The Fifth Severance

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Chapter 26

The glow of Alexandria’s light draws me toward it like a moth to a flame. In no time at all, I reach the small gorge and spot her across pacing on the grass. I don’t even bother using the rope walk due to the incredible amounts of adrenaline coursing through my veins; I instead try to jump the twelve foot hole in the ground. It was going so good for about, two seconds while I leapt into the air but it all immediately goes pear-shaped when instead of going forward, I go more, upwards. My foot lands not on solid ground but on a rock and it jiggles out of place and causes me to slip, leaving me about to plummet to my doom. An arm grabs mine and pulls me to safety. That was perfect timing. Half a second late and I’d be headed deep into the earth’s crevices.

“Are you nuts?” she says to me with complete flabbergast written on her face and I can’t say I blame her. That was an unbelievably stupid thing to do.

“Thanks for the save,” I say as I get off the grass.

“You better be thankful,” she says and starts to walk away so I follow her. We eventually sit on the grass near the top of the small hill.

She’s been trying in vain to send out that SOS signal for minutes now and looks on the verge of giving up. Can’t say I blame her.

“Have you got that thing working yet?” I say as I wipe my sweat soaked brow.

“No,” she says with visible frustration in her voice as she collapses backwards onto the grass. “I’ve been casting blanks for a while now. I’m stumped.”

“Well at least we have the transceiver with us now and that’s the important thing.”

“I guess so.”

“I suggest we find somewhere to sleep tonight then we figure this out tomorrow.”

“Good idea,” she says and we both get off the grass simultaneously.

“Now where exactly do we...”

“I know!” she says and I ask her to lead the way. She leads me down the hill on which we had our little wager and soon we arrive at the entrance of the Osamanpa tribe’s settlement.

“Wait Alex,” I say as I grab her arm before she enters.

“What?”

“Are you sure they’ll be glad to see us at this unholy hour?” I say.

“Hey, she did invite us back so why not?” she says and parts the tree branches before us. She walks gaily into the place but I follow behind her, tentatively.

We walk through the eerily quiet road into the town which is lit by flame laps by the roadside and beside houses. Fire near all this straw can’t be safe. We spot a nice group of trees in the distance and decide to set up camp there until tomorrow. We set all our stuff on the ground and prepare to finally settle in for the night but we are immediately alerted by the presence of a hulking figure in the distance staring at us.

“What the heck is that?” I say.

“Looks like a person,” she says. “Go talk to him Dr. Blay.”

“What? Why me?” I say but when I look at her, I couldn’t possibly send her to face a creature of such immense size so I get to my feet and approach it hesitantly.

When get close enough for the light to catch it, I notice that it‘s a man, a huge man. I notice he has some distinctive tattoos that no other villager here has. Even though I’m about to wet myself, I manage to notice this.

“Who are you?” he asks with a very deep and intimidating voice that stops me in my tracks and forces some urine out.

“Ummm, hello, I am Dr. Ignatius Blay and that is my friend Alexandria. We are...”

“What do you want here!” he says and more urine escapes my urinary tract.

The tone which he used was so blunt this time that I thought he was about to hit me so I took a small step back and consider taking to my heels. The muscled eye with which he is staring me down would have been enough to melt any courage I had left but fortunately, it didn’t stop my brain from coming up with an idea.

“Alex, come here please,” I say without taking my eye off him. She slinks to my side and hides behind me. “Please show him the crown the princess gave you.”

“Oh yeah, good idea,” she says. Look.” She steps out from behind me with the crown in her hand and holds it up to his face which quite brave since I’m pretty sure he could eat her in one bite. “We’re friends with the princess, she gave me this.”

He grabs her arm suddenly and instinctively my hand goes to my belt to my weapon but after he finishes examining the crown, he lets her arm go.

“So you are the friends from the outside that my daughter has been going on and on about?” he says in a commandingly deep voice that makes me shudder in fear.

“Ummm, yeah I think so,” Alex says. “She gave me her crown.”

