The Dealey Five (A Dvorak Serial Novel)
Chapter 8 (or, "Something Something Something Soviet")
When We Last Left Off: At an open stage in Coney Island, a mysterious girl named Milaya ran off with the boombox.
BACK to Chapter 7
Matsumoto and Rosa wasted no time, but Jason was faster.
He hit the ground running and passed by his friends with no time to spare. Within seconds, he was across the boardwalk, and then, he had Milaya by the shoulders and pinned, trapping the boombox under his leg.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said. “Not until I get some answers.”
Milaya struggled, but couldn’t get up off of the ground. She said something that Jason couldn’t catch. “I can’t hear you over the crowds,” he said.
She glared at him. “влагалище,” she muttered, and Jason realized that she couldn’t understand English at all. Hadn’t Matsumoto and Rosa said something about not knowing English at first?
He heard two pairs of footsteps behind him and didn’t turn, figuring it was probably Matsumoto and Rosa. He kept his eyes on Milaya. “You might not be able to understand me, but you are still not going anywhere,” he said. This up close and personal, she didn’t look as threatening as she had before. In fact, if she was one of the kids from Jason’s world, she probably wasn’t threatening at all. Probably just amnesiac and confused.
A black foot shoved its way into Jason’s face. He looked up to find one of the black clad men standing in front of him. “Drop her,” he said.
Jason glared. “I’ve had about enough of you,” he said. “Why do you keep showing up?”
“You heard the man,” another voice Jason recognized as Matsumoto’s said. He bent down and picked up the boombox before anybody else could get it. “Stop bothering us, and stop coming after this boombox.”
“Or we’ll call the police,” Rosa said from farther back.
Jason stayed on top of Milaya, still holding her by the shoulders against the boardwalk. He hated doing this to her, but the sooner they got her out of there, the sooner they could find help. Had Matsumoto or Rosa called Mac or Carissa?
The man laughed. “Don’t you get it? We are the police around here.” Then he threw a curveball. “Милая, мы должны идти.”
Well, shoot. Jason bit his tongue. These black clad people knew Milaya? Was that why she had grabbed his boombox? He looked back down at her and noticed her eyes were closed, her face all contorted, as if she was in a lot of pain.
“What are you doing?” he asked in English, still aware she couldn’t understand him. “Don’t you know you’re not from here?”
“Well, this is certainly interesting.” Jason felt a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, Squirrel. You can let go now. I’ve got it.”
He turned and found himself staring at the girl he had met on the train. Her hair was pulled back again, and now he could see the small details in her outfit -- the blue jean shorts and knee length penguin socks that notably didn’t match with the lime green jacket that matched his in style. “You?”
“You remember.” She smiled. “Isabel.”
“Isabel. You were friends with Mac.”
“Yes, sir.” She looked up. “I see we’ve got a problem on our hands.”
Jason remembered that Isabel was part of QWERTY, but since she was a full member, she wouldn’t be able to be seen by anybody else (not even Mack). He looked behind him and saw that both Matsumoto and Rosa’s mouths were open. Thankfully Matsumoto was still hanging on to the boombox.
“These guys want the boombox and they won’t leave me alone,” he said.
“So I see.” Isabel’s eyes went down to Milaya, and she knelt by her. “Seriously, Squirrel, up.”
“It’s Jason,” he said with a smile as he got up.
Milaya stayed put, but she did sit up. She looked at Isabel, curious, but did not say a word. Isabel’s brown eyes were right on her as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her communication phone. She pushed a few buttons, and the screen turned orange. “Can you see me?” she said, and “ты видишь меня?” came out of the phone.
Milaya looked surprised that the phone was talking in Russian, but simply nodded her reply.
Isabel smiled. “мы должны идти.” And then she pointed the phone at Milaya and pushed another button. “You know you’re not from this world, don’t you?”
“How did you know that?” Her voice was accented, just a bit, and it spooked her to the point where she put her hands over her mouth. “What am I saying?”
She turned back toward the man in black, who now had several of his friends behind them. “I don’t know -- who are these people?” she tried to say to them in Russian, but -- by new instinct -- it came out in English instead.
Isabel stood up. “Oh, if we ever needed a deus ex machina moment, it’s now. Fortunately for you all, I’m the god!” With another button push, the boardwalk shook as a huge wave battered against it. The recently installed defenses helped, but it was enough time for Isabel to grab Milaya’s hand and pull her up off the ground.
“Come with us,” she said. “I promise, everything will be fine.”
Milaya looked back at the people in black, who were almost done getting their bearings. “But --”
“You recognized this music, didn’t you?” Jason said as he held up the boombox. “We both know this music. We’re both from the same world. And if they take the boombox, you won’t be able to hear the music anymore.”
Milaya bit her lip and nodded, racing after Jason as he took off. He led the way, restraining his speed so the others could catch up. As he ran, he noticed that several NYPD cars had pulled up along the boardwalk, and police were flooding out of them, some with dogs.
“They can’t see us right now,” Isabel said. “This’ll only last for another thirty seconds or so. Where should we go?”
