Pizza Margherita! Part 1 of 3

When killer vegetables attack, pizza bites back!

In honor of National Pizza Day, we present this three-part short story featuring the sauciest—and cheesiest!—magical girl in all of Urbanopolis: Space Princess Pizza Margherita! Enjoy this story I decided to write just now … and did!

This is an official prequel to Jake and the Dynamo!

Pizza Margherita!
A Tale from Urbanopolis

Part 1 of 3

READ PART 2 | READ PART 3

Midnight. In the midst of a sea of coldly twinkling stars, the full moon hung over Urbanopolis, and in the Sea of Serenity, the lights of the Eternal Kingdom were steady, clear, and unblinking. Down below, the citizens of man’s last city slumbered peacefully in their beds. It was a cool night, a clear night, a calm night. As the Urbanopolitans love to say, The Moon Princess is in her sailor suit, and all’s right with the world.

But hark! A crash of breaking glass! The lonely, frantic wail of an alarm! Once again, an evildoer has shattered the city’s peace—for there is no rest for the wicked.

In the lavish, velvet-carpeted lobby of the Unnatural History Museum, the night guards made their final stand. Armed only with nightsticks and conventional firearms, they stood no chance against the slavering, vicious horde that skittered through the smashed glass entryway. Foul, greenish beasts, their backs covered in rustling leaves and their insect-like limbs crackling with every twist and bend, poured in like a flood. The guards overturned tables and display cases to set up a barrier, but it did no good. The creatures swept them aside, heedless of the bullets from the guards’ pistols. They picked up screaming men who begged for their lives or called for their mothers, and threw them whole into their slavering maws. Deep in their gullets, the drowning, dying men dissolved in the monsters’ digestive vegetable juices. These monstrosities were neither animal nor mineral: they were the Salad Soldiers, carnivorous plants grown in the volcanic wilds of the Earth’s hollow core. In man’s last days, these fell creatures had ascended to the surface to claim their place as the planet’s new overlords.

Once they had devoured the men, they shrank away from the shattered glass at the museum’s front entrance. They hunkered down, trembled, and cowered, for into their midst walked their master, the caesar of this salad, King Tosser himself.

A great cape fluttered at his back, but it was no article of clothing: it was a single leaf sprouting from his shoulders. Formerly, the Salad Soldiers gathered light from the luminous crystals that grew like fungus from the walls of their subterranean home. Before, deprived of true sunlight, they had been weak, sickly, and pale. But now, having crawled to the surface where they could feel the full effects of the sun, they were a deep green, and they had waxed great and strong. King Tosser himself stood seven feet tall. He was thin, and by human standards appeared emaciated, but the enormous leaf on his back had made him powerful, filling him with energy that he pulled down from the sky. Whenever he walked the bare ground, his root-like toes dug into the soil and pull up the vital nutrients that leant enormous strength to his limbs. He alone among the Salad Soldiers was hermaphroditic: on the top of his head was a foot-tall bulb that once a year blossomed into a great white flower from which he bore the fruit that became his monstrous offspring.

Leaning on his barb-tipped Asparagus Spear, he fingered the huge green jewel on his necklace, the Heart of Artichoke, emblem of his office. His great, pale eyes surveyed the vast room. It was a full three stories tall, and its entire ceiling was a glass dome through which the full, heavy moon cast a pale, funereal light. Below that, two stories up, an elevated balcony rimmed the walls. Display cases lay on the thickly carpeted floor, shattered. Their contents, the most incredible secrets of the once-great human race, were scattered like a child’s forgotten toys. Here was the one surviving copy of the second book of Aristotle’s Poetics. There lay a poorly transcribed but nonetheless invaluable Necronomicon. Over here was a fragment of a spacecraft taken from Area 51 before the burning of Old America. Buzzing in a corner was a faintly glowing hole, thirty feet wide, hovering in midair. This interdimensional portal had previously floated in the Bermuda Triangle. Against one wall, undisturbed, lay an entire row of cursed mummies who had taken the lives of innumerable over-curious archaeologists. Hanging on the back wall, nearly three stories tall and reaching almost to the museum’s glass dome, were the partially reconstructed Caspian Gates, made of shining adamant, which Alexander the Great had erected in the Caucasus to hold back the hordes of Gog and Magog.