“Ah yes, the Osamanpa symbol of eternal peace,” he says and offers his large hand to me which I reluctantly take. He almost crushes my hand before I pull it away and massage it. “Sorry about my scary face Doctor, I thought you were intruders.”

“Well, don’t we all?”

“Wait, did you say Princess Akosua is your daughter?” Alex says.

“Yes I did,” he says. “Why you ask?”

“That must mean you’re the Chief, your highness,” she says as she goes on one knee to perform an act of respect which she also makes me do even though I don’t want to.

“Get up friends,” he says. “I am chief but I’m also friendly.” Wow, the irony.

“Okay friendly chief,” Alex says. “May we please know your name?”

“I am Chief Ka’kore Alava, the second,” he says.

“Much obliged,” she replies. “I’m Alexandria Knoster and this is my friend Dr. Ignatius Blay.”

All of a sudden, we hear a high-pitched sound from behind the hulking chief, only that this is one we are familiar with. “Daddy, daddy, who are you talking...hey you came back!” she says with delight when spots sees us.

“Yes we did,” Alex says. “But we actually need a place to sleep for the night.”

“No problem,” the Chief says. “Let’s find a nice place for the two of you to sleep in.”

“Thank you very much Chief Alava, the second,” Alex says in gratitude.

“You welcome,” he says and picks the princess off the ground and into his huge arms. “A friend of the princess is always a friend of mine.”


“Aren’t you cold? I have extra space on my bed.” She moves over and advertises the tight-looking space beside her in attempt to tempt me to her side.

“For the fifth time Alex, I’m fine. Good night.” I place my head back on my pillow and close my eyes hoping to get some sleep without another interruption by Alex.

The chief was so kind as to give us his personal guest hut just beside his own hut. He also gave us a servant, sorry, a man to wait on us called Agigo or Ajigo or something like that. Even though the beds are made of straw, and the pillows just stuffed sheep hair into a woollen sack, I could swear I’ve never slept on something so soft and I really enjoy this floating sensation as I slowly drift off to sleep.

I can feel myself on the verge of succumbing to the sweet relief of slumber when all of a sudden, the loud shuffling of feet wakes me up. I lift my head off the pillow and scan the room frantically to see if anything is causing it but all looks normal so I place my head back on the pillow and try to lull myself back to sleep again; that is until I hear a loud chant by what seems to be a crowd outside wakes us.

“What was that screaming?” Alex wakes up startled.

“I think it’s coming from outside.” I get my legs out from under the covers, put my shoes on and shuffle sleepily to the door as does Alex.

Outside, we see a crowd of people marching and chanting holding torches and weapons of all sorts. We try to stop some people to ask what’s going on but they don’t even bother to stop to talk to us. Rude much.

“What’s going on?” I say to Alex.

“No idea,” she says. “Hey, let’s ask that guy.” She points to a young man walking our way holding a torch.

“Hey Mister,” Alex says and he steps out of the crowd to talk to us.

“Why aren’t you armed?” he asks us. “The chief has summoned us all.”

“Why? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know but I’m sure we will know when we get there.” He rejoins the moving crowd and we do same hoping that they’ll lead us to where the chief is summoning us to.

We are lead, well dragged, to the chief’s courtyard and we all stand there as the king sits on his throne sighing loudly and looking dejected. He talks to a man on his side who I assume is his advisor then gets up to address us. Once he rises, the crowd’s loud murmurings cease.

“My people,” he begins to speak, “An unspeakable evil has been done. My people, the Princess, has been kidnapped.” The moment these words leave his mouth, the murmurings of shock restart until he raises his hand to order silence. “I’m sure you are wondering who would do such a thing and it is rather unfortunate that my sweet, delicate flower was captured by those demonic creatures that have been plaguing us for decades.”

The crowd erupts into a frenzy when he says this with some people murmuring, “She’s doomed,” and “This is a tragedy,” and things of the sort. I just stand there hoping that we have nothing to do with what he described as what sounds like a post-humanoid getting in.

“Oh my God, Akosua has been captured by post-humanoids,” Alex says to me with an element of hurt in her voice.

