2. Welcome to Hellen
To work, then. First a call. So I evoked a phone.
The phone blossomed from a spark to a glowing disk. It went beep, then it said, “Thank you for using Hellen Wireless. To whom may I direct your call?”
I said, “The Tooth Fairy.”
The phone droned, “Sor-ree, that is not a list-ed num-ber.”
I signed off. The phone shrank to a point and vanished. I thought, oh well, now I gotta do some wing-work.
I flew out of my office, into the street.
tonight mostly closed. I flapped through
the fog. It was too foggy to see with
eyes, but my sonar worked fine.
The traffic was light, mostly fellow sonar-users: a pod of dolphins, three orcas, and a humpback. (The humpback was minified down to human size. Size-adjustment is a free public utility, here in Hellen.)
I passed a flock of Greys, flying on radar. Their personal radar, that is: not city radar. Show-offs. And phew, they stink! Then I pinged a gaggle of giddy ’Toons cruising on Google.
I saw a Vegan, hesitating at a corner, and I stopped to render assistance. The visitor from Vega was lost. It had been sent to “
23rd street and 17th avenue”.
“I see,” I said. “Well, I’m sorry to say, stranger, that was a joke at your expense.”
“Don’t those roads meet?” said the energy crystal from the blue star.
“Those roads are skew,” I explained. “Non-co-planar. Look, in this town you got to think 3-D! Streets run east-west, avenues go north-south, ways head up-down!”
The Vegan said, “And you name the roads, not the cubes or the planes?”
“It just turned out that way. I admit it’s kind of stupid that we name the roads but not the cubes or the planes; but as is the system is almost efficient, and it does add character, and that’s how we do things here in Hellen.”
“But how do you find your way? I need to get to the recharge station!”
“Use your Google,” I said.
The Vegan flickered. “My what?”
“Your Google. Evoke it, in your mind’s eye. Go ahead.”
The Vegan spun and blazed blue, then it said, “Ah. I see it now. ‘From here east on this street; up at Star Way, then north two blocks to Night Street and Light Avenue’.”
“There you go,” I said. “Just evoke your Google. Don’t worry about paying; it’s a free public utility. Same as radar, radio, web and phone. And flight too, of course.”
The Vegan thanked me. I said, “Welcome to Hellen!” and flapped away.
Traffic was light: two demigods, a school of trilobites and a snail riding a flying saucer. I flew a cube north on Story Avenue. At the Registry of Deeds I turned down on Fortuna Way, then three cubes down I turned west on Market Street. Seven cubes west and I was at the police station, at the corner of State, Market and Church, catty-corner to the Pyramid.
I flew in and flapped over to the break-room. There I found my contact on the force, Officer Beelzy. He was reading this month’s issue of “Bad Cop Gazette”. I greeted him, and asked where his partner White Mike was.
Beelzy rumbled, “The featherhead’s testifying. A break-and-enter case.”
“What a coincidence. I’m here on a break-and-enter case too.” I laid out my client’s case to him, then asked what he and Mike know about the Tooth Fairy.
Officer Beelzy put down the “Bad Cop Gazette”. He picked up his pitchfork and rose to his full three meters of height. His eyes glowed red, his pointy tale twitched, and his big black leather wings flapped, wide and slow.
Officer Beelzy has leather wings, like me – but his wings, unlike mine, are impractical for flight. They’re too small for his body size. Really, his wings – like White Mike’s feather wings – are for signaling. Just then, by flapping them wide and slow like that, he was signaling: I’m real mad so pay close attention.
I paid close attention.
Officer Beelzy rumbled, “Kid, I will tell you just this once. Drop the case.”
I said, “But Beelzy!”
“Bub,” he rumbled, “I’m warning you because I almost like you. Some cases are nothing but trouble. This is one of them.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I won’t tell on you, but I’ve got to tell my partner. And Mike’s a featherhead. A good cop. So he’ll follow the rules. He’ll tell the higher-ups.”
“Wait! You’re saying this case goes up?”
“I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no. I’m saying, lay off.”
“I’ll track this thing, even if it goes all the way up to the Mayor!”
Officer Beelzy’s eyes dimmed from red to dark. He folded his wings. “Intemperate words,” he rumbled. “You will regret them.”
I left then, disgusted. Down the corridor, I passed a marble wall. To me all hard flat surfaces are sonar mirrors, so I pinged myself. I was me, all right. Fur, claws, fangs, leather wings, and big gnarly ears. Handsome fellow.
Out the door and into the street. I spiraled down
Church Way. Traffic was light. I passed three wizards, a school of opabinia
and a gremlin, spiraling up.
Down and down and down, and the further down, the worse the neighborhood got.
Way used to be entirely a nice neighborhood, but
that was before the conmen, crooks and thugs moved in.
Down, down, down. Finally I reached my destination: The Wizard’s Git. It’s a bar, or so its neon sign says. Really it’s a front for the Thieves’ Guild. I figured, if I couldn’t get a straight answer from one side of the law, then I should ask the other side.
I found the capo of the Thieves’ Guild, holding forth at the bar as usual. I settled on the bar next to him. After a few pleasantries, I got down to business. But when I mentioned the Tooth Fairy, Tricky Dick got defensive.
“I deny everything,” he said. The capo sweated. He glanced from side to side.
“Aw, come on, Tricky Dick,” I wheedled. “I’m sure your gang would know about a caper as crooked as this – ”
“We are not crooks! We’re the Thieves’ Guild.”
“And pillage is your privilege! So either she’s muscling in on your official franchise, or she’s working for you. Which is it?”
Tricky Dick said, “Unask the question!”
“Don’t go all Zen on me! Tell me the truth!”
“I am not a liar!”
“Meaning that you are! I’ve had it with this cover-up!”
“I am not keeping any secrets!”
“That settles it, you are! I’ll track this thing, even if it goes all the way down to your boss!” And again, I left in disgust. Looking back, I can see that those too were intemperate words. I didn’t know that at the time.
Out the door and into the street. I flew up Church Way a couple of cubes when I noticed something odd. There was no traffic at all. I was alone on the street.
No, not quite alone. A pocket monster was there. It trilled “Cheekapoo! Cheekapoo!” and attacked.
I had no time to evade. The pocket monster swooped at me, waved something—
I was caught! In a butterfly net! Sonar-invisible! I hadn’t seen it!
My captor trilled, “Cheekapoo! Cheekapoo!” and dove into a downward spiral, with me in tow. Down and down
Church Way. I struggled against my bonds, in vain.
Down and down. My captor trilled “Cheekapoo! Cheekapoo!”
“Where are you taking me?”
“How far down are we going? To the Bottom Gate? Are you taking me—”
“—to Chapel Perilous?!”
Down and down and down we twisted. There, ahead, below, was the Bottom Gate. We swooped aside at the last moment, and entered Chapel Perilous.