Jasp Underground spent his time wandering somewhat aimlessly. He felt at a bit of a loss as to what to do with himself. He'd been missing Tonad every day since don Breakhead had assigned him to go along with the Chaos, and his homesickness was all the more pronounced for the stark differences between Tonad and Triscot. He admitted to himself that it was a beautiful place, and he could understand how one could enjoy living here, but it just wasn't his kind of town. What's more, he missed his old duties. He liked knowing what he should be doing at any given time, and his current mission was just so vague, so undefined. It would be one thing if Darius or any of the others had anything resembling an actual plan, but... no. Aside from the brief times he spent actually liaising with LandOrder on behalf of the Chaos- and he wished he could honestly say it was the other way round, but he couldn't- he was pretty much at loose ends. He almost wished their enemies would find them, which would necessitate some kind of action, even if it was only running away.
He was, at one point in his wandering and pondering, beginning to debate whether he should make some kind of token effort to find any kind of spying to do (though he didn't really have any clear ideas of what that might entail, in his current situation), or just give up and call it a vacation day, do a little sightseeing. Certainly, there were plenty of nice shops and restaurants throughout the various posh districts of the village, and it occurred to him if he just stopped pining for home, he could probably have some genuine fun. Maybe even take in a play, or something. He grinned as the thought, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here" crossed his mind. While he found the sentiment quite true, he also found it ironic, considering most people in Tonad would rather live in Triscot, while few people anywhere would even call Tonad a nice place to visit. But, before he could fully make up his mind about what to do, a t-mail bubble in his jacket pocket began vibrating.
He fished out a black LandOrder-created bubble (not one of the red ones Cameron had given everyone back in Tanq), instinctively glanced around to make sure no one was watching or listening, and said, "Identify caller."
"Cabbit Atwater," came Cabbit's recorded voice from the bubble.
And in that instant, he realized that even more than having missed his home village and his routine duties, he missed his friends. None moreso than Cabbit, herself. Still, he was determined to be professional when he answered her call. He ducked into an alley, and said, "Open, audio only. ...Cabbit, I'm sure you know-"
"Before you even start, boss, don't worry. I had chief RD juice the anti-hacking spell on my end, and as soon as the signal reached your bubble, before you even opened it, his spell also enhanced it on your end. No one's going to be listening in. But that's not important, we're not going to say anything worth hearing, anyway. We just needed to make a connection so that..." She stopped talking for a moment, and Jasp barely had time to wonder why, before two people suddenly appeared in front of him. "...RD could get a fix on your coords, and translocate us to you. Close and vanish!" she added with a loopy grin. Her bubble closed and vanished.
Jasp wasn't one to let the unexpected take him aback, or at least he wasn't one to show it. So, he regarded his colleagues with a blasé, even slightly irritated expression. "Close and vanish," he said to his own bubble (the 'vanish' part was unnecessary, as he and Cabbit both knew, but she liked to add it anyway, so he sometimes did so as well; certainly when around her, but it had even bcome a bit of a habit when not around her). With a sigh, he asked, "Well, what's up?"
Cabbit laughed and moved forward to hug him, and he couldn't help but smile. "Nice to see you, Jasp," said Cabbit as she released him. "Well, here's the thing. Of course you know about the whole Des'Caina matter in Woodstockade. Yes, you mentioned to me before you left that it was of interest to you, and you wished you could go there to investigate, yourself. Well, the other day I was talking about it with some friends in the commissary, and chief RD overheard us, and joined in the conversation. He said he's actually an old friend of Silas Des'Caina's, from like before the Coming. And when talk about this secret project began circulating, he contacted First Sorreter Newline, who put him in touch with capo Primus. So now Primus wants RD to go to Woodstockade and talk to Des'Caina, secretly. Well, I said I was sure you'd love to go along. And he said he'd be pefectly happy to have you join him. So? Whattaya think?"