Amidst all the random murmuring, one villager has the guts to ask the Chief a question by raising his hand.

“Oh great and mighty Chief Alava, I mean no disrespect with this question but I just want to know what is being done to get the princess back?” Yup, he’s going to the dungeon, assuming they have one. Of course they do; what kind of king doesn’t have a dungeon? The man who asks this question immediately disappears back into the crowd supposedly out of fear.

“My mighty warriors, step out of the crowd and assemble at the front here,” he says and some men, all quite ripped, step out of the crowd and go to stand before the stage with hands behind their backs. “These men, my most trusted warriors, will be entrusted to rescue my daughter.”

Now, honestly, I’m not disputing how strong those men might be but honestly, sending them into what might potentially be a den of post-humanoids is suicidal. I’ve got to speak up before he sends them out and they all get killed. I raise my hand but he doesn’t seem to see it so I jump up and down but still. All of a sudden, he points in my direction and I prepare to speak but it appears I have been overlooked.

“Your Chiefness, I appreciate the bravery of your soldiers but honestly, I think sending them out there to face those things might be a huge mistake.” A mini gasp comes from the crowd but she ignores it and continues. “I suggest sending people experienced in dealing with these creatures, people like me and Dr. Blay here, thank you.”

“Why did you include me in this?” I whisper to her but she doesn’t hear me. We are so getting executed for that.

The chief is seated on his throne just staring at us, alternating between us with a sly grin on his face. I am expecting him to order us to execution but to my utter surprise, he calls us to the stage. As we walk through the crowd, my stomach does a couple of back flips as the thought that he might want to execute us right there on stage makes its way through my mind but the smile he has on immediately dispels this.

“This way my friends,” the chief waves us on stage when we reach the front of the crowd. I tentatively climb the small steps while Alex seems to think this is exciting and as a result speeds up the steps while I doddle.

“Hello chief,” Alex says and curtseys. I do the same and salute, without the curtsey of course.

“Yes friends,” he says.”As you can see, I’m in an emotionally challenging time right now so you might have to repeat what you were saying as I couldn’t hear.” I feel Alex shove me in the back to say it.

“Okay Chief, sir, actually, the point Alex was trying to make was that-” I feel a sweat breaking out across my forehead so I swat it away. “Was that even though your soldiers are undoubtedly committed and capable men, they lack experience dealing with the creatures that took your daughter. She is also suggesting that you send her and me since we have experience fighting them.”

“Hmmm,” he says softly as he strokes his chin. I can just sense that he is going to order our immediate execution so I take a step back that allows me to have a chance to run if that is the case. “You know what? I like your idea.”

“You do?” Alex says excitedly from beside me.

“Yes, it makes sense,” he says. “Why should I leave the life of my daughter in the hands of inexperienced men when I have two seasoned explorers in our midst? I’m making you the heads of this rescue mission. Let me just tell the people.”

As he walks over and delivers the news of this change, Alex leaps around in joy and the crowd murmur sceptically. He returns to us in a few moments and retakes his seat on the throne.

“I will give you some time to prepare yourselves before setting out. When you’re ready, you meet me back here.”

“Let’s go Alex,” I say and we leave the stage to prep ourselves.


I take a seat on the bed and allow my troubled head to rest in my hands as strong feelings of guilt plague me. I take them out and see that Alex is staring curiously at me.

“What’s wrong?” she says with a concerned tone. “Aren’t you gonna get ready?”

“I will,” I say. “But I can’t just shake this...feeling.”

“What feeling?” she says as she bends over and laces up her boots.

“I don’t know but, I just feel as if...hmmm.”

“What?” she says impatiently. What is it?”

“I just can’t stop these feelings of guilt,” I say and stare up to the ceiling for a split second and lower them to meet her searching eyes. “Deep down I think that I’m responsible for what happened to the princess.”

“What? How?” she says with shock “You didn’t kidnap her did you?” She asks that last question in a lower tone of voice since there are guards crawling outside.

“Of course not,” I say in disgust. “That’s a preposterous assumption!”

