The Phoenix Movie

First the apologies:

1. The choppy quality. *Groans* I know, I know…one day, I hope to have a graphics processor that can handle higher quality graphics and recording.

2. The story is different. Yes, like any movie inspired by a book, the story is somewhat different. It isn’t always easy to fit an entire novel into two hours…um, I mean, minutes.

That said, I hope you enjoy the show!

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Chapter 28: The Sacrifice

Chess.

I kid you not. Arvid Bergfalk had asked Mac to let him challenge me, Xifeng Jin the Chess Goddess, to a game of chess.

“If she wins,” Arvid pointed a thumb toward me, “then she and her little human boyfriend get to go free. But if I win,” he paused, rubbing his fingers together with a greedy expression, “then I get to torture them both. Slowly.”

Mac’s face stretched into an eerie smile. “Bring us a chess set!” he demanded to Lennie the mullet-boy, who appeared minutes later with a chess set.

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I sat down, glaring at Arvid. He knew that he had never once beaten me in a chess match. Now he was going to just let me win, then let Aksel and me go free? It seemed too easy.

Arvid narrowed his bug-like eyes and gestured toward the board. “Ladies first,” he said. I snorted, then reached across to pick up a pawn. This was going to be a piece of cake.

Next thing I knew, I was staring at the chess board, mouth hanging open. “Checkmate?” I said in horror. “How on Earth?”

“Well you see,” said Arvid, “we’re not on Earth.”

I’m not sure what was worse – losing a chess match to Arvid Bergfalk, or getting tied up and tormented by him a few minutes later.

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“Please just let us go,” I begged as he held the sharp tip of a sword to my chin. “Please, Arvid. Our girls need us.”

Arvid’s voice was quiet. “Our girls? There is another?” He backed away from me. “Where are they?” He stepped behind Aksel and raised the sword to his neck. “Tell me now!”

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“No!” My voice quaked. “They’re in hiding! We found a spaceship. They – we were going to go back to Earth.”

“You found my ship?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, feeling sick. Now he knew. Even if by some miracle we got out of this alive, he would hide the ship again, and we would never get home.

“Good,” he said, his voice even quieter. Good? I blinked. “The ship has just enough fuel to get back to earth. It will guide you there. I’ve used my sword to cut through your ties. When I turn my back, just pull, and they should break free.”

“What’s the catch?” Aksel’s voice hung with suspicion.

“Take care of my little girl,” said Arvid. “Raise her well. Raise her to be strong, like you, Phoenix.”

“I will,” I said.

Arvid turned toward the crowd of Bixsians, who were too busy laughing and dancing to notice Aksel and me as we broke free from our restraints and escaped into the night.

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We didn’t stop running until we were halfway up the mountainside. By the time we reached the Place of the Sun and the Moon, where the spacecraft was hidden, I had a stitch in my side, and my coal-burned feet were screaming in agony.

“Mom!” Meiying called out. Then both girls came running toward us, flinging themselves into our arms. Our little family was together again, safe and sound.

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But our joy didn’t last long.

Aksel inspected the spaceship then returned to me, his face etched with worry. “It’s not going to work,” he said. “There’s not enough room for all four of us in the ship.”

My heart dropped into my stomach. “There has to be a way! We can squeeze in tight.”

He shook his head. “It will be a tight squeeze for three people. But look.” He placed a hand on my arm. “You take the girls and go back to Earth—”

“No!” I shook my head furiously. “No, I can’t—”

“I will stay behind.”

“Aksel, no!” I couldn’t breathe. My eyes spilled over with tears. “Don’t ask me to leave you.”

“It’s the only way to keep our family safe. And besides—” Aksel stroked my cheek with the tips of his finger. “You’ll come back for me some day. I know you will.”

“Of course I will.”

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And so, I did the impossible. I embraced the love of my life until he gently pushed me away. Then I climbed into the tiny spaceship with our daughters, strapped us all in, and powered it up. I took one last, long look at Aksel, who lifted his hand in farewell. Though he couldn’t hear me, I gave him my best Terminator impression, “Ah’ll be bahck.” Then we took to the skies.

