Zrng slammed the door shut and pressed his back against it. His eyes were wide and skittered back and forth a bit before he raced up the stairs.
"Hey Zrng, back so soon?" Chris asked as he made his completed his latest lap around the cable system.
"Bad, bad, bad, bad " Zrng half mumbled to himself as he darted about the loft.
"Uhm, Zrng? Tell me you just forgot your car keys."
There was a flush and JB returned to the main room. Zrng raced over, lifted him easily above his head and bounded back toward the stairs. If it were possible, he spoke even faster than he was moving. "Good,JBYou'reBetterAtHandlingTheseSortsOfThingsUhListenThere'sKindOfABitOfDetail
JB stared at the closed door suddenly rather disturbed at what might be on the other side. "Uh, Zrng?" JB asked the rapidly retreating alien, "What's out there."
Zrng froze in mid step, he turned and smiled a bit weakly. "Them? Oh, it's nothing really. Heh, just a bunch of.. well.. tourists." Zrng continued up a few steps.
"Wait a minute, Tourists?" JB felt himself grow a bit agitated.
"Well, yeah, sort of, but don't worry, it's a small group, only about thirty or so. Just keep them delayed for a few minutes.. I've.. got a few things to take care of." And with that Zrng finally made it back up the stairs.
"THIRTY? Zrng? ZRNG!?" JB called after the erstwhile roommate. It was no use. JB caught an occasional flicker of green beneath a spray of paper or other like debris.
There was a knock.
JB leapt as if the door suddenly materialized. He steeled himself, not really certain what to expect. He slowly opened the door and looked out at.. well.. Tourists. They were dressed in bright floral shirts and shorts as well as sandals and floppy hats. A few had cameras and were busily taking pictures of all sorts of things they found interesting, such as a patch of sidewalk, or a sign on a lamppost. They chatted amongst themselves, but weren't loud or out of control.
In many respects they looked quite normal.
Just your every day group tour ready for a full day of fun and adventure, provided your everyday group consisted of five-foot tall wallabies. JB creaked the door open a bit more. And was confronted by an official looking wallaby carrying a folded umbrella. Apparently, the concept of the tour guide's umbrella was a bit more universal than JB had thought, but he quickly slid inside and closed the door.
"Ah good, you would be Ja-hay-Bay-cho?" The official said as he shifted through a metal binder filled with indecipherable documents.
"Uh, yeah, I'm JB, and you would be "
"I am Nuyuta Godwalski-cho." The figure said as he quickly squatted down and back up again.
JB determined that was as close to a handshake as he would get and returned the gesture. Nuyuta didn't take offense, so JB breathed a quick sigh of relief.
"I am from Ywucci Tours, I believe all of the papers are in order if I can get your approvals. As you can see we've got two G-4's , so I'll need a full bioguard rundown and the xenotox coordinates, plus I'd like to make sure that your guide license is properly "
"Is that the manager, Mr Reid?" Zrng stood at the top of the stair. He looked quite different than his previously panicked self and wore a kahki uniform that still bore a few packaging creases. A metal binder similar to the one that Nuyunta carried was stuffed beneath his arm. He glared down the stairs like a drill sergeant.
"Nuyuta Godwalski-cho" the guide squatted quickly, then brushed past JB and headed up the stairs. Zrng simply continued to glare at the alien who recounted his litany of demands to Zrng. JB looked back at the door that stood between himself and the large gang of picture snapping gawkers from beyond. Part of him wondered if he should bring the group indoors and away from any curious onlookers.
The other one thought of a loft filled with five foot wallabies.
The second argument won, hands down, and he jogged back up the stairs toward the loft. A few steps before he cleared the stairs, though he stopped.
The loft didn't look like this when he left.
The dining room table had been cleared of the several days worth of accumulation and was set up near the middle of the room. Most of the other furniture was likewise rearranged into various waiting areas near the outside perimeters. The sleeping quarters had been effectively eradicated as the boxes that had made up the walls were pushed against one of the inner walls and draped with sheets to conceal their nature.
The only thing that was close to the same spot it was originally was the huge Audio-Tron, but the deep scratches in the wood told JB that Zrng had other ideas initially.
