Capt. Funnier Valentine spoke into his headset.
“Houston, we have a problem.”
Just like in the movies! In no time, Narancia and I were caught, our arms fastened tightly to a bed. Narancia was so confused he didn’t think to use his Stand. We’d appeared out of nowhere a moment after they discovered the moon, and while the rest of the crew were still reeling, one man calmly began to question us.
“My name is Enrico Pucci. May I ask your names?”
Narancia didn’t appear to speak English, so I answered, telling him my name and address. This made Pucci’s eyes widen momentarily.
he said. Clearly there was something. Hey! I am your instrument. Someone needs you. I’ll take you to him. That’s what Tsukumojuku had said. Who was it who needed me? What did he mean, he was my instrument? He seemed as if he knew everything, understood everything, but threw me off the deep end without even attempting to explain. Without even explaining how he came to be still alive. …was it even possible that he wasn’t dead? I couldn’t believe that he’d been faking his death. I’d seen a photograph of Tsukumojuku, his head hanging back, cut through the neck until it was barely attached to his body. Was there any chance that photo had been a mistake, a trap, or a fake? I couldn’t tell from here. I stared at the pebble phone on the floor. None of the astronauts had realized it was a phone. I wondered if it would still get a signal. Stand powers could ignore the laws of physics. It would probably work just fine. If it would connect to Morioh, then I could ask someone to look into things for me.
“…and your companion’s name?”
Pucci asked, bringing me
back to the present. All I knew about Narancia was his name and he seemed disinclined to speak. So I said,
“He’s a wise guy.”
‘Mafia’ was Italian, and it seemed likely Narancia would know the word ‘gangster’ as well, so I did my best to allude to the truth in English. Pucci glanced down at the knife he’d taken off Narancia. There was a crest emblazoned on it. The mark of the Passione Family. Pucci asked nothing further about Narancia’s identity, moving on to other questions, but I didn’t know how we’d come here, so I couldn’t begin to answer them. When I said we’d come from Morioh and Nero Nero Island, the other crew members exchanged glances.
“Morioh!? Nero Nero Island!? Seriously!? Is this part of the land sailing phenomenon?”
someone said. Was that what they were calling it?
“Very well…for the moment, you’ll have to stay put. For your own safety,”
Pucci said, and went back to the others. I tried to remember anything I’d read about Pucci in the news. Enrico Pucci’s path to being an astronaut was an unusual one; he’d started out in Seminary School, and had served as the priest at a prison before making an dramatic career change that had been the talk of the country at the time. When he told a reporter he was searching for a way to get to Heaven, it caused quite a stir.
“Hey, dickhead! What the fuck is going? What did your Stand do to us?”
Narancia snarled, kicking my leg repeatedly. I ignored him. The astronauts on this spaceship were all scientists, and they’d begun talking to Houston about our sudden appearance, the discovery of the third moon, and any connection there might be to the two mysteriously moving land masses back on Earth. I kept one ear on their conversation, stared at the view out the window, and thought. From the window I could see the third moon, hidden on the
dark side of Mars. From a different angle than the astronauts. But the existence of this extra moon must have something to do with me being here. The timing of our arrival also had meaning. The satellite floating outside the window was very small. And round. An almost perfect sphere. Nothing like the other two moons – Phobos, which did two orbits of Mars a day at a height of 6000 kilometers, and the even smaller Diemos, which did four orbits at the height of 2300 kilometers, were both misshapen lumps of ice and rock. This third moon was unusual both as a satellite and as a celestial body. For one thing, it had no craters. No dents or bulges. It was smooth like a mirror. But it did not appear to be made of gas or liquid. The astronauts had already determined that much in their analysis; from the infrared properties of the moon’s surface it was clearly made of rock. Had it been carved out back when Mars still had water? I wondered, but that was impossible. There were no rivers that could tumble a rock five kilometers in diameter. Not on Mars, which had half the diameter of Earth, and one third the gravity. What explained the lack of craters? Was it possible it had simply not been hit by any asteroids since the universe began? But how could a sphere like this be created in the first place? Even more mysterious was the moon’s distance from Mars. From my eavesdropping on the astronauts’ discussion, it was only eight kilometers above the surface. Since the atmosphere of Mars was ten kilometers, that meant it was inside the atmosphere. It should have either been flung away, or crashed back into the surface of Mars, but it was staying put. Physics be damned. Just as I concluded that this moon was definitely the reason I’d been brought here
A sound like a dull chime echoed inside of me and for a moment I got exited thinking it was caused by getting something right like the light bulb over a character’s head in comics. Did that shit happen for real? But of course it didn’t. It wasn’t all in my head, either. It wasn’t in my head at all! It was in my belly, somewhere in my internal organs, a real sound so deep I could feel the reverb spreading through my body. What!? I snapped my head around and looked at Narancia. He was glaring back at me.
“Whaaat? You aren’t a Stand Master…? Or is it already out?”
He was using his Stand on me…inside me.
“Stop it. I don’t have a Stand.”
“What? Fucking liar…”
he glared at me a second longer, then broke his gaze.
“Whatever. If you don’t wanna die, don’t move your head to the left. Got it?”
Inside me there was a pssht followed by a shuuuuuuuuunnnn as something went rocketing forward filling my blood and flesh with bubbles. Shit! What had he done? It went past the back of my belly button, up past my heart, headed for my shoulder. Whereever it went something spread through my lungs and heart like a wake, shaking them. Making waves inside me. This could only be…a missile. No, it had a propeller…it was a torpedo! The tip of it reached the skin of my left shoulder. Bam! It burst through the skin and shirt. Blood splattered on my left cheek. Tremendous pain followed a moment later. If you don’t wanna die, don’t move your head to the left. If I had moved my head, would this torpedo have passed through my neck and made my head explode!?
I screamed, covered in blood. The astronauts came running…or didn’t. They took a step towards me, and then stopped, staring at us suspiciously.
“Why don’t you come check on his wound!? Don’t you feel sorry for him!?”
Valentine, Pucci, and the other crew members, Pocoloco Triple-Seven and Goyathlay Soundman, were both just staring at Narancia, no matter how much he shouted. This wasn’t right, I thought. I wasn’t sure what was passing between them, but it seems Narancia and these four men were beginning to understand each other. And whatever that understanding was was a healthy understanding.
“You motherfuckers can see it, right?”
“You’re all Stand Masters!? I don’t care if you are or not! Die!”
Pssht pssht pssht pssht four shots in a row echoed through my stomach, and shhhaaa they rushed across my back and pop pop papop long missiles burst out of my side and ka-chunk tiny wings snapped into place in the air and they headed for the four astronauts. They were clearly cruise missiles, and there was an attack submarine inside my body that had fired them. This was Narancia’s Stand.
“What are you doing!? This ship’s too small!”
I yelled, but Narancia didn’t give a shit.
“Shaddap, first blow wins!”
he snarled and I rolled myself into a ball a moment before the missiles hit the four astronauts. I braced for impact, and took a tight hold of the bed in case the hull breached, as I did not want to be sucked out into space. I was already tied to it with a zip tie, but that was much too thin to support my entire body, although it might just cut through my wrist. I heard four muffled explosions and something hit the wall. I looked up, and saw a sand monster standing in front of the astronauts, all the sand swirling as it swallowed up the smoke. It was a Stand. Narancia was right.
Another missile was fired inside of me, passing through me and out my back, and hitting me in the wrist. Boom!
And then aaaugh my hand was blown clean off! I thought but a moment later I noticed I could still feel my hand holding onto the edge of the bed. The missile didn’t shoot my hand off, it shot the zip tie off. Now my hands were free! I turned to tell Narancia, but before I could he shouted,
“Wake the fuck up!”
and punched me. Crack! I felt my upper left canine break, and even though the punch left me quite woozy I clearly caught a glimpse of a white tooth and a spurt of blood flying out of my mouth. And something hiding behind the tooth. A submarine. Surfaced. Just as the tooth was about to reach the famous Native American astronaut Soundman, it was knocked back by the sand monster, and rolled sadly away into a corner. My poor tooth.
