a second before pouring on the speed again. “It was supposed to just, you know, poof,” he explained as they ran. “Like back in the warehouse!”
“I know,” Cole replied. “Maybe they’re more real here?” She shuddered as she considered if that made her and Jimmie less real here. She wondered if they’d just poof if they were hit hard enough. Cole kept the thought to herself.
The one runner of the Joblins may not have poofed, but Jimmie’s punch had taken some of the urge out of its step. It was still moaning about its face when the others caught up with it. The Joblins didn’t stop to help their hurt comrade, instead sprinting harder to close the gap between them and the two humans. Jimmie and Cole meanwhile huffed and puffed, and tried to ignore their lungs threatening to explode. The grove was just ahead, and though Jimmie and Cole weren’t sure how, they were convinced that it was where they’d lose the Joblins
It was as they got closer that they saw the grove for what it really was. It wasn’t a grove at all in fact, but the top of a great forest. They’d only seen the tops of the trees over a cliff. A cliff that Jimmie and Cole were running towards at full speed.
Jimmie skidded to a stop at the edge of the cliff. He turned around to search for another option. All he saw was Cole, and the Joblins. The Joblins were still right behind them, and Cole wasn’t going to stop. She slammed into Jimmie at full speed, and threw them both off of the edge of the cliff.
Cole and Jimmie smashed through the foliage as they freefell. They were battered and cut by the branches around them, but the forest did slow their fall. When they ploughed through the thicket and hit the ground, they were surprised that they didn’t bounce. The ground was spongy: but it was the regular forest spongy of rotted leaves and mud, not the bounce spongy of the Omira ground above them
“Ow,” Jimmie declared. He meant it this time. He stared at the dozens of small cuts lacing his arms, and assumed by the stinging that his face looked the same. His ribs hurt from where he’d smacked directly into a tree on their fall, but Jimmie was mostly certain he hadn’t broken anything. “Ow,” he declared again.
“Ow,” Cole agreed. “I’d almost forgotten that things can hurt,” she said. “I mean, till now, gravity’s had our back on this sort of thing.”
Cole rubbed her knee where she’d scraped it on their fall. Her tights were torn there, but she’d fared better than Jimmie. Her hoodie had kept her from getting too cut up, though the zipper had been wrecked in the fall. She rubbed her cheek, and pointed at Jimmie. “You’re bleeding,” she told him.
“So are you,” Jimmie replied. He rubbed his forehead, and pointed back at Cole. Jimmie looked up at the cliff. The Joblins looked back down at them, but didn’t follow.
Cole followed Jimmie’s gaze. “We got away,” she stated with a sigh. “Good plan, sir.”
“I suppose.” Jimmie winced as he pulled a twig free from where it had embedded itself in his arm.
Cole stood up, and rubbed her knee again. “And no one lost an eye in the trees, so that’s a bonus.”
“Yeah.” Jimmie muttered. He looked back up the cliff. “Why didn’t they follow us?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Cole helped Jimmie up. “Were you hoping they’d chase us a bit more?”
“No, it’s just…” Jimmie waved at the cliff. “They’re not even trying to climb down now. I can understand them not leaping over the cliff right after us, but they’re not even trying now.” He shook his head. “They must know something we don’t.”
“Well, we’re not going back the way we came,” Cole replied. She looked into the forest. The yellow light of above was gone, replaced by an eerie grey. “We don’t have a choice,” she stated, as much to herself as to Jimmie. “We’ll just have to find out what they know that we don’t.”
Dilla-Dago joined his Joblins at the top of the cliff. The Joblins looked down the cliff, and then around the area. None of them wanted to make eye contact with the Dago.
“So,” Dilla-Dago started expectantly. “Where are the strangers?”
“Jawbs,” A Joblin told him. The others agreed readily.
“Well, why aren’t you in there chasing them down?”
“Jawbs,” the Joblin declared quietly. It looked at the ground in embarrassment.
“Is that so?” Dilla-Dago asked. “And you all feel this way?” Dilla paced in front of the Joblins, hands behind his back. “See, boys, what you gotta ask yourselves is; what are you more afraid of? The forest, or me?”
Dilla stared incredulously as the Joblins discussed amongst themselves. Their chosen spokesman finally nodded to the others, and looked up at Dilla. “Jawbs,” it admitted.
