My name is Motorbaby, but everyone calls me the Girl. My birth name is Grace, Grace Jeanette, but no one calls me that any more. Well, Jet calls me Gracie sometimes, but only when no one can hear him. I live with the Fabulous Killjoys, because they're illegal like me. Not the way I used to be seen, being Hispanic. That's something Jet and I share, our heritage. People mistake me for his daughter. That's how I met them,actually. Saw the hair, ran at him screaming "Dad!", he turns round and I pull up short. He smiles. " I'm sorry" he says, "but I think you've got the wrong guy. I'm Jet Star, and these are the Fab Four." "I'm Grace", I said. He looked worried and grabbed my hand. " We don't use our Before names here, sweetie. We need to give you a Runner name." Then this guy, barely taller than me and inked like a tattoo parlour model, pipes up "Let's call her Princess Fro" Jet glares at him "Not a chance, Ghoul, not a chance" "Motorbaby" says this other guy, tall and thin and bleach blonde, in a tiger stripe shirt and red leather jacket. "Like DJD's broadcast slogan" Jet smiles gratefully at him "Thanks Kobra, finally a sensible suggestion" 'Ghoul' sticks his tongue out at him "Why so touchy, Jet? Don't like your old name?" Jet clenches his fist, ready to take the little punk out, when a put-upon sigh comes from behind him. "I wouldn't annoy him, Ghoul. He'll take you out if you piss him off too much. And Jet, don't rise to his bait, you know how he is, he wants a reaction." Then he sights me. "Now who's this? You picking up strays again?" Jet pulls me to him. "She ran. She thought I was her dad, so she needs protection and she'll be safer here than out in the Zones or in Battery City." "Name?" he says. I look to Jet. "Her name's Motorbaby." He nods. "Party, Party Poison." He extends his hand towards me and I take it. He helps me into their Trans Am and yes, I know I shouldn't get into strangers' cars but they were my best chance.
So I stay with them for a bit,learn their names and habits. They pair off a lot, Jet Star with Kobra Kid, Party Poison with Fun Ghoul. Party and Kobra are brothers but they don't spend much time together. Every night, one pair goes off into the desert and one stays with me. Kobra is practically nonverbal, but Ghoul talks enough for everyone. I think Kobra might be one of Jet's strays. Not in the same way as me, but I think Jet is his protector and confidant like he is mine. He just sits in the corner staring at a picture of two guys. I think the taller one is Kobra, but his hair is light brown in the picture,not bleach blonde, and he's wearing glasses and a beanie. The shorter guy, he's got dark hair and eyeliner. He's taller than Ghoul, I think, but shorter than Party. I asked Kobra the guy's name and he just smiled sadly and didn't answer.
A few days later, I found out where they went in the evenings. I went out with Jet and Kobra and Ghoul and Party to a mailbox in the middle of nowhere,covered in bright colours and names. Kobra wandered around writing down stuff occasionally. I started noticing patterns. Runners mixed with Befores. Four girls with one last name, Lyndsey, Bandit, Kristin, Rowan, all called Way,three girls and a boy with another, Jamia, Cherry, Lily and Miles Iero. I asked Jet if the four girls were related and Party answered. "The women were sisters in law and the girls were cousins. Lyndsey was my wife and Bandit my daughter. She was nine. Kristin and Rowan were Kobra's. Rowan was barely two." "What about them?" I pointed to the list of Ieros. "Ghoul's wife, his twin girls and his son." I took a moment to digest this. "Are they buried here?" Party giggled. "No, they're buried further out." "What about Jet's family?" "Ah, he carries his with him. He won't write their names down. Ghoul says its because he's incapable of moving on. Ghoul is terminally catty, and I say that as his boyfriend. His wife was called Christa, I know that, but not much else." I went off to look at more, then found another family list. "Pete, Meghan, Bronx, Saint, Marvel. Who names their child Marvel?" Kobra whipped round. "Pete Wentz." "Who's that?" I asked. He sighed and showed me the picture I saw him staring at for the past few weeks. "That's Pete. He used to be my boyfriend, but he became obsessed with his singer and we broke up. He moved on from him too, married Ashley, had Bronx, left her, married Meghan and had the other two. I still cared for him, but we were more friends than anything else. We found them. They- they died in the initial blast. I think it was painless, I hope so at least. We've watched too many die. We all found our wives and children dead. Finding the Wentzes almost killed me. I think Jet kept me alive, out of pity, and because losing me would likely break Party."
