Faithless Charms, Excerpt From Quantum Entity | The Successors
She catches up to him when he’s 23 days out from Brownsville. He’s gotten a lot further on his pathetic bike than she thought he could—he’s about halfway between Acayucan and Salina Cruz, pedaling furiously up a low rise hill on what looks like a new blacktop surface which Nina knows Paolo’s dad’s supplied the petroleum-based asphalt for. She helped him bid on 30 contracts (winning 17 of them) for repaving, another sign their economy is bouncing back.
She bursts out laughing watching the tall Magellan (whose legs are far too long for Lani Tutu so with every crank of his pedals, one of his knees threatens to land a knockout blow on his chin) hunched over his handlebars oblivious of anything other than his legs going up and down, up and down endlessly hypnotizing him. ‘Amathing,’ Nina thinks, ‘he’s gotten more than half way to Akna.’ Even in her head, she has a lisp which would drive her mother doubly mad if she could listen to Nina’s thoughts which like most mothers Daniella would like to be able to do and which, like most daughters, would cause Nina to freak.
She turns off the sound on her moto and opens her throttle a bit more. ‘I’ll surprise him.’
Magellan’s been doing more than 40 kilometers a day (he’s finally adjusted to using metric units) and could do more if he wanted to but now he’s got a friend, he decides to explore the country and show Pico the sights. They do side trips together.
When Nina rudely cuts him off, he’s annoyed at the intrusion on his thoughts. It takes him a few seconds to process that it’s Nina then he says, “Go away, Nina.”
“Well, hej yourself.”
He doesn’t say anything. He mounts up and pushes off but she gooses her moto forward a few feet cutting him off again. He stops in frustration. What’s there to talk about?
Now everyone, everyone has been kowtowing to Nina her whole life. They dote on her, clever Nina, special Nina, pretty Nina, talented Nina. She’s not used to being ignored and she cycles back to being mad at him in zero time.
“I just came to make sure you’re alright.”
“I’m fine. Thank you. Now excuse me I have,” he pauses for a few seconds, pulls out another crumpled up cheat sheet, checks his odometer (something he added to Lani when he went into Veracruz, more properly called Heroica Veracruz, a much nicer city Ian found than Tampico, and bought it on the Malecon boardwalk where he got an outstanding bargain) and says, “I have another 12 klicks to go today.” He tries to push forward, once more Nina blocks him. This is getting stupid.
Pico sticks his head out of his satchel. What’s all the fuss? He is nocturnal so this is interfering with his diurnal rhythms.
“What is that disgusting thing?”
When Pico sticks his head out, twigs, dirt, straw and some feces surface with him.
Nina wrinkles her cute nose.
“Does that mean ‘shit’ in English?” When Nina says “shit” it comes out like always as “thit”.
“He’s a treeshrew.”
“I can see the shrew part of him.” “Shrew” comes out like “Threw”.
He would like to ask her, “Who’s the real shrew around here?” but the new Magellan doesn’t give a thit about one upping her. He just wants to move on.
“Look Nina, thanks for checking in on me. Really. But I don’t need or want any help. I just want to move on and see my boy. I’ve been a thitty,” he can’t resist the temptation to make fun of her, “thitty father and I’m going to see Sebastian and the sooner you get out of my way, the sooner that is going to happen.”
“Get off that contraption, Ian. I’ll take you there a lot faster than you can pedal your way there.”
“No. Go back, Nina. You are not wanted here or in Akna. Find your own life.”
Now this echoes her thoughts exactly. She doesn’t want to be a part any longer of a joyless people plodding forward one dogged day at a time to save the world and WIN THE WAR. She’s finished with all of that. She wants to party with her friends in Tampico and just be a “normal” teen.
“I promised Jules that I would take you there,” Nina replies. “So that’s what we’re going to do. Then I promise, I’ll turn around and leave you and your rat alone. Promise.”
“I relieve you of all your promises to the Padre and to me, Nina. All of them.”
Nina can see that this solo journey has changed Ian somehow. He really doesn’t care. Her ability to manipulate him via false promises of gratuitous sex is gone. This makes her triply cross. How dare he not be persuaded by her faithless charms?
The road from Xela up to Akna is little more than a narrow walking path with 11 switchbacks needed to climb 200 meters in elevation. All wheel-drive vehicles can manage it if their drivers are careful and lucky, powerful pickups have a shot, mules and donkeys are better. Nina’s moto has no problem.
Magellan has to get used to speed again after being on Lani for as long as he was. He feels like he’s flying down to Akna. He got on Nina’s moto not because he was persuaded by a single thing she said but because he has had a growing feeling that he has to hurry. He can’t put his finger on where the pressure is coming from but something is telling him to hoof it.
He also realized that the fastest way to get rid of her is to accept a lift so she can fulfill her obligation to Jules and turn around and moto out of his life forever. It’ll be a relief frankly. The only thing he regrets is losing Lani Tutu.
He pedaled Lani onto an ejidos (that’s a communal farm) where he found a girl of about 10. He got off his bike and asked her using one of his stock phrases, “¿Cuál es su nombre?”
“María de Jesús,” she said.
“Niza!” he smiles at her.
She smiles back at him with teeth so white they’re dazzling.
“¿Quieres mi bicicleta?” he asks her not sure if he’d said it right. He points to Lani then at Nina waiting impatiently nearby. He mimes getting on Nina’s moto and waving bye-bye to María de Jesús.
“Sí, sí, gracias,” the dark haired girl says smiling once more. Then she points to Pico whose head is peaking out of Magellan’s satchel once more, obviously asking Ian if she can have the treeshrew too.
“Nope,” he shakes his head. “Pico is traveling with me.” He pats her on the head, she smiles again.
“¿Cuál es su nombre?” the little girl asks him getting braver by the second.
“El explorador?” María de Jesús asks him having just studied the voyages of Magellan in school.
“Sí que soy yo, ahora. Yes, that’s me, now,” Magellan says dead serious.
Nina is tapping her foot, faster and faster, in irritation at this scene so tender it makes her want to puke. It has no effect on Ian. He gets off Lani Tutu for a final time and gives the bike to María de Jesús who gets on it and rides away to show her two sisters. It fits her better than it ever did Magellan.
Nina and Ian make it to Akna in just two and a half days. They don’t say much to each other but once when he is using the bushes, Nina checks Ian’s pulse rifle’s internal readout. She can see that it’s been discharged at full power, a scary thing for him to have done. She wonders what he could have been aiming at.