“A submarine that can dive into the bodies of living things,”
Soundman said, glaring at Narancia.
“But it could not escape my eyes.”
Narancia grinned back at him.
“Heh, submarines were made for hiding. So why do you think I left is surfaced?”
Drops of blood landed on Soundman’s face. My blood, from when the tooth was knocked out. Narancia’s submarine surfaced briefly on top of the blood splatter, as if to mock Soundman, and then it began rocketing forward. I finally got it. Like Soundman said, this Stand could move freely through the human body, including human blood and teeth, and almost certainly through skin and other bodily fluids as well. And if the host body touched another, it could transfer to the new one. Narancia had injured me, hoping they’d come to treat my wounds, and in the process come in contact with me.
“Nothing easier than tricking people who think they’ve got good eyes! My Das Boot is a fleet! Dive! Dive! Diiiiive!”
Narancia shouted. Then a strange sort of gun emerged from his open mouth. The hand holding it was clearly not human. This inhuman hand pressed the gun’s barrel to Narancia’s forehead,
and Funnier Valentine said,
“Hold your fire. I can kill you before your missiles explode.”
With Funnier’s Stand’s arm sticking out of his mouth, whatever Narancia shouted was unintelligible. The hand vanished, and a second later a torpedo shot into his open mouth, hit the back of his front teeth, and exploded. Everything below Narancia’s nose was blown clean off. Narancia had a submarine inside his own body, too. When the hand dodged his attack he’d ended up injuring himself with his own Stand, but despite the scope of his injuries, Narancia was still conscious.
he roared, and the submarine in Soundman began poppoppoppop firing a hail of missiles that Soundman’s Stand, the sand monster, wrapped itself around, containing the explosions in the swirling sand. Thud thud thud thud.
“Hucker! Ea’ thith!”
Narancia howled, and I guess he started attacking Soundman from the inside, because there was a series of muffled splats, and the back of Soundman’s NASA suit exploded, but the hand that had come out of Narancia’s mouth appeared again, emerging out of the top bunk of the bunk bed, a humanoid Stand with eyes like camera lenses. It pointed the weird looking gun at the back of Narancia’s head and didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Bang bang bang bang bang bang…! But Narancia’s head wasn’t blown off and what wounds he sustained were skin deep because the bullets Funnier’s Stand fired were all exploding just before they reached his head. A series of bright fireworks went off between the gun barrel and his head, and I saw the bullets themselves bouncing off the wall nearby. Each time the gun fired, submarines floating just inside the surface of Narancia’s skin fired missiles deflecting the bullet trajectory. It was an incredible sight, but in such close quarters, in a spaceship filled with delicate equipment, firing a hail of bullets and missiles (albeit small ones)
was hardly the best idea.
“Do you wanna die here, Narancia?”
“Even if you survive this fight, how will we get back to Earth!?”
He was still young. Still looked like a boy. Maybe I could work that to my advantage.
“You’ll never see your friends again!”
Narancia hesitated for a moment; like any young gangster his compatriots were the only thing keeping him from being alone in the world, but,
“Sharrup…they ain takin’ ‘e here! I’d shane the Hassione nane! Ain hut ‘hamily’ neans!”
he shouted like a welltrained solider, the dark fires of a trained killer igniting in his eyes again. Shit, I thought, but then I saw him start to sweat, beads of it running down his face, not just his face but every inch of him, great drops of liquid that weren’t colorless at all but green and purple all mixed together and when I looked back up at his eyes the gleam was gone and they were hollow and unfocused. Why!? Narancia suddenly burst into tears, laughing.
“Heh heh heh, ya huckin’ done it now…I gonna die here…don’t horget ‘e, Huccellati, Ahhacchio, Hista, Giorno…”
His face was a mess, and the drops falling off him weren’t sweat but melting flesh, and clearly Narancia’s entire body was rapidly rotting away. I turned around, and the astronauts had stopped attacking. Behind Enrico Pucci was a humanoid Stand, with a crownshaped mask, every inch of it’s body covered in letters signifying the DNA base sequence. Everyone but him had gone back to their duties as if the battle were over. Even Soundman looked fine, but I thought his back exploded? What happened? Pucci caught my puzzled look, and said,
“Mr. Soundman’s body is…almost entirely composed of sand. Since he was a child…his people are native to the desert. As he explained it, one day his body suddenly understood sand, and sand him, and he and the sand absorbed each other. Things like this happen to humans sometimes. When
people fully accept the land they live in they become one with that land. There are not enough examples for it to have a name, but Mr. Soundman and I call it ‘Bound’. People has always adapted to their environment. People in the Savannah learn to see far across the grasslands, and webs grow between the fingers of professional swimmers…even without such physical transformations, we all grow accustomed to our surroundings, learn to fit in, but this is far beyond that. Those who are Bound completely merge with their environment, or become the environment itself. They don’t adapt to it, they are it. And Mr. Soundman is lucky to be Bound. …you are not a Stand Master, are you? Jorge Joestar.”
When he said my name, I jumped. Somehow, I’d fallen asleep. I looked up and Pucci stepped over to Narancia, reached out his hand, and pulled two discs out of Narancia’s head. Narancia had no expression, and was muttering under his breath, his face and body rotting, festering, bits of him ready to fall off at any moment. Pucci had done something to me too; I didn’t remember wearing a hat, but sticking out of my forehead was a visor, round, and flat; some precious part of me given shape by Pucci’s Stand. I couldn’t let him take it, I thought, but I couldn’t move a muscle. I could feel my arms and legs, but they were not mine to command. Pucci took the disc from my head, and ran his fingers across it.
“Only one disc…you really aren’t a Stand Master. Ohhh? You’re adopted. And adopted by the Joestar heir.”
!? I could hear what he said, but couldn’t understand. I couldn’t think at all. Pucci put the disc back in my head, and it slid smoothly back inside, vanishing without a trace. My mind returned with it.
“Do you know how to get to Heaven?”
Pucci asked. Pucci had done something to me…I assumed he had given me enough control of my body back that I’d be able to answer his question. I tried to speak, and found that I could, barely.
that what you’re supposed to tell me, Father?”
I whispered. Pucci’s eyes gleamed.
“It is. You’re a good detective. You always find the right answer. But not where it concerns the one who brought you here. The one who vanished soon after. You don’t understand what Tsukumojuku Kato said. Yet.”
Hey! I am your instrument. Someone needs you. I’ll take you to him.
He’d read my memories. By pulling that disc out of me. Watching my surprise, Pucci smiled, as if having a very good day.
“Detectives are a wonderful thing. Everything has meaning, hunh?”
“There’s a important, inflexible law that defines the world.”
“Everything has meaning. Nothing is out of place.”
“God is everywhere,”
“God is the word. The word has meaning. Thus, everything in this world has meaning. I see! You coming here, too, has meaning. And you were brought here because someone here has need of you. Who could that be?”
Behind him, Pocoloco Triple-Seven said,
“Hey…there’s… there’s someone else coming. He’s gonna destroy the H.G. Wells.”
Soundman said, staring out the window at Mars.
“My sand’s been caught by something.”
I could see it out the window near me, too. Part of the sand Soundman had sent swirling into space was still floating there, but it turning randomly, the shape of it shifting and morphing.
“You aren’t doing this?”
Funnier asked. The same question I had. Soundman shook his head.
“It’s not me. And not the rotting Italian kid.”
Narancia’s entire body was rotted through, and he looked ready to crumble at any moment. I could tell at a glance why he’d mentioned Narancia. The prow of his Das Boot could be seen inside the swirling vortex of sand. Soundman must have ejected the Stand inside him along with this sand…but out in the vacuum of space the sand was moving as if there were forces acting on it that could not possible exist, and as it swirled, it was falling towards Mars, moving faster and faster. As we followed it’s path, the astronauts and me all saw the same thing.
“What are we seeing?”
