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35. Veil

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Almost immediately after swallowing Mother Martyr, the giant gray mass began to shrink down and return to its prior shape. In a matter of seconds, Davy saw the Olivia he knew standing in front of him. The only difference was the still somewhat oversized head, which was still playfully chewing on something. Davy didn’t need to guess what that thing was.

After another second, Olivia spit out the traumatized and drenched Mother Martyr, who whimpered to herself erratically as she tumbled onto the roof.

Olivia looked at Davy with a grin. “You didn’t really think I’d eat her, did you?” she chirped. “She tastes like Puritanism.”

Davy nodded, then remembered to run over to Mother Martyr. He promptly removed the veil from her head. He held it out front of him and faced Olivia. “So this is the source of her lightning powers, apparently,” he said. “Turns out it’s also one of the artifacts I’m supposed to collect.”

“That’s pretty convenient,” Olivia remarked.

Davy looked down at the Mother. She was cradling herself in her arms and rocking back and forth in the roof. “So what do we do with her?” he asked.

Olivia shrugged. “Pssh, no worries.” We’ll contact the police and leave some evidence behind showing them what crazy plans she was up to.”

Olivia looked back at Davy holding the veil. He had it at arm’s length and was holding it with two fingers, probably because it was stacked with her super-powered spit. She had been thinking about coming up with a catchy name for her spit; when your primary superhero tactic involves eating the bad guy then spitting them back out again, she figured at some point, you’re going to have to come up with a name for that junk. Power Spit? Saliva of Justice?

Olivia realized she had gotten way off track. There was something she needed to ask. She looked at the ground hesitantly. “So, Davy,” she began. “Now that you’ve got your artifact, you still need help getting the rest of them?”

Olivia was promptly interrupted by Steve opening the door to the stairwell. “Guys,” he said. “I think I found something you’re gonna want to see.”

Davy nodded and as he and Olivia proceeded to follow Steve down the stairs. Steve gloated as they descended. “So I saw you go into beast mode,” he told Olivia. “Which was pretty dope. I was on my way upstairs, you know, in case you needed any back up. But then I thought, ‘Wait, if Mother Martyr knows about Davy’s quest, then maybe she has my magic sack here somewhere.’ So I decided to look around.”

“Magic sack?” Olivia asked.

“It’ll make sense in a minute,” Davy answered, even though it honestly still didn’t make complete sense to him either.

“Anyway,” Steve continued. “I’m looking around the building, and then I find this.”

He opened the door in front of them to a lower level of the steel mill. Inside was a small, dimly lit room. Davy noticed a drafting table on one side with blueprints for what looked like the strange device they had shut down. He spied the words “Property of Grumble Industries Incorporated” on the bottom of one of the blueprints. On the other side was an open closet which contained alternate black habits.

“Mother Martyr has a lot of different outfits for someone who claims to hate everything,” he said to himself.

Steve, beaming with pride, looked at Davy and Olivia, backed up to the closet, reached inside and fished out the Ember Sack of Unrelenting Sorrows.

“I found my artifact!” he sang to himself. He performed a victory dance.

“So what does it do?” Olivia asked. “Do you pull out a really cool fire sword or something?”

“Nah,” Steve answered. “It emits a black gas that makes people really depressed.”

“Huh,” Olivia replied, keenly not too enamored with the answer. “That’s heavy.”

Steve frowned. “I take what I can get,” he responded flatly.

Davy wasn’t paying attention to the other two. He noticed a large television in the back of the room. He approached it and saw a blank blue screen with those words again.

Property of Grumble Industries Incorporated

Davy froze when he heard a ringing sound come from the television. New words appeared on the screen.

Incoming Call from the Grumblegator

Davy looked behind him. “There’s a Grumblegator in the line!” he shouted not sure what a Grumblegator was supposed to be. “What do I do?” he added.

Olivia and Steve both answered differently at the same time.

“See if he’s an enemy or ally!” Olivia shouted.

“Ask about professional networking opportunities!” Steve shouted.

