Monday, April 27, 2009

Chasing Grady

Lina had been standing, just standing on the pier and looking out to sea, her heart heavy. She’d watched as a straggly group of creatures had trailed out onto the moonlit ferry to sail to the mainland. A Vampire with long, fiery-red hair had been seen off by a black-winged Angel. A Demoness with blue skin had boarded, too, looking all the while for something in a leather pouch that she wore around her waist. There were a few Lycans in various stages of shifting and finally, three or four humans of various sorts. But the one human she longed most to see wasn’t there. She sighed deeply and thought to herself, “I’ve got to take my mind of this,” before turning and seeing the stone pillars of the Library. She remembered the Librarian she had spoken with before. She longed to see a familiar face, so she began to walking toward the stone steps.

“Knock, knock,” Lina called down the stairs as she headed in.

The librarian was there. Lina waved as Rhaven looked up from her studies, violet eyes sparkling in greeting. She thought the librarian’s eyes were the most striking she’d ever seen. She couldn’t remember when she’d ever seen eyes like that before. Mary’s violet eyes, she thought, remembering the way her grandmother had taught her to remember the planets.

Lina headed over to the sitting area and settled into an armchair facing the hearth. “As long as I’m stuck here for a while, I thought I’d see about checking out some books.” She peered at Rhaven closely, noticing the careworn lines in her face and the ashy dark circles under her eyes. She looked like hell, Lina thought, and something seemed…off. “Say, kid,” she began softly, “You look beat up. Are you okay?”

“Just overworking, I guess,” Rhaven offered quietly. “Studying and keeping up with my duties here. How have you been?”

Lina sighed. “Pounding the pavement. Still no luck, though.” Her annoyance at Grady’s disappearance was rapidly changing to worry after having spent a few weeks in the City looking for him.

Rhaven nodded in sympathy, but didn’t really understand what Lina was looking for. “If there’s something we can help with, please let one of us know.” She set a pen and paper down on the pile of documents and books at her side. “I’ll prepare a library card form for you, if you want to take something out.”

“Copasetic,” Lina grinned. “I’d like that.”

“My pleasure,” Rhaven smiled as she began fumbling through the stacks of paper, looking for an application form. “If I may ask, what have you been searching for?”

“My husband,” Lina replied wistfully. “I know he’s here. It’s just a matter of where….”

“Your husband?” Rhaven asked, tilting her head slightly to one side, her curiosity piqued. “You think him here? What name does he go by? Perhaps we’ve seen him pass through.”

Lina’s doldrums suddenly lifted at the thought Rhaven might know where Grady was. “You think you mighta seen him?”

“Well,” Rhaven shrugged somewhat apologetically, “I’ve had a chance to meet a few people, see a few more. Perhaps if you left a name and description, we could help with your search or, at least, pass on information should we find some.”

A dreamy expression crossed Lina’s face. “He’s tall and thin and dark. Sweetest eyes you’ve ever seen, though he keeps ‘em hidden behind his cheaters.” Lina laughed. “You’d probably notice the bandage tape holding them together. He doesn’t exactly creep out like the shadow, if you know what I mean. But I do love him.”

Rhaven chuckled softly, nodding and making a mental note to herself. “What does he call himself, Lina? Does he dress in your…um…style? Not skirts and dresses, of course, but…um…era?”

That snapped Lina out of her reverie. All this talk about eras was dangerous ground as far as she was concerned and she was determined to lead Rhaven down the garden path away from the truth. “Rhaven, you keep talking about eras and times like it’s not 2040.” Lina shook her head. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were off your trolley. But Grady?” Lina shrugged and smiled, “Well, his cheaters are black and thick, and his drape’s pretty plain. He doesn’t much care about appearances.”

Rhaven blinked. “Cheaters? Drapes?” She shook her head in confusion, grimacing slightly. “I don’t know what those are. And, no offense, but you say it’s 2040, while some of your mannerisms and such seem to hearken back. My apologies.”

