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chapter_7 [2009/12/11 18:20] (current)
doan created
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 +Martha braced herself this time. She did not like travelling via Escargo Express, even first class. Being dragged at high speed through some kind of impossible portal was not fun. She remembered to close her eyes when she actually entered the portal. She didn't think whatever was in those gaps in the world, those spaces between dimensions, was meant to be seen by mortals. Even if her mind couldn't fully comprehend it anyway, it might still do her harm. Who knows what was staring back at her? She had already seen that cat-like thing and it didn't look friendly. She didn't want to meet it again, and there might be worse things. She had tried to persuade her younger brother not to stare at it either but he was hyped up about the whole thing. She couldn't stop him yelling and screaming and pointing at everything and introducing himself every five seconds.
 +
 +Suddenly, the delivery man slowed to a halt. She managed to steady herself this time and even grab on to her brother before he went flying across the room.
 +
 +“Are we there yet?” asked Tom for the thirtieth time today.
 +
 +She looked around her. It was still as dark as midnight, as it was in the void. However, there were familiar objects here, illuminated by neon lights in strong primary colours. She saw a bar, some tables and chairs, a coffee machine. They weren't alone in the strange-looking coffee shop, although the other patrons were difficult to see in the dark.
 +
 +“This doesn't look like the place.” she told him.
 +
 +“Oh, er, I just need to stop for a coffee. I've had a busy day.” said the delivery man.
 +
 +“What? You can't just leave us here! We need to go somewhere safe!”
 +
 +“Lady, whoever it is you're running from can't find you in Moonside. Its not even a real place. I only know where it is 'cause the pizza guy told me.” he said, turning to the bar, “One large extra strong espresso with a side order of a plate of Moonside Blend coffee beans, please. And put ten sugars in it.” 
 +
 +“Of course, sir. Are you sure you don't want the House Special, though? Personally, I find the extra strong espresso a little weak compared to the House Special. Its on offer today, two for the price of one.”
 +
 +“Hey, lady, want a coffee?” he turned to look at her. She shook her head, covering her mouth and nose with her handkerchief  to mask the overpowering aroma of coffee. While she didn't mind the smell, it was so strong, she felt like she was going to have a heart attack just by breathing the air of the Cafe. “Please yourself, that's one more for me.”
 +
 +“Hi, I'm Tom Garrickson!” yelled her little brother to the Barista. She was worried about how increasingly hyper he was getting. He was bad enough without being in a place like this.
 +
 +“Hello there, little boy, I'm Moonside Al and this is Moonside Al's Coffee Emporium. Would you like a nice mug of hot chocolate?”
 +
 +“Yes please, Mister!” yelled Tom.
 +
 +“Excuse me, sir, but how much is that going to cost me and is it as strong as your coffee?” asked Martha, “I don't think it would be very good for a young boy to...”
 +
 +“Sorry, ma'am. I didn't realise you were paying. I thought it was  a free complimentary drink from Escargot Express for being late.” the man glared pointedly at the delivery man, who ignored him and practically buried his face in his mug, “Its against our ethical code, but I can serve you a medium strength hot chocolate if you really want. What about you, lady? Sure you don't want a Special Blend? You won't find stronger coffee anywhere in the entire Multiverse! Moonside is famous for its strong coffee beans. Moonside is slightly outside of the normal flow of space and time so that they have a certain amount of lag even when they're dried and roasted, which affects the human perception of time so that they can ruin their body clocks effectively. They're bred completely nocturnal – they feed off darkness – for that extra sleep deprivation goodness. and we water them with coffee so that they will contain more coffee.”   
 +
 +“Doesn't that make them cannibals?” asked Tom, “They sound evil. Evil dark cannibal vampire coffee! Cool! Ow...”
 +
 +Martha whacked him over the head with her umbrella, “No being rude! Sir, do you have any tea?”
 +
 +“Of course! Do you want extra strong or Starman Import Special?”
 +
 +“Let me guess... Starman Import Special is...”
 +
 +“Even stronger than extra strong, yes.”
 +
 +“Don't you have ANY beverages that won't kill me?”
 +
 +“They haven't killed him yet.” said the Barista, pointing to the delivery man, who had downed both of them and was wolfing down the plate of beans.
 +
 +“Sis! Sis!” yelled Tom suddenly.
 +
 +“Its rude to point!” she told him firmly, bringing down the handle of the umbrella for another whack.
 +
 +“But, sis... its one of those funny men I saw that you told me to report as soon as I saw one no matter what was happening at the time!”
 +
 +Martha's face went from irritated to serious. She pushed Tom behind her, gripped her umbrella in a proper combat hold, then walked towards the figure who was outlined faintly in the shadows. His aura of light was almost but not quite the same colour as the darkness – a slight tinge of red against the black. He did not look around when she appeared behind him. He was evidently more interested in his coffee than in her. His coffee was glowing – actually glowing – the same colour as his outline. At least, it smelled like coffee...
 +
 +“Don't mind him. That's just the Night-Watchman. He's my best customer.” said Moonside Al, “Hey, you want another Meteotite Red?”
 +
 +“He came to my school!” insisted Tom, “Well... it looked  a bit like him. He didn't have the same clothes on.”