“Really?” Dilla chewed on his cigar a moment. He tilted his helmet, and scratched his forehead. “I thought the answer would have been me.”
The Joblin shrugged apologetically, and smiled hopefully up at Dilla. Its smile vanished as Dilla-Dago wrapped his hand around its head. There was a shriek, and a sound that can only be described as a watermelon popping as Dilla closed his fist. The Joblin vanished in a puff of oily black smoke.
Dilla-Dago shook smoke from between his fingers, and sneered at the remaining Joblins. “Now, lets try that again,” he suggested.
The Joblins stared wide eyed at Dilla-Dago for a moment, then dashed into the forest after Jimmie and Cole.
Cole wiped away a layer of yellow from the window and peered out onto the Town Square. She was cautious at first that Dilla-Dago would see her, but got over her concern as she was crowded by Jimmie Momo and Pluppa. No one outside could see them; that wasn’t how windows worked in Omira.
Dilla-Dago paced in front of the collected Goobs, surrounded by a small entourage of Joblins. He stood nearly eight foot tall, and was covered with a thick round shell of interlocking armoured bands. Dilla-Dago’s head was triangular, with a tapered snout, and an exaggerated overbite. Long donkey like ears jutted from the sides of his bald head. Dilla’s forearms and hands were far too big for his arms, and his fingers ended in thick claws. He had short thick legs, and oversized feet. Dilla-Dago wore a red tie, and a drill sergeant’s helmet.
Dilla-Dago chomped on the butt of a cigar. He walked with his hands folded behind his back, and stared menace at the Goobs. He yelled when he spoke in a way that suggested he didn’t know how to speak otherwise. “I suppose you maggots are wondering why I’m here today?”
There was a murmur amongst the Goobs. “W-why are you here?” one of them stuttered feebly.
“Very good,” Dilla-Dago replied sharply. A Joblin standing beside Dilla nodded, and handed the Goob who’d spoken up a card.
“What did they give him?” Jimmie asked.
“It’s a Don’t Hurt Me card,” Momo replied. “You can use them to beg for leniency when Dilla-Dago is going to hurt you.”
“Oh…Kay.” Cole shook her head. “Does it work?”
Pluppa shrugged. “Works better then not having one, eh?” he replied.
“I can be reasonable,” Dilla-Dago yelled outside. “I can be kind.” Dilla-Dago explained. “I can be fair.” He stopped a second, and stared down at the Goobs. “Who can be fair?”
“You can, sir!” the Goobs yelled in practiced unison.
Dilla smiled around his cigar. “You’re damned right.”
Dilla-Dago returned to his pacing. “I am looking for some strangers,” he declared. “You’ll know who they are, because they don’t look like anyone you’ve ever seen before. We have reason to believe that they are here, in Goob’s Ville.” Dilla-Dago puffed on his cigar. “I have one more Don’t Hurt Me card. I’d hate to think about what will happen to anyone who doesn’t have a card if I have to find the strangers myself.”
Jimmie and Cole watched from the window. They shared a look of sheer panic. “I wouldn’t worry too much,” Momo assured them. “A Goob wouldn’t help a Dago to water if they were on fire, eh?”
“That’s right,” Pluppa agreed. He smiled at Cole. “None of us would turn you Fellas in even if it wasn’t to a Dago,” he continued. “You’re guests. That’d just be rude, eh?”
Outside, Dilla-Dago was doing nothing to hide his frustration. He backhanded a nearby Goob off of its feet, and waved his Joblins out across the town. The Joblins began immediately banging at doors, smashing windows, upturning carts, and making a general nuisance of themselves. On a casual glance, the Joblins could be mistaken for searching the town, but really, they were just wreaking the place.
Momo and Pluppa nodded at each other, and left Jimmie and Cole looking out the window. “We should go and make ourselves visible before Dilla-Dago notices we’re not out there eh?”
“Maybe you can stop them?” Jimmie sounded hopeful. “You could tell Dilla that we’re not here?”
“Nope,” Momo said. “Oh, we’ll tell him you’re not here, eh? But that won’t stop them from looking.”
“That’s right,” Pluppa added. “Dilla-Dago is always looking for an excuse to make things difficult for us, eh? They won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the place, or they’ve found you.”
Pluppa stood with Momo as the platform began to lower. “Take the platform up, once it comes back,” Pluppa explained. “It’ll get you Fellas out of here safely. Dilla and his Joblins won’t notice you leave; they’re busy, eh?”