Lina’s exasperation began to grow. “Cheaters…eye-glass-es,” Joah said with a pronounced southern accent, speaking slowly as if trying to explain to a young child. “Drape…not drapes. Drapes are what you use to cover windows,” Joah sighed. “A drape is…well…” She took the lapels of her neat, short suit in both hands and pulled on them. “You know…clothes?”

“Ah!” Rhaven brightened. “So, dark glasses and dark clothing,” she repeated in words she thought she understood. “We have many people who dress like that. You say dark. Was he a black man? And you said his name is Grady.”

Lina looked a bit surprised at Rhaven’s use of the word black to refer to Grady. She’d never heard anyone use that term before, but when she thought of Grady it sort of fit, so she nodded. “Yes,” she said again, “he’s tall, thin, and dark skinned. And I didn’t mean he wears dark clothes. Oh sure, his striders are always black or brown, but he only wears white shirts…with a pocket protector for his pens and gadgets.”

Rhaven nodded thoughtfully. “He seems the sort of person that, would be hard to miss. Near everyone here looks gothic, like they’ve stepped in from the badlands, out of the… um…a red light district or surviving some holocaust. Nothing like your gentleman. I’ve not seen anyone like him but, now that I have a bit of a description, I can keep an eye open for him.”

Now it was Lina’s turn to be confused. “Gothic?” she asked. “You mean like Riems Cathedral?” She scratched her head, just tipping back her lady’s fedora. “Badlands? I haven’t seen any cowboys and Injuns here.”

“No, no, no, Lina.” Rhaven shook her head slightly. “Gothic as in clothed in dark Victorian-wear. And badlands…hrm…could be cowboyish, but without the hats, so much, and depending on steam or wound-powered locomotion.”

“Wound powered?”

Rhaven nodded. “Wound, as though wound up by a crank of some sort.”

“Oh,” Lina’s eyes widened in understanding. “Like a mantle clock or Edison’s prototype disruption chronometer…” She snapped her mouth shut, thinking I have got to learn to button my lip or it won’t be just me looking for Grady. Lina mugged, trying her best to look like a pigeon that’d never been out in the big, bad world. She tilted her head to the side, as if processing the information. “Well,” she finally said, “That explains a lot. I appreciate the help, Rhaven. You’re dicty, kid,” she smiled, changing the subject.

Rhaven looked slightly confused, but seemed glad she could be of some help. Leaning forward, she held out an empty library card with a red crayon. “Just fill that in, please, and return it should you need to borrow a book.”

“I’ll do that,” Lina grinned, taking both and dropping them in her pocketbook. “Tell you what…I’m famished. I’m gonna grab a bowl of guess water, then I’ll fill out this card and bring it back. Say, Rhaven…maybe some time you could wipe the clock and we could head over to that joint across the street for a jolt?”

“That would be lovely,” Rhaven asked, actually managing to understand Lina this time. “We could very well do that some time.”

“That’s be great,” Lina smiled, gathering up her pocketbook. “Well I’m gonna take a powder. See you around!”

“Have a good rest of your day,” Rhaven grinned.

Timeless Toxian Tip: Angels-keep your feathered wings fluffy soft by sprinkling a bit of white cornmeal in them and flutter hard. It will absorb oils and then you just flutter it out.

She's Not on the Bash

Lina had been out casting an eyeball on the city, up one street and down another. She still hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Grady, but she knew without a doubt that this was the place he’d come. She sighed; she understood his distinctive dislike of Aunt Gladys, but really! It was only for a few days. She didn’t ask him to get togged to the bricks often, and she thought he should just suck it up and stop roaring about it.

She headed back to the Shelter, really glad that she had a place to lie dead for a while. She’d been fortunate that when the blip occurred, she’d been packed and ready to go, her tweed Mendel suitcase in hand. Almost immediately upon finding herself in the city, someone had directed her to the Shelter. The red-haired girl, Brit, had offered her milk (which she declined) and cookies (which she accepted), really marvelous chocolate ones with a creamy white filling inside. They looked like Oreo Sandwiches. Of course she’d had them before, but these were different, smaller and darker, but still very, very good. She loved buying them by the pound in the tin with the glass top, where you could see all the cookies inside.