What were were seeing was a black string wrapped around the mass of sand, pulling it…towards the tiny new moon, floating closer to the surface of Mars. Something string-like extended from the surface of this moon out into space, and it had captured the mass of sand. Was there something on the moon’s surface?
“Houston, are you seeing this?”
Funnier asked. The answer came over the loudspeakers.
“Yes. We can’t believe our eyes. We’re trying to analyze it, but is…someone fishing from the surface of the moon? That’s the only thing we can imagine, but…”
“Soundman, you’ve lost all control of that sand?”
Pocoloco asked. The Native American astronaut shook his head.
“It’s too far away. It’s gone back to being normal sand.”
Pocoloco turned to Pucci.
“Yo, wake the Italian dipshit up and see if he can move his sub.”
Pucci said, and slid the disc he’d stolen from Narancia back into his melting head…and submarines appeared on the surface of my skin, and Pucci’s, and the other astronauts, as if waiting for their master to reboot.
“One, two, three…daaaamn, he’s got a whole fleet of these things,”
“What hell has he been through to control a Stand like this at his age?”
“He may only be sixteen, but he was abused by his father, betrayed by his friends, sent to juvie, bullied…then he became homeless and was preyed upon by street gangs. The twenty-three people he’s killed since joining the mafia were all low-life scum. No sins worth calling a sin,”
Pucci said. He put the other disc back in Narancia, and spoke to him in Italian.
“God has forgiven your sins. You will no longer act against me.”
Narancia went from looking like cheesecake left outside for ten days to his old self – even the damage he’d done to his mouth was repaired somehow. Light came back to his eyes, and he looked very surprised.
“Ehhh…! Hunh? I thought I killed all of you…”
Had he been shown an illusion?
“Why would you try to kill us?”
“There is no need. We are you friends, and if you do as we say, we won’t have to throw you off this space ship.”
That clearly didn’t entirely sit well with Narancia, but he didn’t quite manage to argue it further, which terrified the shit out of me. Jesus. Stands could control the human mind and emotions to this degree? And I knew for sure that Enrico Pucci was evil. If he had a good heart, he would never dream of tinkering with the hearts of man like this. He would not lie to them. ‘Good’ is evident in deeds; ‘good’ tries to influence feelings and motives through appeals to logic and critical thought. If that deed leads to
a good result, it is good; if the intent, too, was good, perfect. The opposite was not good; if the deeds cause harm, they were evil; even if the intent was good, the extenuating circumstances render the intent moot, and if the intent was bad punishment should be meted out without hesitation. There are many shallow fools who put too much stock in good intentions, and the man before me was one of them. This man was so sure of his own good intent he paid no heed to the evil he wrought at every turn.
“Narancia, your ship out there…can you move it?”
Pucci said, pointing out the window at the mass of sand and the Das Boot being pulled toward the third moon. They were quite small and far away now.
“…it’s not too far to move, but I can’t move it. That sand isn’t a Stand any more, is it?”
“Strictly speaking, my Dune is almost certainly not a Stand, but…”
Soundman said, nodding.
“Once it gets far enough from my body, it becomes ordinary sand again.”
“My Das Boot can only move inside living things or other Stands. But I can still fire missiles! Should I blow this space ship up?”
Pucci said, but Narancia was grinning.
“Heh heh. Then maybe I should blow that round thing up,”
he said, glancing at the third moon. Pucci followed his gaze.
“…better not. I believe it has great meaning.”
Narancia said, goofing off. Pucci slapped him, and the disc popped out of his head again. Pucci ran his fingers across it again.
“I despise boys who can’t mind their manners,”
he said, and put it back. Life returned to Narancia’s face again.
“Ah, that was my bad, Father Pucci,”
he said, bowing his head.
“I promise I ain’t gonna be that dumb again.”
“Lack of education decides your limits,”
Pucci sighed. Narancia’s expression changed completely.
“You trying to fucking say I’m stupid!?”
he snarled, and whipped out a knife he’d kept hidden through all this turmoil. Pucci looked surprised.
The human unconscious is beyond the reach of man. Pucci dodged Narancia’s knife a few moments, got the disc out again, and had just made him throw the knife away when,
“H.G. Wells, prepare for attack!”
came over the speakers. Thud! A massive impact shook the ship, and we were all flung hard into the nearest wall, or to the floor.
“This is Houston,”
the speaker said.
“H. G. Wells, are you safe?”
“What was that?”
“We took control over the ship remotely. Emergency measures required the reverse thrusters fire for another five second, then you’ll go quiet and pull away from Mars.”
“What!? Is the mission canceled!?”
“No, simply a temporary measure. Once you’re at a safe distance we intend to look for an angle to return…but first you need to see something!”
Houston was clearly struggling to keep the panic out of their voice.
“H. G. Wells, we found something positively unreal when we examined that image. First, the string towing the sand. Have a look at this.”
Everyone pulled themselves together, and looked at the largest monitor in the living quarters. The image on screen was a 3D image showing the thread from the moon branching into countless other threads, all stretched upwards. It looked like a
plant, or a bacteria, but instead of a root they all led back to that sphere. The sphere was so small and the length of the threads stretching in all directions so great that we didn’t recognize it at first.
“The little ball in the middle is the third moon…!”
The speakers explained, as we all stood stunned.
“A great quantity of…tentacles are reaching up from the surface of the moon. We fired the reverse thrusters before those ‘arms’ could grab this ship. If you had continued on course, you’d already be in a forest of those tentacles. It remains to be seen if they can snare you like they did that mass of sand.”
The entire crew was thinking furiously, saying nothing.
“And that’s not the end of it,”
the speaker continued.
“The next shot is from the ultra high resolution images you sent. What it shows…we can’t believe this is really happening.”
It showed a man with long hair. He was half-naked, wearing only a loin-cloth, and there were horns on his head, a terrifying grin on his face. He was looking right at the camera, his eyes clearly focused directly on it.
Funnier whispered. I’m sure they heard him. The man in Houston somehow managed to scream without raising his voice.
“Do you see the string in his right hand?”
I glanced at the moment. There was a rope of some kind leading from his wrist towards the screen.
“That rope connects to the third moon. He’s running with a five kilometer moon trailing eight kilometers above the surface of Mars like a balloon! With a single rope, he’s kept the third moon trapped on the back of Mars! He’s hidden the moon on the back of Mars all this time by running with it!”
At the equator, the diameter of Mars was 6794.4 km. That
mean the circumference was 21,334.4 km. A day on mars was 24.62 hours, so at most he would have to be running at 866.54 kph across the surface of Mars. 240.7 meters a second. Three quarters of the speed of sound. That figure was assuming he ran constantly, without sleeping or resting. The gravity was only a third that of Earth, but even so, was it humanly possible to run that fast?
“He appears to be standing still right now…?”
“That’s what’s so frightening. This creature can run even faster…”
“Hey, Soundman’s sand reached the moon!”
Pocoloco said, looking out the window. Narancia had been watching all this absently, but suddenly he frowned.
“Mm? My Das Boot’s moving again. Hunh? That’s weird…it’s on the surface of the moon…”
A headset periscope appeared over Narancia’s right eye, and he peered through it.
“Hmm…I don’t know much about these things, but are moons alive?”
What was he talking about? While I stared at Narancia, confused, Pocoloco screamed.
We all looked through the window, and saw what he’d seen. In the distance, we could see the tiny moon hovering…and could see that it had turned to face us. The moon was a giant eyeball, and the lid had just opened.
It looked exactly like Odilon Redon’s The eye like a strange balloon goes to infinity or Mizuki Shigeru’s faux American yokai, Backbeard. Just as I was about to belatedly scream myself, Ka-thunk! Another huge impact rocked the ship, without any warning.
Rolling the floor, I realized this lurch was in the opposite direction from the first, which meant…? The floor seemed to heave upwards, the whole ship tilting. The reverse thrusters must still be firing. I looked out the window and saw black threads wrapped around the H. G. Wells. They’d caught us.
“Gaaaaawwd fuuuuuuuckin’ daaaamn it!”
