Swan Song - Freya Abbas - ebook
Opis

  Desantia, a theocratic country encompassing most of North America has grown to become the most powerful country in the world under an oppressive tyrant ruler. Anyone who speaks out against him is promised death. The environmental destruction, wars, and famine all over the world caused by the power hungry tyrant are threatening to wipe out all cultures and assimilate them into the Desantian one in a dangerous wave of terrorism that transcends all international borders. In Swan Song, An eclectic group from all inhabited continents comprised of military tacticians, warriors, politicians and artists discover a common goal that could unite all the world's cultures against the horrible dictator. The Native Americans still manage to survive. 

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SWAN SONG

Freya Abbas

PRONOUN

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy this book, please leave a review or connect with the author.

All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.

Copyright © 2017 by Freya Abbas

Interior design by Pronoun

Distribution by Pronoun

ISBN: 9781508049807

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1: The Coronation

Chapter 2: The Mutilations, the Witch and the Wardrobe of Patriotic Swimwear

Chapter 3: Some Flashbacks to a Vexillological Memory

Chapter 4: Dalziel’s Final Solution

Chapter 5: The Tuberculosis Scare

Chapter 6: On Another Track

Chapter 7: The Healer

Chapter 8: The Haka

Chapter 9: Back to the heroine, Tecolotl

Chapter 10: Under the Visser’s heels

Chapter 11: Mike’s New Station

Chapter 12: Tecolotl and the Scouts

Chapter 13: Fulda and Darius

Chapter 14: Tigremation and Hatuey are also trying to get to Dresden

Chapter 15: Stephanie makes up her mind

Chapter 16: Recite all the names of your ancestors whom you know of

Chapter 17: The Clauses of the Manifesto

Chapter 18: The Liberation of the Final Solution Camp with the help of two Africans

Chapter 19: From Wellington, Desantia to Wellington, New Zealand

Chapter 20: The vibrating cuneiform tablet

Chapter 21: On yet another track

Chapter 22: The Norwegian Cabin

Chapter 23: The Reign of Eros, Italian politicians, and the Kemet Gathering

Chapter 24: Race to the South Pole

Chapter 25: Swan Song

CHAPTER 1: THE CORONATION

ZANDER SQUINTED THROUGH THE rain, his teeth chattering and his back tensing at the thought of suffering another one of the Visser’s lashes. He ran his bony fingers through his drenched hair, the normally bouncing curls now a matted, brown mess. His lips moved in prayer to his Jewish God, Yahweh. Soon, he was able to make out the familiar azure and red flags and heraldry of the approaching parade, despite the torn, drenched, and drooping banners.

The ceremony’s date had been set in stone after an incident in the Alabaster Room that had thrown the Visser into a rage. One of his hooded Cruisects had been charged with treason and executed after suggesting that the Visser should not meddle with the affairs of other nations, lest they were angered. The Visser had wanted to invite all the Cruisects and members of the Desantian Guard to this ceremony where he was to demonstrate his power. The impetuous Cruisect’s wife had also been had also been charged with treason and was tossed into the gas chamber, along with her husband. The Visser had been sure that this action would result in public outrage if he was not quick to declare the date of the ceremony, and it was to take place today, rain or shine.

Zander felt a warm hand on his shoulder and jolted in fear, but relaxed at the familiar sound of his friend’s laugh.

“Calm down, Zander! You look like Visser Dalziel whipped you again,” Mike chimed.

“Shut up, Mike. Try to be serious. Why aren’t you with the rest of the Desantian Guard?” Zander asked, irritated.

“Old Dalz asked me to keep an eye on you, in case you do anything else questionable.” Mike narrowed his eyes at him and put on a stern look, then laughed it off.

“Thank Yahweh, it could’ve been to the chambers for me as well,” Zander whispered.

He shuddered when he thought of the incident that had occurred in the Alabaster Room only days ago. Being a member of the Visser’s Desantian guard, Zander had been asked along with a few others to keep watch at the parliamentary meeting in the Alabaster Room.

“I’m glad I wasn’t on duty that day, or perhaps I would’ve gotten a lash or twenty myself as I would’ve run to your aid,” Mike sighed.

Mike’s face suddenly looked 40 years older. Like many other citizens of Desantia, he tried to cover up his discontent with the government, doing so with his particular brand of humor, and avoiding anything that might tempt him to fight for what was right rather than what would keep him alive. Zander’s soldier-like discipline and seemingly unflinching loyalty had attracted Mike’s admiration at first, but he soon realized that Zander was just as much in disagreement with Dalziel’s government as Mike secretly was. Nevertheless, the pair remained good friends.