Jasp had continued smiling as she talked, and it was several moments after she'd finished before his smile finally faded, and he sighed wistfully. "I'd love to, Cabbit, but... I'm on this whole 'liaison' assignment, direct from Primus himself. I'm afraid I can't just take off on a whole other adventure, for the foreseeable future."
"Don't be silly! I wouldn't have suggested it if I hadn't already cleared it with the capo. Honestly, how irresponsible do you think I am? He said it would be fine, as long as don Breakhead has no objections- which, by the way, he doesn't. In fact, Primus probably would have been contacting you within a day or so anyway, to ask if you'd rather stay with the Chaos or return home. I mean, once this new t-mail network is up and running, those Chaos people will be able to contact Primus or any of his dons directly, so they won't really need a liaison, will they?"
Jasp rubbed his chin. "Huh. I hadn't thought of that, but now you mention it, it makes perfect sense. Though I'm just a bit surprised you've already heard of it. Of course, it's not yet certain the network is actually going to happen. But if it does, I'd be happy to go. So, chief, when were you thinking of leaving?"
"I'm ready anytime. We should go as soon as possible, but it's up to you, if you're coming. I mean, within a few days, at most, but..." he shrugged.
"Okay. Well, I'll need to discuss this with Darius and the others, tonight. I'll get back to you with a definite answer once we've heard more about the potential network. I have a feeling we should be finding out by tomorrow. Then you could come back and translocate me to Tonad... I'll want to check on a few things at home, maybe do some packing. Also I'll want to talk with don Breakhead, as well as my staff." Turning back to Cabbit, he added, "Well, I said he could 'come back,' assuming the two of you would be heading back home right now, but I suppose if you'd rather, you might spend the night with the Lonewanders, though... I'd have to ask Adam about that."
Cabbit blushed a little, and it suddenly occurred to Jasp that there might have been some confusion about exactly what the sleeping arrangements would be. He quickly rubbed his face in the hopes of preventing his own cheeks from reddening, and stuttered, "Uh, you know, because they, uh, seem to have plenty of guest rooms, and all. Though I'm sure you'd be more comfortable in your own bed, anyway, and I-" suddenly, he felt even more embarrassed, and certain that he was saying things quite the wrong way. "I... heh. Look, you know what? I'll see you both tomorrow. Or, uh, whenever. Off you go. Bye now." He waved a hand, in a shooing motion rather than a gesture of farewell.
Chief RD grinned, and Cabbit giggled. "Okay, boss, be seeing you!" She took RD's hand, and the two of them vanished.
Jasp leaned against the wall of the alley, and sighed in deep relief that that whole scene was over. But after a centhour, he started smiling again, and said to himself, "Damn. I need an ale. I better see if I can find me a pub around here...." And with that, he exited the alley, and went back to his wandering, glad to have an aim, this time. And glad to know that Cabbit had gotten a good deal further out of her shell than the last time he'd seen her. Her time as temporary chief in his absence seemed to have done wonders....
Ginger, Emma, Alecstar, Cameron, and Tino all sat at a couple of small, round tables on the sidewalk outside a café. Emma felt a momentary sense of déjà vu, but quickly waved it away, realizing she really had sat at sidewalk cafés much like this one, many times over the years, alone or with friends, both before and since joining the Band. In fact she supposed the five of them must have been at this very one, at some point; though she further supposed that this particular instance of déjà vu was probably caused by having been at a similar café in Jump Village, last We'yetday.
Star was reading the day's paper, which had news about preparations for the fourth quadrennial World Fair, which would, this year, be held in Ship. The events would go on for the entire month of Su'mo', which was now a little less than three months away. Star commented that he wished they'd have a chance to go there, but very much doubted it would be possible. They all agreed that was a shame; it'd be fun to maybe play a few gigs, as well as just enjoy all the attractions: watching the sporting competitions, playing games, going on rides, viewing various artistic displays, listening to other bands, shopping, and whatnot. Still, Tino pointed out, they'd be having plenty of excitement in their lives over the next few months, even without the Fair. Another article in the paper mentioned that a group from the village of Ristar, on Midds Land, were planning to settle a new village there, apparently called "Barbequeue." Star set the paper down and pointed out the name: "Look, they've changed 'cue' to 'queue,' which sounds the same, but the article says it's a pun; the settlers want the new village's name to mean 'line up and eat!'" He shook his head. "People sure are strange." At the same time, a long-disused corner of his mind began attempting to think up an alternate name for the new village. He didn't share these thoughts with his friends, nor did he even like thinking about it himself. The part of his life of which it reminded him was long past, and he felt, best kept there. He went on reading the paper in silence, while his friends talked of other things.
