Part 13 - Trying Very Hard Not To

Edna only nodded. “Is it always so… piecemeal?” she asked, eyeing the men who had threatened - as part of galactic law - to stone them.

“No,” Highmond said, shaking his head sadly, “I’m afraid these poor chaps have had a bad shake of things. It’s the only reason I’ve not given them a stern what-for about calling my zeppelin a blimp.” He shuddered as he said it.

“I’d say they’re living in at least four different timelines,” Pythagoras added, “It’s hard to say which, if any, is even their own.”

“That’s very sad,” said Edna, grabbing the watch in her pocket and squeezing. The riders pulled alongside them, surrounding the ship.

“Hm. Yes, terrible thing,” Highmond said, distracted by climbing up the railing, then he yelled, “It’s a zeppelin! A blimp is a glorified balloon, you absolute tots!” He sighed a long sigh, staying at his perch on the second highest rail.

“Better?” Edna asked.

“What?! Oh, er, yes. Of course. Thank you.” He said, turning back to her. Then, once more yelling out at their would-be stoners, “Blimps go flaccid if you take the air out! A zeppelin has structure - dignity - GRACE!”

“We don’t care!” one of them called. Outrage poured from Highmond in a frenzy of involuntary words that strung together with no meaning or intention. Edna thought it sounded like a bad, staccato, beat poem.

Eventually, when he’d calmed and then climbed down, he straightened his posture and jacket while saying, “I apologize. It’s possible that was about more than the inherent superiority of zeppelins to blimps.” His companions only nodded, so he took a quick stab of breath through his nose and said, “Well! I suppose there’s nothing left but to prepare for battle! Pythagoras! Turtoid the harpoons! And I think I shall have my fifth favorite cane, the one with darts, if you please.”

Highmond looked to Edna with barely contained curcitement, which was his patented word for mingled curiosity and excitement - it hadn’t made him any money. “Ms. Star, I must admit, I’ve been very curious to find out what it is you do in these situations. Tell me, how do you prefer to fight?”

Edna’s battle prowess was as famous as it was enigmatic. She had never been known to lose a fight, but it was hard to say if she had ever won one either. Not a soul had the faintest idea how she had taken down the TitanoShark, for instance; or how she had, without any weapons, defeated Laser-Captain Swordgun; or especially why there were so often pianos being carelessly moved into third-story lofts directly above her enemies. Neither witnesses nor fellow combatants could do more than stumble through retellings of how she had, they thought, done a lot of falling? But, they meant to say, impressively?

Edna of course knew exactly what her strategy was, and she told it to Highmond in the exact way she always did when asked how she fought.

“I try very hard not to.”

This only worked for her, she knew, because she meant it. Violence was one of the things Edna Star hated most about adventuring. Her colleagues went round punching enemies into submission, throwing henchmen through windows and walls, or slinging knives and bullets at anyone with an evil laugh. The truth was punching hurts your hand, someone had to clean up that wall, and weapons - doing what they were designed to do - were gruesome to behold. It was one thing to swing a sword in an elegant dance of mind and body, flowing through the air like wind through a tree. It was another thing entirely for the wind to kick that tree to the ground, stab it in the heartwood, and wipe the sap on its sleeves.

So Edna tried, with every cell of her power, to take no part in violence, which had only made her the best at it.

Highmond, who knew none of this context and all of Edna’s reputation, said, “I—well yes of course. Violence is always the last resort.

Edna sighed internally. Violence is always the last resort, and its variations, was one of those things adventurers said that sounded good but meant nothing. The last resort is, by definition, whatever you try last, and fighting has a tendency to leave one side unable to continue.

“Pythagoras,” she said, “Would you mind also, while you take care of those other things, landing the zeppelin,” she gave Highmond a careful look and he nodded thrice - first to her, then to Pythagoras to confirm the order, then to her again. Pythagoras walked away in several directions at once, being sure to grumble from each.

At the same time, another of his bodies came out through the door. It took up the grumbling, mumbling around the cane it had clenched in its jaw. Highmond took the walking stick from this Pythagoras, and Edna saw that it looked like an impractically long revolver - loaded with large, colorful darts.

She nodded now - just once - and climbed up the railing to where Highmond had been. Their new acquaintances had all drawn rocks from what looked like gun holsters on their hips. Edna called out to them, “Hi! Yes, no need for rock throwing; we’re landing as soon as we can manage it. In the meantime, I’m Edna, you’ve met Highmond here, and those are Pythagoras.” She pointed at all the visible turtoids. “What are your names?”

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