Previously: This Time It was Different
Sky Prince looked at Snake-Boy. He pointed his finger.
“Oh, man. You were a spy all along.”
All snake-creature activity around them stopped. Every snake-boy, except for Snake-Boy, dropped to its gnarly knees. The snake-faced spaceships began a slow convergence over the spot where Snake-Boy and Sky Prince stood.
Sky Prince flew away, boom, straight up, like a shot.
He said, “Man.”
He left Snake-Boy standing there.
“I’m so glad to have found you,” said the faces of the spacecraft. The mouths of the snake-boys and other snake-creatures also spoke, all together, too, saying the same thing at the same time. “You were never meant to be here,” said the SerpenTerrorist, through the various orifices at his disposal. “You were meant to be by my side.” The snake-creatures stepped a little more close. The spaceships hovered a little more low. “Hello? Can you hear me? Is this thing on?” Then silence.
“I can hear you,” said Snake-Boy.
The mouths resumed: “I never meant to leave you in the care of these monstrous so-called ‘heroes.’ Please forgive me, son.”
Snake-Boy said, “Um.” He looked up. He said, “Help?”
Sky Prince landed beside him, boom, like a shot. Sky Prince hoisted Snake-Boy up uncomfortably onto his shoulders. Sky Prince flew away with Snake-Boy. Ten thousand flying snake-creatures, and five snake-faced spaceships flew after them, a dark buzzing horde.
Snake-Boy looked back. Sky Prince looked forward. They did not speak.
They flew around the earth a couple of times. They gained some ground in this way. Sky Prince landed somewhere in a desert, or something, briefly, to catch his breath: sand and shrubbery.
“Why did you stop?” said Snake-Boy.
“You’re heavy,” said Sky Prince.
“I’m not,” said Snake-Boy. But he jumped off of Sky Prince’s shoulders. He said, “Sorry.”
“I’m not used to flying with a passenger,” said Sky Prince, catching his breath. “I’m not used to flying at all.”
“Why did you leave me?” said Snake-Boy.
“Because you are the son of the SerpenTerrorist, obviously,” said Sky Prince. “Duh! I thought you were on their side.” He was panting. He had his hands on his knees. He was looking at the ground. He looked up at the sky. “Just for a minute there. I thought. And then I realized.”
They could hear the drone of the ten thousand snake-creatures and the twelve (Snake-Boy noticed that there were twelve now) snake-faced space-ships as the dark mob of them rounded the horizon, a sort of reverse sunrise, a darkrise, eating away the sky.
Sky Prince said, “I was scared.” He gestured for Snake-Boy to climb back up onto his shoulders.
“So why did you come back, then?” said Snake-Boy.
“You asked for help,” said Sky Prince. “C’mon. Hurry.”
“You heard that?”
“I’ve got all my dad’s powers, since he died,” said Sky Prince. “All of a sudden. It’s weird.”
They flew away just as an absurdly large, dark crowd of snake-creatures landed on the very spot where they had been standing. The creatures piled onto each other, slick and hard and brutal. Some of them died from the impact, but the rest bounced right back up into the sky to chase Sky Prince around the globe a couple of more times. Snake-Boy watched them, some part of him, deep down inside, excited to see their complete — there was no other word for it — coolness. They seemed, in the sky, to be breeding somehow. They were more of them every couple of seconds.
Sky Prince got far enough ahead to take another break. This time they landed on the beach of some tropical island: hotels, parking lots, people in colorful shorts, waiters, cocktails.
“We shouldn’t stop here,” said Snake-Boy. “Too many people.”
“Let me catch my breath,” said Sky Prince.
Snake-Boy looked up at the sky. Nothing.
“I think we lost them,” said Sky Prince, collapsing into a lounge chair. “Whew. That was easy. Waiter?”
Forty-thousand snake-creatures swam up out of the sea, snapping and hissing and vile in their faces. They killed everybody on the island, quickly, with no apparent pleasure, except for Snake-Boy and Sky Prince, whom they isolated in a circle. There was nothing else to be done. Snake-Boy and Sky Prince flew away.
“Some kind of superhero you turned out to be,” said Snake-Boy.
“The kind that survives,” said Sky Prince. “The most effective kind, in the long run.”
“I guess so,” said Snake-Boy. He looked over his shoulder, back at the island, but it was long gone, past the horizon. The snake-faced spaceships — fifty of them now — trailed behind them, not in any particular hurry.
“Why don’t you just give me up?” said Snake-Boy. “They seem to want me. Maybe they’ll stop hurting people.” He said this because it was true. He also said it because he felt the tug of the snakeships on his soul, just a little bit.
“I’ve got a better idea,” said Sky Prince.
Next: Flashback, Part One