Dust spray rose from the third moon; it looked like Narnacia was attacking it with Das Boot. Dozens of submarines were riding the threads wrapped around the H. G. Wells. All fired cruise missiles at the third moon! Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom! Hundreds of missiles all rocketing forward in unison, raining down on the giant eye moon’s face…and then the face opened its mouth. A crescent moon slit right below the eyeball that split the moon from end to end, revealing rows of jagged teeth. The maw gaped open until it was the entire visible surface of the moon. The moon had a thin surface layer but the inside was hollow. It was a five kilometer balloon held by the horned man on Mars. A living balloon, with one giant eyeball and infinite hands that stretched all the way to outer space. Every missile Narancia’s Das Boot fleet fired was swallowed up by the moon’s mouth. Only when the last one was stuffed in its cheeks did the mouth close, and it savored the flavor of the massive array of explosions within. The impacts shook the hands dragging us. Narancia stared in disbelief.
“Fucking seriously? I didn’t even scratch it!?”
Pucci’s eyes were open wide; he seemed equally surprised and impressed.
“Astonishing! I feel sure we traveled this far from Earth for just this encounter!”
“H. G. Wells, this is Houston,”
the man on the loudspeaker said.
“The President would like a word with you.”
Funnier looked grave. Pocoloco frowned.
Without waiting for a response from us, the voice on the speaker changed. A calm, gentle voice, ever so slightly brisk.
“To all aboard the H. G. Wells, I am the President of the United States, The Funniest Valentine. Presently I am at the UN Headquarters in New York, attending an emergency meeting of the security council. We’re discussing how to deal with the mysterious life form discovered behind Mars – what we are currently calling The Eyed Balloon. I am here to report our current progress.”
Wrapped in the moon’s tentacles, the H. G. Wells spun, shaking constantly. The Funniest continued.
“I’m sending enlarged photographs of The Eyed Balloon’s interior.”
A still image of the moon with its mouth fully open appeared on the screen, with seven different circles inscribed on it.
“Next, enlargement of the circled portions.”
Seven different higher resolution shots began cycling on the screen. What had appeared smooth before now showed something odd. Part of some machine floating against the back of the moon’s interior.
“….what….? Is that…a man-made satellite? No…”
“That’s…a probe. With those armored plates and mirrors… could it be…!?”
“Yes, Specialist Triple-Seven. This is the unmanned probe the ESA launched in 1985 to survey Halley’s Comet. We’ve verified the COSPAR ID on the probe’s surface. 1985-056A.”
On one of the seven shots…there was a number written on the two machines. …..? Two?
“No fucking way,”
“But this is, in fact, happening,”
The Funniest replied.
“The seven spacecraft in this pictures are all the same ship, identical in every way. Every one of the seven passed inside Halley’s Comet on March 14th, 1986, photographed the core from a distance of 600
kilometers, and vanished in 1999. They are all the Giotto probe.”
“Father, with the time you’ve spent in space, you know very well we do not launch the same ship seven times, and we never repeat the same COSPAR ID. There is no possibility that some conspiracy resulted in the launch of multiple identical ships without America’s knowledge. Manufacturing and launching a probe is very expensive, and there’s no way to fire a rocket without the citizens noticing, and no means to fund such a launch.”
So seven Giottos were eaten by The Eyed Balloon in outer space? Snared by these tentacles? These tentacles had a range of around 100 kilometers, but that was nothing compared with the vastness of space. It seemed highly unlikely Giotto would have flown within range. As we all scratched our heads, Narancia kept up his futile attack. Beside him, Pucci looked as astonished as I was, but was almost rapturously muttering,
“Do the fourteen words have meaning?”
The fourteen words? He seemed to be seeing and thinking something entirely different from the rest of us. Seven Giotto probes…that the photographs found. There might be even more, but whatever truth lay behind this mystery, the H. G. Wells was about to be swallowed by The Eyed Balloon, with us on board. Just a glance outside the window and the spinning view of The Eyed Balloon’s giant round face and eyelid was noticeably closer.
“And this photograph was collected from a Nazi base in Switzerland during the second World War,”
The Funniest said, over the speakers. I had not expected the word
to show up here, but that surprise was dwarfed by the shock of the picture that appeared on screen. It showed the horned man, the same man currently holding The Eyed Balloon’s tether down on Mars. Long,
narrow eyes, long black hair. Surrounded by Nazi soldiers, yet grinning wickedly; once again his eyes were focused right on the camera lens.
“This man’s name is Cars,”
The Funniest said.
“Much about him remains a mystery, but there are five things we know for sure. He was one of the Pillar Men discovered by Nazi scientists underground in Mexico and Italy. Of the four Pillar Men they collected, only Cars survives. It seems that Cars was somehow caught up in a volcanic eruption at Italy’s Isulo Vulcano and flung out of the atmosphere. Shortly before that, Cars…how, exactly, is unknown, but he donned a stone mask fitted with the Aja Red Stone, bathed in ultraviolet light, and became the Ultimate Thing. The last thing we know is that the man who beat the other three Pillar Men, and sent the Ultimate Cars into space was an English man residing in America named Joseph Joestar.”
……what? That was my great-grandfather’s name; the grandfather of my adoptive father, Jonda Joestar.
“I believe you have a Jorge Joestar on board?”
asked the American President.
“Will you tell us why…and how you came to the H. G. Wells?”
Funnier and the crew all turned and stared at me. The gleam in Pucci’s eyes was especially terrifying. I did my best not to look at him, and answered in English.
“I was hoping you could tell me.”
“…either way, this cannot be a coincidence,”
The Funniest said, dropping the matter.
“That’s everything we’ve discovered at present. As for the conclusion of the security council, you have ten
minutes to escape The Eyed Balloon’s tentacles. Once that ten minutes is up, we will detonate the H. G. Wells remotely. There will be no rescue mission. Our top priority is preventing Ultimate Cars from returning to Earth. Are these orders understood, Captain Valentine?”
Eh? Detonate? If we didn’t escape the tentacles in the next ten minutes? Why didn’t you say that first! Then I realized the deeper meaning. They already knew it was impossible. They were going to blow us up no matter what. I checked the view outside the window. The tentacles were wrapped around and around us, and there were a lot of them. Narancia had ignored this entire conversation (since he didn’t speak English) and was still attacking, but his Das Boot fleet did not appear to have done any damage to them at all. His efforts had been so utterly futile that there were tears in his eyes. Funnier spoke to his son.
“Understood, Mr. President. …completely.”
The transmission ended, and the image on the screen switched back to the photo of Cars. Funnier’s eyes had been like daggers when he spoke to his son, but when he turned around he was a different man; calm, but assured, he proceeded to bark orders at his crew.
“Pocoloco! Think of a way to cut the tentacles off the H. G. Wells. While you’re at it, find the explosive device and expunge it from the ship! Pucci, Soundman, Narancia Ghirga and I will do whatever we can to kill this Cars, whatever he is. And you there! Detective!”
“It seems you were brought here for some higher purpose. You don’t have a Stand, do you? Then make like a detective and
solve some mysteries. You heard that execution order? We’ve got… nine minutes left. Whatever reason or purpose brought you here, we’re all in the same boat now. All you can do is think as hard as you can, as much as you need.”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
I said, and attempted a salute. I didn’t intend it to be comedic. Funnier was absolutely right. I was here because I was a detective. I had to do my job.
Soundman said. I turned around, and found him in his space suit, kneeling beside me. He pointed at Narancia.
“He doesn’t speak English, right? Can you interpret? He seems to have a number of tiny submarines, but can he combine them into one big one?”
“Arrrrrrrgghhhhhh! God fucking damn this piece of shit how the fuck can it shake off my missiles like a 38 degree lukewarm shower! Fuuuuuuuuck!”
He was half-mad now. I tapped him cautiously on his shoulder.
“Fuck off! Oh. What?”
I told him Soundman’s suggestion, and his eyes went wide.
“…I could…I neeeeeeever even thought of that! I’m not stupid or anything but fuuuuuuck! Let’s do this! Das Boot! Retreat and regroup!”