"So, Tino," said Ginger, suddenly reaching across their table to place her hand over his, "it's been awhile since we've had a chance to go out, just you and me. But this is a beautiful village, with lots of nice restaurants and theatres. And I think we may just have the night free. Give you any ideas? Hmmm?"
Tino grinned and replied, "Baby, you know I'm always full of ideas," and placed his other hand over hers. "I'm sure if no one will miss us, it wouldn't take much wandering before we found ourselves some fun." He sighed. "Still, before we make any vague plans for the evening, maybe we should wait for Darius and the others to get back. I suppose we could find the estate on our own, but then again, they might not want us wandering around with torches or anything, possibly drawing attention to ourselves. Probably be better to go back with the whole group. Of course," he quickly added, once again smiling, "we could do our wandering any time, we don't have to wait for evening."
Ginger drew her hand back, crossed her arms and feigned pouting for just a few moments before grinning and saying, "Sounds fine to me."
Alecstar caught the gist of their conversation, even though he was trying to concentrate on his paper. But as it happened, the article he was reading at that moment was about an event taking place that evening, something he was thinking of mentioning to Darius. So, now he thought of mentioning it to Ginger and Tino, but... refrained, and instead just turned the page.
Cameron had been quietly thinking his own thoughts ever since the Band had placed their orders, but also loosely followed whatever anyone had said. He'd been happy just to spend time with his bandmates, whether he took part in any conversations or not. But he had something he had to do alone, which he felt he could no longer put off. He suddenly stood up and declared, "I have to make a private call. So, if you'll all excuse me, I'll catch up with you later."
After Cameron had left, Tino grabbed Ginger's hand and stood up, gently pulling her from her seat, as well. "Well," he said, "that seems as good a cue as any for this little gathering to break up, for the nonce." Nodding to each in turn, he added, "Star, Em, always nice to hang with you kids, but... I daresay the time has come for me to step out with my baby...." And with that, the two of them headed down the street.
Emma smiled as she stared after her departing friends; Alecstar vaguely waved his hand, his attention still on his paper.
Cameron strolled nonchalantly down the street for several centhours, before suddenly, but just as nonchalantly, turning into an alley. He stopped when he reached the wall at the end of the alley, turned and faced the way he'd just come. He knelt down and tied a bootlace, while keeping an eye on the street. People passed by on both the near and far side, though none of them looked down the alley he was in. Nevertheless, he waited until there was no one in his line of sight before casting a quick spell, which raised around him a cylinder of invisibility. That was its official name, though it did more than conceal whoever or whatever was inside it from outside observers; the spell also rendered any sounds within the cylinder entirely inaudible. If anyone looked at the cylinder, all they would see was whatever was directly behind it. What's more, it was intangible: they could walk straight through it, and whoever was inside it, without the slightest hint that they were occupying the same space as anyone or anything else.
However, the cylinder was permeable to other types of magic, and so it was no problem at all for Cameron to place a call using a t-mail bubble which was of a type more advanced than any other in the world. Only a select few ex-Sorreters were in possession of these bubbles, and they'd sooner die than allow them to fall into any unauthorized hands. Even the hands of an ally who knew nothing of these bubbles' existence. There was, in short, no way anyone could conceivably trace this call. Not even Grand Sorreter Durell himself.
"Field op Cam for Bishop Drag," said Cameron.