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Okay, I won’t bore you with the details of the trip back to Earth, which was kind of long and involved a lot of gross freeze-dried food packs and games like, “I’m going to the moon, and I’m bringing carrots, bananas, and apples.” Which is harder than it sounds, because my daughters had never seen a banana.

But anyway, we made it home. No, not to Finland. We went home to China, where my now-much-older parents and grandparents welcomed us with open arms and even a few tears. And that’s saying a lot, because Chinese families aren’t into displaying that much emotion.

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“What is wrong with this one’s ears?” asked Nai Nai, frowning at Jia.

“Nothing.” I tucked Jia’s otherworldly ears under her hat, thankful that something in the earth’s atmosphere had caused her green skin to fade to the same soft peach color as her sister’s. “Lots of people in Finland have pointy ears.”

And so, the Jinn-Arild-Bergfalk family became Chinese. The girls began attending a Chinese school and learning the Chinese way of life. They quickly became fluent in Chinese, though they often interchanged it with Finnish.

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And me? Well, as soon as I could figure out a fuel that would power the little spacecraft, I was planning to make a beeline straight toward the planet of Bixsi to rescue Aksel and bring him home. Even if that meant bringing along a stack of Run DMC and LL Cool J albums to barter with Mac. It was a crazy plan, I knew. But I was being very smart about it. I had even gone back to school to pursue my old dream of becoming a real, bona fide astronaut. Yeah, I know. Kind of late in life. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is this: it is never too late to begin again.

THE END

(Coming soon — The Phoenix Music Video!!)

Chapter 27: It’s Time to Get Ill

There are a lot of things I miss from Earth. But the Beastie Boys are definitely not one of them.

Too bad for me, because the next morning, a crowd of aliens gathered around our cage, staring like we were exotic, dangerous zoo animals. Mac stood among them, gazing down at us with his round, amphibious eyes.

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I yawned, barely awake. “What’s going on?” I asked him. “What time is it?”

A gleeful grin stretched across Mac’s face. He burst out rapping, of course. “My name is Mac D, I’ve got a license to kill. I think you know what time it is – it’s time to get ill!”

Yeah. I was starting to feel ill, all right.

I felt even worse when I figured out what Mac had planned. Apparently, people on this planet had been very entertained watching The Human Show live 24/7 on Bixsi TV. Aksel and I were celebrity freaks, broadcasting our miserable little lives via hidden cameras.

They know everything, Arvid had said. Did they know about Meiying, too? Did they know about the place with the spaceship, where our girls were hiding right now, waiting for our return? I shivered.

“Let the live show begin!” Mac said in a booming voice as the audience cheered. What live show, you ask? The one where Aksel and I were forced to participate in a series of stupid games and stunts while a mob of kooky-looking E.T.s egged us on.

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Aksel’s hot-dog eating contest wasn’t too bad. As for me, Mac and Lennie forced me to walk across a bed of scorching hot coals while Mac beatboxed in the background. Talk about torture. The beatboxing, not the coals.

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“This is the most retarded and humiliating thing I’ve ever had to do!” I said to Mac as I tried to cool the burned soles of my feet.

Mac frowned. “Retarded is a derogatory and insulting term, human.”

“Fine!” I screamed back. “This is the most riggamatarded thing I’ve ever had to do. Happy now?”

Mac regarded me, eyes narrowing. “Not quite.”

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I guess he wasn’t too impressed with my outburst. Because the next thing I knew, Aksel and I were facing each other with swords. Like, sharp, actual swords.

“A fight to the death!” Mac announced.

My mouth dropped open. “Are you for real?” Apparently he was for real. Aksel and I had no choice. We had to swordfight until one of us died. Or else we both would die.

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The thing is, there was no way on earth…or on Bixsi, that I was about to kill the love of my life. I’m pretty sure Aksel felt the same way. But still, we probably had to at least make it look like we were trying, right? So we picked up the swords (man, they were heavy!) and swung them back and forth, clinking them together the way swordfighters did on movies. We got away with this for a little while. But then, one of my blows was too hard, or Aksel was off balance. He staggered, then dropped to one knee.