“Then why do you think that you are responsible?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I just don’t feel like I did enough to shake those post-humanoids off my tail and I don’t know, they could have followed us back here or something.”

“Oh come on, that’s highly improbable,” she says with such an assured tone that my spirits lift almost immediately. “Even if they did, their bloodlust would have overpowered them and they’d have attacked us last night. They must have snuck in when everyone was asleep.”

“Hmmm, maybe you’re right,” I say as I feel my spirits lifting.

“I probably am,” she says as she gets off the bed to stretch. “But let’s just say I’m not. Even if you are responsible isn’t this opportunity we’ve been given by the Chief a chance to set everything right?”

“You’re right, again,” I say as I also get off the bed.

“I’m always right.”

I bend down to lace up my boots and then stand erect before the mirror, hoping to look as heroic as possible for this potentially life-threatening mission. After admiring myself in the mirror for a few seconds, I grab my gear bag ready for action.

“Let’s go Alex,” I say to her as she sits on the bed staring at herself in mirror. “We’ve got no time to waste.”

“Coming, just gotta...okay, got it, let’s go.” She was just fixing a hair on her head and she said it as if it was something incredibly important. Women.

We pass by the strict looking guards outside our room with our packs ready on our backs prepared to confront any challenge that comes our way. We both try to keep this edgy ‘don’t mess with us’ demeanour which must seem quite odd to onlookers since the scowl I have on looks less edgy and more, constipated. We get to the stage and the Chief is still in his seat with crossed legs as he talks to his advisor. When we appear into his view, he stops talking to the man and turns to us.

“Are you all set now?” he says us.

“Yes your highness,” Alex speaks up for the both of us. “We’re set.”

“Good,” he says with a pleased look on his face. “Now before you set out, my assistant here, his name is Jubele, he will send you to my armoury to get you a bit of reinforcements.”

The man says something inaudible to Chief Alava then gets up and walks right past us without saying a word. We decide to follow him due to what I heard the Chief say. After walking through the flame lit town with all eyes on us, we eventually end up behind the Chief’s hut.

We stare at him then at each other as he just looks longingly at the grass as if he expects it to magically create something. He must be crazier than I expected and that is something since we only met just a few minutes ago. As we get ready to leave him standing there staring lustfully at the grass to go and get this mission done, he steps on the clump of grass he has been staring at for the past five minutes and the ground sinks into an underground passage.

“Whoa!” I exclaim in surprise. “What is this place?” I ask as we walk closely behind Jubele who is holding a torch he picked up at the entrance.

“This, place is an underground tunnel built during the old days for the royals to escape to safety when the war got too intense or when they just needed to be somewhere quickly,” he says with his thick accent and I now notice how snobbish he sounds. I don’t him already. We make loud sounds of awe as we proceed through the dusty tunnels. “I haven’t even shown you the best part yet. Follow me.”

He turns round a bend and there is a giant door to our immediate left with some weird symbols on it. Alex takes out her communicator and snaps a picture of it as Jubele removes a set of keys from which I saw him take from the Chief. He glares behind him as the camera click alerts him before he turns the key and the door clicks open.

“Ladies first,” he says and Alex walks into the room looking all impressed with his manners. I really don’t like him.

“Wow!” she exclaims and that prompts me to enter quickly.

The moment I step the room and have a look around, I have the same reaction, if not more animated than she just had. “What is this place? It’s magnificent!” I say as I fondle a bazooka made from wood fused with some metal parts hanging proudly on the wall beside me.

“This is the Chief’s personal armoury,” he says. “Please do not touch anything; some of these items are antiques and very fragile.” I was busy fondling a shotgun when he said this so I quickly take my hand off it and look innocently into the sky.

“Hey, Jubilee, what are we doing down here anyways?” I say. “Shouldn’t we be heading out to do our mission?”

“It’s Ju-bele, not Jubilee,” he says in such a tone that I feel like taking one of these magnificent weapons off the wall and, well you know. “The chief asked me to bring the two of you down here so that you can be well equipped to rescue the princess.”

