It was the sort of day Celeste relished. The sky was a crisp, pastel blue– the wind whipped through her hair with its gentle coolness– clouds dotted the sky ever so lightly so that one could daydream about what fanciful objects they resembled. On days like this, all Celeste wants to do is stretch out on a soft picnic blanket while wearing her favorite sun dress, breath in the fragrant country air, and watch those clouds drift along their lonely path. And for a single, absent-minded moment she tried to do just that. She closed her eyes, arched her back and stretched out her arms–
“Better watch it, hon,” a matronly voice said in her head, “you can only go so far back before you fall off this thing.”
Celeste opened her eyes, and in a panicked motion she shot back forward when it donned on her that she was drifting along the sky riding her magical broomstick. Just a few more inches of stretching and she probably would have lost her balance and fallen however many thousand feet it is to the harsh, hard, unforgiving mountains below.
“Whoops!” Celeste squeaked as she looked down at the tiny black cat perched on the end of her broomstick. “Totally phased out there. Almost forgot that we’re out here to do a job. Shame we gotta waste a perfectly good day on work.”
“Look at it this way, hon,” the cat said telepathically, “is your day really as bad off as the day of those folks flying in that plane over yonder?” The cat turned its head off to the right, seemingly looking at nothing the way cats tend to do.
“Yeah,” Celeste said, averting her eyes from the cat, “but do they really count? I mean, yeah, it’s a bummer they’re gonna die along with what’s his face, but that’s just how things play out. I’m NOT going to die, so how I feel obviously has way more merit than their feelings. My being bummed out that I have to work means way more than their impending doom because I’ll still be alive to feel bummed after the fact. You have to be alive to vote, right? So you better be alive to have your feelings count, too.”
“Just trying to put it in perspective, hon,” the cat projected as it casually walked along the broomstick, nestling its head against Celeste’s leg. “We all can’t be so cold-hearted.”
“Hey! I’m not cold-hearted!” Celeste said, feigning annoyance. “Cold-hearted is when you think what you’re doing is wrong but try to act all cool when you do it. I’m– um– what do you call it when someone does things that other people think is wrong but you think it’s perfectly OK?”
“I think they call that a sociopath, hon.”
Celeste pouted. “I think I like cold-hearted better.”
Celeste and her cat drifted aimlessly about the sky. Celeste bided her time ogling a croissant-shaped cloud, doing her best to position her broomstick so she has a perfect view of that savory cloud while maintaining her rendezvous point above the Ural Mountains. Just as that confectionary cloud started to drift out of sight, the cat perked up and stared intently in the same direction as before. “I can hear the mark’s thoughts, so he’s within range. And– well– how do I put this right?”
“Spill it, Josie,” Celeste said as she kicked the back of her broom, sparkles raining off the bristles on the end. “What’s the situation?”
“Escorts. Two of them flying along side the airliner. Pets. And a Girl’s on board the airliner. And– they just caught my psychic eavesdropping.”
“Ironic, ain’t it, that Ms. CCCP is cruising above Russia?” a slow, deep voice laughed within the minds of Celeste and Josie.
“Yeah, and your Berlin Wall’s gonna go down just like Russia’s did too! Gleep! Gleep!” another high-pitched voice added.
“Shut up, Ultragleep!” a third, young, feminine voice shouted across the telepathic airwaves. “And you too, Camera. Now they know that we know that they’re coming. And even thought we know that they know that we know they’re coming, that means JACK SQUAT! This is why we suck at this stuff!”
The arguing continued, but Josie turned off her telepathic relay before the bickering got real juicy.
“How long do you reckon they’ll go on like that?” Josie asked via her normal telepathic link with Celeste.
“A good two minutes,” Celeste said as she gave her broom one last kick. “Let’s book it!”
A massive explosion of sparkles, stars, and fireworks erupted from the broom’s bristles and Celeste rocketed off at reckless speed towards her mark.
“Ok, so my guesstimates kinda suck,” Celeste said, sticking out her tongue and bopping the side of her head. In the same fluid motion, Celeste dipped the front of her broomstick directly down, sending her flying downward to dodge a bright yellow boomerang-shaped laser that erupted from behind a cloud. The boomerbeam twisted back around and dipped downward as well, following Celeste’s path. Celeste bobbed and weaved about the sky, doing her best to shake off the magic-seeking laser blast, twirling about with the attack like it was her ballroom dance partner before it finally dissipated.
A chimpanze decked out in a silver zentai suit trimmed in red and blue burst out from his cloud cover and struck an awfully tacky sentai hero pose. “Gleep! Gleep! You may have dodged Ultragleep’s first attack, but can you handle DOUBLE the Banana Blast?” Ultragleep reared back and somersaulted forward, firing off one laser from his fists and another from the tip of his tail.
Celeste patiently waited for the two blasts to wrap around the sky, one coming from the left and the other coming from the right. Just as the two reached her position in the sky, she kicked her broomstick one more time, sending it rocketing straight up into the air, allowing the two beams to crash into one another.
The fluorescent explosion that followed reeked of rotting bananas.
“Josie,” Celeste said sweetly as her hands began to glow brightly, “be a buddy and distract Ultragleep while I catch up with the others.”
“And just how do you expect me to deal with him when he’s way over there,” Josie looked at Ultragleep, who was throwing a mid-air tantrum over missing his target again, “while the plane we need to take down is over there.” Josie then turned her attention to the 767 in the distance.