About a week after that, we went scouting for houses we could use as a secondary base. The first thing I noticed was the mailbox. It had 'Urie' painted on it in big letters. Jet just grabs my arm and says "Stay here,Gracie. I'm going in, I need to see." He came out a few minutes later,shaking his head. "Both?" Party questioned. Jet nodded. "God. How long?" Jet considered for a second, then decided "Given the state of them, I'd say initial blast. At least the Dracs didn't get them." They brought them out, one man and one woman. It was the first time I'd seen dead bodies. We buried them that evening, added their names to the memorial. Brendon and Sarah Urie. I remember seeing Kobra write it, because he had the best writing and I said "you don't spell it like that, its either B-r-e-n-d-a-n or B-r-a-n-d-o-n" and he said, "no,that is how you spell it, Urie was something special" and he got this faraway look in his eyes. We stayed in the Uries' house for a while then moved on, leaving a mark to tell other Zonerunners that it was a base, a safe haven.
The next time I saw someone dead was about two months after that. We were scouting again, and we stumbled across it. I could smell something wrong as soon as we got there. We went in, all five of us, though I don't know why they took me in. There were three of them, a couple and their son, but we didn't know that. They hadn't been dead long by the look of them. Party saw the guy's face and went really pale. He looked at us. "They survived. They survived and then those bastards killed them." Kobra started rifling his pockets, looking for something, before pulling out his notebook. He flicked through it before stopping on a page and showing it to Party. "This looks about right time-wise. See which name might fit." He replied almost instantly. "Soul Punk. It has to be. It was his solo album, the joke he had, that he had a soul voice and sung in a pop punk band. AI hated that, remember?" I knew AI, it stood for American Idiot. He was pretty, with jet black hair and emerald green eyes, but he was intense and he scared me. They read down the list that Kobra held. "Soul Punk, that would be him, Truant Wave, that's her, I suppose and- oh! It says- it says 'unfortunately, Youngblood, aged seven, was caught in the crossfire'. He was just a child! They don't kill kids. Where is he, anyway?" Ghoul, kneeling by the woman, looked up. "She's holding him. He died protecting her." I looked at them. The man was familiar, but I didn't know why. I turned to Kobra, seeing how torn up he was. "Who's he?" He looked at me sadly. "His name is Patrick Stump. He was the singer in Pete's band." "The one he was obsessed with?" "Yep. He was a good man. Kind, caring. He didn't deserve this. Party liked him, but not as intensely as I fell for Pete. Both sets of us bonded over our talents. Urie was part of the same group." A thought struck me. "What name will you write?" He looked at me oddly "What?" "The name" I said, "what will you call them on the memorial?" Party answered,as he often did when the others were at a loss for words. "Their Runner names, but we'll record who they were, and DJD will broadcast both names, so that the Band Brigade know who they've lost."