“What about you?” Jimmie asked. “What about the rest of the Goobs?”
“We’ll rebuild,” Momo replied sadly. “It won’t be the first time.”
“Nope,” Pluppa said. “Probably won’t be the last either.”
Cole shook her head. “But…”
“It’s not your concern,” Momo interrupted.
“That’s right Fellas,” Pluppa added. “You said it yourself. You’re not heroes.”
Pluppa and Momo rode the platform to the lower floor, and immediately sent it back up. Cole watched them go outside from the window.
“That was totally one of those call to action moments,” she commented. “They say, ‘you’re not heroes’, and we’re supposed to be moved to heroics by it, right?”
“I think so,” Jimmie replied. He did a circle around the platform.
“I don’t know what to do,” Cole said. “I mean, we need to help the Goobs, but what can we do?”
Jimmie shrugged. “What can we do?” He winced at the face Cole gave him. “I want to help them too,” he insisted. “But look at that Dilla guy. He has claws, Cole. He’s like ten foot tall.”
“He’s maybe seven foot,” Cole muttered.
“And he’s armoured I think,” Jimmie continued over Cole. “The only thing I know about fighting I learnt from Street Fighter; and I suck at that game.”
“I’m not even suggesting we don’t help,” Jimmie said. “I’m just saying we need to be smart about it. We take this platform up, and maybe we’ll see something there that will help.” Jimmie stepped purposely onto the platform. Nothing happened. “We take this platform up,” Jimmie repeated. Nothing happened.
“Maybe it needs both of us,” Cole suggested. She stood beside Jimmie.
They both stood still on the platform for a good bit. Nothing happened. Downstairs, there was the sound of shattering glass as the Joblins began to search the Town Hall. Still nothing happened. “Up!” Jimmie and Cole demanded in unison. Still, nothing happened.
“How does this even work?” Jimmie stomped on the platform in frustration. It rippled like a membrane, and bounced him slightly in the air. He looked up, noticing that the roof above was wide open. He wondered if it had been the whole time, or if it had opened when Pluppa and Momo left. He stomped the platform a bit harder, and was bounced a bit higher. “Oh no,” he muttered.
Cole grabbed Jimmie’s hands. “Oh yes,” she affirmed, nodding excitedly. She hopped a bit, and sqee-ed slightly as it bounced her and Jimmie in the air. “We’re taking the platform up,” she declared.
Jimmie thought on it a second, then nodded back. “You know what? Yeah. We are. On three?”
Jimmie and Cole jumped as they counted, and bounced higher with each number. On three, they put as much stomp as they could on their landing. The membrane rippled angrily, and growled like a monster truck. It retracted violently, and fired them out of the roof like a cannon.
Jimmie watched as the Town Hall shrunk beneath them. He and Cole had been launched straight up. He wondered if they’d fall straight back through the roof of the Hall, and bounce again, or if the roof would close and let them land on it. It took him a moment to notice that despite going up, they weren’t going back down. They weren’t slowing either. Jimmie looked up, and saw the giant floating island above him and Cole. Not only were they heading at it, but they were speeding up as they were caught in its gravity.
Jimmie stared mad eyed at Cole. He wanted to say maybe we’ll land safely on that upcoming island, but the best he could manage was a slight choking sound, and a manic nodding. Cole returned his nod with equal panic. Neither of them liked shooting towards the island at full speed. The floating islands were the most solid things they’d met so far in Omira; they didn’t want to meet one at this speed.
They didn’t smack into the island, and they didn’t land on it. Instead, they were caught in its personal gravity well, and were pulled into an orbit around it. Still holding hands desperately, Jimmie and Cole were yanked around the small floating rock, and slingshoted off on a downward angle. The two meteored back towards the Goob village at now double their original speed.
Jimmie let go of one of Cole’s hands. He put his hand over her mouth, even as she covered his. At the speed they were plummeting, screaming was unavoidable. Mutual muffling was the best attempt at stealth Jimmie and Cole could manage.
Jimmie and Cole shot over the Town Square, and collided with one of the larger pillar Goob houses. The house bent like a tree in the wind, absorbing the impact, and leaving the two with no more than some bruising. It straightened, and catapulted Jimmie and Cole again over the Town Square.