As she walked into the Shelter’s lounge, she saw quite a crowd of demons, nekos, lycans and the occasional apparent human. They were eating, reading, talking and trying to make sense of the television that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Lina had tried to sort the television out a time or two, but she couldn’t find an antennae, and when she thumped it soundly on the side to try to focus the picture, all she heard was the echo of a hollow wooden cabinet.

Lina saw Brit sitting on the lap of her husband, Ethan, and waved a hello. Ethan had been talking to a woman called Naki about something he called his kindred, and one of them in particular who hadn’t been nice at all to Brit. Lina walked over to the drink machine and fumbled in her purse for some change, puzzling that the RC-Cola came in cans and not bottles.

“The last time one of my kindred acted in a manner I didn’t find civilized towards my beloved, I watched him bleed his mistakes onto the sidewalk where he stood,” Ethan said in a voice like honey. Lina couldn’t help but shiver a little at that voice, even though she knew that Ethan was a man who clearly knew how to heave an alley apple if he had to. She continued earwigging as she decided to brave the drink machine, depositing her change. “I allowed his body to be collected,” Ethan continued mildly, “And he eventually apologized for his ignorance.”

“Oh, hi, Lina!” Brit smiled warmly. “We have soup and you can have some ice cream.” Lina pressed the button selecting her drink. With a thunk, a rusty can of RC Cola fell from the dispenser. She picked it up and looked at it for a moment as Brit lisped, “That drink is way good with these chocolate and marshmallow things called Moon Pies.”

Noki grinned, “That’s what they call a hitchhiker’s breakfast…RC Cola and a Moon Pie.”

Lina turned from the drink machine, “I love Moon Pies. Where I come from they only cost a nickel and they’re big!” Lina wandered on over to the tables, setting down the drink can and not even attempting to open it. She noticed Brit had on a beautiful dark green skirt and top. Ethan’s clothing matched it. But where Ethan’s jacket and shirt and pants covered him fully, there seemed to be something wrong with Brit’s. Her entire belly was showing!

“Brit, honey,” Lina asked in her most polite voice, “Are you cold?” She immediately began to think of ways to fix the torn blouse. Truly, she was surprised that Ethan had let Brit dress that way. He was usually so particular about her clothing and Lina knew that he was a candy leg with money to burn.

Brit looked up with a quirk. “Um….no. My mouth was just for a moment when I took bites of ice cream. But when I stopped, it warmed up again.” Brit snuggled up against Ethan, looking quite contented although Ethan had begun to frown.

“I don’t mean to be impolite,” Lina said as she walked closer to the pair, “But if you need some clothes I think I have something that will fit you in my suitcase.” She was genuinely perplexed by the style of Brit’s clothing. “It looks like there’s a piece of your top missing…unless…..” A realization dawned on Lina. Maybe Brit was supposed to look this way. After all, she’d read Gigi and she knew how the world worked. She bit her lip trying to be tactful. “Well, the fancy ladies wear those kind of tops where I’m from. But I didn’t think you were a fancy lady,” Lina said apologetically.

Brit’s hands drifted over her skirt as she looked down at her outfit. “It was made like this by Ethan’s seamstress,” she replied. “And….it is brand new!” She was obviously very proud of her new clothing. A puzzled expression then crossed Brit’s face. “What’s a fancy lady?” she asked.

Lina cleared her throat, trying for the utmost decorum. “A fancy lady? Well…you know…a bat…a girl on the bash? A working girl?” Lina flushed a shade darker. “I really don’t mean to be impolite or anything, sugar. But I do have a few things that might fit you.”

Brit traced the pattern in her top with her fingertips, very much enjoying the fabric. “Well, I do work lots,” she said. With a laugh she turned to Ethan, “But I don’t mop!”

Ethan, however, did not laugh. If eyes could be said to blaze, his did. He slid Brit off his lap and stood facing Lina. “You might want to be very careful of your choice of words in the future, Lina.” Ethan’s voice was like iron. “I will not explain now what much more subtle remarks have earned others in the past but do not judge, not to be judged yourself.” He folded his arms across his chest. “Especially not in my presence, especially not about my wife. Are we clear on this?”

