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Deal 999: Lifted

The dirty rat just stood there and stared. At first, we worried that we had bitten off more than we could chew, but as we circled him and stared, we began to envy his cool demeanor. He didn’t flinch. Nor did he seem easily distracted. Not that that prevented the lightest fingered among us from relieving him of his wallet, watch, and gun.

Gun. Now that was a surprise. Someone carrying a concealed handgun and seemingly unaware that a pack of feral kids might be willing to risk lifting it. Clearly it wasn’t serving the only role he was putting it to: protection. Clearly it deserved a more careful owner too. We are happy to provide that service. For a time, at least.

At some new point in time his hand-axe was going to get too hot to handle, and would need to be artfully transformed into a weapon with an entirely different serial number. For the gun, a rebirth of sorts. And for our gang, a chance at survival for another day.

At least.

We ought to be able to live on the take from lifting that gun for a few weeks.

And the tale will be worth a few beers after that.

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Deal 995: Eye Knows All

It always begins with a fount of knowledge. The all-seeing eye that watches and records, and the leak from it back into the mortal world.

Leaks always seem like a good idea at the time.

Some over-confident blowhard is brought down by a well-timed leak. The gods are keeping useful things like “fire” to themselves, but a gutsy mortal, acting on a leak, can steal it.

But all too often, the result of a leak is more scandal, and punishment of the source.

That is partially why Sisyphus is still pushing that boulder, after all.

And even though he has since learned to apply tools to his problem and shave years off his sentence, math tells us that his sentence is still forever. He’s also learned that magic such as levitation is considered cheating, and didn’t earn him any goodwill. Cheating was the larger part of why he was condemned to that boulder in the first place.

In fact, his only way out is to simply endure it, serve his time, and hope that he is laboring in a side timeline that will be looped back into the normal frame of things so that after his infinite service, he returns humbled and can redeem his good name.

They won’t believe the tale he’ll tell, of course.

But the eye will see and they will know.

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Deal 944: Meta-Dreamlands

“As my fingers closed on the handle, I heard the typewriter loudly, and the scene dissolved.”

That was the last line that appeared on the teleprinter before it went silent. That was several days ago, and it hasn’t made a sound since. Until the recent spurt of activity, the printer had been idle for some time. So I’ve asked the rats to keep an ear open, and let me know when it starts back up.

The rats agreed even though they spend most of their time somewhere between my menagerie and Michel’s flat upstairs.

One thing was clear, the old mystery object game had started up again. A previous account of it once became popular literature telling of a little girl’s adventures when she followed a rabbit down his hole. This encounter was eerily similar to one of her scenes.

I’m reasonably sure that the narrator in that scene wasn’t one of our immediate circle, as we are all accounted for. Michel is off here and there but mostly here. And the rats or Otis would let me know if he was involved in anything more dangerous than an occasional bottle of liquor in any case. I know it isn’t me, my menagerie is all present and well, and then there’s Tina. But if Tina were involved, it would be a trap of her creation.

I should just file the transcript until she next drops in for a visit. But there’s something about the shape of the tale that draws my attention.

I try a little elementary divination, seeking to locate the object of power in the tale. I feel some hints, but I don’t have the strength to summon it rapidly, or the endurance to get it by any of the available slow ways. It feels real enough, but it isn’t entirely clear what power it would deliver to its holder, aside from a way to cut the stuff of dreams.

Which leads to a different avenue to consider. Tina won’t admit her standing, but we all know who she was. She’s also not the only one of her kind to continue to poke and prod at mortal lives. Morpheus is around somewhere, probably working as an anesthesiologist as deep sleep is his speciality. His brother Phantasos has a much more direct tie to dreams of the weird or prophetic, and likely is around somewhere too. Directly entrapping a hero is not really either of their styles, but they might have a clue about what this powerful object is, and if it is dangerous to our present day.

I can’t just pick up the phone and call either of them without some help.

As much as the nature of the object worries me, I’m just going to have to let it be for now.

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Deal 943: Dreamlands

Arriving in the clearing, we found an idyllic setting, a grassy clearing surrounded by stately trees punctuated by the occasional rose bush. We arrived via a narrow lane between the trees. Opposite our entry was a slightly larger lane, and in the distance just visible over the next rise was a collection of chimney pots that likely was a manor house.

In the center of the clearing stood a massive table set for tea, with more places than currently occupied by guests. And there were guests seated already, making a good effort at consuming the ample spread of finger sandwiches, tea cakes, petit fours, and all the trimmings. I was concerned we were interrupting a private party, when a familiar voice announced “Well there you are at last! We have been expecting you.”

I looked around, but none of the guests seemed to have spoken, and the trees were maintaining their own council as usual.

We approached the table, and surveyed the guests. This was one odd tea party, with a variety of animals and personages seated along one side of the table. There was a large calico cat, a mongoose, an older gentleman, a very large fruit bat, a young girl, and a black sheep. It was the sheep that gestured to the seat beside her and said “Please do join us.”

For a moment I thought I heard the sound of a typewriter somewhere nearby, but then a breeze rustled the trees and it faded away again. That worried me a little. If the typewriter was getting through again, this reality was wearing thin.

I stepped up to the table, and took my place.

“Lovely weather today,” I began. It is important to follow forms in these matters.

“Yes, a perfect day for tea on the grass.” This was the bat, in a voice that was just barely deep enough for me to hear and understand.

The old man and young girl ignored me. I expected as much.

The cat reached for a loaf of bread, and I realized what I was here to find. The serrated knife he picked up to slice with fairly glowed with a lavender aura. The cat deftly speared the slice and tossed it the length of the table onto my plate, then gestured at a crock of butter which promptly hopped up on spindly legs and ran after the slice. It curtseyed to me, and politely held its lid to one side so I could take some butter. I considered my moves while buttering my bread.

As I chewed, I felt the clearing changing around me. Now the table was just the right size, and round. The trees were black ash, and both pathways had vanished. The cat was facing me, and staring intently. The others seemed unaware of the tension, but you could cut it with a knife.

A knife. That was it. I was here for a knife. The cat was good. I almost let it slip my mind as I paid too much attention to the world changing around us. That probably meant that the cat was my opponent in this contest as well, but it could always be an ally.

“I say old chap, could you pass me that bread knife?” It never hurts to try the simple and direct approach.

He gestured at the table between us. “What knife?”

This was going to be harder than I thought. The sounds of the typewriter surged again, and once more the world shifted. Now we were a small party in a diner, seated at the lunch counter. We had coffee cups, and mine smelled particularly good, but no food had been served yet. A case held cakes and pies, and from the activity beyond the small window in the wall, there was a kitchen at hand that could produce nearly anything you’d expect from a diner.

I looked around. The cat was seated a few stools down, in the guise of a woman in a fur coat. The bat was wearing his wings as an overcoat. The old man and young girl were easily picked out. The others seemed to have faded away, perhaps they were just extras all along, even though I was reasonably sure the sheep had spoken to me.

I noticed that the cake server beside the ring of coffee cake was glowing lavender, and before anyone had a chance to change the environment I made a grab for it.

As my fingers closed on the handle, I heard the typewriter loudly, and the scene dissolved.