The three of them briskly walked down the hill, away from the coffee shop, and the disturbance, which would, Miscx informed them, most likely result in a police drone visit.

She informed them she would ‘screen’ her buddy in the food tent to check that Monday and Leon were still passed out. She stepped away a little and pulled out her wrist-screen-phone-thing to call, sorry, ‘screen’ the bug chef.

“How are you so calm?” Viking demanded, being careful so that Miscx couldn’t hear him.


“You just sat there while she became a literal flaming demon! How can you be so calm knowing what she is?” Viking said, eyeballing Miscx carefully.

“I’m pretty sure that, that, is racist, Viking. That is not cool!” Ned replied. “Besides, she isn’t a demon, really. It was just a projection thing she can do if she gets annoyed.”

“You knew about it?”

“Yeah. I know all about her pretend shape shifting thing. It’s cool!” Ned said, waving at Miscx, who turned away, so she didn’t have to look at him.

“Cute! Cute! Ned, she looked like evil, if it had a face, and she growled like she was going to eat my fucking soul!”

Ned rolled his eyes. “Ugh, it’s just a projection thing. Honestly, don’t give it a second thought! Just pretend she’s her normal bug faced self!”

Viking looked at him with disbelief. “Bug faced? Dude, she’s gorgeous! When she’s not a monster.”

“Yeah, I think she likes you. Did you notice the glow?”

“What are you talking about? She’s cold as ice and way too cool for me! Also… monster face.”

Ned shrugged. “You know, she can do that during sex.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Viking said, ending the conversation just in time for Miscx to come back. As she did, a police shuttle glided past.

“Time to go!” she said. They resumed their brisk walk through the strange city, and away from the police.

“Okay, so what I was trying to say back there, when you idiots wouldn’t shut the heck up, was that Neetu is a very high-profile criminal, as apposed to a convicted criminal because she’s an imp.”

“Imp. Right, that’s bad,” Viking added, pointlessly.

Miscx ignored him. “Imp’s are a very rare kind of elf.”

“Elf,” Ned added, pointlessly.

Miscx ignored him. “An imp is an elf who can do… Well, no one actually quite knows. It seems like they can mess with your mind.”

“That’s a fact!” Ned confirmed.

“That sounds made up,” Viking noted.

“Yeah, they are rare and not very social, so no one really knows. It’s probably a genetic trait.”

“Like being able to have a demon face?” Viking asked, instantly acting uncomfortably.

“Yeah, exactly like that. Sorry about that, by the way.”

Viking shrugged. More proud that he was actually following the nonsensical science fiction pseudo-explanation of imp powers. He and Ned independently compared it to comic book mutants.

“So, what did they zap me with?” Viking asked.

“I don’t know. Most people are smart enough to keep away from wanted criminals, Vik.”

“Okay, so where are we going?” Ned asked.

“Well, I figure Viking and you got off the city once. We just retrace what he remembers and see if we can figure out how you did it the first time.” Miscx said, marching on.

Ned and Viking fell behind a little and looked at each other. Each wondering if the other was going to ask what she was talking about. After a momentary standoff, they raced after her.

“Where are you going?” they both asked.

“Something Vik said in his little epic back there. I think I know the place he was trying to tell us about. So, we’re going to ride the train!”


“Is this the place?” Miscx asked, as they got off the train.

Viking looked around. They were at the literal edge of the city. They stood looking out into the open space. The train left the station, back the way it had come. The city ended in front of them, open to space. There wasn’t even a wall between them and the outside. There was a ship, coming towards the opening, silently. As it passed into the massive tubular city, it started making growling aeroplane sounds, or at least something akin to an aeroplane, but with a more electrical under-note.

“How does this work?” Ned asked in awe, as the ship flipped over and vanished as it passed between them and the daylight-tube, presumably to land on the opposite side of the city to them.

“Well, the train rail is sort of, a spiral and it goes back when it reaches the end. Your planet doesn’t have trains?” Miscx asked.

“What? No, the city. Space is right there and that ship just flew in. Why doesn’t the air get out?” Ned asked.

“Dunno, something about the city spinning, or a shield, I don’t know. Never thought about it,” Miscx said, wondering why anyone would care about such a thing.

“Hey, where’s Viking?” Ned asked, now aware that their posse was one member short.

“Oh no. The sweet man-cow didn’t stay on the train, did he?”

“No, he was with us just a moment ago.”

