The pteranodons were circling overhead. They were mottled black and red, and had long fangs at the back of their long mouths.

“Vampire pteranodons. That’s new,” Terence said.

The pile of stone and steel they were crouched behind offered nearly no protection from above.

“We have to attack!” Shouted the capybara.

“How? With what?” Terence’s voice cracked.

“You can do it! You have the gloves! Reach up and behind you!”

“What?” Terence nearly screamed.

“It’s called Breaking the Sixth Wall! You can do it! Remember who you are!”

Jeanette had been stock still with fear, looking up at the huge fanged things, knowing she was going to die. But she did as the capybara said: she reached up and a bit behind her.

One pteranodon shrieked, and they began to descend.

Her hand closed around something.

She swept a gleaming sword forward. It was big, and maybe luminous, and was heavy enough for her to know it was real.

She slashed at the giant face that was all she could see in front of her, and a deep scarlet cut opened in it. It veered. She swung the sword back, and ripped a leathery wing.

It worked! The sword was alive in her hand, as the pteranodons wheeled about, avoiding the little girl with a sting.

Her father had done better, though: he was holding a truly huge assault-rifle-like thingie, and was  firing a steady stream of bullets with a roar and a cloud of smoke. And Senhor Capoeira had a thing like a searchlight with two handles that emitted a burning green-yellow beam that disintegrated the monsters.

They had grouped into a circle, firing and slashing. Jeanette didn’t get tired from holding the sword, and Terence’s gun never ran out of bullets. One after one, the pteranodons either fell, burst into flame, or flew away.

“We did it!” Jeanette shouted. She let go of the sword which, instead of falling to the ground, vanished. The same thing happened to Dada’s gun, but neither of them cared. They hugged each other, and held out arms to bring the capybara into the circle.

“We have to get out of here,” the big rodent said. “They’ll be back.”

“Out of this universe entirely, I hope you mean,” Terence said.

“Oh most certainly, Dr. Ransom,” the capybara said.

“Then I hope you have an equally good answer when I ask you how and with what. We just lost our ride.”

“Thank you,” Jeanette said. “That was cool.”

“You’re welcome, my dear. I will tell you that my original idea for trans-universal exploration involved a well equipped ship, but at the core of it was these.” He held up his white-gloved hands.And another aspect of being a toon, beyond being able to pull weapons and other devices seemingly out of nowhere, is that there are always doors. Even in a place like this, there’s almost certainly more than one.”

“Almost certainly,” said Terence.

“Well yes. Another toon rule is that you never say, ‘nothing can go wrong!’ Ever.”

“So we look for a door?” Jeanette asked.

“We look,” Capoeira said.

At street level, the dead city looked more normal: There were doors and windows (though these were either plated shut or with heavy bars across them), grates and street markings for parking. There were no signs in any language, and of course there were the piles of the pteranodon’s bombs.

They walked most of the day, taking the narrow alleys when they could, and getting tired and hungry. The piles of lumpia seemed weeks ago to Jeanette, and she even thought about the veggie burgers in the back seat of the SUV.

As the sun began to throw heavily slanted rays, the capybara stopped before a heavy and somewhat battered door in an old stone building. There were no windows for nearly the whole block. “I knew it! Here we are!”

Jeanette said “This? This doesn’t look--”

“Look closer. Touch the metal--that may help.”

She did, and she felt a sort or raised emblem on the door.


“Yggdrasil?” Asked Terence, who had watched his daughter’s hand.

“It’s called the Decision Tree. Open it, Jeanette,” the capybara said.

There was a plate halfway up with a shallow indentation in the middle. It couldn’t have been a handle, so she pulled to one side.


The door slid silently open.



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