The Goobs looked up at Jimmie and Cole, following their flight as if watching a tennis match. They all looked over at Dilla, and then immediately looked about at anything that wasn’t the two’s aerial escape. Dilla was too busy yelling to notice Jimmie and Cole flying above, and the Joblins were too busy smashing things to care.
Cole and Jimmie hit the roof of the Town Hall next. The hole in the roof was closed again, though they only got a moment to be thankful for that before they bounced like they’d hit a rubber ball. They bounced from the Town hall to a small bungalow just beyond, and were launched from there to the ground just outside of town. Jimmie and Cole bounced a few times across the grass before they finally came to a stop.
Jimmie lay on his stomach for a few moments. “Ow,” he stated. He wasn’t really hurt, but there was expectation. He looked at Cole. “Ok,” he admitted before she could say anything. “That was pretty awesome. Still, I’d rather not make that a regular form of transport.”
“That was pretty awesome,” Cole agreed. She sat up, and rolled her shoulders in a basic check for damage.
Cole and Jimmie looked back at the town. The Joblins were kicking in doors, and breaking in windows. Dilla-Dago stood in the center of town, smiling around his cigar at the destruction.
“We can’t just leave them,” Cole declared.
Jimmie nodded as he stood. He shifted from foot to foot. “I think we’ve got enough of a head start,” he declared as he walked back towards town. “I’ve got half a plan.”
Jimmie cleared his throat loudly. “Hey!” he shouted in a casual tone. “Perhaps we can get some help in this town that we have never been to before!”
Cole smirked at Jimmie. “Yes, this is a new and unusual town!” she yelled. “I am willing to bet the people here can tell us where we are!” The Joblins stopped smashing things, and all looked over at Cole and Jimmie.
“Hey!” Cole yelled, pointing dramatically towards Dilla-Dago’s little meeting. “We were just coming into this town, but what is going on?”
“I am not sure!” Jimmie yelled back. “The town seems to be full of Joblins!”
It was possibly the worst example of improv ever seen, but it was enough to catch Dilla-Dago’s attention. The Joblins all stopped their destruction, and stared at Jimmie and Cole. They then turned a collectively confused look back to Dilla-Dago.
Dilla-Dago stormed towards Jimmie and Cole. He yelled at his Joblins as he went. “Well, don’t just stand there waiting for orders!” he yelled. “Get them!”
The Joblins hissed, and showed their large square teeth. They rushed towards Jimmie and Cole. Cole looked at Jimmie. “Half a plan?” she asked.
“Second half’s coming to me pretty quick,” Jimmie replied. “It includes running away!”
“Good plan,” Cole agreed as they booked it away from town; Joblins rushing behind them to catch up.
Blubo pulled his cart up right at the doors of Town Hall. He hopped out, and pushed the blinders away from his Roopers’ heads. Blubo patted both of them affectionately. One made a sound that reminded Jimmie of a car backfiring, but beyond that, neither Rooper showed much interest in Blubo, or their surroundings.
“They’ll just stay there?” Jimmie asked.
“Oh yeah,” Blubo replied. “You want a Rooper to move, you let them see a bit. You want them to go home, you cover their eyes.” Blubo waved to his Roopers. “You want them to stay still, you let them see everything. It’s too much for them, so they just freeze.”
Cole and Jimmie shrugged at each other. The fact that Roopers were too stupid to exist was pretty low on the weird scale today. They waited as Blubo talked to a smaller Goob standing at the doors of Town Hall.
The smaller Goob’s eyes went wide as Blubo explained who Cole and Jimmie were. She did a double take as she looked over Blubo’s shoulder at the two, and then rushed inside.
“That’s Deeda,” Blubo explained airily. He blushed slightly as he looked back at the now closed doors. “She’s sort of the guard, eh? Makes sure only people that need to see Momo and Pluppa get into Town Hall.”
“She seems cute,” Cole said. “What’d you tell her?”
“Oh, just who you two were,” Blubo stated without looking back from the doorway. “I said you Fellas were the heroes from Somewhere Else. Oh, and that you’d met Princess Cerise.”
Cole and Jimmie stared at each other in stunned silence. Jimmie was the first to recover. “Blubo,” he started. “We’re not…”
The doors of the Town Hall burst open, and Deeda hopped excitedly down the steps. She came to a halt directly in front of Jimmie and Cole, and cleared her throat in an official manner.
“Momo and Pluppa will now have audience with the Heroes of Somewhere Else,” Deeda announced loudly.