Ned realised almost instantly that there was an ethereal quality to the air now. Something he was all too familiar with. He looked over at Miscx, who was, to his eyes, an attractive young woman with dark skin and an angelic face. Her hair was perfectly styled and her outfit made her look like a skater girl from the nineties.

“None of this is real. We’re inside one of your evil little dioramas,” Ned said, realising he sounded paranoid, basically instantly.

“I know lesser species go a bit odd when they look into space, but Ned, my guy, it’s just a really big empty room… that contains everything… so not that empty, but look. It’s just space!” Miscx replied.

Ned let his eyes linger on her for a moment, not because he was suddenly attracted to her, but because he wondered if this would be the only time he would get to see what everyone else, well, every other human, would see. He could understand why she was so appealing to Viking now.

“Okay, how the fuck do you always know?” Miscx asked.

“Neetu, I assume?” Ned said with a knowing grin. He had noticed the moment he had been dropped into her dream-reality. He was realising that she wasn’t actually very skilled at making these illusions. She often got things wrong, or at least they didn’t play out as she intended them to.

“You’re a slippery wanker, aren’t you?” Neetu said. She was now fully morphed back into her imp-punk self, but this time she was sporting colourful wings. She snarled her ugly lips at him, her rat like teeth visible and in dire need of a good old-fashioned human brushing.

“This is getting annoying now. You keep sending henchmen after me. You have already tried this once and failed and I still have no idea why you want me? Will you just, please, just tell me what all this is about?” Ned said, forgoing the pretence of being intimidated by Neetu’s dream powers, the threats of violence or her stupid imp face. He was actually resisting the urge to throttle the little moth!

She flapped rainbow wings and rose from the floor, leaving a trail of sparking glitter behind her. Ned was not impressed. This was her dream world fantasy. She could do whatever she wanted here, and he was not going to give her the satisfaction of responding to her theatrics.

“You really don’t remember? You’re not completely immune to my powers then, are you?”

Ned folded his arms and started tapping his foot, like he once saw Sonic the Hedgehog do when he left his controller unattended for too long as a kid.

Neetu flapped her large butterfly wings and the rainbow covering burst, flapping off the cheerful coating to reveal black, torn skin and perturbing bones.

Ned, forcing himself to not react to the obvious show of power, rolled his eyes. “Well, I don’t know if I’m immune because I don’t remember, do I? Why don’t you zap me again and we’ll see if I built up a tolerance yet?”

He was only able to be so cocky because, honestly; he was certain that Viking would slap the shit out of her any second. They may have been in her little diorama, but they were also, somewhere, in the real world. Which was a spaceship-city… Ned stopped thinking about that.

“Also, while you’re at it, can we talk about the car? I have to get the car back or my dad is going to be very, very unimpressed.”

“Why must you always mock me?” Neetu screamed.

“Because I have no fucking idea who you are, flappybitch!” Ned screamed back.

She looked at him with a perplexed expression. “Wait… Really?” she asked, suddenly sounding like she was on the way to ‘reasonable’ for a second.

She lowered herself to the ground with a lazy float. Her wing’s motion seemed rather unattached to her flight. It was more pointless theatre at play. “I’ll tell you what started all of this then.”

Ned was concerned that she was going to try to deceive him, again, but he could tell there was a change in her voice, a little something which made her sound earnest, vulnerable almost. Then the world around him flickered. There was a clang sound which filled the air like he was inside a bell as it rang.


Ned’s dream like vision was reconciled into a firmer, more pure reality and the soft edges and ethereal haze shook away. Like a cartoon character who had been hit with a mallet, he was shaking off the stars. “What?” He asked, realising, something unexpected had happened.

“Ned, you okay, buddy? Did she fuck with you?” Miscx asked, as she helped him up. Ned took her hand, only now realising that he even needed helping up.

“What’s going on?” He gibbered, as the world finally took shape to him again.

Viking was standing over a small unconscious Neetu shaped pile on the floor. A large cone-shaped object in his hand.

“Viking, did you kill Neetu with a traffic cone?”

“I hope not. She was in a trance, or something, so I smacked her with the first thing I found. Didn’t want to kill her!” Viking threw away the traffic cone, as if to distance himself from the proverbial smoking gun.

Ned looked as the Neetu twitched a little. “Let’s get gone!” he yelled as he saw two winged silhouettes running towards them.

Ned hesitated before entering the sprint, and looked at the shape on the ground. “Huh,” he noted, trying to spot the traffic cone.

Chapter 16