Dozens of submarines came rocketing back up The Eyed Balloon’s tentacles. Soundman stood quietly watching them a moment, then put his helmet on, and spoke to Funnier.
“I’ll go listen to the sands of Mars, and understand them.”
“I’m sure you can befriend Mars.”
Pucci appeared beside them, also in a space suit.
“I’ll come, too. To talk to him.”
“…you have only ever cared about the way to Heaven, Enrico Pucci.”
“I seem to have a higher goal, Funnier Valentine.”
“In the fog of war all will be left to destiny.”
“Pray worry not about my life. I will not yet die. Not here, at
Narancia started shouting.
“Ya haaaaaa! I did it! I fucking did it! A full power Das Boot! Anyone wants to ride, get the hell on now! We’re taking off!”
Outside the windows was a nearly life-size submarine. The H. G. Wells was a sphere with a diameter of about ten meters, with a pair of two meter tall cylinders on either side that housed the emergency escape system and a dock that allowed them to connect to other ships. Narancia’s Das Boot was far larger than the entire thing, at least a hundred meters long. Like a building lying on its side.
“Soundman! Pucci! You have three minutes!”
“If you don’t end the fight and get back here in that time the H. G. Wells will leave without you!”
“Shouldn’t you join us on this ship?”
“The H. G. Wells was placed in my care. I share its fate.”
Soundman and Pucci both headed for the airlock, and after decompression, traveled through the vacuum of outer space to the submarine. But their movements weren’t the floaty movements of normal astronauts; the second the hatch opened they zipped right over, flying directly into the submarine. Stands came in handy.
“Narancia, let’s go,”
Pucci said, in Italian. I could hear his voice coming over Narancia’s headset.
“Right! Full power, forward thrust! Das Boot! Goooooooo!”
Das Boot swooped away from the H. G. Wells, spinning on the slender tentacles, headed for The Eyed Balloon at tremendous speed, already opening fire. Psssht psssht psssht psssht the cruise missiles it fired were all full- sized, too. Missile after missile scored a direct hit on The Eyed Balloon, the explosions and shockwaves
from each impact far stronger than anything before. The Eyed Balloon closed its one big eye. Was it working?
“Right, got it, Captain!”
“The Right Stuff has found a way to escape the tentacle’s web!”
I looked over and found him holding his hands in front of his chest, palms facing each other forming a sort of bowl, and strange little gnomes of some kind inside. They were making tiny models of the H. G. Wells, then taking them apart, like a pit crew, analyzing the problem.
“If we release all the exterior walls of the H. G. Wells from the inside, we’ll be free! The tentacles are wrapped around the cylinders and the sphere from one side, so this plan should stabilize us. If we start the engines at full power the second the walls release, we’ll leave the walls in the tentacles’ grip, and escape like we’re shedding our skin. A space ship isn’t gonna catch cold going naked! Ha ha ha! Then we’ll move on to removing the explosive device. The Right Stuff has already located it.”
“Get to it! Keep me updated on your progress.”
“I got this!”
The gnomes hopped up on his shoulders, and Pocoloco dashed out of the living quarters. Funnier watched him go, then turned back to us.
“What do you make of this ‘Way to Heaven’ Pucci talks about?”
What the hell was he on about? Was this really the time to talk about this? The ship was going to explode in less than eight minutes. Was it not? Was he that sure Pocoloco would pull it off? Funnier Valentine seemed totally at ease, but not quite in the way a captain certain of his crew’s ability would be. He kept talking.
“When Enrico Pucci was seventeen, he began sleepwalking. Two or three times a month, he’d leave the house, fast asleep, and wander quite a ways from home. His family moved to Cape Canaveral, Florida because they were worried their eldest son would be hit by a car, and thought that a place with few
residents, open landscape, and plenty of military and government officials would make it easier to locate their sleepwalking son. Cape Canaveral is home to the Kennedy Space Center and an air force base, you see. It’s patrolled 24/7. But one evening he slipped out in his sleep, and awoke outside the gates to the church his father, a priest, worked at. It was five AM. Normally he’d have been found by the patrol guards, and returned to his home, still asleep, so this was the first time he’d been out all night since moving to Cape Canaveral. Pucci’s father and mother had a habit of waking up at four in the morning, and checking to see if he was still in his bed, so he imagined they were worried sick, ran home barefoot, and discovered he no longer had a family to worry about him. Pucci’s home had vanished, replaced by a crater seventeen meters in diameter. A direct hit by a falling meteor. But the strangest part was that nobody had noticed the meteor falling. The meteor had evaded both the Space Center and the Air Force radar. Standing alone in front of this crater, stricken with grief, Pucci found the thing that had killed his family. It was not a rock fallen from space, but a metal plate. A man-made heat shield. This,”
Funnier said, putting an image of a rectangular metal plate up on the screen, with two rows of letters written on it. One was painted on the side, and read
“This is the COSPAR ID of the Giotto probe,”
“In July, 1997, it did not respond to signals from NASA when it passed by the Earth, but it did send us one signal. It fell from the sky, killing Enrico Pucci’s father, mother, and younger brother, leaving only him alive.”
Giotto again. But that ‘again’ was not only referring to the seven Giottos
inside The Eyed Balloon. The other row of letters on the metal plate, scratched there by something sharp, also said ‘Giotto’. And there were more words, as well. Fourteen phrases in all. A mix of Italian and English.
“You saw how flustered Pucci was before?”
Do the fourteen words have meaning?
Pucci was a priest, not a detective, so he may have found it hard to believe. But everything has meaning.
“There’s also a message on the back of the plate. This is the main one,”
Funnier said, changing the image on screen. Another
three rows of English words scratched into the metal.
“Have the courage to cast aside your Stand, and as your Stand withers, it will gather 36 souls, and give birth to something new.”
“It will befriend he who says the fourteen words.”
“The place is 28.24 degrees North, 80.36 degrees West.”
I didn’t know what that meant, but I had an idea.
28.24 degrees North, 80.36 degrees West.
“Mars has longitude and latitude,”
“Wilhelm Beer and Johann Heinrich Mädler made the first maps of Mars, and they selected a small circle as a base point for the Prime Meridian. That point is still in use today, under the name Airy-0.”
“And on Mars, at 28.24 degrees North, 80.36 degrees West, Cars stands, holding the tether that leads to The Eyed Balloon. Cars is there as we arrive, and we arrived as he was there.”
“Pucci said he’s going to talk, sure that he alone will find the ‘Way to Heaven’. Rather selfish for a servant of God, wouldn’t you say? Will the staircase to Heaven really open for one so impetuous?”
I followed Funnier’s gaze, and looked down at the surface
of Mars. Narancia’s submarine had already landed on the surface, and Enrico Pucci had stepped out onto the ground. He was walking towards Cars.
“Tch, what the hell? He’s in the way,”
Narancia muttered behind me. He hadn’t understood a word of what Funnier and I were talking about in English. Despite his griping, his attack never let up, a never ending rain of cruise missiles turning the surface of The Eyed Balloon into a perpetual explosion. There were holes opening in the surface of the balloon, so he was clearly doing more damage than he had with the submarines separated, but the holes closed up again the moment they formed.
“Arghhhhhh how is this even possible!? Fucking break, you piece of shit! Fucking fucking fucking piece of shit!”
He sounded like someone raging at a video game. I glanced back at Pucci. Was Funnier right? Was there meaning to the fourteen words written on the back of Giotto’s plate, what Pucci called the Way to Heaven? Was asking that question in the first place a waste of time? As I thought I realized the view through the window had settled down, the tentacles had released their grip, and the ship had stabilized. Pocoloco’s voice came over the loudspeaker.
“Right, Valentine, ready to start those engines?”
But Funnier ignored him. Instead, he turned towards me, and put his fingers to his lips. Shhh. Not like my voice would reach him and Funnier’s headset mike wasn’t even on, but…?
“Valentine! Hey! Crap, what’s going on? Right Stuff, someone go see!”
Funnier ignored the panic in Pocoloco’s voice, too.