“Finish him!” Mac roared, just like in a game of Mortal Kombat. The crowd took up the cry and began to chant. “Finish him! Finish him!” Which for a second, almost made me laugh, because Aksel is Finnish. Get it?

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Okay, not the time for laughing, obvi. So I stood there, sword trembling in my sweaty hand, not knowing what the heck I should do next, when all of a sudden, this familiar face emerged from the crowd.

Arvid Bergfalk.

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Everyone froze – apparently, they all recognized Arvid, too, thanks to the Human Show. Every eye was on him as he approached Mac.

Arvid caught my eye for a moment, then addressed Mac in a voice loud enough for all to hear. “I have a proposition for you,” he said.

Chapter 26: George and Lennie, Alien-Style

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Never let your guard down. I should have thought about it like chess. Even when you think you’ve it made; even when you know that you’re only three moves away from checkmate, you never let your guard down. Because once you become arrogant, you relax. And that’s when your enemy storms in and attacks. Then it’s game over.

Meiying and Jia spotted them first – two strange figures creeping through the darkened quarry. Jia darted inside and crawled beneath the bed. Meiying froze, just barely managing to squeak out, “M-mom!” in a panicked voice.

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Aksel and I came rushing up from below, where we’d been cleaning up the dinner dishes. We spotted the visitors, who still had not noticed us from across the quarry.

Aksel helped Jia out from beneath the bed, then pulled both girls close. “I want you both to listen to me carefully.” His voice was low, but urgent. “Remember what we discussed? What we planned for?” The girls nodded, trembling. “You have to run. Understand? Don’t talk, don’t make a sound. Just run as fast as you can to the hiding place. Mom and I will come for you as soon as we can. Go – now!

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Our girls turned and fled, as silent as Chaplin, who bounded after them. My throat swelled as they went, but I couldn’t let myself cry. Not now.

“We have to hide, too,” said Aksel. “There’s a chance that they’re not searching for us. They could just be wanderers like us, looking for shelter.”

But they were not wanderers. The moment Aksel and I emerged from our room, we could hear them speaking in the odd Bixsian language I had come to understand well.

“We are not to harm the child,” said one of the aliens in a smooth, commanding voice.. “She is to be returned safely to her family. But the earthlings…”

The other alien let out a shrill, unhuman cackle that made my skin crawl. “The earthlings, the earthlings,” he sang like a kindergartener. It was like listening to an extraterrestrial version of George and Lennie.

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There was a smacking sound, and the laughter stopped. I dared to peer around the corner, then let out a gasp. One of the aliens had a shiny, bulbous head and lizard-like face. He was glaring at the other alien, who had a large, wrestler’s build, a tiny purple head, and – I swear, I am not making this up — a mullet. Scary, I know.

Unfortunately, the aliens heard my gasp and swiveled in my direction. “There’s the human – get her!” said Lizard-face. But before Mullet-head could take a step in my direction, Aksel, my usually non-violent, “let’s talk out our differences” hero, ran up from behind and socked a surprised Mullet-head in the jaw. What!

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Sadly, that was the only violence my Aksel could muster up. He hadn’t really even hurt the alien. But he sure had managed to tick him off. Mullet-head retaliated, his effortless blows knocking Aksel to the floor. He might have even killed him, if I hadn’t prostrated myself in front of Lizard-face. “Please let him live,” I begged. “Please!”

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Lizard-face sighed and rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine, fine. Don’t kill him, Lennie,” he said to Mullet-head.

Wait…his name was actually Lennie?

“Allow me to introduce myself,” said Lizard-face, as Mullet-head – I mean, Lennie, tied Aksel’s and my hands and shoved us into a fancy hover car. “My name is Mac Daddy wicket-wickety-wickety wike! My friends just like me ‘cause I’m sick on the mic.” He paused his rap, studying our faces. “But you can call me Mac for short. Word!”

Apparently, 1980’s earth culture had made a huge impression on the Bixsians.

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After thirty minutes in the car, listening to Mac’s impression of Run-DMC and Lennie’s eerie, childish squeals of glee, I was almost relieved when the aliens finally shoved Aksel and me into a cage. Well, it was a jail cell, technically. But it was outside, in a park. And the door kind of disappeared the moment Mac turned the key. That was it. Our girls were hiding in a cave somewhere, frightened and alone, and Aksel and I were totally trapped like zoo animals.