Jason thought for a moment. “We’re not from here!”
“Do you know where Mac lives?” Matsumoto asked.
Isabel grinned. “Of course I do. ¡Vámonos!”
Isabel wasn’t able to get them up to Mac’s apartment before the invisibility wore off, but they got about halfway to the building. “It’ll just be another minute,” she said. “Good to see you again -- Jason, was it?”
Jason nodded. “These are my friends Matsumoto and Rosa. Rosa remembers who she was, like I do. Matsumoto’s not there yet, but Matsumoto is his real last name.”
Isabel nodded. “And this girl.”
Milaya was in the back; she caught up to the front as they stopped in front of Mac’s building. “We met her at the open mic,” Jason said. “She danced with me.”
“Stop talking about me as if I am not here,” Milaya said as she finally got up to the front. “I am here, and only because you asked me to.”
“And because I have the music,” Jason said, motioning to the boombox Matsumoto was still carrying.
Milaya blushed. “Yes. That as well. But you have not made your intentions clear. And I’m afraid if you do not do so at this time, I will be forced to go back to my previous cooperators.” A pause. “With the boombox they requested.”
Jason almost lunged forward -- how dare she? -- but Isabel stepped in the way. “Dios mio, Jason. Don’t hit a girl.”
“She’s a Soviet. I can hit her if I want to.”
When Jason mentioned the word Soviet, something clicked in Milaya’s mind. “What do you speak of?” she asked, this time getting up into Jason’s face. “I’ll have you know that it will be Soviet Russia who will win the war, and then and only then will everybody be able to live in peace and harmony. Furthermore, my previous collaborators were this world’s representatives of our glorious Soviet land. It appears that this world has had some setbacks when it comes to our agenda.”
“Setbacks as in Soviet Russia no longer exists,” Isabel noted.
“Be quiet,” Milaya said. “You speak when I tell you to, Ally.” She turned her attention back to Jason. “Now, as far as you and that boombox are concerned,” she said, “we need to make sure that boombox gets back in the hands of the Soviets. It is their property.”
“Wrong-o,” Jason said as he ejected the disc inside. He pointed at his name. “Jones. My last name. See?”
“The point of the matter is that we must use it to bring glory back to Sovietkind on this realm,” Milaya said. “If you hand it over now, I won’t have to use force.”
“She sounds phonier than you do, Rosa,” Matsumoto noted.
Rosa jumped. “What is THAT supposed to mean?”
Matsumoto grinned. “You know, how you’re always like ‘save the world’ and Milaya is all ‘yay Soviets.’ She has no idea that --” It was then that Matsumoto saw Milaya’s fatal tlaw. “Milaya.”
She glared at him. “Don’t talk.”
“Milaya. You know that we’re not from this world. All four of us -- me, Rosa, Jason, and yourself -- we are all from a separate version of this world, a world where the Soviets are still in power and are at war with the Allies. A world where -- where the Twin Towers still stand. And a world where Miss Querida here apparently blew up a cathedral on Christmas.”
“Would you stop mentioning that?” Rosa asked. “You are not in my favor right now, Señor Matsumoto.”
But the look on Milaya’s face had changed. She looked at Rosa. “You are miss Rosa Elena Meira Querida, the princess of the Querida network in the Spanish world?”
Rosa had to nod. “Now look, I’m not proud of that Christmas thing --”
She got the wind knocked out of her as Milaya wrapped her arms around Rosa’s waist. “That was simply ingenious!” she said, followed by a rant mostly in Russian that Rosa couldn’t make out.
Rosa glared at Matsumoto. “I still hate you.”
“You can’t hate me that much. We’re teammates. I’m just trying to get her on our side somehow. Even if she’s a Soviet, she’s a member of QWERTY, and that’s more important.”
“Do you think you could get us back to the other world?” Milaya asked. “We can bring the Soviets over here and rule both worlds. Wouldn’t that be simply grand?”
The sidewalk was silent for a moment, then Isabel said, “Milaya, the old world doesn’t exist anymore. This is the only world.”
“What are you guys doing here?” That was Mac, now standing in what was basically Isabel’s spot. “Did you find anything?”
Isabel turned at Mac and smiled as Jason spoke. “Man, do we have a lot to talk about.”
All six of them went upstairs to Mac’s apartment, and Jason spoke the entire time, filling Mac in on Isabel’s location and what had happened. “Part of the problem is that Milaya is Soviet, and she’s saying those people who want my boombox are also Soviets. But the NYPD showed up at the end and went after them, so it may be a while before we hear from them again.”
“I’m sure we will,” Mac said as he unlocked the door. “We just need to be ready.”
Milaya had been uncharacteristically quiet the entire time. They made their way to the game room, and Mac sat on the couch with Matsumoto. Isabel sat between them, and the rest sat on the floor. “Mac, Isabel is right next to you,” Matsumoto said.
Mac smiled. “If Carissa was here,” he said, and left the sentence unfinished.
