The Butternut Catastrophe

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Chapter 2: A Traveling Circus

“Is that...King Thunder?” whispered Jeffrey MacCheese to his friend McNugget Lucius.

He looked up from the book he was reading on his Loptop. For only the third time in his life, he beamed. “I believe it is. I had no idea she was back!”

“Me neither. Oi, Thunder! Over here!” Jeffrey stood up and started hopping around in his place.

“Oh! Jeffrey, Lucius, you guys are in the break area! I was going to your offices.” Even through her distracted remembrances, King Thunder’s face lit up when she saw them. She scurried over to them like an ecstatic crab heading to the cool waves.

Jeffrey cackled like a witch breathing helium. “How can you run in those things? You look like a scuttling hoover!” he exclaimed, pointing at her shiny black heels.

“What the hell is a scuttling hoover? And hey, if you think I’m bad at this, why don’t you try?” She extended her right leg outwards to show off her fancy footwear, but the shoe launched off her foot, ricocheted off the wall, and hit Jeffrey right in the forehead like an unspecified flying object in a textbook physics problem from the 2010’s.

“Ouch! You little shitsqueak!” he yelped at the shoe, “And you, Thunder, why is the first thing you do when you come back after a whole year launching your high heel right at my forehead? That’s gonna leave a bruise!”

King Thunder smiled sheepishly. “Heh, sorry.”

Jeffrey stormed over to his bag and pulled out his makeup pouch. He applied some foundation to his forehead to cover up the mark from the shoe. Still fuming, he accidentally smeared it all over his hair.

While Jeffrey was messing with his welt, Lucius stood up and walked over to King Thunder. “I assume you didn’t come over here to throw shoes at Jeff, so why have you come?” he asked her.

“Well, it’s a long story. Has Amber told you why I left?”

“He mentioned it, but I don’t know the details.”

“Wait, what? Amber didn’t tell me about it!” piped up Jeffrey.

“Amber didn’t tell you because you can’t keep a secret to save your corn dogs,” replied Lucius.

“I can keep a secret!” huffed Jeffrey, “When I was five, my friend Plutarch told me that he murdered his uncle! I didn’t tell anyone until the next day! Although, I think he’s in prison now.”

King Thunder raised an eyebrow in confusion, while Lucius facepalmed himself and shook his head like an exasperated preschool teacher.

“Anyway, tell us about your mission. It was successful, I presume?”

“It was. I have some important information on the Independents and why our plans keep failing.”

She was about to sit down, but fell flat on her face because she was still only wearing one heel. “Aw, fuck,” she groaned. Jeffrey couldn’t restrain himself and burst out in laughter. King Thunder got herself off the floor and proceeded to slap his head with her folded umbrella as if he was a fly being swatted. She then limped over to a chair and plopped herself down.

“You two are a traveling circus,” remarked Lucius.

“Careful Lucius, even you aren’t immune to the power of my umbrella,” she threatened, pointing it at him like a spear.

He chuckled softly. “Well, enough with the nonsense. What were you going to tell us about? Oh, and can Jeff listen? I’ll cover his ears if necessary.” He pretended to shield Jeffrey’s ears with his hands.

“Ha, he can listen. I already talked to Awesome about this, so no need to keep it a secret now.”

“You talked to Awesome? I didn’t even know he kept his office open anymore. That little pissbucket of a brother just sits in there sulking all day. What did he say?” asked Jeffrey.

“Relax, I haven’t even told you what I found yet,” King Thunder replied. She spent about six minutes recounting the events of her mission, just like how she told Awesome. When she finished, Jeffrey stared at her with an open mouth, and Lucius silently contemplated her words for a few minutes. “Based on what you said about the past missions, fourth-party interference is plausible,” he finally said.

“Yeah, of course it’s plausible, but Awesome didn’t think so,” she sighed, “he said there was no way to track them down. I’m not convinced, though. There has to be a way.”

“I agree, and it’s imperative that we take action right away,” replied Lucius.

“That’s why I came to you guys. I thought you might be able to convince Awesome to do something.”

“We sure can!” exclaimed Jeffrey, “But is that really what made Awesome so angry? We heard him knock over a cabinet or something a little while ago.”

“Ah, you’re onto me already. No, it wasn’t what made him angry. And you’re probably also wondering why it took me a year to figure out the fourth party thing.”

Lucius nodded. “I was just about to ask that, actually.”