Game over, man. Game over.

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Chapter 25: The Fugitives

We knew that our happiness wouldn’t last. How could it? As far as the creatures on this planet knew, Aksel and I were fugitives who had escaped captivity and kidnapped an innocent alien child. Half-alien, anyway. They were bound to hunt us down sooner or later.

“We need a safer place to hide,” said Aksel.

I nodded. He was right. Though the quarry had been our safe haven all these years, it was far too large and too easy to find. That’s when I remembered. “I know just the place,” I said. “I mean, we’ll have to explore it just to be sure. But it just may work.”

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That afternoon, we set off on a hike through the mountains, keeping a wary eye out for scouts or aircraft that may be searching for runaway earthlings. After several hours in the scorching heat, we reached the entrance of the mysterious cavern I’d come across long ago.

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Aksel studied the boarded-over entrance with a dubious look. “Too bad we don’t have any flashlights,” he said. We ducked inside, then held hands and crept forward into the blackness. Chaplin, as usual, made no sound, but padded along close to our heels. After awhile, the darkness lessened, and the cavern was bathed in the soft, familiar glow of phosphorescent rocks.

Suddenly, Meiying came to an abrupt stop. “Look!” she cried, pointing. “It’s the sun and the moon! It’s the place, like the ghost lady said!”

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Sure enough, hanging on the stone wall were metal sculptures of the sun and the moon, both flecked with rust. I don’t know why – I mean, the ghost lady hadn’t exactly said what we’d find in this place, but I felt a surge of hope. “We need to keep looking,” I said. “This way!” I had spotted a flight of stairs, and led my family down into a large room. High above our heads, a hole in the cavern ceiling revealed a starry patch of night sky.

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Aksel sucked in his breath sharply and grabbed my arm. I turned, and there it was. A spaceship. Exactly like the one Arvid had been flying the night he abducted me.

Aksel and I let out whoops of glee. The girls bounced up and down, shrieking with excitement. We had a ship! The Jin-Arild family was going home!

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I wanted nothing more than for us to cram inside and get the heck outta there. But Aksel reminded me that we first had to go back to the quarry and gather supplies. “We need food and water for the journey,” he said.

“And we can’t leave Lucille,” said Meiying.

So, with great reluctance, we left our miracle ship behind and trudged back to the quarry. We stuffed as much food as possible into flimsy, homemade backpacks, and gathered a few pails and jugs full of water. At last, we spread out our bedrolls and prepared to spend one last night in our quarry home.

I wish that we hadn’t. I wish that we had chosen to flee that night, to return to the hidden cavern with our supplies. But exhaustion won. And so, when the aliens came that night, they found us.

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Chapter 24: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for You?

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I hate to say it, but I got a surge of pleasure seeing Arvid Bergfalk actually cringe in terror. “Please, don’t shoot, Phoenix,” he begged, voice trembling.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Jia peering around the corner, her eyes extra-wide with shock. “Downstairs, hurry!” I told her. “I’ll meet you there. Go – now!” She turned and ran.

“Phoenix, you don’t want to do this,” said Arvid.

“My name is Xifeng. And yes, I do want to do this,” I said. “You kidnapped Aksel and me from our homes! You’ve tortured and starved us. You forced me to be your…your…” I couldn’t bring myself to say it. I steadied the gun, which shook in my hands, and pressed my fingers against the trigger, ready to squeeze.

Arvid’s voice came out in a panicked whimper. “But I had to do it,” he said. “You don’t understand. They made me treat you that way. They made me. I had no choice.”

I frowned. “Who are you talking about? How can anyone make you—”

Arvid shook his head. “I’m not allowed to say. They’d kill me – my family, too. And they’ll come for you, too. They are watching, Xifeng. They know – they’re com—” His words were cut off by a terrible gurgling, choking sound. Clutching at his throat, Arvid dropped to the floor and was still.