Even the TV had been moved atop a few filing cabinets and was tuned to Headline News, which was weird because Chris had just finished watching the report and he hated watching the same thing twice..
"Chris?" JB whispered suddenly realizing that his brother was nowhere to be seen.
There was a faint but regular knock from the pantry door. JB opened it and was met by a flood of some of the clutter that normally filled the room. One of the items was Chris.
Zrng and the other alien shot them both a withering glance then continued speaking in low tones.
Chris, continued to lie on the floor in an uncomfortable position. "JB?", he asked calmly, "What's going on?"
"Doesn't that hurt?" JB asked his motionless brother.
"Considering how I was a minute ago? No, this is surprisingly comfy. I plan on letting Zrng discover that for himself, right after feeling comes back to my limbs."
"Excuse me?" Chris asked as he looked up at his brother.
"As far as I can figure out, there are about thirty odd wallabies with cameras lined up downstairs. They're apparently on some sort of tour or something. I'm not exactly sure how Zrng fits into this, but apparently, he does."
Chris stood up, and brushed a few stray flakes of whatever from his lapel. "Darn good reason to go ask him, violently." He straightened his hat and took one step toward Zrng.
Zrng quickly rose to his feet and gruntled something to the tour manager. The manager waved his hand and returned to the paperwork as Zrng intercepted the Doggie Duo.
"Zrng, what the haruuff" Chris managed to get out before Zrng dragged them into the bathroom.
Now, understand that this is a downtown Boise Loft. And like most other similar facilities the bathrooms are far from what one would consider spacious. The bathroom in the Grayhound loft was an exception to this standard, however. It was considerably smaller. Three beings could fit into the room provided they were all on very good terms with each other. At the time, this was not the case.
"ZRNG! WHAT THE HE"
"He's from the Stockholder." Zrng said cutting Chris off sharply.
"So let me get this straight, we either have to play tour guide for a bunch of aliens for the day," Chris said as he tried to massage his forehead (in the tight confines of the bathroom, it meant rubbing his temple against the showerhead), "or we get classified as a hostile planet and our spacestation is destroyed."
"Well, in reality, any off world habitation is quarantined until the level of threat can be isolated, classified, and removed, so if you had, say a moonbase or something, you'd really have your seeds in a clambake." Zrng said grumpily. The translators were amazing bits of technology, but they really did need to have their thesaurus' updated.
"Can they do that?" JB asked.
"After the Slax, they have whole departments devoted to it." Zrng said. "Look, I've got my people working on trying to solve that, but for now, we're fastened. We've got to play nice and give the W'dalloos a nice friendly safari of Boise. I've convinced the manager that we've only got facilities for max forty-eight hours. He's not happy, but he understands. This is a backwater ball of mud anyway."
"Hey, that's my ball of mud your insulting." JB said defensively.
Zrng raised an eyebrow, "I'll talk to you after you spend a day with a busload of W'dalloos."
"So what are we supposed to do if there's an emergency or something?" Chris said.
How does one go about describing the kind of sounds that several tons of animated lunch meat makes when it's thudding down the road? Sure, there's the dull thud that it makes as huge, meaty feet crease the asphalt, but then there are also the weird echoes of vaguely rude noises as the piles of prosciutto pound the pavement.
Most people simply had no appreciation for the sound. Granted, this was probably because they were spending a good deal of time running away and screaming. The Ferrite Chef, Edward Meyer, however, had no such problem. He giddily laughed and waved as he lead his thirty foot cold meat golem through the streets.
Several police cars skidded to a stop before the gourmet goliath. Meyer simply smiled and let his gastronomic gargantuan step over him. "Ah, good day Gentlemen!" Edward yelled to the officers. "Do be good lads and see if you can rustle up The Grayhound for me? I seem to have some unfinished business to deal with."
" and to your left you'll see the err.. First National Bank of Boise which is famed for it's collection of Holy Nasal Hair, said to give rejuvenative powers to those who carry a minimum balance of two thousand dollars a month." JB said into the microphone. It wasn't true of course. The bank had no such collection that JB was aware of. However considering that this was Boise and neither he nor Chris grew up there or, frankly, got around all that much, he had kind of run out of things to say several hours ago.
So he just started lying about it. To be more precise, he and Becky Sue were holding a contest to see who could come up with the biggest whopper to tell the furry yokels.
