Chapter 11 (or, “The One Where The Plot Finally Goes Somewhere”)
If anybody was trying to hold this situation together, it was Isabel.
Benig in charge of the Dealey Five -- and having this mission be her final test as an independent member of QWERTY -- meant there was a lot on the line. As long as the dice roll was on -- and then Isabel remembered there wouldn’t be a dice roll. Who made these things up anyway? Who did the rules for this supposed card game that Dvorak had taken over? And why did these kids know so much about it? Thank goodness Tama had picked that one girl to be guardian -- who knew what would have happened if the kids had picked someone not versed in this game.
At least they had that going for them. The entire world had been sucked into limbo, leaving these kids and, apparently, their cards. Isabel knew Dvorak thought this was all a game...but did he really know how to play it?
Thankfully, Isabel felt the charge from her phone leave and go straight into the hole in the ground. Erika’s great balls of fire followed, and with a flash of light, the ground shook beneath them again. Isabel grabbed for the nearest person -- Rosa -- and waited for impact.
It came before long. Isabel felt the ground almost leave from beneath her feet again, and then, there was a great pulsing light that came from the hole. Rosa grabbed a hold of the other girl. “¡Dime cuando está acabada!”
"They're fighting now," Isabel heard Henry say, somewhere nearby. "The powers of the Glass Girl and the Onibi are going up against Psycho Kitchen in a face-off."
Isabel didn’t know when it would be done, but then, without explanation, there was silence. She sat on the sand and tried to look at where the hole had been. It was so bright that she wished she had sunglasses.
“¿Qué es?” Rosa kept asking in her Mexcian Spanish, sounding natural instead of using forced Japanese.
Everything finally stopped glowing, and Isabel saw the hole was completely patched up. She ran towards where it had been -- as the leader, it was her responsibility to rush into action before Jason or Rosa could -- and saw there was a small collectible card on the ground. A scan with her communicator told her it was written in Japanese, with the words “Psycho Kitchen” written in loan letters.
“This was what you guys were fighting against?” she asked.
She turned, and there was Erika, the chosen girl, with both of the flaming balls of fire. But they seemed sentient, swirling around her slowly like they were anxious pets. And Canberra was talking to the Glass Girl -- she wasn’t listening, simply engaging him as he went on and on about how awesome she had been. The other kids seemed more interested in what was going on as well; they gathered in two groups around the cards come to life.
Isabel wondered, if they had lost the battle, if the Glass Girl and the Onibi would have turned back into cards and the Psycho Kitchen would have raged still. She made a note of it in her communicator, then turned to Rosa, who was still in shock.
“Did all of that just happen?” she asked, this time in her unnatural Japanese.
Isabel smirked. “Bebe pobre, welcome to QWERTY.” She clapped her hands over her head. They needed a plan, and she was the one who would have it. “Okay, everybody. Circle around.”
The entire group, including the Onibi and the Glass Girl, gathered around Isabel. She now had their attention -- she just had to keep it. Normally she only had to deal with one or two people when saving a world, but there were a lot of players this time around. How would they all get a voice?
“Okay,” she started. “So I assume that thing -- whatever it was -- was defeated?”
“Affirmative,” Rhiannon noted, “down to the special effects.”
“Yeah,” the blonde haired girl named Storm said. “It was really awesome! Just like on television!”
Isabel thought for a moment, making more notes in her communicator. The two with cards had been Canberra -- the tall one -- and Erika, the girl the Dealey Five (or rather Tama) had picked to be guardian. “Canberra, when you were in the green room, you had your cards, right?”
“Of course.” Canberra’s answer was sure and confident.
“And the Glass Girl was one of them.”
“Erika-san, the same goes for you and the Onibi?”
“Yes, sempai,” Erika noted, the balls of fire still doing circles around her head.
Isabel's eyes finally moved from her communicator screen. “Then suffice it to say the rest of your cards are in this world somewhere. Show of hands: who all had cards with them when the worlds melded together?”
