“The temple is up this way, Baker Bloch,” says Little. “You go first. We’ll be right behind you. Take your time. Take in the views. It’s breathtaking. Our favorite place of the compound, that and the attached gardens.”
Baker begins to climb the stairs. The twins hold back.
“We’re still a go with Plan A,” Mabel whispers to her brother. “Truth Tree be damned. It’s been wrong before.”
“Once,” augmented Little. “We don’t talk about that, though.”
“No,” Mabel said quickly. Both thought of Winfield and the tragedy of ’08. Baker Bloch will be staying in his hutch tonight, Mabel thinks. *Maybe,* she tags on, which cheers her up. She elbows her brother gently in the ribs as they began to ascend the stairs, trying to knock him out of his sensed spiraling worries as well. “Winfield is still with us, you know,” she said.
“I know,” replied the brother. “It’s just hard still. We had no one else. We were alone then.”
“Maybe we have someone else now,” Mabel suggested, watching Baker reach the top of the stairs.
“Finally,” added Little. They were at the top as well.
Baker Bloch stared out at the amazing view. He drank it all in. Mars, he thought. This is what it’s all about. An idea flitted through his brain that he could actually and truly be happy here. But it was fleeting.
Turning, Baker Bloch saw the twins already within the temple sitting in 2 chairs. The mood seemed more sober.
“Rezz a chair, Baker Bloch,” Little requests. “Rezz a chair anywhere. We need to talk.” Baker rezzes the most handy chair in his inventory and sits down.
“Ahh, a bit closer to Mabel’s chair I see, aren’t we Mr. Bloch?”
“Maybe a little, Little.” Baker was becoming a little tired of the twins’ games. He wanted to get to the core of the situation. The book obviously. And Mabel’s rather overt affection for him.
“We apologize for not having a third chair, but you see it’s just been Mabel and I here for quite a long time. We have no guests any more. Until you showed up. We are very honored.”
“Thank you.” Baker nodded appreciatively to both Little and Mabel in turn.
Little continued: “Do you notice something different about Mabel tonight, Baker Bloch?”
Baker scanned Mabel quickly. “I — I’m not sure.”
“Well, I’ll tell you. She’s wearing makeup purchased at a fine INSCO store several years back. This is the first opportunity she’s had for its use. So there she is.”
“Oh stop it,” Mable then giggled.
“No I’m serious, Baker Bloch. Look deep into her lovely green eyes, Tell me what you see? Do you see… a soulmate?” His sister giggles again. “Take a look.”
Mabel tilts her head down to show off the eye makeup. Baker now sees a bit more of her true beauty, but also understands he is not the one they speak of. He is not in love with Mabel, not her soulmate. He is not destined to be a Martian.
“Well?” Little asks.
“Listen, guys. I know what you’re trying to do. You’re all alone, couped up in this beautiful but ultimately limited, um, compound. Your Dawg Pound as you call it.”
“We think it’s really because of you,” Mabel speaks smoothly. “You and your dog ship. The Dawg Pound name predicts your coming. Isn’t that heartening, Baker Bloch? You were the one we were seeking.” She smiles shyly.
Baker takes another tact. “So — just speaking theoretically — what if I don’t happen to love Mabel? Turns out I’m not her soulmate. What happens then?”
“You know of The Bill, don’t you?” Little says, a slightly sinister tone entering his high pitched voice. Baker obviously thought back to Wheeler’s recent proclamation that she is The Bill and that Collagesity is fully and truly her town.
“How did you know about that?” He faces Little squarely now.
“We have our ways, don’t we Mabel. And I suppose you recognize the chairs we sit upon.”
Baker didn’t recognize them until Little pointed it out. But now he does. Wheeler’s chairs. From her Table. “Where is all this leading?” he demands.
“Where do you think?” Little asks back.
It’s leading to The Table, Baker thinks correctly. One way or another.