There was barely a centhour's delay before the bubble expanded, displaying the visage of Cameron's master. "Cam, my boy, it's been a bit! I was growing worried, since your last report. What news?"
"Two days ago, we arrived in Triscot, and soon discovered that Adam of Triscot- now Adam Lonewander- and a number of his clan are alive, in hiding these eight years." Drag's face conveyed no surprise at this news, though Cameron was sure the former Grand Sorreter must have felt it. However, he skipped not a beat to consider this, but immediately continued his report. "He apparently has a number of contacts, who I expect themselves have many contacts who may not know of Adam's survival. But Adam may be prepared to reveal himself, when the time is right, and thus a dormant army might be raised, to aid his son's cause. Meanwhile, don Cherilyn Amalgamator of LandOrder has offered to have her Sorreters establish a t-mail network, utilizing special bubbles. Their networked bubbles would be passed out to members of the Chaos, and Adam's most trusted allies, as well as certain members of LandOrder. But before her Sorreters can begin working on the network... well, she specifically asked me if I could provide them with bittrickle, to help get the network up and running. It makes sense to me that her spies would have informed her who invented the spell, though how she'd know he had anything to do with us is beyond me."
Drag sighed and said, "Well, I suppose it can't be helped. I'll contact Mordechai, and ask him if he's willing to allow it."
"But couldn't I just-"
"No. My arrangement with him is unique, among my spies. His first loyalty is to capo Mysshroudedtery, and by extension, to all of InterGang. If I didn't respect that loyalty, I couldn't expect him to grant me his second loyalty- or perhaps I should say his third. I'm not going to let any of my operatives simply hand over his spell to his gang's rivals without his express permission. Not only would it be morally wrong, it would also surely mean losing his cooperation, once he inevitably found out about it. Such a loss would outweigh whatever potential gain might be achieved by this tenuous alliance between LandOrder and your friend Darius. Besides, on a more personal note, his actual first loyalty is to my old friend Cirna, and his second is to his capo. I'm still third. I rather hope that one day he might help me build a bridge between his former master and myself. It has always stung that Cirna and I chose different sides during the Coming, but I have never given up hope that one day our friendship might somehow be restored. Mordechai certainly wouldn't help me with that, if I betrayed his trust now."
"I understand. Well then, I shall wait to receive word from you on whether or not I may offer Amalgamator the knowledge she seeks. Meanwhile, back to my report. Adam's estate, I've learned, is blanketed by an anti-magic spell, so I'll be out of touch while there."
"Ah, that. I'd have mentioned it, if I knew you'd be going there. I suppose I should have thought of it, considering the company you're keeping, though I hardly expected you'd have reason to stay there."
"No worries. Anyway, at the moment, Darius and a few of his allies are on their way to Shanty, in the hopes of recruiting... ahem, pirates... to serve as a possible navy, for the Chaos. That's all, for now."
Drag nodded. "Interesting. And you don't think Durell knows where you are, by the way?"
"As far as I can tell, my anti-scrying spells have so far been effective. I think if they'd found us, we'd have been taken by now, along with Adam and his entire clan. Still, our luck can't hold out forever, given the resources- magical and otherwise- at our enemies' disposal. We'll all have to be careful, of course." He paused a moment before continuing, "Master, I know I've asked this before, but..."
Before Cameron could complete his thought, Drag replied, "Things seem to be growing more promising, but Darius Lonewander and his allies are still very much the underdogs, in this scenario. I'm sorry, my boy, but it's too early at this stage for me to promise any involvement, beyond making that call to Mordechai. The rate at which events are progressing, however, suggests that it shouldn't be too long before I can give you a definitive answer, in the negative or affirmative. As always, keep me apprised as the situation continues to develop. I wish you luck, and I am hopeful that this will turn out to be, as you yourself hope, the catalyst we've been awaiting so long. But whether or not it is... our time will come. One day, we shall return, and make things right. We must never stop believing that that time will come, but neither can we allow ourselves to anticipate that moment."