“I just couldn’t help it, Mike. It wasn’t the execution of the treasonous Cruisect that bothered me, nor was it his indignant wife getting booted in by Dalziel himself. It was the hopeless expression on the face of that child! She looked utterly destroyed, in disbelief at the horrible fate of her parents. That was when I had to yell for them to stop.”

Zander’s only crime was to utter one word. That word was “stop”. In the Alabaster Room, Zander had stood up for what he believed- even though he had been the only one standing.

“Now hold up, a child? Last time you told the story you said the lass was at least 18,” Mike reminded him.

“I was referring to the fact that she was birthed from the Cruisect’s wife and him. She was probably around eighteen, but she seemed to grow younger and weaker before my eyes. I didn’t want her to be thrown in as well. In the time it took for the Visser to whip me, she ran. I think I saved her life.”

Soon the Visser’s palanquin bearers came, draped in pristine white Desantian Guard uniforms, with their pot-bellied tyrant ruler atop their shoulders. Mike nodded to Zander and the two rushed to fulfill their crowd-control duties. The Visser was to stand on a platform and deliver his speech as soon as the parade came to a halt.

Dozens of Cruisect trumpeters blasted the anthem of Desantia, wearing white pantsuits and tall, blue top-hats. They looked quite comical. Any fool could be tricked into thinking the parade was amusing, but Zander knew better. He would see through every word of the Visser, even though the tyrant was a most charming orator. Everything in sight was draped in blue and white.

Right before the Visser stepped off his palanquin, a Cruisect came with a roll of glorious blue carpet. It was spread out in front of Dalziel, as if he were a god and his feet were too holy to touch the dirty ground where commoners walked. The Cruisect bowed his hooded head respectfully.

All Cruisects wore hoods of a dazzling blue and white color, as part of their uniform. Zander shuddered when he remembered the disloyal Cruisect who had been disposed of. He had his hood on when he was thrust into the gas chamber, with its transparent walls for spectators to witness the power of the Visser. The man had been clutching on to his hood, as though hoping it would protect him from the gas- fear had driven him delirious, and Zander could still remember the look of raw fear on the sentenced man’s face. When the Guard who had been asked to turn on the gas did as he was told, the eerie blue gas had coldly seeped through the fabric of the hooded mask. It was absorbed by the man’s clothes and skin. He began to sniffle and he clawed off his mask and held it submissively. The gas had tickled his nose and he had to take it off. It had sped up the killing, and then the crying woman had been shoved in as well and the same happened to her.

“Was it love at first sight or something?” Asked Mike.

Mike and Zander had taken their places alongside the rest of the 118th contingent of the Desantian Guard to wait for the anthem to be sung before the Visser made his long awaited speech.

“What?” Zander whispered, annoyed.

“When you saw the girl.”

Zander sighed, “You are the one who is still thinking about the girl, and you think I love her? Ridiculous. And you know my heart already belongs to someone.”

“Who?”

“Esther,” Zander hissed angrily.

“Ah right! Esther Abdenstern. Yeah she’s a good one. And no, I don’t love the girl whom you speak of so passionately. I have never even beheld her. My girlfriend, Stephanie, is the most beautiful woman in the world to me. The way you described the appearance of the girl you saw wasn’t even interesting.”

“It really wasn’t?” Zander asked, surprised. He supposed it was just because he was bad at describing things. But the girl had been quite a sight, it was what had moved him, a member of the Desantian Guard.

“You said she had messy, black hair and dark eyes and was very thin.”

“Yes. But there are a million things you can imagine based on that description. Now shut up and stand tall,” Zander chided.

But Mike droned on. “It is just that, it’s such a small description, vague as hell, but it reminds me of someone.”

“Oh yeah? A first love?” Zander drawled out, before he could stop himself. He cursed himself silently. He shouldn’t have said anything, so that Mike would shut up, but now his interest had piqued.

“More like a toy who was infatuated with me. I’m glad I have Stephanie now, and her eyes are as blue as the star on our flaaaag-”

Zander smiled. “The star on our flag” was also the first line of the Desantian anthem, which had begun to play, and Mike had merged his speech with it.

After that was over the Visser finally spoke. There were also many foreign dignitaries present, whom he managed to acknowledge in a remarkably polite manner.