“But we’re not…” Cole tried.
“You’d best get in there Fellas,” Blubo interrupted. “If Momo and Pluppa are willing to see you so quickly, it must be important.”
Jimmie opened his mouth to try again, but gave it up before he started. Cole patted his arm, and shrugged. They left Blubo and Deeda behind, and went into Town Hall.
Town Hall was nothing but a giant round room. The walls were carved dirt, with a strong zig-zag pattern running through the middle. A few pillars broke the monotony along the walls, as did the windows on either side of the double doors. Beyond that, the room was unfurnished, and quite dull.
Momo and Pluppa stood in the center of the room, inside a large circle drawn on the floor. They nodded in sync as Jimmie and Cole entered the room. The double doors closed with a thud.
Momo and Pluppa were nearly identical. Both of them wore great bowler hats with giant brims. They both had faces concealed under unruly white beards and oversized mono-brows. They both wore overalls over some sort of white ceremonial robes, and they both blew smoke from long pipes. The most visible difference between the two old Goobs was that Momo’s smoke was pink, while Pluppa’s was blue.
“We’re not heroes,” Cole blurted before Momo or Pluppa could say anything.
Jimmie looked from Pluppa to Momo for any reaction. He couldn’t see anything beyond beards and brows. “We’re not,” he agreed.
“Well, that’s good,” Momo stated.
“Yup,” Pluppa agreed.
Cole blinked. “It is?”
“Never trust anyone who introduces themselves as heroes,” Pluppa said. “If someone has to walk about telling you that they are a hero, chances are they aren’t.”
“Oh, yeah,” Momo agreed. “Heroics are in actions, eh? They aren’t in words.”
“You are from Somewhere Else though, right Fellas?” Pluppa didn’t wait for Cole or Jimmie to answer. “I’m wondering if Princess Cerise was right,” he commented to Momo.
“She theorized that the Royal Family came from Somewhere Else,” Pluppa added for Cole and Jimmie’s benefit. He looked back to Momo. “I mean, they do look a lot like her.”
“Short bodies and long limbs,” Momo agreed. He poked Cole in the side with the mouthpiece of his pipe, and seemed surprised as she flinched away. “Soft too. Just like the princess,” he commented.
“I’m not soft,” Cole retorted. “That’s been in your mouth is all.” She poked Momo back, and found that Goobs had tough leathery skin. “Ok,” she admitted. “Maybe a bit softer.”
“Hmmm,” Pluppa pondered. “And both you Fellas are from Somewhere Else?”
“Well, we’re not from here,” Cole offered. “We must be from Somewhere Else.”
“Fair enough, eh?” Momo agreed. “So. What can we do for you Fellas?”
“Blubo said you could tell us about,” Jimmie waved about the room. “About wherever it is we are.”
“Oh, you’re in Town Hall, eh?” Momo put his hands up to show he was joking.
Pluppa puffed on his pipe seriously. Blue rings of smoke circled his head. “I’m sure you mean Omira, right Fellas?”
“Omira,” Cole repeated. “That was painted on the wall at the Mystery Warehouse.”
Jimmie nodded his recognition. “Is that the name of this zone?” he asked.
“Omira is the name of all of the Zones together,” Momo explained.
Pluppa nodded. “Yup,” he agreed. He gave Momo a nod. “Maybe we could explain this better in the Smoking Room, eh?” he suggested.
Cole looked at both Goobs, and then at their pipes. “You have a designated smoking room?” she questioned. Her question went ignored as the floor shifted suddenly beneath them all.
The circle on the floor rose as a platform, lifting all four into a room on the second floor. It was as unfurnished as the first floor, but a bit smaller. The light tried to come in through the sunroof above, but it was yellowed from years of smoke. The walls were also stained forever a dull brown. The room smelt like tobacco and spice and pepper.
“Smoking room,” Cole verified. She wanted to say more, but any smarmy remarks vanished as she watched Momo and Pluppa.
The two Goobs exhaled smoke purposely into the center of the room. The smoke from Momo and Pluppa’s pipes intermingled. The pink and blue turned white, and formed thick shapes. The smoke settled into a series of seven platforms, one above the other.
“You’re here,” Momo explained. A small arrow formed from the smoke, pointing at a tiny smoke diorama of the Goob town. “We are the first zone, eh? We’re known as the Center.”