These wonders received nothing but a snort of derision from King Tosser. With his long and slender legs, he strolled quickly toward the Caspian Gates. They loomed so large, the display directly beneath them was almost unnoticeable: on a raised dais, under a case of glass, was a green leaf.

Tosser’s tendril-like fingers touched the glass and stuck to it like clinging vines. “At last,” he whispered. “At last we have it—the Garnish of Gilgamesh, the plant that granted the god-man his enormous strength. It is a vegetable so perfect, so nutritious, that any who eat of it gain power over all creatures. With this, at last, we will claim the Earth as our own and cleanse it of these foul mammals. Lord Shadow will be most pleased.”

The alarm ringing through the museum suddenly ceased. Tosser’s mirthless mouth turned down at the silence.

Rimming the glass dome overhead was a narrow ledge. A figure appeared upon it, silhouetted against the pale moon. Then, a spotlight! Somewhere in the high balcony, a light turned on with a heavy thump, and a pure, white beam struck the figure, revealing her to be a teenage girl in a red-and-white checkered minidress. On her legs, she wore white stockings, and on her feet, red high-heeled pumps. Her soft brown hair curled around her head. Over her dress, she wore an apron emblazoned with the shining symbol of a pizza pie!

“Evildoers beware,” cried the girl, “for I toss the dough of justice, and justice is never half-baked! Saucy, spicy, and a little bit sweet, I am Magical Girl Space Princess Pizza Margherita! I have come for you at last, King Tosser! This caper ends now!”

“I’m fresh out of capers,” Tosser sneered, “but I do have this garnish!” With his tendril-like fingers, he smashed the glass case and plucked the leaf. From under his cape, he produced a Mason jar and thrust the leaf inside. Using the heat he had absorbed from the sun, he cooked the jar and screwed its lid on tight, hermetically sealing it.

Another teen girl, this one in simple jeans and a salmon pea coat, ran from the huge spotlight she’d been manning and leaned over the balcony’s brass rail. “Margherita! He’s canned it!”

“Don’t worry, Annie,” Margherita said. “I’ll get him!”

Tosser snarled. “So, Anne Shové, you’re here as well. I see Pizza Margherita still keeps you as a pet!”

Onto the railing leapt a Dalmatian puppy, who bared his fangs and barked, “I’m the pet!” His feet slipped. Annie grabbed him before he could tumble over the side.

“Pepper, Annie,” Margherita called, “stay there! I’ll take care of the Salad Soldiers!”

She stretched out her hand, and a rope of stringy mozzarella cheese shot from her sleeve. It enwrapped a conveniently located flagpole and, with a whoop, Margherita swung toward the floor. As she did, she reached into a pocket of her apron and pulled forth a handful of razor-edged pepperoni slices. She flicked them into the midst of the Salad Soldiers, who screamed and flailed as the pepperoni dug deep into their vegetable skin and polluted their pristine, healthy, high-fiber innards with fat and preservatives.

“Curses!” snarled Tosser. He shoved the Mason jar under his cape and strode toward the entrance, but Margherita landed in front of him.

Thrusting out her hands, she shouted, “Pizza Sauce of Power!”

Boiling tomato sauce sprang from her palms. Tosser hissed and drew back, but three of his soldiers jumped into the path of the deadly stream, shielding him. They screamed and then fell silent as they were instantly marinaded to death. Their steaming corpses smelled delicious.

Now the Salad Soldiers swarmed Margherita. She reached into her apron again and pulled forth a glinting, steely pizza slicer. “Vorpal Slicer!” she cried, and the tool expanded until it was as long as a staff, and its great spinning blade was a full two feet across. She spun it overhead and then swung it in a wide, deadly arc. Wherever the blade touched, the Salad Soldiers lost legs, arms, stalks, roots, and cabbage-like heads. They screamed as their blue-green sap poured forth like blood.

 


 

Meanwhile, on the balcony, Annie pulled out a camcorder, pointed it toward the melee below, and filmed.

“The light’s too low,” she whined. “We’ve got to get to a better spot!”

Pepper wagged his tail and yipped. “Princess Margherita knows what she’s doing! She wants us to stay here, Annie!”

“But I have to film her exploits! I have to!”

“Does it really matter if you don’t get just one battle on tape?”