“Outsiders, though the snow of our land may be cold, I’d like to assure you that the heart of every documented Desantian citizen is as warm and welcoming as I. Though you come from various countries that I respect very much, such as the now independent Scotland and Germany, both of which my ancestors hailed from, I’d like to remind you that Desantia is the most noble country in the world. I love immigrants, they are what Desantia is made of, but I must warn you that we Desantians are a proud people and we will never let anyone step on us.”

This got a cheer from the sheep-like Desantian Guard and Cruisects.

“Now, if you must know, Mike,” Zander muttered through clenched teeth. “The aspect of the girl that had intrigued me was the way she was unafraid, even though there was the imminent danger of inhaling Prussian Blue with her mother and father. She did not look frightened, though she was momentarily crushed by sadness. Right before she ran off, her eyes showed vengefulness, bloodthirstiness! I knew that she wanted Dalziel’s head and she would stop at nothing to avenge her family. Now Mike, never ask me again.”

Mike gulped at how serious Zander had sounded. It had almost been like a prophecy, as if Dalziel really would be overthrown.

“To show how proud the Desantian people are, their representatives- my carefully appointed Cruisects voted recently in the Alabaster Room on a new form of government. Absorbed in their passion for their Visser, they have decided to not only maintain his presidential status but make him a king as well! This ceremony shall be my coronation!”

Zander had to force himself not to drop his jaw in shock. King? The man must be mad. It was absolutely outrageous.

“A monarch. The bloody tyrant wants absolute power now,” Zander whispered furiously.

“As if things would change much. He already carries himself like a god, so being king is nothing,” Mike shrugged half-heartedly, only partially joking.

“Mike do you know what this means? And right in front of foreign representatives as well? He’s gone batshit crazy!”

“The glorious sovereign nation of Desantia has entered a New Age. We will now finally take our place as an old nation, a nation with refined culture and history, a nation of beauty no less than anything found in the fatherland of Europa,” the Visser justified. He wore a blue suit that matched his eyes. Once, he had been young and handsome. Now there was nothing but baldness where there once had been a golden mane. Years of living in luxury had caused him to swell to 5 times his former weight. His obesity did not stifle his voice, but rather gave it a booming, omnipresent feel. Though his voice was strong and caused Zander to gulp in fear and Mike’s heart to race, his appearance was comical. He was nothing but a fat, rich man. Who knew that such a person could be feared by so many?

The German dignitary, a woman with a thin, blond ponytail looked as if she had been slapped. Her expression grew baneful, menacing. Zander noticed this and bit his lower lip. He was getting better at reading people ever since Dalziel was elected as Visser and had employed him in the Desantian Guard. He could tell just by looking at a person whether they were one of the sheep or else someone who was questioning the Visser’s authority. The German woman’s eyes were pale and expressive, leaving no doubt about what she was feeling. She had the same look as the daughter of the executed Cruisect. She knew bad economic times would come if Desantian trade connections were cut.

“Desantians, it is time for a New Age of winning! Never again shall we have to depend on other countries for anything and never again shall we allow foreigners to take advantage of our generosity.”

Everyone tuned out for the rest of the speech, save for a few “sheeple” Desantians who were smiling and clapping like fools for their new king, or perhaps because they simply valued their lives.

After that, the leader of the Cruisects, a hooded and powerful Catholic man named Richard Chalice stepped onto the platform carrying a silver crown inlaid with white pearls and blue sapphires. It was of breathtaking beauty, but would soon become the symbol of a great war that was to divide all of humanity into two factions. It was gorgeous, yet it would sparkle on the Visser’s bare head as the earth below him shed blood and pleaded him to stop.

“Praise God that he has sent you such a good man to be your humble and fair ruler! He will be like a father to us all.”

Richard was also the bearer of the Chalice of Truth, a ceremonial piece from which a king named George had once drunk. King George was from a far away land that Desantia had declared its independence from long ago. The Chalice was preserved as an artifact by Cruisect leaders throughout the centuries and had passed through the hands of many hooded men who had maintained its shine, although it was never touched by any lips since George’s.

“Is that the CHALICE?” Exclaimed Zander.

“My God, we really are returning to an oppressive feudal system,” Mike whispered, his huge, dark eyes wide with disbelief.

