Last time, in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine had just released her future arch-nemesis Susan from a cell on board an alien lizard starship. This may not have been the best idea. Regardless, Princess Catrina now races down the starship corridors in a desperate attempt to escape…
“I’m always running places,” Catrina remarked. “Just once, I’d like to conduct a walking escape. Maybe a leisurely stroll escape. But no, I have to run. Always run. It must be my lot in life.”
She couldn’t even have her run in quiet, either. Shipboard alarms kept up a constant wirp-ing and WEEEE-OOOH, WEEE-OOH overheard. Catrina picked out a particularly annoying klaxon that sounded like a foghorn with a bad sinus infection. It was about high time, she decided, for her to get off the starship.
The trouble was, she had no idea how. She had no map, no convenient guide to the ship’s layout. She would have asked the ship’s computer, had she known it existed, but it only accepted commands in alien lizard speech anyway, and would have required a security passcode which she didn’t possess. This left her without many good options. It wasn’t as if she could grab one of the lizards and ask for directions. “Well, why not?” Catrina said.
Pausing in her run, she turned towards the nearest door. It looked reasonably like the door to someone’s room. She looked to see if there was a doorknob or some sort of bell. The door, alas, seemed to be made of solid material, without a bell or a knob anywhere. Catrina knew there was only one thing to do. She raised Mlrning, the Shovel of Thor. In an instant a solid sheet of ice had frozen the door over. Then Catrina took a short run and launched herself at it, in a dramatic flying snap-kick. The door shattered into pieces. Catrina went right through, into the room beyond.
She realized at once that she had made a slight error. The room was occupied, as she had hoped. Unfortunately, there wasn’t just one alien lizard in the room. There were two.
“Oh,” said Catrina, her eyes going very wide indeed. “I, um, apologize. I’m sorry to have interrupted your…. um…. you. Could you tell me how to exit the ship, please?”
One of the lizards squeaked at her. The ship’s internal translation matrix kicked in. She only needed to continue down the corridor outside, make two rights and a left, and she would find herself at the teleporter bay. Catrina ordinarily hated teleporters, but she didn’t want to continue this incredibly awkward conversation any longer than necessary. “Right,” she said. “Thanks very much. I’ll let you get back to it then.”
She darted swiftly out of the room and down the corridor, reflecting that one could really never account for biology. At any rate, the lizard’s directions were accurate. A few turns later, and Catrina found herself at the teleporters. She noticed one of them had what appeared to be a scanned image of the Earth. “That’ll do,” Catrina said, and ran towards it.
The lizard attending the teleporter was a minor ensign, who was only covering for his superior while the officer was away (searching for Catrina, ironically). He was also unarmed, and he didn’t like the look of Catrina’s shovel. When she yelled at him that she wanted him to send her off the ship, he immediately complied. The ensign might, had he thought about it, simply beamed Catrina out into the void of space, or just disintegrated her entirely into a random row of dots. But he was a reasonably kindly alien lizard, and he decided to send her someplace with a lot of other people like her. She would, at any rate, no longer be his problem.
What both he and Catrina hadn’t realized was that the Swirling Vortex of Imaginary Time had inexplicably opened up right in the teleporter’s circuits. The alien ensign didn’t know about the vortex, and Catrina had been so busy escaping from the ship that she had forgotten about it. As a result, Catrina materialized on the Earth below, approximately sixty years after the birth of Christ.
Catrina also materialized two seconds after it occurred to her that trusting an alien lizard to teleport her somewhere was not a good idea. She quickly checked to make sure she wasn’t missing any important bits, or that she hadn’t been turned violet. She appeared to be in order. “Well then,” Catrina said, “Where have I landed now?”
Someone screamed in Latin. Catrina looked quickly around. She appeared to be in a wide open area surrounded by stone bleachers. She had once, in her studies a a young princess, seen an engraving of the place, and she had recently been on a tour of Italy and Greece with Susan, before the latter had turned evil. “It’s the Colosseum!” Catrina rejoiced.
Then she realized several other things. There was quite a large crowd in the stands, and they were all yelling at her. She also saw that she was not alone. A smaller group of frightened men, women, and a few children in dirty robes were huddling nearby. Their terrified gaze was fixed on a metal gate that was slowly creaking upwards. Behind it, Catrina heard a distinctive roar.
“Oh, lovely,” Catrina said. “Lions. It just would be lions.”