Annie trembled. Her steady breathing instantly transformed into ragged gasps. With a shaking hand, she reached behind herself and muttered, “If I can’t film her, I might … I might … I might just do something else … !”

From the sheath on her back, she pulled a huge kitchen knife, and she released a burst of mirthless, manic laughter.

Pepper swallowed. “Okay, well, um … maybe we can get to a better spot—”

Annie, with a camcorder in one hand and a knife in the other, ran toward the door beneath the glowing “EXIT” sign and staggered down the concrete stairwell toward the floor below.

“Have to film,” she muttered. “Have to, have to film! Have to film every single magnificent, amazing deed of wonderful, pure, perfect Pizza Margherita!”

“That girl’s a loon,” Pepper whispered as he ran after.

 


 

On the ground floor, Pizza Margherita and King Tosser went at it hammer and tongs. In Tosser’s case, he was literally using tongs—the Tongs of Infamy, a great fork and spoon that he wielded together so flawlessly, they were like a single weapon. Twirling her Vorpal Slicer in her delicate fingers, its shining blade whirring and spinning like a top, Margherita parried his blows and gave several of her own.

“You can’t possibly stop me, Pizza!” Tosser scoffed.

“That’s where you’re wrong! Enough pizza will stop up anybody!”

“Soon I shall be all-powerful, and then the people of Urbanopolis, whose mothers tell them to eat their vegetables, shall instead be eaten by their vegetables!”

“Fat chance!”

You’re the one who’ll get fat, Margherita, what with all the pizza you scarf!”

“Never!”

The Vorpal Slicer swung down, but Tosser caught the blade in the tines of his fork and twisted it to the side. “Seriously, you’re getting a bit heavy in the thighs. You’re not going to be seventeen forever, you know, so you should start thinking about your diet.”

“And I should probably get some exercise?”

“You look like you could use some.”

“Then how about I play Kick the Can?” With a war whoop, Margherita lashed out with her left leg, bringing the toe of her pump up in a vicious swipe through Tosser’s cape. He shrieked as the Mason jar spun into the air.

Behind him, the door to the stairwell burst open, and Anne Shové ran out.

“Margherita, Tosser! Great shot! Hold that pose for just a second—!”

“Annie!” shouted Margherita. “Grab the jar!”

“Huh?”

The Mason jar struck Annie squarely on the head, bounced to the floor, and rolled to Tosser’s feet. With a snort, he picked it up and tucked it under his cape again. Then, in a few quick bounds, he was at Annie’s side. Extruding rope-like vines from his torso, he bound her arms and legs and drew her to his side.

“Annie!” Margherita cried.

“Foolish girl!” Tosser cackled. “I never did think that Anne Shové went well with Pizza Margherita!”

“Let her go, you … you … you Tosser!”

Triumphantly holding the Garnish of Gilgamesh high overhead, Tosser roared, “Come, my minions, my soldiers! At last, our plans will bear fruit! Tonight, Urbanopolis! Tomorrow, the world!” With that, he swept his leafy cape about Annie and leapt toward the interdimensional portal from the Bermuda Triangle. Annie screamed, but as soon as she dropped out of three-space, her voice fell silent. With snarls and snaps, the Salad Soldiers who had survived Margherita’s onslaught leapt after. In a moment, Margherita and Pepper stood alone in the ruined museum.

Margherita slowly sank to the floor. “Annie!” she sobbed. “Oh, Annie!” She buried her face in her hands.

Pepper ran to her and poked his wet nose against her knee. “We’ll get her back, Margherita! Remember, before the mission, you gave her a green stuffed olive for luck!”

“Yes?” Margherita struggled to wipe away her tears.

“So, I thought it would be a good idea to replace the pimento with a tracking device!”

Immediately, Margherita stopped crying. Leaning on her Vorpal Slicer for support, she rose shakily to her feet. “That means … that means we can find King Tosser’s secret lair!”

“Exactly!”

“Pepper, you’re brilliant!” She reached down and scratched the puppy behind his ears. He gleefully wagged his tail.

“Just one question,” Margherita said, “and I want you to be honest.”

“Yes?”

“My legs … are they fat?”

Pepper swallowed audibly, and his tail instantly froze.

To be continued …

READ PART 2 | READ PART 3