Davy turned back to the television as a face appeared on the screen. Surprising in how it unsurprising it was, Davy saw the Grumblegator was literally an alligator. He was sitting behind a desk and wearing a suit, which was strange, but it was still an alligator. He was reading over a sheet of paper and hadn’t yet noticed Davy looking back at him.

“So Ms. Martyr, I take it that you were able to follow through and fulfill—”

He paused as he looked up and saw Davy, Steve, and Olivia. He sighed in irritation. “I suppose Mother Martyr did not in fact follow through,” he said in a disgruntled monotone.

“Uh, no, sorry,” Davy replied, unaware as to why he just apologized for helping save the city.

The Grumblegator rolled his eyes. He held down a button on the telephone in front of him.

“Ms. Pamola Cherry, could you please send a severance package to Mother Martyr?”

A woman’s voice came through the speaker of telephone. “Which one, sir?” it replied curtly.

“The bad one,” the Grumblegator answered, increasingly agitated. “The one we give to people who can’t do the simple job we asked them to do.”

There was a moment of silence. The voice cracked out over the speaker again. “Is that the one with or without the fruit basket?” Davy heard.

The Grumblegator took a deep breath and held down the button again. “I know what you’re doing, Ms. Pamola Cherry. And normally, I enjoy our little antagonistic back-and-forth banter, but I’m currently in the middle of my first face to face confrontation with who I assume is the Steward of the Endocrine, and I don’t want my menace to be undermined by the minute of a severance package.”

There was another moment of silence. Finally, the voice responded. “I’m going to send her the fruit basket.”

The Grumblegator put his green, scaly hand over his face and shook his head. He then looked up back at Davy.

“So I figure you know that I know that you’re the Steward. And I figure that you know that I was the one who gave Mother Martyr her hat and that weather machine.” He chuckled to himself. “I bet she called me the reptile from another world, didn’t she? Like, what was up with that? What was this lady’s problem?”

Davy just nodded along, unsure how to respond.

The Grumblegator put his arms on the desk and looked squarely forward.

“Look kid, here’s the short version of what’s going on. The major points. You now have two artifacts. Ancient Artifacts of Rebisome or whatever. I was never big into history. But those artifacts, they belong to me. There are other artifacts out there, and they also belong to me. What you need to do is stop trying to get the rest of these artifacts. You then need to also give me back my hat and my sack, and if—and only if—you do that, then there is a chance that I won’t track you down and kill you. You see, Grumble Industries Incorporated is coming to your world. We will take over and you and your possum friend and whoever those guys are behind you, none of you will be able to stop us. You need to get out of our way, or you’ll end up a dead tungsten statue, lost in a swamp like your weird circus man buddy. Do you understand?”

Davy was taken aback. Did they do something to Barnaby Willacre? Who was this alligator and where did they come from? An even bigger question caused Davy to speak without even realizing it.

“Tungsten?” he asked under his breath.

The Grumblegator sighed again. “I know, kid. Don’t even get me started on the tungsten.”

Olivia stepped in beside Davy. “I don’t know who you are, but anyone who tries to destroy my city is not a friend of any of us.”

Davy nodded as he regained some of his resolve. “Right,” he added. “We may not look like much now, but we will continue gathering these artifacts, and we will stop you from taking over the world,” he continued. He still felt that simply taking over the world was a fairly vague evil plan that was difficult to stand up to, but Davy wasn’t going to ask for clarification now.

The Grumblegator looked back down at the papers in front of him, unperturbed. “Very well,” he answered. “I look forward to meeting you again. You know, when I’m killing you. Any questions?”

Steve ran up next to the other side of Davy. “Yeah,” he exclaimed. “Would you like to add me as a contact on WorkLyfe, the latest hot online professional network?”

The Grumblegator looked back at Steve with an icy glare. “Goodbye,” he answered. He pressed a button and the screen went blank.

Davy scratched the back of his head. “Um,” he began. “So upside, we have two artifacts and saved Heaven’s Head. Downside, an alligator in a suit wants to kill me.”

Olivia held her hands in fists I front of her. “Downside? That’s not a downside,” she exclaimed. She put her hands on Davy’s shoulders and looked him directly in the face with a grin. “Dude, you have a nemesis!”


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