Jimmie leant in close, almost afraid to breathe on the smoke shapes. They were amazingly detailed. He could see the floating islands, and the castle near the edge. There was a small lake near a forest, and a river that ran through the whole of it. Waterfalls drizzled from above, and what Jimmie had thought to be clouds were in reality the bottom of the zone above.
Pluppa nodded slowly as he watched Jimmie and Cole look up. He blew a second stream of smoke, which settled into the platforms below. “There’s an order to things,” he explained. “Below is first, then above, eh?”
“That’s right Fellas,” Momo agreed. He blew smoke as well, and it mingled on the second level into a thick scenery of trees. “The second zone is beneath us,” Momo explained. “It’s the Jungle.”
“Yeah, but it’s real close to the Third, eh?” Pluppa added. He gave a wave, and the smoke settled into the Third Zone. Crags and tunnels of smoke rock appeared.
“Oh yeah Fellas,” Momo agreed. He and Pluppa waved the air, and the third zone shifted up. There was a puff of smoke along the sides as it bumped into the bottom of the Second Zone. “Real close.”
Pluppa nodded. He pointed at the Jungle, then at the Rocks. “Floaras live in the Jungle. Sprig-Sprogs live in the Rocks.”
“And let me tell you, they do not get along,” Momo commented.
“Nope,” Pluppa said. “As if there isn’t enough problems with the Dagos, they gotta be fighting too, eh?”
“Wait,” Jimmie interrupted. “Blubo mentioned the Dagos too. I meant to ask him what they were, but I didn’t get to it.”
“Distracted by soup,” Cole stated.
Jimmie wanted to argue, but that was pretty much the case. “Anyways, what are Dagos?”
“We’ll get to that Fella,” Momo assured Jimmie. “There’s an order to these things.”
“Yup,” Pluppa agreed. He inhaled deeply, and blew a large ring of smoke that circled the lowest zone. The smoke that formed the Forth Zone ignited, flaring deep red in areas, and leaving islands of obsidian black. “Fire,” Pluppa stated. “Forth Zone is fire.”
“Oh, and lava,” Momo added. “Can’t forget that.”
“And lava,” Pluppa agreed. “Been told that the Sala-Men live down there, but I’ve never met one.”
Despite the pyrotechnics, neither Goob had anything else to say about the Forth Zone. They both tapped out their pipes, and repacked them in unison. Jimmie and Cole looked over the Zones that had been described already. They both waited patiently as Pluppa and Momo lit their pipes. There was an order to these things after all.
Momo blew a cloud of smoke up at the higher level of Zones. It settled out in islands on the Zone above the Center. Pluppa blew from the other side, his blue smoke pooling between the pink islands Momo had left, and flowing down the waterfalls that dropped from above to the Center.
“Zone Five is Water,” Pluppa explained. He tapped the smoke with the mouthpiece of his pipe, causing tiny waves to ripple along the Fifth Zone. “No official people there, eh? But Princess Violet has a castle near the beach.”
“Lots of Goobs live up there too, eh?” Momo added. “Lucky Fellas. It’s great up there.”
“Oh yeah,” Pluppa agreed. “Its all beach and water, eh?” He shrugged. “That’s what makes it the Water Zone, right?”
“Right,” Momo agreed. He inhaled, and blew sharply on the Sixth Zone. The smoke crystallized. Forming giant glaciers and geodesic shapes. “Ice,” he stated simply.
Pluppa shrugged. “We don’t know much about the Ice,” he admitted. “Prince Blanche led an expedition up there years ago,” Pluppa added sadly. “Never saw him again.”
“We know The Tribe is up there,” Momo commented. “But we don’t know where they live, and we don’t know if they’re better or worse than the Dagos, ‘cept that they don’t come down here looking to bug us, eh?”
“Oh, yeah,” Pluppa agreed. “That’s decent of them, eh?” He lightly blew a puff of smoke to the top level. “Still, we know more about the Ice then we know about the Cloud Zone.”
“That’s Engle territory Fellas,” Momo said. “They have any portals up locked real tight. Supposedly they don’t have any Dago problem up there, but who knows, eh?”
Momo and Pluppa nodded at their work, but didn’t add to it. Jimmie stepped back, trying to take the whole thing in. Even though most of the smoke from Momo and Pluppa’s pipes had made the map of Omira, the room was still pretty smoky. Jimmie waved some from his face, and was surprised how solid it was.