Archbishop Chalice was a wobbly, enthusiastic old man and deeply religious. In addition to being counselors and advisors of the Visser, many of the Cruisects led churches and were very respected among the various Christian communities of Desantia. There were a couple of exceptions to this of course, such as the man who had been executed a few days prior to the coronation ceremony.

He had been an Islamic token. The Visser had appointed him to try to fool people into thinking the nation was still secular and tolerant of all faiths. But the cold heart of Richard Chalice had an insatiable lust for total theocracy and monarchy, one Desantia under God and Visser-king. Zander’s mind flashed back to when the Visser had first announced that he would be appointing the Muslim Cruisect. Zander had fingered the star of David pendant that hung around his neck and his palms had begun to sweat. Visser Dalziel kept on trying to assure everyone that he loved the Jews, but Zander had his doubts sometimes. After all, the Visser did use Prussian Blue gas chambers. They say he was inspired by a genocidal man from long ago, but that was ancient history to Desantia.

The Cruisect archbishop placed the crown on the kneeling Visser’s head and took the arm of Dalziel into his own and raised it.

“All hail our new glorious ruler who rivals the power of the sun, the god-emperor Visser Dalziel Mànus von Rheinkreis!” He roared.

“HAIL!” The audience roared, saluting with their right hands in the air. The Cruisects had their own salute with their left hands. Zander watched as the arms swathed in white with wide, ghostly sleeves popped up from behind faithful hooded heads.

CHAPTER 2: THE MUTILATIONS, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE OF PATRIOTIC SWIMWEAR

THE GIRL WENT BY many names, being a nomad. So if you asked someone what her name was, the answer would change depending on what country the answerer hailed from. Desantia knew her by her Muslim name, Samirah Alamgir Mirza. But because this tale is about something more beautiful and ancient than Desantia, we shall use the name Tecolotl Xocoyotl for now. You may ask, but what was her real name? The truth is that she herself has forgotten, and so how can anyone else ever be sure? Even the people who had loved her could never be sure.

The first thing Tecolotl had done when she managed to escape the Alabaster Room was to fix up her disheveled appearance so that suspicion was not attracted to her. For luck, she reached into her pocket and fingered her lucky charm, a Viking compass given to her by an Icelandic friend long ago named Tino, who had claimed it belonged to some king named Hermansverk the fair haired. She wondered if everyone in Wellington, Desantia knew her name and face as she was the daughter of a man who worked for the government. It was possible. After all, her father had appeared in the papers as the Muslim Cruisect token along with his wife and daughter, but she had made sure to hide behind her for the photo. She said it was because she was shy and her mom had told the disgruntled Cruisect photographer that Samirah was a silly girl. It had proved to have been a wise decision.

She ran into a forest where she could be among the trees and found a pond where she sat down and looked at her reflection. “I’m surprised it is so easy to see one’s reflection. It isn’t murky, you can even see fish so this must not be part of a sewage stream. Once there were lots of clean water bodies like this, when the people who governed this land were stewards of the earth like the Piscataway people,” she said. Gasping, she realized she shouldn’t talk, lest someone hear her. Her heart began to race. What if there were surveillance cameras? She began to wander deeper into the woods.

As she walked, she finger-combed through her long, black hair and tied it into a bun. She had a habit of getting lost in things, especially nature and good books about history, and so she fell silent and began to look around the ancient forest. She wandered deeper still and looked up at the trees. It began to occur to her that it was getting dark.

Oh it’s alright. It’s much safer here than out there, where no one can see me, she thought. As the autumn leaves crunched under her feet and the wind began to make her teeth chatter, she realized it probably wasn’t such a good idea. She heard a low inhuman growl and stopped moving.

There was one thing she had not considered, and that was the threat of wild animals.

“Nothing will attack me if I keep to myself,” she tried to assure herself. But still the stories she had read came back to her, of humans suffering at the claws and teeth of beasts. “Even gods had to surrender to them”, she thought. Her childhood friend, a yellow-haired Nordic boy named Tino Asmundson had once told her a story about the end of the world, or Ragnarok, as his ancestors called it.

“Many things will happen when Ragnarok is upon us. The world will be plunged into an eternal winter after two celestial wolves named Skull and Hati devour the sun and moon. The Midgard serpent, or Jörmungandr will rise. He is such a huge snake that he encircles the entire earth and has to keep the end of his tail in his mouth! The gods will die and Fenrir, a giant wolf, shall break out from his chains on the island of Lingvi where the god Týr shackled him long ago,” Tino would narrate, a threatening note in his voice.

