Next Chapter - Interlude 1
Firo exclaims "It's huge...!" upon seeing the cruise ship Entrance, then quickly attempts to seem more dignified by commenting on the ship in a more grandiloquent fashion. Czeslaw laughs off this pretension as trying too hard, and adds that Firo is not a tux person. Firo, knowing that he looks odd, turns to Ennis to ask her opinion, but the sight of her in a dress takes his breath away. He remembers that they have lived together since 1930, and married about fifty years later. Ennis, noticing his gaze, shyly asks if the dress is a bad fit, which he hurriedly says is not the case. He turns back to the gigantic ship, which has a plethora of luxury shops and services and routinely hosts large events. It has an identical sister ship, Exit; the two ships pass each other during trans-ocean voyages, launching fireworks. Firo acknowledges that this would be an impressive sight, and Ennis shows surprise that technology has advanced enough to make the ship possible. Czeslaw says that he was more impressed by the rate of railroad tracks in the 19th century. Reminded of Czeslaw's age, Firo says that he and Ennis weren't born then. Czeslaw smirks about Firo "finally respecting his elders," prompting Firo to muss up his hair; Czeslaw hides behind Ennis, who smiles at the scene. Firo, appreciating the moment, thinks that Czeslaw has brightened up since returning from his 2001 trip with Maiza. Whereas Czeslaw used to pretend to be a kid, he now increasingly acknowledges his age. When Firo asked for the reason, Maiza said that Elmer deserved thanks for this change. Firo notes that Szilard's memories don't have much about Elmer, and reminds himself to thank Elmer in the future.
Everyone on the ship appears to be wealthy, and is wearing formal clothes as mandated by the dress code. Firo had been advised by Molsa to get a tuxedo for the trip; when he wore it in the Alveare as a test run, he was laughed at by all the people there except Isaac and Miria. The Martillo business is much smaller than before, due to the decline of gambling and their refusal to participate in drug trafficking. However, they had made substantial money in futures trading, and their chain of Alveare restaurants was now their primary source of income. Firo thinks that he would have once been opposed to this, but now he would be fine not working in the criminal underworld. He resolves that as long as he remains loyal to the family, everything should work out. He wonders why he is thinking like this, concluding that it is nervousness from being on his honeymoon.
The trip began with a conversation between Isaac and Miria. Watching television, Miria asked what the time limit on a honeymoon is, to which Isaac responded it was the first vacation a married couple took. Miria figures that Firo and Ennis are therefore good to go. Firo spits out his drink and tries to ignore it, but the other patrons hear and start wondering about it. They are surprised at the implications, although some think this is fitting with Firo's cautious nature. Firo protests that he's been too busy to take time off. He is finally persuaded when Miria tells him that although Ennis doesn't say anything about it, she watches closely on television when things like this appear. Firo resolves to ask Ennis on a vacation. Their relationship has scarcely changed since marriage; she still addresses him politely, which he knows is her most sincere form of expression. He can't bring himself to say, "Let's go on our honeymoon," and when Czeslaw walks in, he blurts out that they should go on a family vacation. Firo rambles that the Japanese cameraman he met earlier asked him to visit, and this would be a good opportunity. Molsa, hearing about the situation, buys three tickets on the cruise ship. Firo, upon finding that the tickets cost over ten thousand a person, considers asking how Molsa got that money, but decides he's better off not knowing.
For immortals, age is a part of their identification that often has to be falsified. In the past, Firo had gone on a trip to Italy and been detained for a day due to his passport listing him as 70 years old. He told them that Victor Talbot at the FBI could vouch for him, earning him one of Victor's tirades. Fortunately, the restrictions on false identities doesn't apply to age, since age doesn't matter for immortals. Firo, confident in the passports, asks for liquor; when denied, he tells the man to check the passport, which lists is age as twenty-five. He gloomily walks onto the ship. Czeslaw says that twenty-five is pushing it, given Firo's youthful appearance. Czeslaw quietly says he knows the real reason for Firo suggesting the vacation, and slyly states that he'll give Firo and Ennis time to themselves, especially at night. Flustered, Firo is reminded of Czeslaw's age.
The sheer decadent luxury of the ship is evident throughout. Standing at the bow, Firo looks at the top deck in the middle of the ship, and sees an enormous shark hoisted by a crane. Czeslaw and Ennis have heard that the shark is part of a publicity event. Looking at the pamphlet, Firo sees the words "Mode Gears Series" and "Shark Flight," triggering his memory. At that moment, he hears a voice calling out "Uncle Firo!". It is Claudia Walken, with Charon next to her. They greet each other, with Claudia twirling for the sake of twirling in her dress. Claudia asks if the two of them are on vacation; Firo says Czeslaw is there too, but finds Czeslaw is hiding near a doorway. Claudia pouts that Czeslaw is always avoiding her. Firo realizes this is due to his fear of redheads. He asks how Claudia's great-grandparents Claire and Chane are doing. She says they're doing great, with Claire searching a shipwreck in the Caribbean for treasure to give Chane.
A short distance away, the Businessmen see Claudia and Charon, and naturally get excited by this surprise. Some comment in surprise that she is appearing in a B-movie. In fact, Claudia has appeared in everything from serious dramas to slasher flicks. Although there were rumors that her father's influence got her roles, her talent has long since silenced them. Her brother Charon isn't as widely famous, due to his aversion to speaking on camera, but he is well known by film buffs for his stuntwork. The businessmen consider asking for an autograph or picture. One mentions Illness has a cellphone with a camera; they turn to ask her, only to realize she walked up to Claudia casually.
Firo notes her strangely lifeless appearance and gothic black and yellow dress. She has dark eyeshadow under her eyes similar to baseball eye black. Firo wonders if she's a friend of Claudia. She says the shark is cute. Claudia thanks her for saying "Sharky" is cute. Claudia thought the girl might be a friend of Firo, given his penchant for associates with "an amazing sense of fashion." Illness admits she doesn't know Claudia, but she wanted to pet the shark, and heard Claudia was a "friend" of it. Claudia is delighted rather than angry by the honesty, and says that the great outfit and saying the shark is cute proves the girl is a good person. Claudia takes Illness to the shark, offering to let her kiss and hug it. Firo thinks this odd, but doesn't say anything, knowing Claudia will laugh it off with her catchphrase.
Charon says the nickname "Sharky" is Claudia's invention. Firo suggests Charon should talk more. Charon demurs, saying that "Uncle Keith" is quieter. Firo notes that Keith talks a lot over the phone, to which Charon confidently replies that it's the "telephone fairy." Firo realizes that Charon isn't taking after Chane, but Keith, who had often taken care of Charon. Ennis observes that it will be a lively cruise; Firo wonders if he would prefer quiet time alone with Ennis.
In the hallway, Czeslaw is wandering, annoyed that Claudia made him recall the torture inflicted on him by Claire, and how Claudia used to drag Czeslaw around to play. Czeslaw thinks that the hallways remind him of the Flying Pussyfoot. He bumps into a lone man, who appears to be South American. Czeslaw immediately that he is dangerous and a likely member of the criminal underworld. Czeslaw is afraid, but the man politely apologizes for bumping into him. Czeslaw again thinks of the similarities to the Flying Pussyfoot, but tries to convince himself it's a coincidence.
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