Cameron sighed. "Of course. Well, say hi to my sister, will you?"
"That I will. And by the way... she's as anxious as you to see this whole Chaos thing succeed. With luck, you may be seeing her again sooner than expected."
Cameron brightened a bit. "I hope so. Anyway, I'll be in touch. ...Close." The bubble vanished, and Cameron again looked out at the street, and deactivated the cylinder of invisibility.
It had been around Second Six when Darius and his mother and friends had left the diner; less than 15 centhours later, they'd arrived at Adam's shed and stable, where they found a servant tending the striders. They left the ones currently drawing the Chaos's wagon with the servant as well, and took to the sky. By Third One and Fifty, they set down in Shanty. Darius was a bit upset that it was nearly evening; he wished they'd started the trip earlier in the day. Still, they were here, so he figured they might as well get down to business. They set off on foot, after leaving the wagon in a parking lot (and Darius grumbled about the cost of that, in spite of the fact that his mother was the one who paid).
Tom said, "Well, I'm just going to wander around, have a look at things. I suppose you can handle the Chaos business without me?"
Darius replied, "Shouldn't be a problem." Turning to his mother, he asked, "I suppose you know the way to the docks? And, like, who we should talk to about... you know... the stuff we have to talk about?"
Alyn/Anne nodded. Then she smiled as she said, "But first, we should stop in and see if Lance and Brynne are home."
"Oh, right," said Darius. "I'd forgotten about that." He sighed. "I suppose it'll be nice to see more family, though I was hoping to get back to Triscot before sundown." Turning back to Tom, he said, "Anyway, I suppose we should meet back at the wagon, later. I'll give you a call when we've finished our business."
Tom nodded and said, "Okay."
As Tom turned to walk away, Tiejo tugged at his elbow. "Tiejo can to be coming with Tom? Darius is surely not needing me for the visiting of relatives or recruiting of pirates. Wanting I am to wander, like you."
Tom sighed. "Very well. Just try not to... you know, whatever." He shrugged, not sure what exactly he meant. Something along the lines of 'be too annoying,' though when he thought about it, he really didn't find Tiejo as annoying, lately, as he used to.
Tiejo nodded. "Trying I promise to not being too whatever-like."
So, Tom and Tiejo headed down a random street, while Darius and the others followed Alyn in a more definite direction.
Tom and Tiejo spent some time looking around town, and they both enjoyed themselves. Shanty was the most ramshackle village either of them had ever seen in their travels. All the buildings were fairly dingy, and appeared to be shoddily constructed and often repaired. The whole place had been hastily cobbled together during the war, and it was surprising that it continued to exist. There couldn't be much money to be made here, and clearly even less care was taken in the repairs of buildings than had been in their original construction. Nevertheless, it all had a quality about it which both Tom and Tiejo found charming.
Tom commented, "I suppose the only reason the place still exists is as a haven for pirates, who obviously wouldn't dock at proper ports like Ship or Shipsister. At least, not without taking pains to disguise their ships as legitimate merchant vessels, and forging registration papers. But not everyone who lives here could possibly be pirates, and it's hard to understand why anyone would choose to live here. I mean, I like it, after a fashion... but even I wouldn't want to live here."
"Perhapsings there are peoples with nicer homes on the outskirts, away from all the... hmmm, picaresquity."
Tom grinned. "Not sure if that's a word, exactly, but I like it. Anyway, you said you'd been here before. Has it changed much?"
"Well, just being constructed it was, when I was here. Ummm... more buildings there are being, but much the same they seem as the few I remember. But if recalling correctly I am, we should almost be-"
As he said this, they turned a corner, and suddenly they were both struck by the difference in the scene before them. Tiejo recovered more quickly, however, as he'd been expecting it. "Yes, here it is being. The nice part of town."
Tom said, "Well, it's no Triscot, but it's definitely nicer than what we've been seeing, around here." He glanced up and down the street at the various shops, and mused aloud, "I wonder which place to check out first?"