“By the way, Jorge Joestar, do you know how to pilot this ship?”
“I don’t imagine that to be the case, but I understand detectives
tend to get interested in and study up on a great many things.”
? Why was he asking that?
“No. I know the basic gist of spacecraft construction, but not the specifics of piloting them. The computer controls a lot of systems, but even then it requires detailed interplay between you and the engineers, right? Before and after launch? There’s no way you could fly a spaceship without substantial practice and simulation.”
“Correct. I’m relieved to hear it,”
Funnier said, and I felt something moving behind me, and turned to see Funnier’s Stand moving away from me, gun in hand. The ‘window’ it was looking through, a weird sort of flat plane, disappeared, leaving behind only a steel ladder. It had been behind me, pointing a gun at me.
“Your presence here seems to have some meaning,”
he said, with a smile that told me everything. He was up something, and was about to set that in motion. With his Stand. He’d used his Stand three times so far. It had shown up inside Narancia’s mouth, from the upper level of the bunk bed, and now from an iron ladder. When it appeared a flat area like frosted glass cut through the space around it, and the Stand appeared from inside that ‘window’. It seemed like it probably required a ‘frame’. He could make a window in any frame and his Stand would look out of it. Pocoloco’s voice came over the speaker again.
“…..! Valentine, you motherfucker!”
Bang! A gunshot. No sounds followed. I turned around, and saw one of Pocoloco’s gnomes standing still at the entrance to the living quarters. As I watched, it faded out, and vanished. Funnier had shot Pocoloco, and mostly likely killed him.
“Mm? Yo, what the fuck was that?”
was a fucking gunshot…who’d this asshole shoot, Joestar!? Urp!”
The Stand’s arm emerged from his mouth mid-shout, and pressed the barrel of its gun to his forehead.
“It was a mistake to send all your submarines to Mars,”
he said, in English, knowing full well Narancia wouldn’t understand him.
“And you have a very foul mouth.”
Bang! Narancia fell over, blood streaming from his head, and the Stand’s arm vanished from his mouth. I looked down at Mars from the window. The Das Boot that had been resting on The Eyed Balloon’s tentacles vanished, too.
“……..? Narancia, what happened?”
Pucci’s voice came over the speaker, in Italian.
“Something going on up there?”
“Narancia? He just died,”
Funnier replied, in English.
“How’s your conversation going?”
“I’ve been wondering this for a while, Pucci. So let me ask… Tell me the truth. Have you ever, even once, actually believed in God?”
“Of course you haven’t. You’re the most self-absorbed man I’ve ever met. You only became a priest because it made you feel good about yourself. You feel no love or compassion for your fellow man. I condemn you, Enrico Pucci. You are a sinner. For seeking a way to heaven for yourself alone when you should be leading others, you will be punished. This empty red planet is beautiful isn’t it? Allowing you to die here is an expression of the deep, genuine compassion I have for you.”
“…hmph. Being here is destiny. The will of God.”
“This Way to Heaven you speak of? You know nothing. That is why you cannot talk to Cars.”
“I’ve been negotiating with Cars for the last eleven years. Ever since I first read the message on the plate that fell on your house.”
“…………!? Rear Window!? He was peeping?”
Pucci said. Funnier glanced at me when he said this, so I knew it must be the name of Funnier’s Stand. Rear Window…a Stand that could make a window in any frame, and move to it. The name was a good fit.
“Peeping? How rude. I was simply checking on a suspicious unidentified falling object,”
“Heh heh heh…I was already training as as astronaut at Cape Canaveral the day it fell. Honestly, I was out on the town, and sneaking back to base. But after catching a glimpse of that plate, I never snuck out again. It was clear evidence there was an intelligent life form outside this planet. If a square plate fell, then there was a square hole somewhere. It was comparatively easy to find it. That’s when I met all the Cars.”
“Your Way to Heaven ends here,”
“It brought you to Mars. Let that thought comfort you in your eternal slumber, Enrico Pucci.”
“God’s will is with me!”
“That’s a delusion.”
Bang! A third gunshot rang out. And then there was silence. I looked down at the surface of Mars, but Pucci was too far away to make out clearly. I knew he must be at the bottom of the anchor line leading from The Eyed Balloon, but…
“Now, then… Goyathlay Soundman, a quiet man despite your name. The time has come for you to break your silence.”
There was no answer.
“………? I know you aren’t scared. What are
I could see it. A long shadow on the surface of Mars, getting bigger by the second. A massive pillar of sand, stretching up towards us. Straight towards this ship. All the sands of Mars, rushing together, feeding the pillar’s growth. The pillar inhaled the sands. Soundman’s sands. I’ll go listen to the sands of Mars, and understand them. He had succeeded, and the sands of Mars were part of Soundman now. In no time, the pillar had left the atmosphere, and tip was approaching the H. G. Wells. It was only a few kilometers away.
“Ohhh, well done, Soundman.”
Funnier had come over to the window beside me, and was watching the pillar approach.
“I take back what I said. You are a deep and sound man, as your name suggests.”
Was that clear-eyed Native American about to die, too?
I said, but saying that wasn’t going to do anything. Do you know how to pilot this ship? He’d decided to kill all the astronauts but himself. The only way I had of stopping him was physical. I grabbed the knife from Narancia’s corpse, and lunged at Funnier’s throat, but he dodged, and thud! kneed me hard in the gut.
“Be still, Jorge Joestar. Now I am paying my respects to Soundman’s finale.”
He easily took the knife away from me, and stuck it in my right shoulder.
Now both my shoulders were injured, and I couldn’t lift either arm.
“To which…good-bye, Soundman. It was an honor to come this far with you,”
Funnier said. There was another gunshot. Bang! ….silence, again….. I looked over my blood-stained shoulder at the window. The tip of the column rising from Mars to the
heavens was only a few hundred meters away. It was still getting closer. !? Funnier saw it too.
“? Soundman? Are you still alive?”
He could control his Stand remotely, but not see what it saw. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! The gun kept firing, but the tip of the pillar kept advancing. It was only a hundred meters away. Close enough now that I could see it with my naked eye; there was an empty helmet at the top of the pillar, and Funnier’s camera-eyed Stand was clinging to it, firing into the sand, opening hole after hole. But Soundman’s head was nowhere to be seen.
“Soundman!? Where are you!?”
Funnier screamed. I stood watching helplessly as the tip of the pillar changed shape, forming a round hole and a rim. Like a docking hatch…! Soundman was inside the pillar. In less than two minutes, he had gone from the surface of Mars to the H. G. Wells; a trained astronaut could easily hold his breath in the pillar that long. Thud! The tip of the pillar slammed into the H. G. Wells, shaking the ship.
“Good lord…come back, Rear Window!”
At his call, the Stand reappeared in the doorway to the living quarters. Clang! Thud, thud, creeeaak! The sounds of sand pounding the door, smashing it down, and then scrunch scrunch scrunch scrunch as sandy footsteps came down the call. Soundman appeared, covered head to foot in the red sands of Mars. Even his face was hidden. On guard against Funnier’s Rear Window, the Native American astronaut was still holding his breath. Funnier’s face twisted in fear.
“Good God… Shoot him, Rear Window!”
Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang! Funnier’s Stand unleashed a volley, but every bullet was absorbed into the sand as Soundman charged, tackling Funnier.
Funnier’s scream vanished into the sand. Shunk shunk shunk! Thud thud! Ka-thunk! Unable to see at all, Soundman went berserk, swinging and kicking wildly, flinging hardened sand in all directions. I barely managed to evade getting hit myself, but he was smashing machine parts right and left. I figured it was up to me to tell Soundman if Funnier was dead or down for the count, so I looked around, and realized I couldn’t find him anywhere. There was a door on the wall he’d been flung against, and through the window I could see the escape pod that was supposed to be on the other side of that door. It had detached from the H. G. Wells, and was drifting away.
“Soundman! Outside! Funnier Valentine’s escaping in the pod!”
I could see Funnier grinning through the pod’s window. Rear Window was in a hole Soundman had punched in a computer, waiting. For Soundman to stop flailing and take a breath.