“All I wanted was an answer not attitude,” Alex mutters under her breath.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

“Wait,” I jump into their awkward as heck conversation. “You mean to tell me that we can take something from here?”

“Yes, the Chief said you can take anything from here that you think will help you to rescue the princess,” he says and I do a little jig and start for that mighty bazooka I saw earlier. “Except the bazooka,” he says suddenly and I freeze as my face falls in disappointment. “He says that it is a family heirloom passed down from chief to chief so that is the only one is off-limits. Sorry.”

“Hmmm, okay,” I say. “I’ll just use this instead.” I grab a cool-looking bow fashioned from wood and green glass lying on a raised platform. “I did a bit of archery back in high school,” I say as I aim an arrow as a test then sling the arrow bag over my shoulder.

“Fine choice,” he says. “And what will it be for you Miss Alexandria?”

“Hmmm, I think I’ll go with this sword,” she says as she picks up a finely sharpened blade and the light glistens off the silver finish.

“Really, did you also study sword fighting in the school of high?” The School of High? Did Wiz Khalifa open a school recently?

“Nope, I just like weapons that can cut stuff.”

“Okay...interesting,” he says with a weird look on his odd face. “I guess we are done here. Let’s get back to the chief”

We exit the room and wait as Jubele locks it up tight. He insists on walking before us even though we pretty much know the route out of here. What a pompous jerk. We take the old route back up to the surface and take deep breaths once we’re out of that dusty and stuffy passage.

We walk quickly back to the stage ahead of Jubele and see the Chief where we left him. The only difference is that he is this time addressing some figures dressed in slick black outfits.

“Chief Alava the second, your excellence, we have returned,” Jubele addresses the chief then comes back to stand with us.

“Good, I see you have selected your weapons of choice, good pick Dr. Blay.” I nod at his approval of my bow as Alex shakes her head and scoffs in jealousy. “I would like you to meet these three gentlemen here.” The three men in black body suits step forward and greet us with a bow like they do in Kung-Fu movies.

“Hello,” I say with an awkward wave. “Ummm, who are these guys?” I ask Alex under my breath and she just shrugs in response.

“These are the Nakamura triplets,” the Chief says. “They are the best stealth fighters’ money can buy, well hire. I had them brought all the way out here from Japan.”

I pause to contemplate that statement for a while. “Wait, did you just say Japan?” I say with obvious disbelief. “But that’s not...how? Japan doesn’t exist anymore!”

“Cool it Dr. Blay, this isn’t the time,” she whispers to me so I step back and wait for the chief to continue. He has a look of visible shock written on his face.

Alexandria is obviously as perplexed as I am, I can see it on her face, but she’s right, trying to understand this place, and everywhere else of this new earth for that matter is completely futile. I just suggest to myself that I forget about it and just focus on the events that will lead us to the end of this adventure and inevitably to all the answers, at least that’s what I hope.

“Yes, so as I was saying,” the chief continues after a long silence, “These men here will accompany you on your mission.”

“Yeah, well not that we don’t appreciate the help but we would prefer it if we worked alone, you know, just the two of us, right Dr. Blay?” she says to me but the look on Jubele’s face is quite telling so I decide not to get involved and just look away. “Look, don’t get me wrong...” she starts again and the look on Jubele’s face has graduated from fear to full-on panic and he bites his nails frantically. Alex might be in serious trouble for speaking like this to the Chief.

“You know what?” the chief asks and sits up in his chair all serious-like. My heart almost leaps out of my chest. “I respect both of you as warriors so...I’m going to allow it, you can go with each other.” Oh thank you God. “But the triplets will remain in stealth mode and serve as back-up only for you when you call for it.”

Jubele exhales a huge sigh of relief as the Chief consents with Alex and I do same. I spot that she has that look on her face which she gets when she wants to argue, with one side of her lip curved upward at the left and wide eyes so I rush and place my hand over her mouth before she gets us killed.

“That would be fantastic,” I say. “Again, thanks so much for the weapons; I think we’ll be heading out now,” I say and back away slowly. He says something in Japanese to the triplets and they instantly disappear.