Tecolotl had loved to listen to the boy. She thought he was a great storyteller with a captivating voice. Tino would also sing to her sometimes in Old Norse or Icelandic. They were songs that had been sung for centuries by a line of his ancestors. Tecolotl would tell him he should be a bard or a writer of sagas.

“How did Týr capture a huge wolf? He must have been very strong,” Tecolotl mused.

“Well it wasn’t easy, Tecolotl. Before Fenrir was imprisoned, he had bitten Týr’s entire hand off!”

Tecolotl had gasped.

Tecolotl gasped again now when the growling noise became more imminent. She could tell that she hadn’t been having an auditory hallucination now. Instinctively, she tried to hide her hands. She feared that it was a member of the wulfenkind species that Tino’s ancestors had both revered and feared, making it such an important creature in their mythology. The canine growl echoed through the woods. The forest had wonderful acoustics, but they frightened the wits out of Tecolotl.

She began to run as fast as she could away from the sound, back the direction she had come from. She figured that it did not matter if she went back to Wellington as it was night time anyway and no one would recognize her in the dark. There was also no way a mutt would follow her out there. Logic told her it was very unlikely a creature would chase her. It had merely been perturbed when she had entered its territory and growled to make her leave. But her long fear of dogs and wolves kept her legs flying and soon she was back in Wellington, exhausted and considering turning herself in as a criminal somewhere to get free food at a prison.

Happy to see civilization once more, she went to check if any shops were still open. She took her thin sweater off and tied it around her waste. She put a hat on as well that she had in her pocket. The letters on it said “Kanata”, it was the name of a very large northern state in Desantia. Patriotism was a very positive thing in that society and she sighed in relief, knowing that the small alterations she had made to her appearance would suffice for the time being. She had also put her hair in a bun, which would help.

She arrived somewhere near a small plaza where the lights were still on. It looked like it would be closing down soon for the night, so she had to hurry. There was a poster of an attractive model in one of the shop windows and Tecolotl ran toward it to see. She hated Desantian beauty standards but was curious anyway. As she approached it, a woman with hair dyed entirely azure and white reaching just past her shoulders emerged from the shop and pushed Tecolotl aside.

“Stop staring at it and just go inside, geez,” she muttered.

Tecolotl jolted back in horror and the woman paid her no further heed and left to find her car in the parking lot.

“My god, she was absolutely hideous,” Tecolotl shuddered. The model in the poster was a platinum blonde with a very short, stylish haircut. Tecolotl found her merely below average but the woman who had stepped out of the boutique was on another level of repulsive. It wasn’t every day you saw someone who you’d look at and immediately think ugly as hell.

Tecolotl had a strangely strong visual memory and could recall every detail of the woman’s face perfectly as she had beheld it.

Aside from the horrible hair, which Tecolotl considered the stuff of nightmares, she had pale, sagging skin. Her eyes were huge but lacked the sparkle which was supposed to make a person look alive. The skin underneath her eyes seemed to have been stretched, as if the weight of her cheeks had brought them down.

They had been so blue! Tecolotl had believed that the color of a person’s eyes did not always determine the beauty of the eyes. There were gentle, kind, expressive blue eyes like Tino Asmundson’s irises of Azure mist. Then there were the eyes of whoever that woman had been, which looked soulless and dead. What a witch!

Tecolotl had also been repulsed by the leathery, orangish pink skin. It was pale for sure, but not like a bloodless corpse’s and certainly not like pristine, flawless porcelain. She didn’t really know what shade the skin color could be deemed. Apricot, perhaps. It was just like the skin of the horrible Visser.

Then there was the matter of the woman’s body. Tecolotl would never really look anything on a person other than their face and their hair, of course. But this time she couldn’t avert her eyes in time. The woman had been wearing a horribly tight and revealing blue dress. She hated the idea of body shaming but knew that most Desantians nowadays were overweight and most were ready to do anything to lose it besides eating properly and actually exercising. They would get surgery or go on starvation diets. The grotesque lady had certainly not been skinny and her figure was bloated but Tecolotl knew that she was strong, whereas Tecolotl herself was skinny and weak.

Yet another Desantian woman appeared. This time it was a worker from the shop. She was young yet her hair looked white. Upon closer inspection it was a very pale shade of periwinkle. Part of the woman’s head had been nearly shaved, in the shape of designs like stars. Tecolotl stifled a scream.

It became obvious now that the shop was actually a hair salon.