“Don’t show your face! Rear Window’s still got his gun pointed at you!”
I yelled, but too late; out of breath, Soundman let the sands part, and Rear Window’s bullet struck him right between the eyes. Bang! Soundman’s head jerked back, and the sand suit crumbled.
I could hear Funnier laughing over the loudspeaker.
“Ha ha ha ha ha! Good-bye, Soundman! Jorge Joestar, I do apologize, but that ship will explode in two minutes. If you really are brought here by fate or destiny, then I’m sure you’ll find a way to survive that explosion!”
On my knees on the floor, my shoulders throbbing with pain, I couldn’t summon the energy to stand. I just vacantly watched his escape pod drift slowly away, not even noticing the
submarine that had appeared behind him on The Eyed Balloon.
“Tch, astronauts suck ass at murder. They don’t even know the basics! Double tap, motherfucker! One shot ain’t enough. Always gotta hit them again to be sure. Every fucking gangster knows that shit.”
I turned to find Narancia behind me, a small submarine sitting in the hole the bullet left in his forehead. The bullet was caught in the side of the ship. He’d left one ship from his Stand inside his body.
“Heh. Takes too long for Das Boot to get back to me if I send it away, so Buccellati and Giorno are always yelling at me to leave one or two inside me,”
Narancia grinned. Funnier noticed him, and I could see him looking through the tiny window in the pod, surprised…and oblivious to the cruise missile coming up behind him. It hit the pod head on. Booooooooooom! I couldn’t actually hear the sound, but the escape pod exploded with Funnier on it, scattering debris all around. Rear Window faded out, and vanished.
“Ha! Suck on that!”
Naranacia yelled, pointing his middle finger at the remains of the pod outside. Then he turned to me.
“Don’t just fucking stand there, we’re getting outta here pronto.”
“Eh? But how?”
“Let’s start by hopping on my sub and going down to Mars.”
“But don’t we need to depressurize?”
“What does that even mean? It’ll be fine!”
“Eh? It really won’t.”
“I said it will, it will. Think positive, motherfucker!”
While we were talking the giant submarine had come up with tentacles from The Eyed Balloon and rammed into the side of the H. G. Wells.
Claaaaaaaang! The deafening crunch was accompanied by a violent impact that shook the entire ship, followed by the whoosh of air rushing out. There was a hole in the front of the sub, too.
“Fffuck yeah! Get the fuck in there!”
Narancia yelled, diving headlong across the rubble, riding the rush of air, essentially letting the submarine inhale him.
“Auughhh here goes nothing!”
I shouted, and threw myself after him, aiming for the hole, but my shoulders hurt and I lost my balance; I slipped right past the hole, heading for the gap in the side of the H. G. Wells. There was nothing out there! Just outer fucking space!
I screamed and the submarine’s engines fired. It passed me, placed its hole just outside the gap in the H. G. Wells, and caught me after only a moment of suitless space walk.
“Holy fuck, dude! You’re really shit at this,”
Narancia said, laughing. I couldn’t argue with that.
“On your feet! We gotta get in back.”
Narancia said, helping me up, and giving me his shoulder for support. We ran against the air rushing out the gap in the hull, down a narrow hall towards the tail of the submarine.
“Ha ha ha! I’ve never been inside my Stand before! It’s pretty real looking!”
Indeed there were instruments and pipes and everything a real submarine would have inside it. We ran the entire length of Das Boot, went through a tiny hatch, and Narancia closed the door behind us, locking the door with a round wheel.
“OK! Do a U-Turn and get us out of here!”
The submarine groaned, and started moving. I could hear gas rushing through the pipes. Narancia had lowered his headset periscope over his right eye, and was piloting Das Boot, running it down the tentacles to The Eyed Balloon, around the surface of the moon, and then down the tether rope. Inside Mars’ atmosphere, the planet’s gravity took hold, and we were forced to hang off the
pipes crossing the long hallway, now a vertical shaft, as the submarine descended straight down. Narancia held on with both arms, but I was forced to hang on with my legs. Peering through the periscope, Narancia asked,
“So…what are we gonna do about this half-naked long-haired dude?”
Cars. The Ultimate Thing. What should we do?
“It’ll be useless, but I could shoot him again?”
Narancia suggested, half-joking.
“You’ve attacked him plenty, and like you said, it was useless. And he hasn’t done anything to us yet.”
But what should we do? Try to talk to him? Pucci had tried…and that got him exactly nowhere, apparently.
“Right, when we’re three meters off the ground, stop!”
There was a horrible screeching, and we stopped. We were inside the atmosphere and near the surface of Mars, but we had no space suits, the air outside was less than 1% the atmospheric pressure of earth, and was 95% carbon dioxide. We wouldn’t be able to breathe at all. But we couldn’t stay in Das Boot forever; we had a limited amount of breathable air on board. We were between a rock and a hard place. But we were still alive.
“Ah, the space ship blew up,”
Narancia said, showing me the view through his headset. There were massive fireworks in the skies of Mars. There was also a moon with an eye rising in the sky. The eye met my gaze.
I said. As I handed the headset back to Narancia we heard creaking outside the hatch. Someone was coming up the vertical hall. There was still a big hole in the front of the sub, and outside that hole was…
“Uh, the half-naked dude’s gone,”
Narancia said. Cars had invaded Das Boot. That meant he must be able to see Stands. The ultimate life form was getting closer. My body went
rigid, but Narancia yelled down at the hatch below us,
“Hey! I dunno what the fuck you are, but don’t smash my sub! This room’s the only place with air left! I’m sorry about attacking you earlier! Seriously, like, super duper sorry, like legit sorry.”
…it was clear he’d never been taught how to apologize to anyone. He may be only sixteen, but he was abused by his father, betrayed by his friends, sent to juvie, bullied… There was a groan outside, like metal bending, then a scuttling sound as something moved through the pipes, getting closer, into the room we were in…here. Narancia and I gulped in unison, and the pipe in front of us popped open, and flesh spilled out, and the flesh took form, becoming a tall, long-haired, half-naked man. Cars. He could shape-shift? He turned and twisted the pipe like a twist tie, cutting off the hiss of escaping air. He looked around the interior of Das Boot as if he couldn’t see us, and then took a deep breath. In. And out.
he said, in Italian.
“You have no idea how much I’ve missed it.”
“It’s time to go home.”
Narancia asked, but Cars ignored him.
“This air…with three of us, it should last four hours.”
“Hey! Don’t fucking ignore me, Fabio!”
Narancia snarled. This boy knew no fear. I poked him.
“Dude, back to Earth, obviously!”
“Hunh? He’s not, like, a Martian?”
“He’s speaking an Earth language, right? He must have been there, originally.”
“Oh, I see. But how’s he getting back home? The space ship blew up.”
True, but then I remembered.
“He’s got a ship.”
At least seven of them. The Giotto probes. Those were technically space ships, but they had no power, and were pretty busted up, and no fuel…as I thought, Cars said,
“I have a ship.”
…….!? We could communicate?
“But they’re broken, right?”
I asked. Cars looked at me. His eyes were a really beautiful blue.
“I can fix them. Since I rode them here from Halley’s Comet, I’ve been studying how these machines function.”
When Giotto has passed Halley’s Comet, something had gone wrong with the antennae, and all contact with it had been lost for thirty-two minutes. Had that not been because comet dust struck it, but because Cars jumped on board?
“…but we’ll need fuel.”
“I have plenty.”
“Floating above us.”
? The Eyed Balloon?
“Eh? Is that…? What is it?”
“Yes. The universe has looped thirty-six times, and as it ended and began anew thirty-six additional mes arrived.”
The ultimate life form could even survive the end of the universe!? If the universe looped, then history repeated itself, the same fate befell Cars, and he became the ultimate thing thirtyseven times, was flung into space thirty-seven times, made his way to Mars thirty-seven times, and then all thirty-seven Cars had a
While my mind boggled at the sheer scale of that time, Narancia stopped staring at us open-mouthed, peered through his periscope, and said,
“Hey, the moon broke.”