“Yes, but before you go, I have one more surprise for you,” he says and gets off his throne, whispers something to a servant who then leaves with Jubele.

I drag Alex to one side, far enough from the others not to hear us, then I finally take my hand off her mouth.

She spits in disgust after I do this. “Eeew your hand tastes salty!” she says. Why did you do that?”

“I did it because you were about to say something that would most likely have gotten us killed or thrown into a dungeon!”

“Oh come on they don’t have a dungeon here, do they?”

“Of course they do, all kings do...wait, that isn’t the point,” I say. “The point is that you have to watch your mouth Alex, it could have gotten us into real trouble back there.”

“I know but I didn’t want those guys to tag along with us,” she says and I get a perplexed look on my face. “Ninjas freak me out.”

“Really?” I ask in surprise. “Ninjas freak you out?”

“Yes, with their black clothes and constant skulking and vanishing. So creepy!”

“Hey watch it, they could be skulking around here you know.”

“My point exactly.”

“Don’t use me to justify your irrelevant fear.”

“Oh so now my fear is irrelevant?” she says. “What about a man who can survive basically any fall but yet is afraid of heights; talk about irrelevant.”

“Hey, I resent that. You think...” I was about to retort with something totally useless and irrelevant but thank God I was interrupted and saved from displaying my weak skills of banter.

“My friends, here is my final surprise. I hope she will aid you to bring my princess back safe and sound,” he says. “It may not look like much but trust me, it’s a real beauty. I have many good memories on her.”

The servant pulls the cloth off the item and immediately takes a step back as we gape at a rickety-looking tandem bicycle that looks like it’s barely going to support our combined weights, let alone serve as a reliable source of transport to our destination.

“Wow...thanks,” I say and try with all might, human and mutant to hide the obvious sarcasm in my voice.

“May not look like much is right,” Alex whispers to me and I nudge her in the ribs using my elbow.

“The queen and I used to use her for our romantic rides under the moonlight,” he says with a nostalgic smile on his face. “That is, until she...”

“She’s dead?” Alex says and I nudge her in the ribs again.

“No, she just went missing.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that,” I say as Alex massages her ribs. “I think we’ll be going now,” I say and grab the handle bars of the bike very carefully to make sure it doesn’t come off in my hands. “We’ll be back in about a day or so with the princess, we assure you.”

“Good luck in your endeavours mighty warriors. Please bring my daughter back safely; she’s the only thing I have left in this world.”

“Will do,” I say. We walk out of the town through the long street and with the whole town staring at us, it felt even longer.

After what feels like forever, we disappear through the trees and into the world that lies in wait behind them.


“This thing is a piece of junk,” I say as I examine the debilitated tandem bicycle.

“Hey, I was saying that and you nudged me in the ribs, which hurt a lot by the way.”

“Sorry about that but again, you were about to say something stupid that could have gotten us in real trouble.”

“I find it easier just to say what comes to mind,” she says. “Saves me the time I’d have used to think.”

“Not thinking is right,” I say under my breath.

“What’d you say?

“Nothing,” I say quickly. “Let me tell you a little secret of life; if something comes to your mind and you analyze it and think it might be hurtful or offensive to anyone in anyway, don’t say it to the person’s face but rather say it behind their backs. Follow this rule and you’d be fine.”

“Hmmm, okay, but wait, how exactly am I supposed to know if something is hurtful or offensive?”

“You’re a smart girl, you’ll know.”

“Okay, then,” she says. “Let’s get going then.” We both sit on the tandem bike and it creaks loudly as our combined weights balance on it.

“Come on, do you really think this, thing, can send us anywhere we’re going without turning into dust on the way?” I say. “Can’t you use your mechanical expertise and turn this hunk of junk into something better?”

“That’s actually not a bad idea?” she says with that face she gets when the cogs in her brain start turning. “Let’s get back to the wreckage of the hoverbus, I have an idea.”