Cole gasped as she looked over at Jimmie. She waved at the smoke around him frantically, then stopped herself. “Sorry,” she muttered, both to Jimmie and the Goobs.
“No,” Pluppa said with a chuckle. “We were waiting for the reaction, eh?”
Jimmie turned slowly. The smoke around him was dark grey. It looked like it was composed of a horde of Joblins. He leapt backwards, despite half expecting something similar.
“The Eighth Zone,” Momo said. “Darkness. It’s not part of the Zones, but it touches each of them.”
“Yup,” Pluppa agreed. “That’s where Joblins are from, and Dagos.” Pluppa and Momo looked expectantly at Jimmie.
Cole nudged Jimmie in the side, as though he’d missed the obvious opening. He hadn’t. Jimmie sighed, and took his cue. “What are Dagos?” he asked.
Momo nodded at the question. See? Everything in its proper order.”
“Yup,” Pluppa said. He waved his pipe at the smoke, and the Joblins shifted and scattered nervously. Large figures shuffled to the front, pushing smoke Joblins aside. “The Dagos are the leaders and Generals of the Eighth,” Pluppa explained. “There are seven Dago Generals, and they answer to their King; Drago-Dago.”
The smoke Joblins shifted and swirled as something huge snaked behind them. Cole caught a glimpse of scales and wings. “No freakin’ way,” she muttered. “Drago-Dago is an actual dragon?”
“When he wants to be,” Momo stated.
Pluppa nodded his agreement without speaking. He blew smoke angrily at the Joblins, and they parted to make room for Drago-Dago. Jimmie and Cole were braced, ready for a dragon to burst from between the Joblins, and were surprised as Drago stepped calmly into the forefront.
Drago-Dago was a slim middle aged man, with a pencil thin goatee, and dark spiked hair. His suit was perfectly fitted, perfectly pressed, and likely worth more than Jimmie or Cole would ever see. The simulacrum Drago-Dago adjusted his tie, and smiled like a shark. He was a man who’d be just as comfortable on the cover of Fortune 500 as he was surrounded by monsters.
“Looks like he’s always a dragon to me,” Cole commented.
Jimmie stared at Drago-Dago. “Why is he wearing Armani?” Jimmie questioned. “Do you even have business men here?”
“Oh yeah, Fella,” Momo said. “Blubo sells rutabagas.”
Pluppa nodded in agreement. “None that dress like that though, eh?” He pointed his pipe at Drago-Dago. “Do business men dress like that Somewhere Else?” Pluppa didn’t wait for an answer. “Princess Cerise was right then.”
“Drago-Dago only began wearing that form recently. Before his recent attacks, he was always a dragon. Now?” Momo shrugged. “We thought it was some trick. Maybe that Drago-Dago thought we’d fight him less if he looked like the Royal Family, but Princess Cerise thought different. She thought that Drago had found a way to Somewhere Else, like in the stories.”
“Seems likely,” Cole said. She ran her finger through the smoke Drago-Dago, and then wiped her finger on her tights. “It is a fine suit.” She smiled crookedly at Pluppa and Momo. “Don’t think we missed the part where there is a General for every Zone, by the way. Seven Zones, plus the Darkness? Seven Generals and a King.”
“That’s right,” Pluppa replied with a nod. He stomped his foot under the smoke model of the zones, and tiny forts popped up like mushrooms; one on each Zone. “Without the Royals to stop them, the Dagos have managed to set up bases in every zone.”
“Pretty much, eh?” Momo looked at the map, and stomped as well. The forts on the Air, Fire, and Ice Zones throbbed bigger. “We’re guessing on these ones, eh?”
“Oh yeah, Fellas.” Pluppa pointed at the one fort on the Central Zone with his pipe. “That one we know too well, if you know what I mean.”
“I can imagine,” Jimmie said. “You have your own Dago here then? What’s it like? What’s its name?”
“Dilla-Dago!” Deeda yelled suddenly from the floor beneath them.
“That’s right Fella,” Pluppa agreed with an annoyed glance at the floor. “Though we prefer to finish our own stories.” He rose his voice for the last bit.
“What are you doing down there?” Momo yelled to the platform. “Are you listening in?”
“What? No!” Deeda called back up. “Dilla-Dago is here in town! He’s called everyone out to Town Square! He’s looking for the strangers!”