It was pretty clear to Lina that Ethan wasn’t really expecting anything else than a ‘yes and amen’ in answer to his question. He eyed Lina closely, the veins on his throat and arms growing more evident, his eyes narrowing as a dark mist covered them. But Lina had heard that tone of voice before and wasn’t the slightest bit put off by it. She leaned in closer, speaking to Ethan as though she were completely oblivious to his meaning.

“I do try to do my best with my choice of words, Ethan,” Lina said sweetly in her soft southern accent. “And in my choice of clothing as well. I have always perceived you to be a gentleman…that’s why I was so surprised to see Brit dressed like…well…a fancy lady.” She tilted her head and brought her hand up to the side of her mouth as if telling Ethan a secret that was meant for him and him only. “You know all that belly?” she asked confidentially. “It just makes her look like a common streetwalker. You know your onions…every cake eater in the city will be after her.”

Her eyes wide, Brit looked from Ethan to Lina to Naki and back to Ethan again. She walked quietly up behind him and said, “Turmoil.” In a soft voice. No turmoil at the shelter. Lina knew that was one of the rules. Brit wrapped her arms around Ethan’s waist and laid her head on his back.

Ethan could feel his fangs growing. He bit down hard to keep himself from losing control. His mouth opened then shut, a lecture about appearances, looks, modern and contemporary clothing and what was viable to maintain in the city coursing through his mind. But his fangs reminded him of what was possible and what was not. He inched away from Lina and back toward Brit.

“Lina,” he began, “If you know what is good for you, you will keep yourself from interfering with what is not meant for you to interfere with. The first paragraph in savoir vivre, ‘Do always strive to make those around you feel as comfortable as possible.’” His tone was icy cold. “This is a warning and a well meant one. Another comment like the one you just made and I will not remember my origin, reacting accordingly.”

Ethan turned quickly on his heels and strode out of the shelter. Seconds later, Brit and Naki and Lina could hear the crashing of concrete and bricks.

“Hmm,” Lina said as she tilted her head, listening. “That doesn’t sound good. I just thought you might like a sweater, Brit.”

Brit blinked as the sound of concrete and bricks on talons continued. Puffing her cheeks, she smiled nicely to Lina. “My beloved has lots of pretty things for me to wear…including sweaters…but thank you.” As the noise of bricks and concrete being reduced to rubble grew louder, Brit said, “I asked for Moon pies to go with the RC.” Shifting her weight from left to right, she said, “I need to check on Ethan. I think turmoil is another name for hissy fit,” she lisped, and with that, she scampered to the front door.

“I believe I’m going I’m going to try to find a Co-Cola,” Lina sighed, discretely heading for the back door to the alley.

Timeless Toxian Tip: Remember your vampire biting etiquette. The polite thing to do first is to ask.

Dreams and Coffee Stains

“Did you come to find refuge?” the woman sitting by the fire asked Lina.

“Refuge? No…I’m looking for my own personal flat tire. So what did you mean when you said the city is a refuge for others like you?” Lina glanced down at the coffee stain on her skirt again, giving it another rub with her gloved fingertip.

The woman’s expression shuttered slightly, a further wariness in its depth. “Toxia takes in all sorts. Some obvious sub and super species, some not so obvious. I’m not so obvious. Here… we can live without being hunted down.”

The woman stopped in mid-thought, turning her head slightly, and looking beyond Lina to a lycan in a frilly pink floor-length gown that had wandered into the Library from the street. She waved her hand to the lycan to get her attention. “If you require something I won’t be long. If not, please feel free to look around.” The lycan nodded and half-growled, half-spoke something that sounded like thank you. Lina took it all in, muttering “She’s quite a sheba,” under her breath, her eyes widening at the incongruous combination of tooth and claw and frills.

Suddenly and with a rush of wings, a brilliant flash of white light spread through the library. In its wake walked an angel with a little pink-haired cyber girl in tow. The angel smiled. “Greetings,” she said in a beautiful, airy voice.