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“Arvid?” I whispered? He didn’t move. I dropped to the floor and checked his pulse, which I figured wasn’t too different from a human pulse. It was still there, beating hard. He hadn’t dropped dead – only fainted, or something. I don’t know why I felt relieved. I had meant to kill him, and maybe I would have. I don’t know.

I left him there on the floor and fled the Bergfalk house. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, Arvid’s father called out for me to stop. I whirled around and lifted my gun, and he fell back, raising his arms in surrender.

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“Let’s go,” I said to Jia, who was waiting for me beneath the house. “We have to get far away from here.”

“Where will we go?” asked Jia, panting as she jogged along beside me.

I pointed toward the dark silhouette of the mountains in the distance. “There. You will get to meet your sister, Meiying.”

“I have a sister?” Jia’s voice rose with excitement. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I shushed her. “It wasn’t safe. Now hurry, before they find us!”

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We hiked by the light of the moons, following hidden trails that Aksel and I had discovered during our explorations. Just after dawn, we arrived at last to the quarry, which was now to become our permanent home. At least, on this planet.

Meiying and Jia’s reunion brought tears to my eyes, and to Aksel’s as well. “You did it,” he said, embracing me. “You brought our little girl home.”

“And I didn’t even have to kill anyone,” I said, smiling through my tears.

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We were a family – just the four of us. Plus Chaplin and Lucille, of course. And for the time being, anyway, we were safe and happy. It wasn’t over, though. I knew that well. There was no way Arvid was just going to let me take his daughter and disappear. And those people, or alien beings, or whatever he had mentioned, would be looking for us, too. They’ll come for you, too. They are watching, Xifeng. The words sent a shudder down my spine.

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Chapter 21: Xifeng the Gangsta

As strange as it may sound, the quarry had begun to feel like home. At least, more like a home than Arvid’s compound, where I was still expected to spend most of my days working his precious Earth Garden. Luckily, he had cooled in his advances toward me, and rarely expected me to offer him any affection. He seemed quieter, more distant during his infrequent visits. The growing bags beneath his eyes made me wonder if he was having trouble sleeping. Was Jia keeping the family awake at night?

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Whenever I could, I escaped to the quarry, to Meiying’s precious face, and to Aksel’s warm, loving arms. We could almost pretend that we were a normal, happy family, that we weren’t prisoners on a planet far from our own, and that our other daughter wasn’t doomed to a childhood beneath the iron fist of Arvid and his family. Almost. We caught fish, scavenged for food and supplies, and explored the mountainside. We found a large telescope on the roof of one of the quarry structures and began to study the skies, trying to gain understanding of where we were. One day, Meiying and I came across an ominous, boarded-up cave. The thick darkness within sent chills down my spine, but I made a note of its location, should our little family ever need to hide.

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While out exploring one day, Aksel made a very important discovery. There was another tiny room at the base of the quarry, which contained a workbench and various tools. But that wasn’t all he found.

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“A gun?” My mouth went dry as I stared at the weapon in Aksel’s hand.

His voice was grim. “A few rounds of ammunition, too. And Xifeng—” He paused, waiting to see how I would react to him using my Chinese name. I blinked, then gave him an approving nod. Somehow, it felt right. I was the Phoenix. And I was Xifeng. I was both, all along. I was all of the me’s I had ever been, rolled into one. And right now, I was Xifeng who was trembling at the sight of a gun. “You have to learn how to shoot it. We both do. To protect our daughter. To protect both our daughters. And to help us get home.” He placed the gun in my hand. “Come on. I’ll walk you through it.”

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The metal was cool and hard in my unsteady hands as Aksel showed me the basics. Then he scooped Meiying into his arms and covered her ears as I aimed toward a rocky field and pulled the trigger. Bang! The force of the gun firing knocked me off balance. I steadied myself, then fired again. Bang! Bang! Bang! I, Xifeng, was a weapons-yielding anti-alien gangsta.

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At last, when I had come down from my power trip, Aksel took a turn firing into the distance. His expression was so dark and intense, I wondered if he was imagining shooting at Arvid. I’m not sure what made me feel so uneasy – a surge of sympathy for Arvid, or the part where I didn’t want to see Aksel turn to the dark side and become a murderer. Even if that’s what it took to get our family home.

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