He showed me the view. The Eyed Balloon had crumbled, and the thirty-six pieces each turned into Cars. They’d combined their flesh, and had stretched their combined mass out into a giant sphere. Now they and the thirty-six Giottos they’d held inside the sphere all began falling towards us.
“We’ll use a few to repair the machines, and the rest will become fossil fuel,”
Cars said. Cars began laying parts from the Giottos out on the surface of Mars, and assembling them bare-handed into a space ship way more futuristic than either the Giotto or the H. G. Wells. When he didn’t have a part, he’d have one of the Extra Cars transform part of their flesh, transforming it into the material he needed. Once the ship was complete, the remaining Extra Cars all melted away without complaint, pouring themselves into the fuel tank. Narancia witnessed this horror show with a series of yelps and squeals, unable to watch it directly, but shocked as I was, I couldn’t stop myself from watching the whole thing. The completed spaceship was conical, with smooth curves. The one remaining Cars came back up the pipes to us, and spoke to Narancia.
“Shrink this vehicle to the size of the two of you. I’ll compress the remaining air.”
Narancia did as he was told, and soon Das Boot was so small the two of us could barely fit inside. Cars then inhaled all the air into his lungs. Narancia and I clung to each other inside the miniature submarine, and Cars doubled the size of his upper body, lifted the submarine onto his back, and carried it into the spaceship. He released the air inside, and Narancia put
Das Boot back inside his own body. The interior of the ship was beautifully designed; it was hard to believe it had been pieced together from scrap. It looked like a modern sci-fi movie set.
“If you could build all this,”
I asked, summoning my nerve.
“Why not head to Earth on your own?
“At first, I didn’t have enough materials or extra mes to turn into fuel,”
“My calculations showed that it would be the thirty-seventh universe where I would finally have enough. Twice, I rode Giotto close to the Earth. The first we passed too far from it; the second time I altered Giotto, and turned part of myself into fuel in an attempt to enter the atmosphere, but I had no idea what the correct angle of entry was. If the angle was too shallow, I’d bounce off the atmospheric wall; too steep, and my calculations suggested that at my bulk, the convection and radiation heat would be so great I would vaporize faster than my cells would regenerate. Even if I survived long enough to land I would be critically injured. I would be captured by humans who detected my entry, and sent even farther away on a different rocket. I had to come up with a plan to protect myself while attempting my return to Earth.”
After the Giotto probe had surveyed Halley’s Comet, it had done a flyby of Earth at a distance of 16,300,000 kilometers, and used the Earth’s gravity to accelerate, heading off to survey Comet Grigg-Skjellerup. After that it approached the Earth again, but did not respond to signals, and disappeared. This must be the two occasions he mentioned. Countless asteroids hit the Earth daily, but almost none of them ever reach the surface because the speed with which they strike the pressurized atmosphere causes high temperature convection heat, and the magnetic energy in the pressurized air causes radiation heat, which burn the meteors up before they land.
“Once I reached Mars, I patiently waited for the right time. The universe looped thirty-six times, and I had enough fuel and materials. And in this thirty-seventh universe, I met an astronaut named Funnier Valentine. Funnier helped me draw up a plan for reentry, and negotiated a mutually profitable arrangement in which, in exchange for his help, I agreed to not eat any Americans. I accepted his offer, and waited for him to arrive.”
I see…but why would Funnier want to help such a dangerous life form get back to Earth…wait. Eat?
I asked. Cars looked me right in the eye.
“Why do you think I would let you live? Like I said, we only have four hours worth of oxygen. Fueled by the extra mes, this ship will take approximately six months to reach Earth. You would never survive it. Remain calm and allow me to eat you.”
“Wait, you’ve survived all this time on Mars without eating anything, right?”
“You can damn well last another six months, asshole! So what if we only have four hours worth of air? There’s shit we can do in four hours!”
“As the universe looped thirty-six times, I have done laps of Mars, without eating…until today. While it is not my usual custom, think of it as a celebratory feast.”
“No, no, no no! Eat when you get to Earth! Someone other than me!”
“…you are very loud. Your life will only last another four hours either way, and if I stop releasing the air inside my lungs you will all suffocate. Your lives are already at their end. Give it up.”
“No! No! No, no!”
Narancia said, stamping his foot, tears in his eyes.
“? The air in your lungs? That goes in and out of you every time you take a breath. It’ll run out fast, won’t it?”
“I do not need to breathe. I am releasing the air gradually.”
“Eh? But you said four hours for the three of us.”
“The two of you, and the astronaut. Funnier Valentine died without telling me his plan for reentry, you see.”
I looked around, and saw Pucci lying in the corner, still in his space suit. There was a round hole in the helmet where Funnier’s Rear Window had fired a bullet, and a bullet hole in the center of his forehead, but the bullet was stuck in that hole, and when I tapped the bullet with my finger it fell out. It had not reached the brain. The holes in his head and helmet were stuffed with red sand, so it was immediately clear who had saved Pucci’s life. That forthright Native American. He’d saved our lives, too. As I honored his memory, Pucci’s eyes fluttered open.
“Oh, you’re awake?”
I asked. Pucci ignored me.
“Thirty-six extra Cars…?”
he muttered. He’d been awake and listening this whole time?
So, with a boom we bounded off the surface of Mars, left the atmosphere for outer space, and Mars was soon vanishing in our wake. Narancia was lying in a heap on the floor, sobbing. Suddenly an electronic jingle next to him went plu pon pin para para pon and Narancia bounded up, the pebble cell phone in his hand. I’d forgotten it even existed.
“Ahhhhh, Buccellatiiiiiiiiiii! It’s you, right? It’s me, Narancia! So much has been going on I forgot I had this phone!”
he shouted, excited. Buccellati said something that clearly infuriated him.
“Hunhhhhhh!? What the fuck are you talking about? It’s all gone to shit here! We aren’t even in Morioh any more! We’re on fucking Mars! MARS! The planet! Yeah! Hunh?”
Then his face shifted to a
sulk, and he handed me the phone.
“Buccellati wants to talk to you.”
I took the pebble, and put it to my ear.
“Where are you and what are you doing? I will not tolerate fooling around.”
Fooling around…we were on a spaceship about to be eaten by the ultimate thing. I wanted to yell as loud as Narancia, but I restrained myself.
“We have a large number of Morioh citizens hostage. We are treating them well, but we don’t mind treating them less well.”
What the hell was he talking about?
“You gangsters sure like to talk like gentlemen,”
“But I know you were massacring people on Nero Nero Island, trying to find your boss.”
The Nijimuras and I had witnessed it. The islanders trying to get to the harbor, ambushed by those gangsters, and slaughtered mercilessly. But Buccellati answered,
“Massacre? What massacre?”
“Don’t play dumb! Those islanders were trying to escape by boat, and you guys killed them!”
“….? We don’t kill civilians.”
“Not officially, anyway.”
“No…we swore an oath not to.”
“Well, you’ve broken that oath.”
“Wait. Where did this massacre happen?”
“On the West side of Nero Nero Island, at the harbor.”
“…….? We did a circuit of the island, but there was no harbor.”
But I’d seen it.
“I’m not lying.”
“…it seems not. I don’t smell a lie…as strange as that may be to say on the phone.”
“Someone must be hiding part of that island so it can’t be seen from inside…? Only one person can do that. Secco Rotario and his Evil Dead.”
Heh heh…oh, Secco Rotario’s there, too, NYPD Blue had said.
“Well done, Jorge Joestar!”
“I’ll thank you when this is all over.”
And with that he hung up. He clearly hadn’t managed the slightest bit of understanding of the nightmare Narancia and I were in. I handed the phone back to Narancia.
“You’re a Jojo, too?”
Cars grinned at me.
“Clearly there’s a lot you have to tell me before I eat you.”
Trying not to panic, I prayed that this conversation would last more than four hours.
“Ehhhhhhhhhh? But what about me!?”
Narancia shouted. Uh…good luck?
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