The cyber girl replied in monotone that lacked all the usual inflections of natural speech. “You greeted me earlier, Miss.”

“Larissa…hello,” said the woman at by the fire.

The angel, Larissa, chuckled and gestured to all in the room as she spoke to the cyber girl. “I meant to greet the others, Millicent.”

Lina looked over at the angel and the pink-haired cyber and the frilly lycan. “Lots of shebas,” she said again, this time not quite under her breath.

The lycan cleared her throat. “What’s a sheba?”

A whirring ensued from Millicent. “Queen of Egypt, Circa 1263 B.C-1244 B.C.”

The lycan smiled. “Don’t you mean the Queen of Sheba who went to visit King Solomon and he showed her his vast kingdom?”

“Unsubstantiated,” the cyber girl replied. “Possible fictional Sheba. Also, No ruler of Sheba was ever named Sheba. But self has been instructed as to the pointlessness of arguing fact or fiction of biblical reference text. Subject is Code 34771-J, not expressly forbidden, but 77.28831% likely to cause argument without resolve.”

Lina shook her head, wondering why she’d suddenly become so hard to understand. “You know…shebas..brees..dames…girls?” She sighed, “All I wanted to do was find the powder room….”

Millicent continued droning on. “Angels are fact. However books written by humans before the age of reason are not always optimum sources.”

The woman by the fire burst forth with laughter, sitting further back in her seat and saying to Lina, “Welcome to Toxian City.”

The lycan chuckled at the cyber girl. “For a cyber, you sure are cheeky.”

“Cheeky. Adjective,” Millicent intoned. “See also, snark, snide, sarcasm, lippy. I understand the accusation, but not the reasoning behind it. This unit tries her best to maintain proper etiquette at all times.”

The woman shifted in her seat by the fire and returned her attention to Lina. “You asked what I am?” She folded her hands in front of her. “Some call me a mystic. Some call me a psychic. Some wonder how I can tell who’s walking on the other side of the city or ask our Lady Library to send me a book. It’s all part of what this place is to those who call it home.”

“Oh…hoodoo,” Lina smiled. “I know all about that. So where is the Library Lady?” She looked back at Larissa for a moment, mesmerized by the glow, and then she turned her attention toward the lady by the fire again.

The woman gave the library a sweeping glance with her eyes, the quickly grown affection for her home shining in her face beyond the light of the fire. “Our Lady Library is all about you. Every bit of history, every nuance, every dash of knowledge or experience collected over time from the…before the Shift, to now and beyond, is part and parcel of our Library. It has a life of it’s own…and then some.”

The angel stepped closer to Lina and waved around. “Our friend speaks of a spirit. It is rather nice to refer to her as a woman….I like that.”

Lina laughed and crossed her legs primly in the sitting room armchair. “Oh…and here I thought she was just fond of metaphor.”

The angel smiled again. “I am Larissa, by the way. It is nice to meet a new face.”

The woman smiled, too, and made an excusing gesture with her hands. “Pardon my manners. I am called Rhaven.”

“Suyuan, here,” said the lycan.

Lina smiled and stuck her hand out to the angel. “Nice to meetcha, all. I’m Lina.”

Rhaven turned toward Suyuan, Larissa and Millicent, spreading her hands in a welcoming gesture and pointing toward the seats. “Please, be at ease. This is a safe place.” Larissa settled comfortably in an armchair, but the cyber girl and the lycan continued to stand.

Lina looked at her skirt again, fiddling with the stain. “Say, do any of you girls know where I could get some belch water?”

Rhaven blinked and mouthed the the words belch water, as if trying to turn them into something she understood. “Um…the Haven has water. Don’t drink the water by the docks, though. That’s a true death sentence, I think.”

“No, no, no,” Lina sighed in exasperation. “Not water…belch water.” She pointed to the stain on her skirt. “I’ve got a little problem here. You know…seltzer?” Lina shook her head, not getting why these people didn’t seem to understand modern English.

The angel sighed. “You could say ‘Sz√≥da’, too, you know.”