"Come!" shouted Tiejo, suddenly sprinting across the street, obviously heading for a particular shop, off to the left.
"Wait up!" called Tom. "I'm not as fast as you, you know."
Tom jogged as quickly as he could across the wide street, while Tiejo stood on the other side and waited for him to catch up. The street rat then briskly led the way to the shop he'd been looking for.
As they entered the building, the design of which looked roughly halfway between the rickety nature of the area they'd recently left behind them and the more soundly constructed buildings on this street, Tom asked, "So, what's so special about this place?"
As Tom closed the door behind him, Tiejo turned to him and said, "Your coffee. Um, yes, the decaf you make for us sometimes. Probably the, uh, caf as well, but only speaking for the decaf can I be... well, always remindings me it is of the coffee I drank here, years ago. Never a better cup of coffee did I have, not even in Pritt. Thinking I was that maybe... you knowing the owner?"
Tom looked at the street rat with a doubtul expression. "Well, I suppose anything's possible. Like I said, I've never been to Shanty, but... people do move, so I suppose I could have met whoever it is somewhere else..."
Suddenly, a thought struck him, and he looked past Tiejo to the front counter. The man standing behind it didn't look immediately familiar, but when Tom reached the counter, he looked more closely at the man.
"Yessir, can I help you?" asked the man.
The voice was slightly familiar, though it obviously had been affected by age, as had the man's physical appearance. But Tom was soon sure he knew who it was. He was stouter than Tom remembered, and the full, grizzled beard was completely new. Nor did Tom recall him ever wearing flannel. Of course, he'd been 27 when Tom had known him (when Tom himself was 22), and that was... nearly thirty years ago.
"Do I know you?"
"It's Tom. Um... well, maybe you wouldn't remember. Haven't seen you since '84, back in Tanq...."
Staniel's eyes lit up with sudden recognition. "Oh, Tom is it, eh? 'Course I remember. One of the few people I ever taught to brew a decent cup of coffee. You still remember the secrets, I hope?"
At this, Tiejo nodded. "He seemings to. Good coffee he makes for me and fellow adventurers. You remembering Tiejo? I came in here with my master during the Coming, so much more recently than you last saw Tom."
Staniel peered at Tiejo. "Hmmm? Oh yes... the young street rat who was with..." He stopped and shook his head sadly. "I was sorry to hear about him."
Tom's eyes widened. "You mean to tell me you actually know who his master is? He won't tell any of us. Wants it to be some kind of dramatic surprise, when we find him."
With a confused expression, Staniel looked back and forth between Tom and Tiejo. "Who he is? Find him? But, I thought-"
Tiejo grinned and placed a finger to his lips. "Shhh! The world is thinking one thing about my master, and the truth is being another. Please, good sir, not to be spoiling surprise."
Staniel rubbed the back of his head. "Well, okay. If that's what you want. But I will say, I'm glad to hear... the world's wrong about him."
Now Tom grew irritated at this sudden possible source of information, which was just as suddenly closed to him. "Oh, come on! Do you have any idea how flimsy the excuse was that started this whole journey, a few weeks ago? How frustrated I've been not knowing if he even really had a master? I'm begging you, tell me who it is!"
Staniel shook his head. "Sorry. Already promised the kid I wouldn't. Tell you what, though. I'll give you both a cup of coffee on the house. Normal charge is two shillings..."
This momentarily distracted Tom from the matter at hand. "Two bloody shillings? That's all? Shite, man, I've paid nearly a deuce- twenty times what you're charging!- for coffee that isn't a tenth as good as yours. You should be charging a lot more."
"Well, refills aren't free, here, as they probably are at most other places."
"But... people would be happy to pay you at least as much as those other places, for every cup they drink. ...Speaking of other places, I can't help but wondering why you're here. What made you leave Tanq? You know, it suddenly occurs to me this guy who I met there, Dex Bigthink, could probably help you start a coffeehouse there which would do much better business than this place possibly could. In fact, if you took on some apprentices, you could start a chain."