Currently, Becky Sue was ahead by three, but JB was gaining. Chris, on the other hand, busied himself trying to become unlost in downtown. This was a feat that few would imagine to be difficult, considering that a good deal of downtown had recently been removed. Chris, however, had a skill. Whenever left to his own devices, Chris unerringly managed to find the worst possible part of town and become forever trapped in it.
This did mean that the bus had passed Annie's House of Bondage three times this past hour, but JB had managed to point to various buildings to distract the occupants.
Amazingly, the occupants were still as enthralled as they were when the "tour" had begun four hours ago. Every time JB pointed to anything, they cheerfully took pictures and prattled on about how wonderfully primitive it was. JB wasn't quite sure if he should feel insulted or not.
"Geez, Chris, how many times are you going to take this turn?" JB asked his brother.
"What do you mean?" Chris asked defensively, "we haven't been down.." He stopped talking as Annie's passed by the right side of the bus. "JB, Shut up."
"Look, take the next right, we'll head up Jekyll to Sprokety and at least go by Louie's once."
"Turning right, we see the World Famous Spleenatorium famous for their internal organ sundaes. Mmm-mmm!"
"So who's ahead now?"
"Becky-Sue. You think I could come up with the 'Spleenatorium'?"
"You came up with the Boise Acrophobic Trapeze Artist Association, the last time we passed by a subway station."
"How could you tell?"
"'Cause you did the same little check thing you do when you frag me in Quake."
"We haven't played that in a long time."
"Yeah, because you've got Annie Oakley in there drawing the beads. Would you play against her?"
"Depends on how good the blindfold was." JB smiled, then stopped suddenly, "Oh, really?"
"What?" Chris asked.
"She just told me that the finale she used to do in her Dad's show was plug quarters in midair while blindfolded on horseback."
JB turned the mike on again. "And to the left, we have Mr. Pickles, founded in 1849, and makers of the world's only Chipsage, Tasty homemade chocolate chip cookies on the outside, wholesome polish sausage on the inside. Be sure to try one today!"
"Uh-oh " Chris said as the bus stopped.
"What? No, that last one was mine. She's only two up on me now."
Chris didn't answer. He simply leaned back in his chair and pointed out the window in front of the bus. JB turned around to see dozens of police cars lining the street and leading up to a huge mottled brown, red, and pink figure that filled the alley between the buildings.
"What the heck " JB said as he stared out.
A number of the tourists started taking pictures. It was a natural reaction, and one that they had all paid good Gobliaks for.
"Stay here and keep them amused, I'll go see what the deal is." Chris said as he pushed past JB and exited the bus.
"Chris? Wait, we're a team! You're not gonna, CHRIS!" It was no use, Chris was already out of the bus and making his way toward the scene. JB looked toward the bus full of smiling tourists. Actually, JB had no idea if they were smiling or not, but considering their generally chipper nature, he made a good guess.
"Uhm, Hi!" Chris spoke into the mic. "So, uh, we're experiencing a bit of a technical issue at the current moment. Please stand.. err, sit by "
"Ah, there you are!" Edward waved cheerily toward Chris. "So I've been meaning to talk to you a bit about LEAVING ME ABANDONED UNDER SEVERAL TONS OF CHERRY FOAM!"
The last statement was not stated in a cheerful manner, unless you mistake the throbbing neck veins and bits of spittle as cheerful.
"Oh, that's right, sorry about that. We were a bit busy."
"A bit busy? After ruining months of preparation and training you became busy. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA what I had to go through to summon that danish?"
"You should have gotten a refund."
"Well, it didn't go too well with coffee."
The Chef stood making semi articulate noises and various inflections as a thousand evil thoughts fought to gain control. Finally, as his face turned colors to match his wardrobe, he spat out his command
The Golem's roar shattered windows as he tossed aside several police cars to reach Chris.
He's going to go for another chapter out of this? Is he Insane?Holy Meaty Menace! Will Chris get minced?
Will JB manage to get a decent tourist
board rating for the Earth or will funding
for NASA be a non-issue for a while?
Ok, that last one was just plain gross.
Tune in Next Time for:
Fighting the Fillets
Beat Your Meat
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