This has been another exciting episode of The Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. Be sure to come back next week when Catrina’s adventure in imperial Rome continues. And, as always, thanks for reading!
Last time in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine had escaped from her alien lizard captors and run off to rescue her -arch-nemesis Susan as well, accidentally igniting the Turbolift Revolution in the process. Little knowing that she had just upended galactic politics, she now races to Susan’s cell on the alien lizard spaceship….
“Honestly?” Princess Catrina said, as she pounded down the corridor. “After a year of silence, that’s all the recap I get? My old readers have already moved on, and any new readers will be hopelessly lost. You could’ve done a lengthier recap, maybe an entire post explaining my backstory, but no. Of course not. Oh, the indignities inflicted on me by my author. It never ends!”
She might have gone on for some time about this, but at that moment she spun round a corner and came within sight of Susan’s cell. Catrina had traveled about in time a bit, but she was still not completely up to speed on all the nuances of a space-faring age. Her idea of a cell was still medieval: a dark and clammy chamber with a tiny barred window and a bucket in the corner for necessaries. Susan’s cell was bright and clean, with soft lights and a cot that had a reasonably fluffy blanket. Even more surprising, it didn’t appear to have a door. Catrina could see right into it. Sure enough, there was Susan, sitting angrily on her cot and scowling. “Hello there!” Catrina said, waving.
“YOU!” Susan shrieked in fury. Susan had been going through a rough period. It was still earlier in her personal timeline; she hadn’t yet become the mistress of Character Hell that Catrina had come to know and hate. She only just recently turned evil, and was still dealing with the realization that she was a made-up story character. Susan was not, alas, handling this well. She had decided to blame it all on Catrina. “It’s all your fault!” she raged.
“Can we discuss my responsibility later?” Catrina said, who had some uneasiness on that subject. “I’m trying to break you out of there.”
Susan ought to have responded gratefully to this offer of liberation. Instead, she responded with a torrent of unprintable words. Catrina had rarely heard such vile or inventive language. She wasn’t even sure that some of Susan’s suggestions were anatomically possible. Catrina hesitated for a moment, wondering if perhaps she should reconsider setting Susan free.
Her hesitation cost her. All at once she heard the tramp of marching feet. A squad of alien lizard soldiers stormed into the room behind her. “Right, you!” the squad leader shouted. “Surrender, or we’ll fire!”
“Together, or one at a time?” Catrina asked.
“What?” the squad leader said. He was used to prisoners demanding their freedom, or else beginning for their lives. Prisoners didn’t usually inquire about tactics.
“Well,” Catrina said, “There’s, let me see, one two, six of you, and you’re all carrying laser rifles. As my author observed, I’m not familiar with these space things, but those rifles are fairly powerful, correct?”
“They’re plasma, D9-17s, capable of reducing solid padamantium-steel allows to molten slag, and any living creature (such as yourself) to drifting ash!” The squad leader had recently read the manual on the weapon, and enjoyed its vivid language.
“Any one of them will do that?” Catrina pressed.
“You’ve got six. All that plasma firepower won’t just disintegrate me; you’ll probably vaporize Susan too. And maybe even yourselves. This room isn’t all that big, you know.”
“Ah,” the squad leader said. “Well, then we’ll fire one at a time!”
“Good idea!” Catrina agreed. “Except I’m virtually unarmed. I’m only carrying this perfectly harmless and absolutely ordinary shovel. So which one of you boys-”
“Girls,” one of the lizards said.
Catrina blinked.”All of you?”
“No, just me.”
“Oh,” Catrina said. “I didn’t realize. What’s your name?”
The lizard said a combination of syllables, with a bit of hissing. “I see,” said Catrina. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise,” said the lizard.
“Now that we’re friends, how do you feel about laser-rifling me to death?” Catrina asked. “Seems a bit uncivilized.”
The lizard soldier hesitated. “Well…”
“I’ll do it!” said the squad leader irately. “Unless you drop that shovel right now!”
“This?” Catrina said. “This entirely harmless gardening tool? Do you really need for me to set it down in order to surrender?”
The squad leader was getting more and more frustrated. This wasn’t going smoothly at all. He liked things to go smooth. “Fine!” he snapped. “Keep the shovel! Only surrender right now, or-”
“Actually, you should’ve made me drop it,” Catrina said. “This isn’t really an ordinary shovel? This is Mlrning. The Shovel of Thor.”