Celeste said nothing, allowing the giant bazooka-like cannon that had just manifested in her arms do all the talking.
Josie sighed. “Josie Beam?”
Celeste nodded. “Josie Beam.”
Josie reluctantly hopped into the barrel of the cannon–
“I gots the cat scratch fever!” Ultragleep relayed to his master on board the airliner while Josie laid into him with her claws. “Celeste’s on her way!”
Inside the plane, a tomboyish girl sat in first class. Despite her luxurious accommodations– complimentary sweets and personal movie player and fluffy pillows– she looked rather perturbed. “Whatever. You suck. You get that Camera?”
“Affirmative, A-OK, and Okiedoke,” Camera’s monotone droned, “Plan B ready to go.”
The girl hopped up, knelt in her seat, and peeked at the man sitting behind her. “Mr. Smith. Time for Plan B.”
The man, a burly-looking sort of Middle Eastern origin (Who was obviously not the sort who would ever be named Mr. Smith.), nodded and grabbed his suitcase from under his seat. With that, the girl reached into her shorts pocket and pulled out a dagger that shone with a decidedly pink sheen. She stood up in her seat, lifted the blade into the air, and began to glow with pastel brightness.
“Justice and beauty to which I have sworn; Allow Pastel Ghost Patty to be born!”
With her transformation complete, Patty swiped her knife towards “Mr. Smith,” and with that motion a faint pink bubble appeared over his head. She then grabbed the man by the arm and phased the two of them through the bottom of the plane. Dangling in the sky, Patty could see Celeste quickly approaching on her broomstick.
“Camera! He’s out! Take him!”
With Patty’s command, a small turtle shell with pipes and cogs adorning it spun around in the sky to her position– from every opening in the shell spewed forth fire and smoke. When it stopped, out from one of the holes in the shell popped a sharp-beaked turtle head with what appeared to be a telescoping camera lens in place of one of his eyes. “Mr. Smith” nodded, signifying that he was ready, and Camera grabbed a hold of the man’s collar with his mouth and rocketed straight up into the sky.
“Ha!” Patty shouted at Celeste at the top of her lungs. “Camera’s totally gonna beat you to Sky City, and you know you can’t off this dude once he sets foot up there. Suck it!”
Ignoring Patty’s taunt, Celeste grabbed hold of her broom with all of her might and tilted her broom straight up into the sky to follow Camera and head him off at the pass.
For a flying turtle, Camera’s pretty fast. But flying turtles come in far speedier varieties as well, and Camera’s variety isn’t nearly as fast as Celeste’s broomstick. But give that turtle an A for effort. He got about a half of a mile away from Sky City’s position just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere before Celeste got within range and blasted “Mr. Smith” into gooey bits with her magical rocket bazooka.
Camera just shrugged at Celeste. It wasn’t the first time she had blasted one of his customers out of his mouth.
“Aw, don’t give me that look,” Celeste said as she saw Camera’s depressed look. “Come over here.”
Camera flew over to Celeste, who was now well outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, and sat down on Celeste’s broomstick. She patted the turtle on the head, and Camera’s depressed expression turned slightly less down with the gesture.
Celeste looked all around her, taking in the majestic stars and the moon shining above her. It wasn’t quite as beautiful as the brisk Russian sky she just left, especially since there wasn’t any oxygen to breathe in and her own magical supply would run out shortly, but it was something of a consolation prize to take a little magical-enhanced cruise out in space.
Or at least it would have been a nice alternative if she hadn’t realized that she had unfinished business back on Earth.
Celeste caught up with the airliner before it finished crossing the Ural Mountains. She managed to blast it with a well-placed rocket bazooka shot so that it would crash into the mountains. Anyone that was in the know would realize something was up and that the flight’s “crash” was something more than an on-board malfunction, but those people in the know rarely went around announcing things like “Flight 673 goes down because of magical bazooka blast.” Black box tapes talking about pink lights and animals seen flying outside of passenger windows will be covered up and the crash will just be a crash.
Not that Flight 673 had to go down, since “Mr. Smith” was taken out by other means, but why lead any dangling threads like people mysteriously disappearing from first class. This way, “Mr. Smith” went down with the plane. Simple, sweet, and clean.
“But you know, Celeste,” Patty said as the two of them shared some cheesecake at a Parisian cafe later that afternoon, “I could have called up one of my buddies to mind wipe those guys after the fact. We may work opposing sides in this little game, but even I clean up messes like that.”
“But the explosion was so pretty!” Celeste said as she took a bite of her cake. “It made a lousy afternoon a little more better.”
Patty sighed and took a bite of her own. “You know, you think you could put a word in for me with your contacts? Ever since I dropped the pro-bono hero work, this goodie goodie merc work just isn’t paying. Maybe I should get in on your gig.”
“That’ll never happen so long as you have Ultragleep,” Celeste said as she took a sip of her coffee. “You know I’m not one to say stuff like this, but he sucks.”
Patty smirked. “How much you want to off the monkey?”
“Get a hold of my secretary and we’ll work something out!” Celeste said cheerfully as she handed Patty a business card:
Celestial Cleaner Celeste (with Pussycat)
For All Your Cleaning Needs
+XX XX XXX XXXX