“Actually,” the cyber girl interjected, “We have stain remover in the book hospital. For use with cloth and leather-bound books. But I fear there is nothing in regulations regarding distributing it for clothing application.”

Lina looked over to the one that appeared to her to be a robot. A fancy robot, but a robot, nonetheless. “Would you happen to know if it’s stinky?” Millicent just tilted her head quizzically in reply.

“Lina,” Rhaven began in an attempt to explain, “You’ll find that Toxian City is a bit a part from the rest of the world, cut off, so to speak. Some even doubt our very existence. So some of your…dialect might seem strange to most of us, myself included.”

“Well, it is apart, I’ll grant you that,” Lina replied. “But President Roosevelt knows all about….” She shut her mouth realizing she’d said too much.

Both the angel and Rhaven gave a double take, asking almost in unison “President Roosevelt?”

“Umm…I mean the man who is president of the company my husband works for,” Lina said, hoping the explanation sounded plausible.

“Oh…you more belong here than you think,” Rhaven observed aloud, forgetting to pause between thought and speech. ”What year is it, for you, Miss Lina?”

Lina looked at Rhaven as if she’d lost her mind. “What year is it for me? What year is it for you, sugar? It’s 2040 last time I looked.” She pulled out a small watch with a broken band made from two black woven cords. The hands of the watch flew around its face in nonstop motion. “Yes,” Lina said to herself as she examined it. “2040…say, you don’t know where there’s a jewelry store, do you? I could stand to get this watchband fixed.”

Larissa frowned at the watch then looked out the window to the street. “Jewelry store? Hmm….I don’t recall. We sometimes receive packages from the mainland, but I don’t think anyone runs a store.”

“Oh, well then,” Lina sighed, tucking the watch back into her kick.

Suyuan finally moved toward the seating area and settled into an armchair. The cyber girl joined her after being prodded by Larissa to sit down, not on the floor, but in a chair. Lina turned toward the robot. “So…about that stain remover….”

“Negative. I possess none,” Millicent replied. “The Library stores have a supply. But, as I said, there is no listed protocol for distribution for application to garments anywhere in library regulations.”

“What stain do you need to remove? Coffee?” Larissa asked.

Lina nodded yes and then sighed. “I went to the diner for some angels on horseback, but they didn’t have any. So I just had coffee. Leastwise, I think it was coffee….”

Larissa looked baffled. “Angels on horseback?”

“My favorite!” Lina nodded enthusiastically. “Oysters rolled in bacon, served on toast…it’s just…wonderful.” She looked a bit wistful. “I don’t think they have oysters here.”

“Not the non-toxic variety, I don’t think.” Rhaven furrowed her brow quizzically. “Lina…you seem very…out of time, if you don’t mind my bluntness.” Actually, even Rhaven couldn’t mind her own bluntness. “I don’t know where…or when…you come from but everything from your speech to your mannerisms…to your dress, leads one to think….” She paused and then turned to Larissa as if seeking confirmation, “1920’s, North America, perhaps?”

“I had a friend who was capable of time travel,” Larissa nodded in agreement.

“I’m not out of time,” Lina laughed. “At least I don’t think so. I believe I have all the time in the world. Well, at least until Christmas, anyway.”

“Christmas?” the angel asked. “How come?”

“Family dinner,” Lina muttered in reply.

Rhaven persisted, focusing in on Lina. “No, no,” she shook her head slightly. “I don’t mean out of time, as in the end of a particular action or event. I mean out of time as in…your modern appears to be our past.”

“No, I’m here,” Lina smiled. “It’s now. 2040. Just like it says in the papers.” Rhaven fell quiet, her eyes narrowing slightly as she attempted to inwardly decipher Lina’s reply.

Lina turned toward Larissa. “Hey, d’ya mind me asking why you glow like that?”

“I glow?” Larissa looked down at herself. “I am somewhat pulsing aren’t I?”

Rhaven leaned toward Larissa confidentially. “Glow is a bit of an understatement, girlfriend. You should check your reflection in a mirror…you’re looking…quite spiritual. I’m surprised They haven’t come by to check on you yet.”

