Chapter 4 Part 2
Part 2: Slippery Slope
The Cast: et al.
Singer waved cheerfully as we left the bar. He sure was an odd fellow. The Veteran’s Order gave some medical care, which in the case of Singer would use more hammer and tongs, and less scalpel and tweezers. I wondered why he hadn’t availed himself of it.
“Alright,” said Friday, “Morty and Duncan, come with me, Haven and Dale, pick up any supplies we may need, and meet us at the Firedown slaughterhouse personnel lift. We’re going to get a map.”
Dale and Haven headed towards the nearest lift, Dale listing apparently random gear that might be useful on the occasion of our descent. We moved off down through the Cogs streets, apparently heading to a different part of the plateau.
“It’d be nice to know where we’re going.” I remarked, in theory, to get some answers. It can be a little hard to get the right one some times.
“Well yes, that’s why we’re getting a map,” Friday called over his shoulder as I caught up. It looked like this was going to be one of those times where it was more difficult.
“I think he means right now, Joe.” Mordecai was always good about clearing things up for me- no wonder they had worked together for years. “I wouldn’t mind knowing as well. Didn’t they have maps at the registry where you got the license?”
Friday nodded, “Absolutely, but what would they think if I had walked in there, got a license, and demanded a map for a place?”
“That you were going to rob it.” I said, considering some of the more ‘light-fingered’ approaches I’d personally been witness to.
“Well, yes. Or that I had a vendetta, or a complaint against a place that I couldn’t route through one of the fine guardians of our…” he nodded to the guard standing beside the lift alcove to the upper city, “extremely pleasant and well-maintained city.”
“So, we’re going…?” Morty prompted.
“Hmm? Oh, to one of the other registry buildings. Best to get the building layouts ahead of time.”
As short walk to one of the cab balconies, and a quick hop though the skies later, we arrived at the slaughterhouse district’s registry office. The outside was as unimpressive as government architecture is expected to be, and the inside was more of the same; blank and featureless. Occasional stand-up desks were stationed along the walls, and contained a myriad of forms. With only a thin walkway bordering the room excluded from the roped queuing area, it seemed like they expected far more custom in this house.
As most people were barely literate, especially with the peculiar turns of phrase and misnomers that the government had instituted, most people just let issues lay, rather than address them through channels. I suppose that we fit somewhere in between the extremes.
Friday, still sporting some sort of manic grin, gamely waltzed through the cordoned aisle, and addressed the bored-looking clerk, on the other side of the wicket.
“Goo-ood Morning, my fine fellow! I’m …” started Friday.
“Afternoon,” stated the clerk.
“Well, no, Friday.”
They both stared at each other in a moment of shared confusion.
“It’s afternoon.” stated the clerk, attempting to restore some sanity to the still brief exchange. "As in, ‘after morning.’ "
“Aha!” Remarked our man, “and I’m Friday, in the afternoon.”
“So, what are you in the morning?” Mordecai muttered. I gave him a nudge with my elbow, hoping his wit went unnoticed by the principals.
“I’m here,” Friday continued, “to view a building survey map of the…”
“Form,” interrupted the clerk. Hard to say whether that was a question or statement.
“Oh! Well, I was hoping we could bypass that little indignity, as I only need to see… ’
“Form.” Definitely a statement.
Friday, momentarily dampened, responded (I felt) in a responsible manner, nodded at the clerk, and moved over to one of the small desks. Mordecai and I went over to join him.
Friday quickly glanced at his new license, to copy some numbers, and filled out the rest of the form with great facility. I wondered why he never joined the service.
“Oy, Friday – what the hell is Silvered Aspen Meadows, and why do you want to see the floor plan?” Mordecai asked, not quite reading with his finger, over Friday’s shoulder.
“Hmm? Oh, something that is in long-term storage. Should take the clerk a bit to find.” He replied, absent-mindedly, whilst completing the form. “My examiner was talking about how the clerk here had already finished their archival sorting.”
“But why does that matter?” asked a bemused Mordecai.
Friday just gave a big wink, and strolled back through the lines. Leaving Mordecai at the desk, I returned to the front door, and did my best to hold up the wall. I chuckled inwards at my own joke.
The clerk snapped the form from Friday’s hand, made an exasperated snort, and turned without a word to the back room. In response, Friday turned to the room, bowed with a flourish, settled his shoulders, and counted to three on his fingers.
The memory, and the horrible puzzle of how he did it, will no doubt haunt me for years. The wicket had a little speaking hole, just wide enough to pass an unfolded document through, about half way up the side. Friday… leapt through it, wriggling in a whip-like motion, just once, to clear some awkward part of his anatomy.
And then, he stood, on the inside of the clerks’ domain. He quickly snagged a map, out from a series of cases on the wall, replaced it with something of an appropriate size, then passed the real map through the speaking-hole.
He seemed to consider attempting a second horrifying passage through the same portal, but decided the door was easier. I, then, paused to consider that, with a minimum of noise and time, he had purloined protected government documents. Perhaps I’d ask him where he banked his money.
After secreting the map in one of our magical purses, he awaited the return of the clerk, rather than leave immediately, as I was wont to do.
Just before I could voice my concern at his apparent madness, the clerk returned, bearing a large, rather old parchment. The clerk gently folded the ageing corners into nigh-invisible brackets on the glass partition.
“You can look.” He said, dismissing us from thought, while he clapped small puffs of dust from his robe.
Friday gave it a cursory glance, and muttered to himself with sounds of growing frustration.
“So that’s where they put it!” He howled, and all but ran from the office. Mordecai and I exchanged glances with the clerk, and shrugged, nearly in unison, before decamping.
Friday lounged insolently against a nearby wall, as if waiting for hours. “Well, me hearties, let’s get a move on.”