I looked over at J.Lo. He was alert, no more fake yawns and heavy eyes.
“They are probably to shooting at them,” he said.
I looked back at the horizon. “The Gorg, you mean? They’re shooting?”
“The Boov,” he answered. “They are probably to shooting at the Gorg. We will not be ables to see.”
I realized what he meant. The Boov guns didn’t make any light, and the Gorg ship was too dark to see any damage. But then I saw a flash of light in the big circle of darkness.
“Ha! There,” I said. “Your guys got ’em there! You could see the—”
“No,” said J.Lo.
Then a Boov ship, barely visible in the distance, burst like a flashbulb. It exploded too close to another ship, and that one bled light as it sank as slow as a soap bubble toward the earth. You couldn’t hear the Gorg fire their guns from here, but the destruction of each Boov ship was loud like a firework in your skull. Suddenly the Boovish weapons, which had always seemed so sneaky and sinister, seemed almost like a gentle way to kill.
There was another flash from the Gorg, and two seconds later a third ship went down. The fourth turned fast and headed back toward us, but it wasn’t any use. Another flash, and the glass bowl was full of fire that crawled down each hoseleg like they were cigarettes.
I had come to a stop without meaning to.
“I would like to keep driving,” said J.Lo.
Before I could answer, there was another flash in the darkness.
“That’s weird,” I said. “They fired again, but there aren’t—”
The blast punched hard into the ground, about fifty yards from Slushious, and pushed up a tidal wave of dirt and weeds that rained down as we rolled from the shock. Pig screeched and tumbled around the cabin. A moment later we were right-side up again, with a broken back window and a missing fin. The new one, of course.
“AAAAAAAAA!” J.Lo shouted. “DriveDriveDriveDriveDrive!”
I turned off the road and into the desert. Slushious started off slowly, too slowly, but then we got a push as another Gorg barrage exploded behind us.
“They…they aren’t really shooting at us, right?” I said. I couldn’t believe it.
“Oh, no,” said J.Lo, “they are probably just playing a little jokeYES THEY ARE SHOOTING AT US!”
The Gorg backed J.Lo up by way of destroying a small mountain just to our left. I swerved and hit the gas.
“But…from there? They’re shooting at us from, like, Mexico?”
A convenience store ahead of us erupted in a mushroom cloud of flame and old magazines. J.Lo gestured at it impatiently.
“Okay! Okay!” I shouted. “They’re shooting at us! I just thought maybe it was a coincidence.”
“Oh, yes. You are always having to be right about everything. If Gratuity says it is a coincidence—”
Another explosion sent Slushious into a tailspin and spared me from the rest of J.Lo’s point.
“Superfuel?” I asked, feeling sick.
“Alls gone! Nothing even to clone.”
“What do I do?”
“Just keep to driving! They will lose us soon.” There was another blast, but farther away. “We are wicked lucky to be small and hard to hit. The Gorg probably only were noticing us because the Boov flied so close.”
The blasts had stopped. But I kept driving farther into the desert, herding a pack of terrified coyotes ahead of me. I looked back to check on Pig, who was cleaning herself spitefully on a floor mat. Then I looked at J.Lo.
“I’m sorry,” I said. It was such a useless thing to say.
“Yes,” said J.Lo. “We should not always try to fight them in this way. It has not ever worked.”
“We couldn’t see the Gorg ship. Maybe you Boov did a lot of damage.”
J.Lo didn’t answer.
“We’ll figure out something new,” I said. “Maybe your people and my people will figure out some new way together.”
J.Lo smiled a little, quickly, then faced forward again. “We haveto drive more north. We are having to put more space between us and the Nimrogs.”
“Right,” I said. “What?”
“We haveto drive more—”
“There are Nimrogs now, too?” I asked. “Who are they?”
J.Lo fiddled with the tape player to tilt his seat back. “All Gorg are Nimrogs. All Nimrogs are now Gorg, also, but they did not always used to be.”
“I can’t even imagine what we’re talking about.”
“We are talking about the Nimrog race. Tip says she is going to get rid of them.”
“Yeah,” I breathed. I suddenly felt like I’d promised to lift a horse over my head. “But…what is Gorg…like, a nickname?”
“Oh, no. Gorg is their real name. Gratuity is Tip’s real name,” he said, then he made a noise like a drowning yodeler—“OOOlahluhlaaharlHEEdoo is J.Lo’s real name. Taker is their nickname. They have many other nicknames; they are given them alls the time. Some people call them poomps, pardon my languages.”
I tried to stay calm. “So all the Nimrogs…all of them…are named Gorg?”
“All of them?”
“Alls of them, yes.”
“How…how many are there?” I asked.
“How many Nimrogs?”
“How many Gorg.”
“They are the same thing.”
“Then why did you ask?”
“There are many, manys Nimrogs. As many as they are wanting. They can always make more.”
“I swear I will crash the car into a coyote if you don’t start making sense.”
“Ah,” said J.Lo. “Hm. Ahhh…long ago, before perhaps Tip was born…How many years are you?”
“Eleven and a half.”
J.Lo wheezed and sat upright. “Eleven! You have only eleven years? When I was eleven I was barely out of my inflatable training clothes.”
“Back to the Nimrogs,” I said.
“Yes. The Nimrogs had once many names. Like the Boov. Like the humans. But the Nimrogs, these are so awful they can not to even get along with themselfs. They fight each other—over land, over ideas. When alls the land belongs to one group of Nimrogs who think the same ideas, they find reasons for fighting one another. The right-handers fight the left-handers. Then the left-handers who enjoy musical theater fight at the left-handers who do not enjoy musical theater. And sos on. One day only two Nimrogs remain, named Aarfux and Gorg. Aarfux falls for the old your-shoelace-is-untied trick, and then there is only Gorg.”