That was the last time I went scouting with them. They left me with DJD- Doctor Death-Defying, that is, and Show Pony when they went out. I learned from him that the Band Brigade was a group of people who had been in alternative bands Before. The Fab Four were in it,though they never went, AI, Mad Gear and Missile Kid, chances were, so was Soul Punk. They met once every few months to discuss what was going on. I was more hooked on the fact that I knew people who knew Mad Gear and Missile Kid. I looked up to them, they were an awesome two man band who ruled the airwaves. I'd never met them, though I had met AI. I wish I had. Met them, I mean. Party calls them the babies. They're younger than the Fab Four by about ten years. Missile's a drummer, Gear a singer. DJD said that's how they survived,as a band. About the only things you can play out here, a voice and a beat. Apparently Gear used to play a lot of instruments,especially piano and ukulele, but there's no chance of that any more. The fact that my protectors used to be a band was hard to get my head around. I mean, I'd heard Party sing before, but I didn't know about the others. I suppose that the lack of instruments would explain that. I asked DJD why they don't play any more, why they couldn't be like Gear and Missile and he muttered something about someone called Bryar and a few choice words. I caught him doing the same kind of thing as Kobra does,looking at pictures and being sad. With him its a woman, dark hair, red lips, short plaid skirt. A bass player. He said her name was Lyn-Z, Lyn-Z Ballato. That was her maiden name. She became Lyn-Z Way, about ten years ago. Party's wife. He points out a guy on the other side of the stage, the guitarist. Him,before his injury put him in a wheelchair. No wonder he keeps an eye on them, he knew Party Before. Pony usually takes me away when he gets like that, starts crying. Pony's teaching me to skate,like they do. I think Pony was born a boy, but they're not any more. Gender isn't real in the Zones.
When the Fab Four come back for me, they seem sad. We go out to the memorial and they add two new names. Vampire Dandy and Cobra Starship. Friends of the ones we found. Two more of the Band Brigade bite it.
Over the course of the next few months,we find more people, some dead,some living. There's a new band of Runners now. Northern Downpour, Horseshoe Crab and Crossfit Catcher. The former was one of Urie's and the other two were the other half of Pete and Soul Punk's band. Unfortunately,the others Downpour knew were gone before we found them. Their names were Spencer and Jon, Smith and Walker. They stayed together. We found another Runner we couldn't save, Cain Modern. He had a wife, Daily Gale. They found that funny for some reason and they had to explain that a. her first name was Breezy and b. the Daily Mail used to be a paper. They had children too, once, but they were nowhere to be found.
Fast forward to a few months ago, and we're at DJD's, getting ready to go out scouting for supplies. I hand Jet his blaster and smile at him. He smiles back and we climb into the Trans Am. Party drives and they let me ride shotgun,so I stick my head out the window. We get attacked by Dracs and Ghoul let me help him with the mounted gun. We stopped at a gas station to refuel and Ghoul and Kobra nicked some magazines. No one would stop us,the place is abandoned. Then I helped Kobra hack a vending machine for batteries and blasters. We left quickly, before we were found. It didn't work. Korse and the Dracs found us. Jet got bottled, the next time I saw him, he had an eye patch. There was a standoff, Dracs on bikes, coming for me, Party took them out, grabbing,shooting. The Fab Four fell. And then a Drac has me in a chokehold and then Korse is there, watching them expectantly, blaster trained on Party. His eyes flick open, Party's,that is and Korse has this expression on his face, somewhere between a grin and a grimace and he says "Keep running" and then they drag me away to his car, kicking and screaming and saying every bad word Party and Ghoul had taught me. I stayed with a lady called Miss Yukisada for I don't know how long. I spoke to them every day, in my mind, wrote to them, drew, sang, even when BLInd threatened me.