“Let me make one thing clear to all of you, while I can,” Isabel said. “Your world is gone. There were only six survivors that I know of from your world, and you four are four of them. If you decide not to be a part of QWERTY, you will be left to this world, but nobody will be able to see you, and you will not be able to keep your QWERTY gear. Which reminds me.” Isabel pulled out a phone and a medium green jacket for Milaya. “These are yours, if you do decide to be a part of this.”
Milaya looked at the jacket. “A part of the Allied Fancy Jacket club? I think I’ll pass.”
“This club has nothing to do with the Allies,” Isabel said, now irritated. “The Quintessential Works for Everyday Reasons To Yield is serious business. We are the ones who monitor the merging, separation, and destruction of worlds. This all began when your Soviet-versus-Allied world collided with mine!”
Milaya’s eyes widened. “Actually collided?”
“Not physically. But a metaphysical merging of the realities. Your world -- Soviets and all -- was swallowed up in this one. Your family is gone. Your Soviet Russia is gone. You only have two places to go -- this world, where there IS NO SOVIET RUSSA I might note, or with QWERTY.”
Milaya still looked like she didn’t believe it. “And this QWERTY thing is the club with the jackets.”
“Correct. We are not exclusively Soviet or Allied. QWERTY is made up of people from all types of different universes. The person in charge of our quadrant isn’t even human. And sometimes, the leader of our faction doesn’t even seem human.” She laughed. “Which reminds me. Matsumoto, can you get Mac to go get one of those drinks from Saint Arbucks? Tell him Sarah wanted one.”
Matsumoto grinned. “You mean the chocolate ones? They’re so good, aren’t they?”
“Chocolate what?” Mac asked.
“Drinks at Saint Arbucks. Isabel said you have to go get one for Sarah.”
Mac rolled his eyes. “Figures. I will, Isabel. After this.”
“Awesome.” Isabel’s attention turned back to the problem at hand. “Milaya, when your world merged with ours, you were singled out as someone who would be good for QWERTY, and so you were pulled from the merge. The same thing happened to these other people. Your sole purpose now is to serve QWERTY, whether you like it or not. It’s that, or basically cease to exist.”
“I could choose to remain in this world,” Milaya said.
“That is true, but your friends in black would not be able to see you. Without food and water, it would be a matter of days before you faded away. The laws of life do not stop in alternate realities. We can bend them, but not break them.”
Milaya looked frustrated. “Would you stop talking?” she asked. “You are saying that I am forced to do these things. But you can not force me to do anything. The people in black, they knew my language. They are Soviet. And they said that if I helped them, they would be able to get me home. You speak of lies.”
“Wait.” Jason held up his hand. “I have something to ask. Milaya, you danced to the music I played on the speakers at the stage. You recognized that music, right?”
“Of course I did. I’ve heard it a hundred thousand times before.”
“If you’re Soviet, you shouldn’t have. That’s American nationalist music remixed by Squrrlax, and my guess is that it’s forbidden in the entire Soviet block.”
Milaya looked surprised. Then, she muttered, “I don’t know where I know that music from. I just know it.”
“You don’t remember everything about yourself yet,” Rosa said. “None of us do. Even though Jason and I remember more now, we still have questions. Is Milaya your real name?”
Milaya shrugged. “In Russian, it’s a -- how do you say it? -- a sweetness,” she said. “Like sugar, or baby, or something. If I have an official name, I do not remember it. I just remember being called Milaya, and when the Soviets asked my name, that is what I told them.” She looked at the jacket on the floor. “I still do not believe any of this madness,” she said. “Your story sounds solid, though. It almost matches the official story the Soviets gave me.”
“Official story?” Mac asked.
Milaya smiled. “Of course. The Soviets found me when I woke up on the boardwalk. I told them I didn’t remember anything, and they said I had come from another dimension. When I told them about the Soviets, they told me they had been waiting for me, and it had been foretold that I would come for them.”
Matsumoto looked at Rosa. None of this sounded good.
“And after that, they said they needed my boombox, right?” Jason asked.
“Of course. They said it was necessary to go back to my world.”
“Which is wrong, because your world no longer exists,” Isabel said. “But I repeat myself. Milaya, we can’t force you to decide either way. You’re the only person who can do that for yourself. And the Soviets can’t decide for you, either.”
Milaya sighed, then looked over at Jason’s boombox. He had said that the music had been from the Allied states, right? That she shouldn’t have known it if she was Soviet. Perhaps she was a rebel, worthy of execution, but she didn’t know that for sure. She just knew that this girl with dark skin was saying her world was gone, and she couldn’t return, no matter what. Then, there was the matter of her mysteriously speaking the Allied language instead of the holy required linguistics.
For a split second, there was another word on her tongue, not something in one of the mother tongues of the Soviet land. When she thought about it, though, it disappeared like a memory on the wind. “None of this makes sense.”
“It’s not supposed to yet,” Matsumoto said. “But it will, eventually. I promise. And once you remember who you are, you can make your final decision. We won’t hold it against you. Just wait until you remember who you are, Milaya. Then you can decide whether or not you want to be in QWERTY with us.”
Milaya. Someone had called her that. She nodded. “Understood. As best as I can. For now.”
NEXT to Chapter 9