"Well, I tell you... not really interested in all that. Though maybe one of the kids like you who I taught back in the day would be interested. I could give you their names if you want to contact them... but come to think of it, I haven't taught anyone since before the surname law, so I have no idea of their last names. I suppose that wouldn't be very helpful. You're free to start a coffeehouse yourself, if you like."
"Eh. Maybe I'll think about it. Someday. Doesn't really seem like my, um, cup of tea, no pun intended. But speaking of surnames, what's yours?"
"Barista. It's a subword. Haven't heard of anyone else on the Land calling their job that. Maybe some folks in Pritt might, but I've never been there." He shrugged. "So, how 'bout you?"
"You know I've been to Pritt. Oh, my surname, you mean? Never took one."
Staniel raised an eyebrow. "How'd you get out of that?"
"I know a few tricks." As he said this, it occurred to him that he knew many kinds of tricks, and maybe he could use some of them to figure out who Tiejo's mysterious master was. Now that he thought about it, it sounded like Staniel had been implying he was supposed to be dead. But that wouldn't narrow things down much; there were lots of dead people. Including world-famous people. Who the Order might want to hold prisoner. In secret. Hmmm... this was intriguing. Maybe Therman? Probably not. Certainly he wouldn't want to get Ginger's hopes up, though perhaps she knew more than he did. She might be able to tell him with absolute certainty that her father was dead, having seen the body- or if she hadn't, that could give a degree of credence to Tom's guess. Still, he'd rather not disturb her by questioning her on such a matter. He sighed, thinking it best to just drop the whole thing, not think about it at all. Just let the street rat have his fun. Hopefully, they'd all find out the answer, eventually.
"As for why I moved here," Staniel was saying, "I was just sort of getting bored with Tanq. My students were all adventurers, like you, who wandered the world. Didn't seem like the kind of life I'd want, always on the move. But I thought it'd be nice to see someplace besides just one village. I reckon most people, in the old days, only ever saw their home village, unless they had some reason to move, or travel, for their jobs or something. But at the time that I moved, the world was changing. Globalizing, so to speak. That was the Order's plan. I didn't really care about it one way or the other, which side won the war, but it did seem like a good time to make a change in my own life. So, I flipped a coin: Triscot or Jump Village. Ended up going to Triscot, where I happened to hear about this new port town being set up, which the Order wasn't meant to know about. Like I said, I wasn't on either side, but still, it sounded like an adventure, of a sort, just being involved in building a new village. So, on a whim, I decided I'd move here and set up shop. And, here I am. Selling coffee, and burgers and ice cream and such. Post cards and supplies and things." Tom glanced around for the first time since entering the shop, and realized it was a general store and diner, not just a coffeehouse. "Huh. Okay. Well, I guess we might as well take a table. I'll have that free coffee you mentioned, and a burger."
"Sure thing. The burger's gonna be a capital, though you know, I'm not as good at cooking as I am at brewing."
Tom grinned. "Yeah, I remember that. Luckily, I've had other masters, so I do alright in that department."
"Tiejo will be having free decaf, yes? And a sausage."
Staniel nodded. "Alright. You two find a seat, and I'll be out with your food in a few centhours."
Tom turned toward the dining section, then suddenly turned back to his old master. "By the way, the word 'barista' has become a bit more common, in some places besides Pritt. Places like Triscot and Jump Village, anyway. I expect any world travelers like the people I'm with lately would have heard it." He grinned again. "It's funny... you remember I told you a master I had a couple years before I met you taught me mind-reading?"
"Well, I could tell the other day that one of my companions was wondering, as he drank a cup of my coffee, whether one of my masters had been a barista- though of course I have no idea if he used that actual word, in his head. At the time I found it amusing, though I didn't mention that I knew what he was thinking. It's funnier now that I know you actually took that as your Order-name. Quite the coincidence, running into you, too."
"Feh. There ain't much in life that's truly coincidental."
"If you say so." And Tom joined Tiejo, who had already sat down at a booth....
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