Sunday, March 8, 2015

Book 4, 37 Girl Talk

John Carter, Warlord of Mars, etc, etc.

Here is the "epic fight scene." Nice work, actually. I just question the need to give John Carter Civil War-PTSD. And to make him a dirt-poor homesteader. And the decision to make this stinker of a movie in the first place. I do think Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch put in a credible performance, especially given that they were apparently locked in a concentration camp for the duration. (A concentration camp with a great gym, but I'm not sure that makes it any better.)

Unfortunately, the poor box office means that we're probably not going to see Battleship II. 

Book 4, 37 Girl Talk

Rose picked the plate off Charlotte’s stomach. “If you don’t want me to have the rest of the French toast, Char-Char, just run around the rec room three times, do a dozen jumping jack, and, oh, let’s see, bench press the pool table. You can do that when you channel your qi, right? That’s not abusing your kung fu. Like, say, trying to go out on a date after fighting your way across half of Babylon last night?” 

“See what you did there,” Charlotte muttered, half to the ceiling, that Cousin David had set with its glowing star decals to match the Northern sky many years ago, half to the TV. Lynn Collin was sassing Taylor Kitsch from banth-back.

“So it’s okay if I have the rest of your lunch-breakfast?”

Dora’s voice came from the side. “There’s a word for it, Rose, ‘brunch.;”

“Not on my dark, post-apocalyptic world, where mimosas come right after you brush your teeth.”

Silence from Dora.

“Because then you have toothpaste taste in your mouth. And mimosas are made with orange juice, because they’re something you can drink at breakfast? Or in this case brunch?”

“Charlotte? It’s me, Dora. Your eyes don’t look very focussed, so I wanted to check before I apply the sick burn to Rose, where I point out that I her joke is dying.”

Charlotte lashed out with her foot. As she suspected, Dora was at the end of the gentle kick. 

“Thanks, Char-Char.” Through a full mouth. 

The thought passed through Charlotte’s mind that ordinarily she’d have something to say about that. But she wasn’t hunger right now. She was tired. Well, not really tired so much as that place near being tired, where everything was washed out, including the question of whether she cared that Rose had snagged the rest of her brunch. So, instead, she shifted her head a bit so that she could see the wall-mounted TV. The foam pellets of the bean-bag chair shifted underneath her. On screen, Taylor Kitsch was discovering that “Barsoom” was actually Mars, and Lynn Collins was learning that Kitsch was from Earth, which the Barsoomians knew as Jazz Planet. Planet of the dinosaurs, more likely, if Mars still had air. Or amoebas. But for some reason they didn’t go with the time travel thing in this movie. 

If they didn’t know that already. Charlotte wasn’t sure about that. She should know, she thought. She’d seen this movie, like, ten times in the theatres when it came out, and now she was trying to find out if you could wear out a DVD. Did she used to know? Or was it confusing? It seemed confusing. But everything seemed confusing, this Sunday afternoon. She remembered creeping back into her bedroom. She remembered staring at the switch in the wall, thinking for literally a minute before she remembered how to turn it. Remembered taking off her clothes and burrowing into her bed, of listening to Uncle Henry and Chris’s slippered feet slippered feet on the steps outside, so quiet as they went downstairs for their had left for their morning run. She remembered Uncle Henry and Auntie Ma sitting her down at the table over Hong Kong French Toast and bacon, and telling her that she could never mention Yin Wu’s name to someone who hadn’t been at the fight, that his name was forbidden.

No, wait, that had been later. She’d been thinking about Uncle Henry, about how she’d been so afraid that they would knock on her door and ask her if she wanted to come, that she’d hurt their feelings when she said no. And then she’d been asleep. Some time that night, she had dreamed of Taylor Kitsch riding Telus, and Kitsch turning into Scout. And also Zac Efron and Tupac. And even Nighthawk, and he was just a comic book character. Zac Efron? Her brain was just weird sometimes.

But, you know, sometimes that part of the brain knows what it wants, and that was why she, Rose and Dora were watching John Carter of Mars right now. Well, she was kind of watching, because she wasn’t going to tip her head back to the point where the screen wasn’t at a weird angle, because that was too much work. And Rose and Dora weren’t really watching because they didn’t like the movie.

Traitors. But they were nice traitors, and it was nice that they’d come over, nice that they knew not to ask who she’d been fighting last night, without even being told that it was another Big Secret. Even if Rose was stealing the rest of her breakfast right now. 

“Do you mind?” Dora asked, jabbing her thumb at the plate, as Rose finished scraping up the last of the condensed milk with the last bit of French toast.