 +
 +“It probably wasn't him, then.” said Al, grabbing the empty glass that had just appeared in front of him, refilling it with the glowing red coffee-like liquid and throwing it back into the darkness in the general direction of the man, “Starmen come in here all the time. They mostly keep themselves to themselves, don't talk much, drink up and then leave. They're connoisseurs of coffee, you know, most of our imported coffee comes from the Watchtowers. I'm half Starman myself. Never met my mother, though...”
 +
 +Suddenly, the Night-Watchman turned his head and glared straight past them all, at another figure at the far corner of the Cafe. He was almost invisible and Martha hadn't noticed him. He looked quite young, only a few years older than Martha. He had shoulder-length brown hair that half-covered his face. He looked slightly underfed. His faraway expression looked slightly melancholy and rather confused, obviously deep in thought about something. He wore a short-sleeved black shirt and black jeans. He did not drink his coffee or eat his coffee cake but stared down at the table, his arms folded. Sighing with regret, he threw his fork down in surrender and ambled out of the door. A millisecond later, the Night-Watchman drained his drink, threw it at Al and teleported out of his seat.
 +
 +“Can I have the man's cake?” begged Tom.
 +
 +“Sir, I'm not convinced that we're safe here.” said Martha pointedly to the delivery man.
 +
 +“Uh? Oh... oh yeah... delivery... lemme just have one more for the road.” he said. Al poured him another two House Specials, “I still don't understand where you want me to drop you off, though. I don't know where else you think you're going to be safe if you're not safe here.”
 +
 +“You know, you have a point.” she said, her head bowed, “I... I don't think anywhere is safe any more. But I know it isn't here I'm meant to be. I get this... well, this message, sometimes. It tells me what to do, where to go. Its telling me not to be here. I'm not allowed to say too much about it.”
 +
 +“Well, you're the customer.” sighed the delivery man, “Geez, you remind me of a bunch of regular customers of mine from the old days. Completely crazy...”
 +
 +Martha felt that chill again. It was like walking into a fridge. She knew for certain that those 'customers from the old days' were something to do with the quests, the old legends. But that boy... the one who had walked out... she had no idea. What she had felt, just for a split second, was enough to freeze her very atoms into a block of carbon. Maybe enough to cryogenically freeze her for a billion years.
 +
 +And the coffee smell really was making her sick.
 +
 +
 +“And you swear you have no idea where he went?”
 +
 +Al shook his head, “I don't ask a man his business. This is a safe haven. Whatever troubles you have in the outside world, you leave at the door.”
 +
 +“Listen, he's my apprentice. He's a very confused boy and it isn't safe for him to be wandering around on his own. He gets memory loss.”
 +
 +“Yeah, I know, he didn't touch his drink or cake.” Al sighed. Leder had already polished off both drink and cake, not one to refuse free food, and was now wiping the crumbs from his long thick white beard with a pure black serviette.
 +
 +“First my ducks get injured, then my apprentice runs away.” Brick Road sighed, “A quadruple strength Cappuccino, please.”
 +
 +“I'm sorry about the ducks.” said Mr. Franklin.
 +
 +“Its not your fault.” Dr. Andonuts told him, “If that attack was what you described it as, there's no way on Earth you could have known about or prepared for it.”
 +
 +“What exactly is it that happened to my ducks?” asked Brick Road.
 +
 +The old scientist motioned for him to come closer, then whispered something into his ear. He raised what was left of both eyebrows.
 +
 +“What, an ACTUAL...” he shook his head, “But I thought she scanned as having no psychic aura! That technique is one of the most powerful in existence!”
 +
 +“It also can't be picked up by a mechanical or telepathic scan.” said Dr. Andonuts, “It doesn't manifest like normal psychic powers. You can be a complete mundane – even have an absorption field around you – and still use it. It... it isn't really a psychic power, I guess. It follows very different rules. Think of it like a phone call.”
 +
 +“Phone?” Mr. Franklin's eyes appeared from underneath his hat.
 +
 +“Yes. Does a phone call exist on the sender's end or the receiver's?”
 +
 +“Neither, I guess. Its in the wires somewhere.”
 +
 +“Its the same with this technique. Whatever happens when you use it... its nothing to do with the transmitter or the receiver. You just have to be... compatible.”
 +
 +“What makes it work, then?”
 +
 +“I don't know.”
 +
 +“The Baby?” suggested Leder.
 +
 +“Oh, you think EVERYTHING's the Baby.” Brick Road sighed.
 +
 +“If you don't believe in the Baby,  what are you doing in this club?”
 +
 +“Its not that I don't think he's real or that we need to find him. Its just that I don't think he's God and Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy and the true form of bloody Giygas.”
 +
 +“I have to go.” declared Dr. Andonuts. He was staring at a device in his hand that everyone assumed at least contained a phone somewhere in its mechanism.
 +
 +“We're only halfway through our meeting...”
 +
 +“Its my son.”
 +
 +“Oh.” Brick Road fell silent. He felt like a bad person now. He had been whining about his apprentice, who he had only obtained three weeks ago and who he hadn't even named yet, and he had forgotten that both Andonuts and Leder had sons who had been in a lot more trouble for a long time. Possibly Mr. Franklin, although if that rumour was true, he wouldn't admit to it, even to his closest friends. They all had a lot to lose. What's more, they were running out of time.
 
chapter_7.txt · Last modified: 2009/12/11 18:20 by doan
 
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