They thought they were out of time but more was made of it.
END OF “COLLAGESITY 2019 EVEN LATER”!
“Help Tronesisia. I’m stuck between the floor and ceiling!”
“Get down from there, Duncan,” she pleaded again. “You’re going to hurt one or both of your keyboard playing hands (!).”
Alice Farrowheart walked into the psychedelic records store looking for her husband of 40 years. Ignoring Duncan Avocado doing a one handed stand on a bicycle seat — she’d seen enough of those kind of circus acts this week over at the bot cafe — she spotted the small, grey alien sitting on the opposite side. Oh well, she thought. At least he’s upright. I’ll ask him instead.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Oh, ahem, what’s that?” Ingo pretended to shake himself out a daydream, but he knew full well where he was and what he was doing here.
“I’m looking for Fred. That’s my husband.” She came closer to him. “About yea high; wears a cardigan.”
“Nope,” Ingo exclaimed. “Just us freaks in here today. We *wish* more people would come in and buy stuff. That would allow us to get better instruments, do more gigs. You see, we’re a band.” He pointed around the room, ending with himself. “Her, and him over there, and then me. I’m the drummer. You may have heard of me. Ingor Ratts. I was pretty famous back in the days.”
“No, sorry. I don’t think I have.” But she was more trying to ignore the large red rat that had just emerged from behind the counter. It reminded her of…
“Baumbeer!” she exclaimed while waking up. “Baumbeer was killed by the drummer!” She must get to Black Drake asap. Now where is that confounded belt?
“She has received the belt, ma’am, and is testing it out in Marwood.”
“Good, good,” Mid-Hazel returned. “But get her to Black Drake as soon as possible.”
“10-4 on that, Eleanor.”
“Stop doing stuff like that,” she commanded. He never listened. One day Jack Toadswallow would pay for all those non-listenings. The Abyss remembers.
Alice Farrowheart was embarrassed she had to widen and deepen the belt so many times in the options mode. Must go on another diet soon! But she had it on, and she *wasn’t* going to enlarge it any more, despite some of her waist still drooping over the top in the front. So be it! She was what she was (at this point). Not a young woman any longer, although in my day… Alice F. thinks back here to winning Ms. Applewood in ’52. A good year for apples in general, she sighs while looking down her torso toward the belt. She can barely make out the edges. But… it’s on.
Now: to test it out. Think I’ll go to that bot bar on the north side of the sim so’s no one important can see me if things go wrong. Alice F. has studied Mystery Woman’s working of the same. Several options will not be used! Just the one that teleports you to a different place. Shocking, I know.
She imagines the bar very vividly in her mind. And: SHOCK.
She’s there! Initial test complete.
I look in a mirror and see myself as not quite me. Alice F. — Alice Farrowheart. Why the formalities? And Percy is right. We should talk to her together, public servant and private dick as one. We are a swell team, she realizes, standing back a bit and trying to adjust her hair the same way as in the mirror. It doesn’t quite work.
“You’ll have to forgive my lack of furniture and niceties here in my apartment, fellow women! I spend a lot of time in the South — Black Drake or Black Dragon to most. The Red Umbrella (gallery) is there, of course. And some other galleries and nice shops — the place is still growing! Very exciting times here in the town. I’m looking for a reasonable apartment down there. That’s a joke — they’re *all* pretty reasonable here in this NWES city. New WES City it was originally called, you know. Named for a large burg in the past down the coast a bit. That’s where Ingor…”
“Ms. Farrowheart,” pleaded private dick Percy Pierce, tired of the babbling. Enthusiastic to talk — yes, that’s a plus. But it must be guided stream-of-consciousness. “We need to get down to the bottom of it. We’ve mentioned that woman upstairs, the one who sits in the hammock all the time.”
“Oh, she doesn’t sit there *all* the time. She has a double!”
Jodie Tanner and Percy Pierce exchange glances. “W-what do you mean: a double?” offers Tanner, daring to jump in. She quickly amends the conversation. “Mind you this is *off* the record, Alice F.. Notice I called you Alice F. there again? That’s because we’re off duty. *I’m* off duty.” She shakes her head toward Percy, acknowledging the gaff. They’re becoming one and the same more each passing day. Sharing bodies, sharing fluids. Two hearts as one.
Alice F. winds up again. “Oh she has a *belt*. I looked it up; it’s called a Great Belt. That’s the actual name of the thing. Well, she uses that belt to teleport in and around all over the place, but the belt *projects* a double still sitting up there in that hammock. With hardly a stitch of clothes on,” Alice F. complains again, rather old fashioned in those ways.
“So…,” attempts Jodie Tanner. “Kind of like, um, Wonderwoman?”
“Ahem,” piped up Percy Pierce in clearance, more aligned with the cartoon world of superheroes. “I think you may be thinking more of Batman. Or maybe Batgirl, hmm.” She turned to Alice F. “Is that what you mean, though? Some kind of talisman with, er, superpowers?”
“*No*. It’s mainly used as a toy.”
“Toy?” Jodie and Percy both exclaim.
“I’ve seen her down in Black Drake or Blake Dragon with the thing on. She *doesn’t* just sit up there in that hammock in Marwood. This is more a North-South connection. But Black is where (the belt is most powerful); more closely aligned with what it *really* is.”
“Martial arts?” attempts Jodie again. Wrongly.
“Good evening, Ms. Tanner.”
“Good evening, er, Jack. Have a good night. See you tomorrow.”
“Yes, Ms. Tanner.”
She’s always in that hammock, Percy. In her underwear; maybe, sometimes, without any clothes atall. Not that I’m perving.”
“Sure you are,” Jodie Tanner’s sometimes lover joked. “You sit here after work is over, *pretending* you’re doing more work and you’re just perving. Sitting here spying on that poor, pitiful woman over there. Percy peers over as well from her somewhat less advantageous position in the booth. “Never moves, huh?”
“No. Not even to go to the bathroom. Not even to change clothes. I suppose she does both remotely.”
“It’s just a bot,” concluded Percy. “Marwood’s full of ’em. Have you seen the mime?”
“No, this is different,” countered Jodie Tanner.
“I don’t *think* so,” offers up a convinced Percy, matching her tone.
“Alice Farrowheart’s in the same apartment building. The Monarch Too.”
“Yeah? Your point?”
“I mentioned it to her the other day. When we were discussing the (Red Umbrella) collages — just catching up with all that (after my vacation), you know.”
“What’d she say?” Percy’s interest was perking up again.
“She didn’t say anything, which was odd. Alice F. likes to *talk*, you know. But she was strangely mute when I brought the woman up.”
“Alice F.? When did you start calling her that?”
“Oh it’s just we’ve been seeing each other so much lately. Farrowheart’s kind of a long word. So we agreed to shorten it. Alice F. she is now. When I’m off duty, of course. Alice Farrowheart, the full name, around other police people.”
Private detective Percy Pierce looked over again, trying to see more details. “Maybe — we should arrange to go see her.”
“Exactly what I was thinking.” But Percy was thinking of Alice F. and not the woman.
Axis and Baker Bloch finished their wine at the same time. Axis was suddenly alone at the table. The meeting took place tomorrow, but it was today.
Alice Farrowheart, working hard on her “Little Book of Synchronicities” at the counter behind him, looked over, sensing that something had happened.
She then shook it off and returned her gaze to this.