“They,” Larissa replied, “Have someone who prevents Them from hurting me, I think.”

Millicent studied Larissa and the whirring sound emanating from her increased in volume. “I concur with Rhaven. You are somewhat luminescent, Larissa.”

“Pulsing like a drugstore cowboy hoping for some whoopee,” Lina agreed.

Larissa began turning another shade of white that was somewhat less distinguishable from the previous shade. “I woke up a bit different, that is true.”

“Well,” Lina laughed, “If you could bottle that and sell it you’d put every joint in town out of business.”

Millicent tilted her head. “I don’t care about waking up different, myself. It’d be a small price to pay to find out about sleep. I can power down for recharge, but, it is not required, nor is it the same, I understand.”

“Oh, sweetheart.” Larissa reached over to stroke Millicent’s pink locks. “Even androids dream about electric sheep…you should definitely talk to the cybers and ask if the have an upgrade for dreams.”

Lina nodded, “The value of rem sleep and dreaming cycles to artificial intelligence is invaluable as it promotes abstract creative thinking and provides a sort of reboot to the entire system.” She shut her mouth abruptly, realizing once again she’d said too much. “What I mean is…um…dreams help you sleep better.” Lina turned sheepishly to watch Suyuan, who appeared to be listening very carefully from her perch.

“I tried dreaming once,” Millicent said with the first trace of sadness in her otherwise inhuman voice. “Ran a mental depiction of randomized characters and situational happenings. It was perplexing and unfulfilling. But nonsense is a key factor in many dreams, so it had to be random. Still…as I understand it, buildings do not sing.”

Lina thought about the comparison for a moment trying to sort it out, and then pointed to Rhaven. “Well…she said this building is a spirit…so maybe some of buildings…and other constructs…do.”

“Indeed, but…Wagnerian opera?” Millicent asked. “It was in the dream.”

Larissa smiled and looked around. “Buildings do interesting things, Millicent. You will learn in time.”

“Do you like opera, robot?” Lina brightened visibly. “I love opera!”

“Yes, I tend to like it much more than what is currently in fashion,” Millicent replied.

“Oh,” Lina nodded. “You mean that stuff they play over at the gin mill.” She made a disgusted look. “Hard to jive to in my opinion.”

“Jive?” Rhaven asked. Again, she fell silent, though her mind was, no doubt, moving a mile a minute.

Lina sighed at the obvious lack of understanding. “Yeah, you know jive … jitterbug…dance?” She stood up, pulled her compact from her pocket and flipped it open. She then puckered her lips, checking her lipstick again.

“Jitterbug…” Rhaven said slowly. “Now that is an old dance.”

“Indeed,” Millicent agreed. “Positively archaic.”

“Archaic?” Lina laughed. She snapped her compact shut and deposited it in her pocket. “Well…it didn’t come out of the stone age,” she smiled. “You girls need to get out more. Hey!” Lina snapped her fingers, “Speaking of gin joints, maybe the Haven has some belch water.” She looked down at the coffee stain on her skirt again. “I think I’ll just stroll over and see if I can take care of my skirt. It was nice to meet you Larissa. You, too Rhaven and Suyuan.”

Rhaven chuckled and shook her head. “Enjoy.” She smoothed her hands over her skirts. “I ought to get back to my astral projection. I’ve been well out of practice since arriving.”

Larissa smiled, stood and said, “I need to take a walk, too.” She leaned down to kiss the cyber girl’s pink hair.

“It was nice to meet you too, little robot,” Lina grinned. “And…um…thanks for the help, Rhaven.”

Rhaven nodded, pleased. “If you need anything…any…information, please don’t hesitate to come and ask. It may take a bit to pull myself back, but I’ll be here.”

“Yes, well…while you’re astral projecting, Rhaven, take care that you don’t slide through a….” Lina stopped speaking abruptly again, then smiled. “Umm…thanks. I’ll take you up on that. Gonna take a powder, girls. See you later!”