There was a blinding white flash. A second later, all of the alien lizard guards were frozen in solid ice. Catrina smiled. She always enjoyed that part. Then she heard Susan yelling something else unprintable behind her. The moment was ruined. “Guess I’d better rescue you after all,” Catrina said reluctantly. She still didn’t see a door, but assumed that something invisible must be keeping Susan in the cell, otherwise she would’ve walked out herself. Catrina swung the Shovel of Thor in the general direction of Susan. Something crackled angrily in the air, flashed, then broke up in sparks. Susan leaped up from her cot.
“I’m free!” she shouted, somewhat obviously. “And now I’m gonna-”
An alarm shrilled over their heads. “Whatever it is, now is really not the time!” Catrina observed. “I’m going to try and find a way off this ship. Are you coming with, or not?”
Susan howled a last insult and dashed off down the corridor. Catrina shrugged. “There’s just no being friends with some people.” Having delivered that depressing moral to the still-frozen lizard soldiers, she ran off down a different corridor, with some regret. It might have been interesting, being friends with an alien lizard of her own gender. She probably wouldn’t have that chance again. Such, alas, was life, Catrina reflected.
This has been another episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. Thanks for reading!
The pizza place was unusually quiet, for a Saturday. He didn’t mind. He slid into his usual booth and waited for the others to show up, blinking against the light that shone through the multicolored lampshade over the table. He was used to working in the dark.
A shadow fell over the table, a shadow that wavered like the rustling of trees in a summer wind. “Greetings, Wombat. I trust you are well?”
“Hey, Ron. Yeah, I’m okay. You?”
“I have been communing with the forces of nature in Madison Park,” Ron intoned as he planted himself in the booth opposite. “Listening to the beating heart of the ecosystem.”
“Didn’t know they had an ecosystem in Madison,” the Wombat said. “What’ve they got, squirrels?”
“Exceptionally communicative squirrels,” Ron said solemnly.
The Wombat had never yet been able to determine if Ron Raven had a sense of humor. Gaseous Girl said he didn’t, but then she wasn’t always a barrel of laughs herself. Further thoughts along that line were interrupted as the superheroine herself appeared, smelling faintly of ash. “Hey, Ron, Wombat. How’s the burrowing?”
“Fine,” the Wombat said. “You know there’s giant rats in the eastside sewer now?”
“Lovely,” Gaseous Girl said. “Doctor what’s his name again, isn’t it.”
“The squirrels have said as much to me,” Ron interjected. “I could go and attempt to commune with the unusually large rodents.”
Gaseous Girl rolled her eyes. “Sure. Commune with the giant ravenous beastie that wants to eat your head. I’d just as soon flame ’em.”
Ron rose from his side of the booth in high outrage. Before he could unleash his wrath, however, the fourth member of their small group arrived. The Green Moth glided elegantly into the seat alongside Gaseous Girl. No one was entirely clear about the nature of the Green Moth’s powers. When asked, she would explain languidly that they involved “manipulatin’ the quantum polarity matrix that underlies the fundamental order of the universe, bless its heart.” Gaseous Girl privately thought this was all bunk, but she wouldn’t have been so rude as to say that out loud.
The usual waitress appeared then and took their drink orders. As she left to get Gaseous Girl’s root beer and Ron Raven’s herbal tea, the Wombat asked if anyone had fought anything more interesting than giant sewer rats. “The Tree Killer stuck again,” Ron Raven growled. “Cut down a nice sapling at the edge of the park. I had harsh words with the squirrels about it.”
“Shame,” the Wombat said. “There’s not nearly enough trees these days.”
“Tell me about it,” Gaseous Girl said. “It’s all malls and chain fast food places. You can’t even get a good abandoned warehouse anymore to fight the bad guys in. You know where Crudmuffin was the other day? Wal-Mart. Yeah. Cleanup on aisle five, right?”
The Wombat laughed, and even Ron Raven’s glower lightened up ever so slightly in as close to amusement as he ever got. The Green Moth said nothing. She continued to say nothing as the talk turned back to the giant sewer rats. She had powers, all right. Phenomenal powers. Powers that would make the others sit up and take notice, they surely would. The trouble was, no one had ever emerged as a nemesis for the Green Moth. The Wombat had rats and The Hummingbird, Gaseous Girl had Crudmuffin, even Ron Raven had Tree Killer. The Green Moth? Nothing.