“What?” Rose asked. “I’m hungry. I ran all the way up to New York this morning to use the Justice Squadron library. Lot of exercise.”

“Does it really work that way? I mean, shouldn’t you have to eat a cow or something after that much exercise?”

“Yes. Yes, it does work that way. You want me to do the math? Because I will do the math, girl.”

“Okay, okay. All I’m saying is that if you want to kid Charlotte about being wiped out, I have a plan. And my eyebrow pencil. Think Charlotte would look good in a Fu Manchu?”

“Too on the nose. I’m thinking full hipster. Curled tips on the mustache,” Rose said, judiciously.

Charlotte shook her head, but her traitorous friends ignored her. Stupid White Martian bad guy was getting all the bad Green Martians riled up. Her favourite part was coming up. Maybe her friends would give her an awesome body job like Lynn Collins instead of a stupid moustache. She should ask them, next time she felt like talking.

Rose’s face loomed over Charlotte’s, all out of focus because it was too much work to blink. “That was almost like a response there. No moustache?” 

Charlotte didn’t reply.

“No, no, no, no,” Dora answered, waving her hands. “She’s not going to react to that. Like this: So, Char-Char, was that a date you were on last night?”

Charlotte nodded her head. Oh, sure, it hadn’t started out that way, but it had totally been a pretext. Scout wanted to be with her. She knew it. Didn’t she? She wished she knew for absolutely sure. How do you really know that a boy’s into you? She almost asked that, but the words would not come out.

“Oh, congratulations, Dora. We were doing so well. Now we’re going to fail the Bechdel Test.”

“The who the what now?”

“You know, the test where---“

“I take the part where I pretended not to know what you’re talking about back, Rose,” Dora said. “We need some kind of signal for when I’m playing dizzy, or you’ll be buzz-killing up every conversation we have. Oh, and I’m pretty sure there’s a bit in the Bechdel Test where a twenty minute conversation about doing our toenails doesn’t count.”

“What? We did our toenails this morning. You have sparkles, I went with pink. We showed Charlotte when we got here. It was awesome.”

It wasn’t quite so awesome when your friends stood on the couch and waved their feet in your face, but Charlotte had to concede that their toenails were works of art. Too bad it was the first week of December, so no open-toes. Maybe at the mall? They’d have to change when they got there, of course. Was that too much?

“I think you only pass the Bechdel Test if you talk about, like, Nietzsche or like that.”

“Are you sure? Or is that the Turing Test?”

“You’re just making fun of me now, Rose. The Turing Test is how you tell if something’s a real AI. I mean, besides asking it about how it feels about killing all humans.”

“Now that’s a misconception. I know that you’re just a fun-loving Hispanic girl---“

“Nah. Flipped a coin. Today I’m a sassy principal’s daughter.”

“Is there a side to your coin where you’re not flaky?”

“You should talk!”

“I should? Because I want to be flaky some day. Teach me, oh master. Or just sassy. I’ll settle for sassy.”

“A long road, and a hard road, lies before you, grasshopper. I’m, uhm, start with meditating while standing on your head in a cold shower for eight hours. That’s how you teach the Eight Spirit Dragon Kung Fu, right, Charlotte? Should work for sassy, too.”

Rose’s face appeared in her vision. Charlotte jerked her head violently to watch Kitsch bury his wife while killing all the Green Martians. The screen watered into tears.

“Charlotte’s not home right now, please try again later,” Rose announced. 


“Shh,” Rose shushed. Her friends sat silently while the fight and the flashbacks ended, and Lynn Collin’s Dad married her off to the bad guy. For peace! So sad. 

All too soon, the scene cut to the hijinks in Zodanga. Rose talked again. “Fair enough. Aren’t you even going to ask me what I found out in New York?”

“What did you find out in New York, Exposition Girl?”

Rose shrugged. “Eh, at least it’s a promotion from Pedantic Girl. Anyway. Nothing. No record of any Dreamlands demon named Astroth. I did learn that the leading export on the Dream Dimensions is an Empyrean called Eidolon the Dreamer, who is a psychiatrist in San Francisco. I emailed him this morning, but he hasn’t replied yet.”

“Well, it is Sunday. Maybe he doesn’t check his work email on the weekends.”

“You could call your sister, get her to check him out.”

“Rather not. Nita and I had a fight the other day.”

“About what?”

“I don’t know. It started out about the bridesmaid’s gowns. She was doing that thing where the dress is totally practical, and you can wear it for lots of other things, and I’m like, that’s so funny. And she’s like, no, I’m serious. And I’m, like, are you serious about being serious? And she’s like, you should try being more serious about life. And I’m, like, LOL Goth girl.”