“Hello there. I saw you peering in. Come on now, it’s not that expensive. Do you want that hair straightened, cut, or bleached? We’re just about to close but we can take one more person in.”

“No it’s okay. You can close down, miss,” Tecolotl choked out. Her voice had faltered and stuttered, but she had attempted a posh accent and hoped it had been expressed. She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to change her voice. No one would recognize it, would they? It wasn’t as if she were a celebrity. But she didn’t want to take any chances.She could smell the fumes and toxins coming from inside the shop and scrunched up her nose. She was considering running all the way back to the forest, when an idea dawned on her.

“Actually, do you by any chance sell wigs?” she inquired, “or cosmetic products?”

“We sell wigs and makeup.”

“Anything for the eyes?”

“Eyeshadow and mascara.”

“I meant for the irises.”

“This isn’t a plastic surgery institute you know, dear. You don’t have to think much about it. Everything can be changed back. Hair grows,” the woman said in a suspiciously soothing voice. She stepped closer.

Tecolotl didn’t want to appear rude but the smell of the woman’s perfume was assaulting her nostrils and she had to step back. She closed her eyes and sighed. Then she snapped her fingers when yet another idea popped up.

“Contact lenses? Do you sell contact lenses? I know this isn’t an optometrist’s office, but I don’t need a prescription,” Tecolotl chimed. She was suddenly confused as to why the employee of the hair salon was being so patient but she realized it was because Tecolotl appeared wealthy, even in her disheveled condition.

“I’m rich you know. My father is a Cruisect,” she said.

At this the hairdresser nodded enthusiastically and welcomed her in.

“I need a blonde wig. Short please. And straight. Also find me some blue contact lenses. They need to look natural. And do you have foundation? Lots of pale foundation,” Tecolotl demanded. She was glad the hairdresser didn’t ask any questions.

“Wow, you seem very certain of this. May I make some recommendations? How about the red contact lenses? They are in style after that new movie was released that had the-”

“Just get me what I asked for.”

Tecolotl had the items placed in a small bag and presented a bill worth 50ß.

“50 Desantian brumals. Keep the change,” she said and grabbed the bag.

In the German alphabet, there is a mysterious letter which puzzles almost every learner of the language. It traditionally only ever appears in its lowercase form and is known as the eszett. Native German speakers like the foreign dignitary from the Rhine land who witnessed Visser Dalziel’s coronation ceremony pronounce it something like English speakers would combine an “S” and a “Z” together. It is like a sharper S sound.

Tecolotl was thinking about this when the stupid hairdresser had tossed 3 brumals back at her anyway, even though she had given the extra money not out of generosity but out of necessity because she didn’t want to be late in going to the lingerie shop before it closed. Tecolotl looked at the strange letter, a ß symbol. It looked enough like a B to be able to represent the word “BRUMAL”, and so the Desantians had stuck with it.

No one really cared about how actual Germanic people pronounced it.

She barged into the lingerie shop with the glass windows nearby and recoiled at the site of faceless mannequins with waists less wide than their heads sporting golden, bejewled bikinis. “What would happen to the decorations if they got wet?” Tecolotl wondered aloud.

“Go away. We are closing,” said an old toad-like woman from the cash register.

“I’m rich,” blurted Tecolotl, now wearing the blonde wig to make it appear as if she actually got something done at the hair mutilation salon.

“Oh,” the cashier considered, using a much more polite tone this time, “in that case, our 127ß best-selling bikini, which is just like the one that was worn by the actress Azalea Lockhill in-”

“Do you have anything that is more... oh, I don’t know...patriotic?” Tecolotl asked in her accent, which was somehow still holding.

“I got you, gal. Just a second,” the woman said. She returned a few minutes later with two bikinis, one with the Desantian flag on it, and one with a very similar flag on it but with a different layout of the stars around a horizontal X.

“The flag of the Confederated States of Desantia? What a reminder of ancient history!” Tecolotl exclaimed.

“But it is modern too. The Cruisects have appropriated this flag to be the banner present at all their gatherings in the Visser’s Alabaster Room,” the old lady explained. She was not as stupid as she looked.

“Right,” Tecolotl nodded, “it is perfect. How much?”

“236ß.”

“Shut up and take my money.”

After that, Tecolotl raced out of the store and stuffed the instant-pallor causing foundation, bikini, and contact lense case into her backpack. She had a couple hundred brumals left, but she had to be frugal with them.