Underground With Nickelan Wand, Book One: Kid City

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Chapter 29

Nickelan Wand was flat on his back, floating on an air mattress over the calm waters of the Presidential Toilet Basin. He held a cool glass of lemonade in one hand and with his other placed a candy cigar between his lips. The noonday Fire was overhead and reflected orange and yellow over the clear surface of the toilet water.

The tidal wave followed a sonic boom. It rose high above the inflatable raft and crested just above Nickelan, blotting out the Fire. Nickelan was in dark shadow and then underwater after the wave crashed over him.

He was still holding his glass, though now more filled with toilet water than lemonade. The cigar clenched tightly between his teeth slowly dissolved into sweet mush.

Its all your fault,Springo said.

Nickelan turned to orient himself towards the drain, where he saw his friends face reflected in the deep waters. Springo was in the school bathroom.

Youre a hero,Nickelan said. Theyre erecting a statue of you filling a toilet with soap here in the city square. It was my first act as President.

Ive got a months detention for busting that toilet,Springo said. I dont feel like much of a hero. Though the bullies no longer beat me up. Ive earned their respect. They think Im a juvenile delinquent.

See?Nickelan said.

Well,Springo said sadly, I better get back to work. I have to clean all the toilets in school, even the girlstoilets. Its humiliating.

Its a good way to stay in touch,Nickelan countered. He swam up to the surface and broke through the water, taking a big lungful of fresh air and coming face-to-face with the sharp-toothed smile of Baber Groan.

This is great!Baber Groan said. Did you see my cannonball? I must have displaced half the water in the toilet.

And you displaced me from my raft,Nickelan said.

Sorry, Pres.,Baber Groan said, emphasizing his apology with a friendly tap to Nickelans shoulder that sent him plunging underwater. When Nickelan returned to the surface, he sprayed a stream of water from his mouth into Baber Groans face. Ha!said the Chief Maka. If I knew diplomacy was so much fun I would have set up diplomatic relations with Kid City long ago.

Baber Groan was visiting from Thunder World to discuss the release of the slave children and their safe return to Kid City. Nothing had been settled, but at least the two parties were talking. Well, the two parties were partying. That, however, was not a bad start.

Nickelan took hold of the tail whipping around him and held on for a wild water ride. The dragon lifted its tail high in the air, lowering it to its face. It blew smoke rings so big from its nostrils that they passed around Nickelan without touching him.

Thats a pretty neat trick, huh?Fischel Bocephus said. He was riding the dragons back seated next to Gelsomina Gillespie. It can make fireworks with its breath. Want to see?

Another time,Nickelan said.

Burn him!Gelsomina screamed. Char that traitor to a crisp!

She still wants me dead,Nickelan observed.

So it would seem,Fischel responded. But dont take it personally, Gelsomina hasnt been the same since she took that blow to the head.

Sorry about that,Baber Groan chimed in. I do have a temper, but I never thought a soft dragon would cause such damage to a tough girl like Gelsomina.

Its not all your fault,Nickelan said to Baber Groan, adding in a whisper: She wasnt too happy with me before you hit her with that dragon. Fischel just cant accept the fact that his former team leader was a spy.

I heard that,Fischel said. Theres nothing wrong with loyalty.

Yeah,Gelsomina said, wrapping her arm around Fischels neck. I know who my friends are.

Gelsomina,Fischel squeaked, lay off. Youre choking me.

Nickelan dived off the dragons tail and swam underwater, trying to wash the unpleasantness with Gelsomina from his memory. He still cared for her and liked to keep her close, even if she was forever scheming to remove him from power or worse. One day hed win her over. Until then Fischel and the rest of the Red Team, now members of the Presidential Guard, would ensure his safety.

Nickelan,said Mr. Wand, you know I detest this form of communication. Nickelan, please answer me. I cannot keep my head in the toilet much longer. It goes against everything that I hold dear.

Hey, Dad,Nickelan said, swimming down to the basins bottom. Mr. Wands hair was upswept and disheveled in the current of the toilet bowl. His tie floated across his face like a slash. Hows Mom?

Nickelan had sent his parents home down the very drain that he was now communicating with his father. They were reluctant to leave Kid City, as badly as they wanted to go, without their son. Nickelan refused to join them. In a touching ceremony, Nickelan bid his parents an emotional farewell and, flushing the toilet handle, sent Mr. and Mrs. Wand back to the surface world.

Though it was not his intention, Nickelan had destroyed Kid City by saving it. Back on the surface world, in art class, his teacher taught that to create one must first destroy. That explained why a pencil got worn down to the eraser when making a drawing. It was destroyed to create the drawing. Now Nickelan saw that lesson could be applied to bigger things, like Kid City, which was destroyed to create the new and improved Kid City. It was only proper to stay behind, accept responsibility for Kid Citys destruction and begin the long and difficult task of rebuilding.

Your mother misses you,Mr. Wand said, bubbles getting caught in his mustache. When are you leaving that wretched land and coming back to your family?

Theres still a lot of unfinished work here,Nickelan said. Maybe I can come home for a visit once I get the waste management system operational. Ive got a bask of crocodiles digging up sewers, and Scrap is leading a team of mechanical engineers designing everything from sewage treatment plants to bathrooms.

I must say,Mr. Wand said, that the prospect of bathtime in Kid City is quite appealing to me. I feel, in a sense, its my legacy.

Since discovering its Maka-repellent properties, soap has made a comeback here,Nickelan said. Kids take baths like they blow up firecrackers on the Fourth of July. Its patriotic.

Mr. Wands image was distorted by the churning of his toilet as he flushed his good-byes. Nickelan turned his head upwards and watched the Fire ripple over the surface of the toilet bowl. He kicked his feet and hands, making his way to the surface, when another voice called out to him.

Nickelan Wand!the voice said with authority. There isnt much time!

Though Nickelans lungs were empty, and the air they craved was only feet above his head, he stopped swimming. Floating in the cool waters, the voice called out to him again.

I need your help,it said. You must come at once. Terrible things are happening. Terrible…”

Nickelan looked down the drain, but whoever was trying to communicate with him was cloaked in shadow.

Nickelan Wand,the voice called out again, You are our last hope. If you cannot save us all is lost. Lost…”

You cant fool me, Selwyn Harris,Nickelan said, recognizing the voice, even as Selwyn tried to disguise it by covering his mouth with his hand and speaking in muted tones. Im no longer the novice I was when you first met me.

Thats true,Selwyn said, reverting to his real voice. Im sorry, Mr. President, old habits die hard. But Im not joking. There is a problem in the Lands Between that needs your immediate attention.

Im on it,Nickelan said, swimming up for a much needed lungful of air. He gasped, breaking the surface of the water.

Whats up?Spike asked, treading water with his baseball cap wet on his head.

Trouble,Nickelan said, climbing up to the toilet lid where Shiny Buttons gave him a towel to dry off. How fast can you assemble the team?Nickelan asked Fischel.

Faster than a Maka loses its temper,Fischel answered.

Hey,Baber Groan barked, Im right here. I can hear you. I got feelings, you know.

Im the leader of the Red Team!Gelsomina yelled. I say when were ready to go.

Are we ready, Gelsomina?Nickelan asked.

Born ready,Gelsomina shot back with an eager look in her eye that pleased Nickelan.

This was Nickelans life, rushing off to adventure and maintaining peace and stability in the underworld. These were Nickelans friends, everyone from Baber Groan and Gelsomina Gillepsie to his subjects and the loyal Red Team at his command. Nickelan threw back his freshly washed hair and put on a clean tunic. He was ready to go.

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