Timeless Toxian Tip: A teaspoon of baking soda will help neutralize the acidic Toxian water from your hair in the final rinse.

A Visit to the Library

Lina Mae had enjoyed being in the Library. She wondered how she’d missed spending time there her first few weeks in the City, but she’d really been focusing on Grady and trying to find out where the he’d absconded to. She felt whipped up, but she knew she needed to keep looking. She couldn’t afford the luxury of rest, yet the Library was so appealing, warm, dark and full of treasures.

Wandering out of the stacks, Lina was drawn to the chessboard. It made her think of him, head bent, studying his next move. As she stood by the railing, she spied a woman sitting by the fire below. Lina smoothed her black hair back and headed down the stairs. In a quiet voice with a hint of a southern accent, she asked the woman, “Excuse me…is there somewhere here I can powder my nose?”

The woman snapped back from her reverie, blinking slightly at the sound of Lina’s footsteps and voice. “Um…hello,” she stammered. She spoke as if she’d forgotten how to talk and had to find her voice again. “Uh…not really, though I’m sure the shelter has public facilities.”

Lina coughed politely. She couldn’t really believe that a library the size of the one she was in didn’t have a lady’s in it and she really didn’t want to tread across the street. “Sugar, if I wanted to walk all the way over to the Shelter I would. Don’t you work here?”

The woman chuckled softly, taken only slightly aback. “Work…no. Live, yes. Upstairs, by the office is a room that we use.” Her violet eyes settled on Lina, as if amused at her own joke.

“Oh, well I’d expect someone who lives here to know where the powder room is,” Lina said with a hint of annoyance. She looked around and not seeing anyone else in the library, she plopped down into a chair and slid a thin compact and red lipstick out of the pocket of her day suit. “I’ll just have to settle for freshening up.”

The woman by the fire arched an eyebrow, her pleasant expression sobering. “Public and private are two different things. People who come here don’t normally ask to use the house facilities for anything such. If you need help locating a book, though, I can most certainly oblige.”

Lina looked over her compact and stared at the woman long and hard before returning to puckering her lips in the mirror. “Hmm…a book.” She applied the lipstick, rubbed her lips together and then checked the result before shutting the compact with a snap. “So…you don’t work here, but you help people find books?”

“Correct.”

“Applesauce!” Lina retorted. “What’s your beef, anyway?” She tucked her compact and lipstick in her kick and glared at the woman.

“Pardon me?” the woman blinked in mild confusion. Her brows began to furrow and she took on a wary expression.

“Applesauce - you know - horsefeathers!” Lina rolled her eyes. “You live here and you don’t work here, yet you help people find books - that’s what a librarian does. Even I know that.”

The woman chuckled softly and settled back in her seat. “Work normally indicates that one gets paid,” she said. “I don’t get paid to do this. I do this because I love our Lady Library and wish to help those who come here in search of information.” She smiled and spoke patiently. “Really…I’ve only just arrived, within the week, and those of the Institute have offered me a home.”

“Well,” Lina drawled. “I can certainly appreciate that. It looks like a lot of people here could stand to find one. I’ve never seen so many creatures ossified in the street…and brawling!” She smoothed her skirt, touching a small stain with her gloved fingertip. “I hope I can find what I’m looking for and scram. I’d hate to have to live here.” She looked out the window to the street, then back at the woman. “Not that your home’s not nice or anything…”

The woman laughed quietly, the sound a near whisper under her breath. “For all its…apparent lawlessness…for all its filthy and unruly appearance, it’s the one place where those like me, and those more apparent than I, can be accepted without scorn or retribution.” The woman tilted her chin slightly. “You don’t come from Toxia, then?” It was really more of a statement than a question.

Timeless Toxian Tip: It is considered racially insensitive to say, “God bless you,” when a demon sneezes.

Introduction

I'm moving this blog over from Toxian City Blogs. Since I'm not actively role playing in Toxian City, I won't be updating this site very often. I enjoyed the playing the character of Lina, and Lina the Time Traveler would not have existed had it not been for Bridgette Plunkett. Thanks Brit, for all the wonderful timeless tips.