She sighed as the waitress returned with their drinks. No one noticed her sigh.
No one ever noticed the Green Moth.
In Flander’s fields, the Igor lay,
She’d had a very trying day.
Her boss had tried to steal her brain,
But in the midst of storm and rain,
She had got quite clean away.
The farmer, Flander, asked no pay;
He said to her that she could stay,
She lied, and said her name was Jane,
In Flander’s fields.
She stayed until the first of May,
She hoped the doc had gone away.
And Flander, who still called her Jane,
Had never asked her to explain,
Why she had been, that rainy day,
In Flander’s fields.
The Malevolent Med-Student assumed he would have to break himself out of the asylum. He was already working on a plan. It involved explosive dental floss, which he had concealed on his person. He wouldn’t need it. The Malevolent Med-Student was just getting ready to do something awkward when a fist smashed through his cell wall. “Hi,” said Gaseous Girl tiredly. “I’m breaking you out. Shut up and hang on.”
She grabbed him by his white lab coat before he had time to protest. As they soared away into the sky, sirens wailing below them, the supervillain finally ventured a question. “Why?”
“Remember the time machine you had? The one I smashed?”
“I need you to fix it.”
The Malevolent Med-Student didn’t say anything else until they had arrived back in the forest. The smouldering metal bits of the time machine still lay on the ground. “You’d think they’d have cleaned this up by now,” Gaseous Girl said. “My tax dollars at work. Okay, well, get going.”
“No,” said the Malevolent Med-Student.
Gaseous Girl grabbed hold of his coat and shot up in the air again. The lights of Edison City glimmered below them. “Let me sum things up,” she said, shouting over the roar of a passing jumbo jet. “There’s a kid, in the hospital. He’s there because I didn’t keep my mask on, and some idiot figured out my identity and tried to blow me up. The kid…might not make it. So. You’re going to fix your time machine and send me back, or I’ll drop you right now. The ground’s pretty far away. You won’t survive.”
The ground was very far away. The Malevolent Med-Student couldn’t fly. That decided things quickly for him. “Fine,” he grumbled. “I’ll try.”
The process of rebuilding the time machine took several hours. The Malevolent Med-Student complained mightily all the time, insisting that if he had his loyal minion Candystriper with him, he might be done with the work much faster. Gaseous Girl didn’t even glare at him. She didn’t move at all. He kept working.
When it was done, he pulled open the metal door, revealing the big red button inside. “So, what, I just push that?” Gaseous Girl said.
“That’s it,” the Malevolent Med-Student said.
“Now, I only need to go back about a week or so. You got that set, right?”
The supervillain shrugged. “It’s hard to pinpoint this sort of thing exactly…but yes, you should arrive somewhere around last Tuesday.”
“Good enough,” Gaseous Girl said. She stepped into the machine and slammed her fist on the button. She had a feeling she was going to regret this.
There was a blinding flash,and a wild topsy-turvy feeling, as if she had just launched a rollercoaster. When the flash cleared, and the world steadied around her, Gaseous Girl realized that she was standing next to a horse. It twitched its ears at her. “Um….” Gaseous Girl said.
Then, in the distance, she heard a high, quavering yell. She ran through the trees towards it. thinking perhaps it was a civilian who might need her help. The trees suddenly opened out onto a wild field, dotted with golden flowers. Across those flowers, a crowd of men in ragged grey uniforms were charging at a line of men in blue uniforms. Gaseous Girl had never got round to reading Gone With the Wind, but she quickly worked out what had happened. “Oh, crap,” she swore. It was the last time she would ever trust a supervillain with a time machine.
I never knew “Do si do” was a dance step. I knew it was involved with square dancing (“Swing your partner, do si do!”), but I assumed that this was some sort of patter, like King Louie and Baloo in the original animated Jungle Book movie. When I finally figured out that do si do was a dance step, and actually learned how to do it, I never would’ve imagined I’d be doing it at a Catholic parish hoedown, in the undercroft of a cathedral. Life is funny that way.
I could go into the specifics of how I came to be there, theologically speaking. I could tell you how after a good deal of soul-searching, I found a new church home, and how being formally received into it at the Easter Vigil was one of the most moving spiritual experiences I have had. (Side note: make sure to take your sandals off if you’re stepping into a baptismal font. You will splash. Also, try to ignore the ominous gurgling noise when the water drains out of the font while the ceremony is still going on. You will laugh, and that could be embarrassing, especially with the Archbishop being there and all.) I could go into all of that, but I am not a theologian. So let’s skip all that and get to the square dancing.