We finally spot the wreckage of the bus in the distance after ten minutes of intense paddling. We could have reached here faster with a better vehicle, and also if I didn’t intentionally stopping paddling so that Alex did it alone. I know I’m a jerk, don’t judge me; I’m tired. Still I guess it’ll all be worth it, eventually.

“What exactly are you going to do to it?” I say as I dismount the bike and massage my right butt cheek which fell asleep from ‘paddling’ so much.

“I have an idea but it might take a while if I do it alone so I’m gonna need your help.”

“I would love to but, don’t you think someone needs to stand guard, you know, in case some post-humanoids come around looking for trouble?” I’m actually planning to curl up in a corner somewhere and take a nap.

“Don’t worry about them,” she says. “They have a princess in their custody now; I doubt they’ll fret about insignificant us.”

“Hey, I’m not insignificant.”

“Sure...okay, c’mon let’s do this,” she says and starts walking toward the bus. “I’ll tell you what to fetch from the bus for me and you get it, got it?” she says and I nod in approval.

She gives me no time whatsoever to voice any concerns so I just help her move the bike nearer to the wreckage and cover it with a dusty blanket we find inside the bus.

She goes under the cove and begins to take the bike it apart piece by piece without letting me see what she’s doing, obviously intentionally. I don’t know what it is about mechanics, artists and musicians and being all secretive but it’s pretty strange if you ask me.

“Okay, get me three tires from the bus please, thanks,” she says and goes back under the cover. I walk to the bus, look around, see no wheels and stand there in confusion. “The emergency wheels are under the bus!” she calls out to me and I thank her.

I try to lift the bus with my hands but it’s really heavy so I give up and try to think of a better idea. After about five minutes of getting nothing, I just run at the bus and kick it in frustration. As I land heavily on the floor, I hear a loud crash as a lot of dust raises into the air. I managed to flip the bus over with one kick! I am awesome.

Now that the bus lies on its side, I see the six emergency tires she was talking about. I try to pull the wheels off with my bare hands but the bolts are screwed in really tight so it doesn’t budge. I refuse to give up. I grab one side of the tyre and try again, this time twisting, but it still doesn’t budge. This is going to take all my awesome might. I ready myself with some arm pumps and jump around to get hyped up. Alex sees me and chuckles but I ignore her; I’m in the zone. I step up to it with all the adrenaline coursing through my veins and try again with all my strength and add my legs in for good measure and fortunately, it comes off in my hands, leaving me on my backside on the ground. I get up with my trophy in my hand and hand it to her before doing same for the other two tyres.

“You do know that there is a button you can press on the inside to pop off all the tires right?” she says to me as I, out of breath, hand her the final wheel.

“What?”

“Yeah, a small red button on the driver’s side with a tire on it.”

“And you choose to tell me this after I’ve literally pulled those tyres off the bus, leaving my fingers looking like pretzels!”

“Of course,” she says. “You look like you were enjoying yourself.” I have no answer so I just sink to the floor in exhaustion, and frustration.

After an hour of fetch this, unscrew that and hit those, she finally finishes and steps out from under the tarp sweaty but looking extremely satisfied with her work.

“Okay, I’m done,” she says and rubs her oily hands on the blanket. “I present to you, the tandem Alava-cycle mark one!” she says dramatically and pulls the blanket off to reveal a machine of unbelievable craft and invention that leaves me with my mouth hanging in awe.

“Oh my gosh, how? This is incredible,” I say as I feel the now sleek body made from the doors of the bus, the padded seating, revving engine, GPS and three tyres, two at the back and one in-front that make this thing a real thing of beauty.

“Why, you like it?”

“Like it? This thing is incredible, you are incredible and you’re a genius Alex, for real, just...amazing.”

“Thanks,” she says and blushes a bit then turns to look at the GPS. “Hey look, the GPS five figures are headed west from here; you think it could be them?”

“Only one way to find out,” I say as I sit on the backseat of the bike and rev the engine of the newly-built motorcycle. “You up for this?”

“As much as I’ll ever be that’s for sure,” she says as she gets onto her seat in-front of me.

“Alright, let’s do this.”
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