“So. Many. Likes.” Charlotte propped her head up as she said it. “You need to call your sister, Dora.” Then, tired from so much effort, she let her head fall so that she could admire Slanted Taylor Kitsch some more.

“It talks!” Rose shouted. “You heard the holy warrior of divine vengeance, Dora. You need to patch things up with your sister. And get her to go talk to Eidolon the Dreamer, too.”

“Technically, she didn’t say the last part. Char-Char?” Dora nudged Charlotte.

Charlotte thought about answering. But then she’d have to follow the technical side of the conversation with the plots and the speculations. And she was just not feeling that right now. So she didn’t. “Watch movie now.”

There was a long silence again, for the bit where Taylor Kitsch learns that Lynn Collins has to marry the bad guy, so he should go back to Jazzercise.

“Say,” Dora said. “Has it ever occurred to anyone that the Ur-Elven were the Ancient Martians? I mean, their stuff was made somewhere off Earth, and lots of aliens are kind of like Elves. Vulcans, Mandaarians. . .”

“You just thought of that because of this movie,” Rose answered.

Dora rolled her eyes and lifted her hands to the sky. “Like where I got the idea from tells you whether it is a good one or not.”

“How about,” Rose answered, “The fact that you could only come up with two examples, and one of them is made up?”

“Malvans? They’re kind of like decadent elves.” Dora said, tentatively.

“No. I. . . No, wait. Actually, it’s a pretty good theory. There’s lots of strikes against it. I mean, there’s a two-billion-years-less-seventy-thousand-years gap, and we know that the ancient Martians didn’t look anything like Elves, and there’s lots of places in the Solar System besides Earth and Mars where the Ur-Elven stuff could have been made. On the other hand, whoever terraformed Landing probably started a lot earlier than 50,000 years ago. Two billion years would be more than long enough. Now, on the other hand, it doesn’t make sense that ancient Martians would terraform Landing to be like Earth, but that part never made sense, so it’s not like we’re any further behind. And I’m not just saying that because everyone loves space elves. I mean, look at all the time John and Jason put into painting their Eldar army for Warhammer 40k.”

“You are on fire, smart girl. So it’s a good theory.”

“Yes,” Rose conceded, “Yes, it is a good theory.”

“Ha! I thought of something before the smart kids! I am so smart! I am so smart! This is me doing the smarter-than-the-smart kid dance!”

From the stairs, far above Charlotte, and distant in her drifting mind, too, she heard her Cousin May’s voice. “You go, girl. Charlotte down here, or are you guys watching this voluntarily?”

She was, however, not going to miss this next bit, where Taylor fought an entire army of Green Martians, and it was all sentimental and stuff. “Shh!”

“Oh, hey, May,” Rose and Dora said in unison.

“Yeah, Char-Char’s here. You just can’t tell because she’s trying to blend with a beanbag chair right now.”

“Ah, got it,” May answered. “Hey, Char-Char. You going to get dressed today? Like, say, for dinner? Which is in two hours, by the way, Rose and Dora are invited, we texted, it’s okay with the Washingtons and your parents, Dora.”

Charlotte didn’t dignify that with an answer. Except to smile ‘cuz it was home-cooked dinner with her besties at the Yurt tonight, and it sounded like she was going to be able to get away with eating in her ‘jams.

“Whatevs,” her cousin answered. “They’re pretty pyjamas. Love the Hudson’s Bay Company motif you’ve got going on.”

Rustling bodies occurred, up above where Charlotte couldn’t see them without lifting her head. “Shove over there, Speedy. Hey, look at me, I’m on Arrow.” As May stopped speaking, the sound of a body sinking into the couch competed with the totally dramatic music of the movie. Poor John Carter. He thinks he’s never going to see Dejah Thoris again!

“Mm, kimchi,” Dora said, apparently done dancing, not that Charlotte was going to prop up her head to see. 

“My noodles. Mine.” May sounded hungry. Two hours was a long time from snackers to dinner when you were mastering Eight Spirit Dragon Kung Fu.

Was Dora hungry? That seemed worth the effort of making talk-talk. “Second cupboard from left.”

May’s face loomed over her. “The mouth works. I think there might be someone in there.”

Charlotte stuck her tongue out at her cousin. 

May shook her head, sympathetically. “Burning qi instead of sleep is not good for you, Char-Char. I hope it was more important than watching this movie for the bazillionth time instead of meditating.”