Our parish had a hoedown type event announced. I and my wife decided to attend. I own neither cowboy hat nor boots, alas, but I had a Zorro hat from a Halloween party last year, and a red plaid shirt. And so, Canadian Zorro rode valiantly to the hoedown.
At the hoedown, there was, of course, square dancing. I had never square danced in my life. But a little voice inside my head said, hey, why not? And so, I did. It turns out that square dancing is ridiculously fun. You hold hands with your partner, move about in various circles and steps, switch hands with someone else, and yell “Whoo!” at appropriate intervals, all while laughing hysterically. (At least, that was how I did it.). Do si do, I discovered, means that you start off facing your partner, then move in a circle around them, without (and this is the tricky bit), turning around yourself. I somehow managed to accomplish this without knocking my partner down. I’m not saying I’m Lord of the Dance or River Tam in the “Safe” episode of Firefly or anything, but….
It was fun. It was unfiltered, purely happy fun. I haven’t had fun like that in some time.
I mean to do it again. And I mean to learn more square dancing steps. Today: the do-si-do. Tomorrow….POLKA.
Candystriper fluttered anxiously about the underground bunker. “Well, I don’t know, do I wear the dress with the poofy sleeves? I don’t like poofy sleeves, but I don’t want to wear the curtain ones, I mean really, curtain dresses are so-“
A dirty grey jacket flopped onto the floor in front of her. “We’re not going to a tea party!” the Malevolent Med-Student bellowed. “We’re going to infiltrate the Army of Northern Virginia! We’re going to be crawling around in the muck and the mire! This isn’t an occasion for white tie and tails! Or poofy sleeves!”
Candystriper sighed. That didn’t sound promising. “Why are we doing this again, sir?” She had an idea of the answer, of course, but she was setting him up for a monologue. He did not disappoint.
“We’re linking up with Confederate Connie to travel back in time and give laser rifles to General Robert E. Lee and his army, as they prepare to launch their second invasion of the North. With the help of the laser rifles, Lee will smash the Union army under Meade, march on Washington, capture President Lincoln, and win the Civil War for the South, thereby changing the very course of time!” The Malevolent Med-Student struck a very dramatic pose as he finished his speech. Unfortunately, Candystriper was so engrossed in the plan that she failed to turn on the background music. A moment of awkward silence ensued.
“Sir?” Candystriper ventured at last. “My great-grandparents got married after the Civil War. This won’t, like, stop them from meeting and keep me from being born?”
“Of course not,” the Malevolent Med-Student said grumpily. “The time machine’s got a causality-paradox inhibitor chip, hasn’t it? You’ll be fine.”
“Yay!” said Candystriper, and tugged on the grey jacket. It smelled badly, and was clearly not intended for someone of her gender. She glanced at her boss; he was in the process of donning an extremely neat grey uniform, complete with epaulets, sword, and a wide-brimmed hat with a jaunty feather in it. “Sir?” she asked. “Aren’t you, um, worried about the muck and mire?”
“I’m an officer,” he said. “I’ve got to look it.”
“Oh.” She said nothing else as they climbed out of the bunker, out into the deserted forest, and to the clump of trees where the Malevolent Med-Student had hidden the time machine. She had seen it once before. It looked like an old-fashioned phone booth, only with no windows. Now, however, as Candystriper approached the trees, she smelled a distinct crispiness to the air. “Sir?” she said again. “I think it’s broke.”
The Malevolent Med-Student rushed forward. Sure enough, all that remained off the time machine was a heap of slagged metal and smouldering circuitry. “It’s her.” he snarled. “Always her! But how could she possibly-“
It was just then that Candystripher’s invisible friend, Marcia the manatee, materialized over her shoulder. In a short burst of song, Marcia suggested that this was the time to make a quick getaway. “Right, Marcia!” Candystriper said, and started running. She stopped when a black Starfleet-style boot hit her face.
“Hi there,” Gaseous Girl said. The minion did not return her greeting, as she was passed out on the ground. The Malevolent Med-Student burst out with a torrent of inappropriate words.
“Confederate Connie says hello, by the way,” Gaseous Girl said, as she knocked the Malevolent Med-Student into the ruins of his own time machine. “Or she would, if she were conscious. That happens a lot to you guys. Go figure.”