Erika, Canberra, Rikimo, and Storm all raised their hands. Henry then put his hand up, and after some hesitation, Rhiannon’s hand shot up as well. “I just remembered I did put my original wind deck in my bag,” she said.
“Woah, wait --” Henry’s mouth was wide.open. “You mean the deck you created when you were originally designing Digital Merge?”
“That is so cool!” Storm yelled with a smile.
Isabel held up her arm, calling attention to herself again. “The point I’m trying to make is this: those two cards were able to defeat the other, more evil one. If we get everybody’s cards all together, then we could take on Dvorak with them and possibly -- maybe even probably -- win with their powers. I’m not sure that’s how the game is played, but Dvorak is a rather sneaky being and will do anything to make sure this world is not saved.”
“You think Dvorak knows anything about the card game?” Tama asked Isabel.
She thought for a moment. “He probably doesn’t yet. But the more time we give him, the more time he’ll have to learn. And maybe even steal some of our cards for himself. I wouldn’t put it past him to rewrite this reality and claim any card he finds for his own deck.”
“Which means we really need to move fast,” Jen noted.
Isabel had a plan. “We should split up,” she said, “but in three groups, with QWERTY members in pairs. If Dvorak decides to follow any group, then we can organize how to handle it. We can even battle with the cards if need be, though we should leave that to the experienced ones. I’d say Canberra and Erika should be in different groups.”
“Erika should be in your group, Isabel,” Tama said, “because as the guardian, she’s going to need more experienced protection.”
It gave Isabel an idea, making her smile on the inside. “You should be in our group as well, then, Tama.”
His face lit up just like Isabel had thought it would. “What -- what do you mean?”
“You’re well versed, just as I am. And you can learn more about being the leader from me. Besides, you’re the one who chose Erika, didn’t you?”
Isabel had Tama there. He sighed and played with the hem of his strange Japanese short kimono -- what did they call that again? She’d have to ask -- and had to summon a great deal of courage to speak next. “Okay, fine.”
She cheered. “Okay.”
From there, the groups were split. Isabel put Erika, Canberra, and Rhiannon as the leaders of three groups, since they knew the most about the cards. She then assigned herself and Tama to Erika; Jason and Rosa with Canberra; and Rifka and Jen with Rhiannon. Kyara stood by Erika, while Storm went over to where Canberra was.
“Is it okay if I stay with you?” she asked. “You’re awesome, and I want to learn more about Digital Merge.”
Canberra gave her a smile. “Sure.”
Liana and Sierra went over with Rhiannon, who was then joined by Henry. Jaci then joined up with Canberra, and Nathan counted the groups and went by Isabel. Erika had to hold Kyara down before she exploded.
“That leaves Rikimo.” Isabel turned to the girl in the black mimono. So far, she hadn’t gotten a single word in and had only sat on her rock. It didn’t even seem like she wanted to be there. “Which group do you want to join?”
RIkimo got up from her seat. She looked down at the sword that was strapped to her waist, and then looked Isabel straight in the eye. “I don’t want to be in a group,” she said, and then, she turned around and walked away from the beach.
Isabel almost stopped her. Almost. But the world was small, and she knew they would run into Yoshida Rikimo again. It was only a matter of time. Let her be arrogant and moody for now.
"So," she said, thinking to herself out loud, "the Dealey Five still have our communicators, so no matter where we go, we can stay connected. They also have compasses, so I vote one group go west, another north, and another east." Rikimo went south, she thought to herself, trusting the girl in black may pull off her own mission. "Dealey Five, the communicators will eventually recalibrate and give GPS signals, once a new map is created."
"It does that on its own?" Jason asked.
Isabel nodded. "Haven't had a chance to tell you that yet. It's taking the information from the atmosphere, as well as satellites that still exist, and recreating it. We have to keep constant contact. The Five also can create emergency rations, but we'll need to find some way of taking care of ourselves. If anybody finds a hotel, mass comm everybody."
Rifka laughed. "We will."
"Okay." Isabel made sure her communicator was all set to go. "If you're in an emergency, push the Colemak button and I'll answer. Dealey Five, move out."