Charlotte had meditated for two hours before her friends arrived, so she didn’t dignify that with a response. ‘Sides, she was busy. Busy admiring Taylor Kitsch.

“She was on a date,” Rose supplied.

May squealed, totally unlike the chill, cool, older cousin she was. “OMG! Tell! Tell! No, not you, Char-Char. You need your strength.”

“Scout knocked on her window last night, wanted to debrief her,” Dora began.

“Yeah, heard that part,” May answered. “Little surprised that Scout’s on Earth, but, you know, shows commitment to the fine young ladies.”

“Nuh-unh,” Rose answered. “Scout’s a fighter, not a lover. Shows commitment to one fine young lady.”

Charlotte blushed, the kind of get-you-hot-all-over-deep-body-for-realie-reals blush that you felt when you didn’t know what you felt except that you weren’t half so fine as the boy who kept telling you that you were fine.

“Char-Char and Scout, sittin’ in a—“ Dora began. Then, “That sounds stupid.”

“Do I have to, like, hit you two, to keep you on track?” May asked. “Because I totally will.”

“So there’s gonna be a big mission debrief, right?” Dora asked. Without waiting for anyone to answer, “But it’s gonna be at Denny’s, and what’s behind this bush, but Scout’s ride, which is a motorcycle. . .”

“Hunh,” May said. “Okay, motorcycle.”

“So there they are, and Scout’s picked up the tab, and they’re about to—“

“—Why do I get a feeling that this is about to end in a superfight instead of making out?” May asked.

From the TV came the sad music for the marriage procession. The White Martians were going to ruin Mars’s environment, because that’s what bad guys did, and when they were done with it, move on to Earth. There was some kind of subtle moral there, Charlotte suspected. More importantly, they were trying to break up Lynn and Taylor. Mean Aliens! Probably talked trash about Lynn Collin’s all-belly-button-all-the-time wedding dress. 

Now, if Nita and Jenny chose cheongsams with navel cut-outs, wouldn’t that be something? Would the bridesmaids have the same styling? Charlotte tried to remind herself to ask when she was in the mood for talking.

“It did,” Rose explained. “Some horrible monster came through the portal behind the Denny’s, and Scout and Charlotte and Father Asplin—“

“Wait!” May said, sounding astonished. “Father Asplin was there? On the date?”

“Well, not the date, I guess, but afterwards?” Dora suggested.

“I’m not getting it. I mean, Father Asplin is cool and all, but he is a priest. They’re supposed to make you feel bad about sucking faces after you do it, not being there at the time, ‘Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just getting a head start on confession tomorrow.”’

“It wasn’t like that!” Rose exclaimed. “He was there for the fight. Anyway, the monster is apparently some mighty sorceror’s pet Summon Monster VII, and he showed up to collect it, but not before leaving us with a Very Important Clue about how there’s some big Dream Dimensions honcho named Astroth all wrapped up in this. You heard of it?”

“No,” answered May, “I have not.”

“I wonder if Astroth is a Martian dream-demon,” Dora said.

“What? I mean –where did you get that idea?” Rose asked.

“Hello?” Dora probably gestured at the TV, Charlotte guessed. “See the scary White Martian on the TV right now?” Technically, they were on to the bit where Taylor is joyriding in the sky-boat thingie, but whatever.

“I-“ May began, but Rose interrupted.

“That’s it! That’s who killed Edgar Rice Burroughs on Mr. Taurling’s home dimension! The White Martians! So that Princess of Mars wouldn’t be published! And Robert E. Howard was going to be the ghost writer of the new edition, so they took him out, too!”

“Hunh?” Dora asked.

“You’re not the only one who can speculate wildly,” Rose pointed out.

“Actually,” May said, “There might be something too it. You guys might know that there’s another Mars investigation being run out of the school right now.”

Finally, a reason to lift her head. Charlotte propped up on her elbow so that she could see her cousin.

May looked around. “Not Astroth, but an actual Martian dream dimension demon. The portal linking to his plane is at the old Sirian base Mars, and it’s being guarded by an Empyrean named Deloss the Explorer. Deloss and Eidolon trapped the demon in the Dream Dimensions, but it’s been acting up lately. On Mars, and on Rebecca King’s home alternate Earth dimension. Which is weird, because we aren’t sure how it is influencing the place. Apart from her home dimension being a little like Mars.”

“So Mars had flying sharks and blue-skinned sky pirates?” Rose sounded unconvinced.

And May sounded irritated. “No. I don’t know. I meant more the old ruins, red desert, shrinking seas. Now. Who’s in for doing Charlotte’s toenails before dinner?”

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