They came for me, of course. I knew they would. I watched them arriving, on the monitors, as the Dracs freaked out. I watched them blast their way in, the Dracs going for their rifles, Yukisada for her katana. Then the Fab Four got to me and Ghoul shot out the windows and the Dracs and Party hugged me tight and Kobra and Jet were standing guard. Yukisada had gone by then, I didn't know where. They grabbed me and we tried to get out. We got as far as the lobby before they found us. Korse started shooting and they shot back and I just stood there,my back to them, hoping no one would die. They took out a lot of Dracs, Party unmasked one then looked down in horror. He must have known him, which makes me sad. Then Korse grabbed Party,pinned him to the wall by his throat. He had a blaster shoved up under his chin. Party just smiles, says something. Kobra notices what's going on and starts to sprint to them. Korse pulls the trigger. That's when I started screaming. I saw Party slump to the ground, Kobra firing, Korse starting to crumple, his finger still on the trigger, shots going wide. He hits Kobra. He falls. Korse is dead, but was it worth losing them both to do it? Ghoul and Jet run to me, dragging me towards the door. Ghoul herds me and Jet through. I thought he'd follow,but he doesn't. He bolts the doors, and that's when I realise what he's doing. He wants to take out as many Dracs as possible, doesn't he? He wants to be martyred, like his boyfriend and his boyfriend's brother. Jet grabs my arm and we run. I glance back, just in time to see Korse, miraculously not dead, advancing on Ghoul and Ghoul falling. Its just me and Jet now. Jet tells me to run, DJD and Show Pony are coming, they'll keep me safe. He turns to cover my escape. I see him go down. Then Pony jumps from the van and they're shooting at Dracs, yelling at me to run. I climb into the van and we're off, gone, out. The closest thing I had to a father, gone. All four of them. I feel numb.
Show Pony takes me to the memorial the next day. I write their names, both Before and Runner, Party Poison, Fun Ghoul, Kobra Kid, Jet Star, Gerard Way, Frank Iero, Mikey Way, Ray Toro. I notice a weight in my pocket. Its Kobra's notebook. One of them must have slipped it to me before they went down. Pony turns to me and says, "Those four were great men, idols to many people. You should know their legacy." They begin to tell the story. "Their band was called My Chemical Romance. Party was their singer, Jet was lead guitar, Ghoul rhythm guitar and Kobra was their bassist. Their drummer kept changing. Party knew Korse once,in fact, Korse used to be his mentor. DJD played music with Party's wife, he cared for her deeply. A lot of these names" here they tapped the mailbox memorial, "were people they knew, people they found, people they loved."
I went from safe base to safe base after that. I lived with Mad Gear and Missile Kid for a while. I wish I'd met them in better circumstances. They said I reminded them of Jet. I broke down crying. I met the new band. They told me their Before names almost immediately. Northern Downpour was tall and stick-thin, even more so than Kobra. It looked like he'd snap if someone blew on him. His name was Ryan Ross and he was close to Brendon Urie, they were in a band called Panic! at the Disco together and it sounded like it could have been more. He was a guitarist Before. Horseshoe Crab was about the same height as Party, with curly hair. He's the kind of guy that my birth parents would call a 'stoner'. His name is Joe Trohman. He had a wife and two girls Before. We added their names to the memorial that evening. He was a guitarist too. Crossfit Catcher was about the same height as Ghoul, with about as many tattoos, brown hair and a ginger beard. I found that strange. His name is Andy Hurley, he used to be a drummer. He has a high voice, it kind of reminds me of Jet.
I started thinking as I passed around. I remember how upset I was when we heard the Traffic Report. I still remember every word. "Bad news from the zones tumbleweeds. It looks like Jet-Star and the Kobra Kid had a clap with an exterminator that went all Costa Rica.
And uh, got them selves ghosted, dusted out on route Guano. So it's time to hit the red-line and up thrust the volume out there. Keep your boots tight, keep your gun close. And die with your mask on if you've got to. Here is the traffic." I remember about a month ago,when I was taken, and Korse pointing a blaster at Party, saying "Keep running". They didn't die then, what if they haven't now?
Months later, I'm sitting at base, talking to Downpour, when the radio starts up. " 'Calling all Motorbabies and Brigade Marchers. The mailbox is now open and fully fabulous.' That was a message from an anonymous source, and now for our next tune. This is 'Cancer' by Mad Gear and Missile Kid." Downpour and I look at each other and say, simultaneously, "They're back!"
I go alone. I'm ten now, nearly grown up, and its the Fab Four we're talking about. My protectors. My family. I see four figures approaching. Its them, but not the way I remember. They're all too thin. Party's hair is black again, not red. Jet's hair is short. It doesn't suit him. Kobra's hair is brown, they got rid of the bleach. Ghoul is silent. Its the first time that I've seen him and he's not jabbering. I fear I've lost them already.