She snickered. “Has Awesome been influencing you guys? You’re starting to sound just like him.”

“I would hope not!” said Jeffrey. He pulled a taco shell out from between the couch cushions and ate it, crunching gleefully like a duck at a crouton party.

Lucius did his best to ignore Jeffrey’s antics. “So, what actually made Awesome angry?” he inquired.

“I told him that I know where Lord Snail is, and that I’m going to find her,” she stated.

At these words, Jeffrey choked on the taco shell. “I’m…okay…” he said between coughs.

“That’s what you get for eating plain taco shells,” muttered Lucius.

When he recovered from the taco shell assault, he declared, “Well, Thunder, that makes sense. Can’t imagine he was too happy to hear that!”

“No, he wasn’t. I told him that he should understand my feelings because I was in a similar position to him. He got all angry, yelled at me for comparing Lord Snail to Cal, kicked me out of the office, broke his own picture frame, then cried all over it. I can’t say I have no sympathy for him, but…”

“He’s not taking this the right way,” finished Lucius.

“Exactly. I only told him about Lord Snail in hopes that he might understand, but that definitely didn’t work. In fact, it probably just made his situation worse. I’m still going to find her, though. But maybe I shouldn’t have told him, that would have made my job easier…”

Lucius thought for a moment, then said, “No, you did the right thing in telling him. None of us should be kept in the dark anymore, especially after Lord Snail’s plan.”

“Says the guy who tried to cover my ears to keep a secret from me,” remarked Jeffrey.

Lucius glared at him like a cat deprived of lasagne, then King Thunder replied, “Ah, you’re right. But I still have to find Lord Snail, it’s been too long. I found out where she was a couple months ago, but I didn’t go straight to her because -”

“You’re not straight,” Jeffrey interjected with a smirk.

Both Thunder and Lucius groaned. “Jeff…why…” sighed Lucius.

Jeffrey giggled innocently. Half a smile formed on King Thunder’s face. She continued, “I guess I wanted to maintain my loyalty to the Independents. But now I will go to her, and I’d like it if you guys could stay here and convince Awesome to do something.”

“We can do that. Where is Lord Snail?” asked Lucius.

“Over in Coupon, Pennsylvania. It’s too risky to fly for Independents, so I’ll have to drive. It’ll take less than a day, then I plan to spend a week or two over there.”

“Coupon? That’s a Republican hotspot. Lay low and be careful, you never know what could happen. We’ll keep in touch, just message us if anything comes up. We can also update you on any developments with Awesome.”

King Thunder stood up to get going, then realized she wasn’t wearing any shoes. She glanced over at Jeffrey, and noticed that he was wearing her high heels. “Jeffrey MacCheese! How did you get my shoes? Give them back!” she screeched at him. He kicked them off his feet, and they hit the ceiling with a thunk.

She stepped over to where the shoes hit the ground and pulled them onto her feet aggressively. Then she paused for a moment, and looked at Jeffrey and Lucius. “You guys aren’t...mad at me for trying to find her? You don’t think she’s a traitor?”

Lucius looked her in the eyes with intent. “My own twin brother died in that operation. But Lord Snail wasn’t the one who killed him. It’s irrational to blame her when we hardly know anything about the person who did. As for whether she’s a traitor or not, she may as well be, but I don’t blame you for wanting to find her. However, I urge you to be careful. She could be held accountable for the whole knife incident, and she won’t exactly be welcome here. If you plan to bring her back, make sure she’s aware of that.”

King Thunder nodded. “Of course. I won’t make her come back if she doesn’t want to.”

“Make sure to tell her that her dead best friend’s boyfriend’s younger brother Jeff doesn’t hate her,” Jeffrey said sarcastically as he poked holes in the hassocks, like the cushion version of a woodpecker.

She chuckled. “Well, I suppose I’ll see you guys in a couple weeks. Odd, isn’t it? I just got back, and now I’m leaving again.”

“Thanks for taking the time to visit us, anyway,” said Jeffrey, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

They all waved goodbye to each other like a group of oversized maneki-neko.

As she walked away from the congregation, the influence of her traveling circus began to wane. Once she stepped out the front door and back into the rain, she seemed to have forgotten the past twenty minutes entirely. That Independent building was an alternate universe, a realm where everyone saw the world through a filter of bias, jealousy, and politics. The real world was genuine, whether that was for the better or for worse. It was congested with laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, benevolence and spite.

And pain.

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