Chapter Thirty

War Journal

Entry # 11

After the battle, back inside the city walls, the last of the venders moved their wares in through the gates. For some reason, no one wanted to stay out there and party with the black cloud and its friends.

The big stone guys - who I now referred to as "Rockys I through VT' - had successfully carried back Lion and Tiger. Both of whom were still alive. Both of whom were real messed up. They were among the first to be treated, although dozens of healers were tending to the wounded. It felt like I was the only one who hadn't gotten maimed.

Aside from some minor cuts and abrasions, Allalo and his pals had done pretty well, too (except, of course, for the one who died; and evidently, even he died well). The whole batch of us hung out together on the sidewalk near the gate, passing around a bottle of this extraordinary tonic that he'd been saving for just such an occasion. I could feel my poor old depleted tissues revitalizing by degrees, my exhaustion transforming into a warm, slightly drowsy contentment.

Lots of folks stopped by to thank us for our valour. These included defectors from the opposite camp, who were grateful in the extreme. They corroborated our worst fears about the Hollow Man's black-eyed minions, telling horror stories about draft resisters -  zapped with black lightning - who vanished, then returned as violent Stepford munchkin replicas of themselves.

It made me wonder if that was a process that happened automatically, the second you got absorbed; or if it was an optional feature of the lightning, controlled at the discretion of Bhjennigh. If it was the former, that would help explain why Hwort and Waverly had no personality, and why O'mon couldn't fight for shit.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that Bhjennigh had no control over this aspect of his magick. Like he conjured up some genie to ask for evil power, and the genie said, here's your evil power. Take it or leave it. It's all we got. There was no practical reason I could think of to make second-rate drones out of serious, willing allies.

Unless, of course, they were starting to get uppity.

(I wasn't sure, though, what that said about Skeerak. He didn't seem like he needed any extra villification at all; but there he was, with his eyes all black. And if he was only operating at partial capacity, then thank God I hadn't faced him in his undiluted state!)

Everybody had their theories on the subject, but I realized that I really wanted to discuss it with Mikio. Or maybe Ozma. Or maybe both.

I also wanted to know what that green glow was.

By this time, another hour had gone by; and though tuckered to the max, I felt like I could at least get up and walk around. So I bid adeiu to friends old and new, then headed on back toward Mikio's place.

The mood in the streets was one of sober celebration; you really couldn't help but be cheerfulness-impaired by the presence of so much carnage. All the same, I saw plenty of action going down at the kissing booths, which now lined the streets. And it wasn't like anyone had stopped eating or drinking. I smiled at the throngs of well-wishers I passed, but could not be persuaded to dance with any of them.

Dragging my ass up the trillion steps to Mikio's roof was no fun at all, so I was slightly cranky by the time I arrived. But this burned away quickly when Mikio swept over, surrounded by his friends, and the whole lot engulfed me in an upright monkey love pile.

"We're so proud of you!" Mikio said, evidently speaking for everyone. I wallowed in the adulation until I had to sit down again. Fortunately, Mikio sat down with me, letting me dissolve into a purring mush-woman as he held me in his arms. I babbled about my black lightning theories for a while; he went "hmmmn" a lot and periodically squeezed me, not having much more to add on the subject.

But when the subject of the green glow came up, he said, "I was meaning to ask you about that." So I told him what happened. And

he said, "Wow."

Then he told me about the beam. How, in fact, it was the Skyrrla that I'd felt out on the field. He and Dr. Pipt and the rest of the gang had fiddled around with their device until they managed to refine a beam out of it, which they then began to experimentally fire down at the battlefield.

So far, the few results they'd gotten back were extremely mixed. There were reports of slight headaches in the first round of firing, followed by a second round that just seemed to make people confused. The third time didn't do much of anything, so they tinkered some more, basing their adjustments on the way the shifts in Skyrrla-energy made them feel. When they got what they felt was a pretty good vibe, they fired again.

This time, more than a dozen people reportedly found themselves stark naked, in the middle of pitched battle. This resulted in much hilarity, and only one death: the fabulous T'wah Sampo, who got so entranced by some black-eyed munchkin's knockers that she easily staved in his teeny little head. (I tried to feel bad, but I just couldn't. Based on my figures, the potential for date rape in Oz had just gone down 100%.)

Then the Skyrrla-device started acting funny, so they modified again. This was the final blast, to which I was privy; and this time, not only was the beam intensely focused, but the Skyrrla actually aimed itself. (Which would lead me to believe that it was looking for me.)

The beam lasted, they said, for just over a minute. Then the device started overheating, and abruptly shut down. This concerned me. I asked if the Skyrrla was okay. Mikio said, "Oh, yeah. It's just resting, I think." He was guileless and sweet, so I believed him intrinsically.

After that, I got very sleepy; so I was delighted when Ginko and Faffo Boff announced that they'd made me a rooftop bunk, then cheerfully carried me to it. That way, I could nod out in regal splendour, but still be close to the action if it happened. Mikio kissed me again, as a send-off to slumber, then went back to work as I snuggled my pillows. His taste was on my lips, but I was too beat to whip up serious horny thoughts.

The next thing I knew, I was out like a light; and I didn't wake up until several hours later, when the black clouds finally scraped against the walls of Emerald City.


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