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Empire on Ice #19: Afiach’s Album, Part 2

[Afiach enters an abandoned old warehouse on the bad side of town. The place has a distinctly old-time look, and is dimly lit. From the shadows a burly mate in a handsome suit steps into her path.]

Farothar: You're the music lady Aroen mentioned?

Afiach: Yes. Afiach Bard, traveling bard, at your honor.

Farothar: Hold still or I ice you.

[He gives her a very rough frisking, and pulls out a flute.]

Farothar: Trying to pull a trick on us, eh? She's armed, Boss.

[Aroen steps out from the shadows, dressed in an outstanding vest and jacket and holding a glass of wine. He has a black patch over his right eye.]

Aroen: Calm yourself, Fists. She's clean. That's a musical instrument. [To Afiach.] You'll have to forgive me for his rude manner. I don't pay him to be smart, you know.

Afiach: I see. What are you doing here, anyway?

Aroen: Where better to conduct my nefarious activities!

Afiach: I didn't know you were involved in organized crime.

Aroen: Oh, pish-posh. "Organized crime" is what gangsters do when they've lived long enough to get other people to do their dirty work for them. What I do is balance the powers of society!

Afiach: From an old warehouse?

Aroen: No one will ever suspect to look for me here. After all, a mate of my refinement and sophistication, you understand.

Afiach: [Pointing to Aroen's eye patch.] And what about this? Aroen, you don't wear an eye patch. You see just fine in that eye.

Aroen: Hah! A clever ruse. It makes me harder to recognize, and contemporaneously burnishes my credentials as an underworld criminal! [He turns to Farothar.] You didn't hear that.

Farothar: Hear what, Boss?

Aroen: Good boy. Now, my dear bard, what brings you to this sordid lair, my dear? Drugs? Weapons? Perhaps a GOP registration certificate, hmm?

Afiach: Actually, I was hoping you'd listen to my new album and tell me what you think! ^_^

Aroen: That's adorable. Fists, bring out our phonograph. [To Afiach, winking.] I just got a new Edison Model B. You're going to be delighted!

Afiach: Is that some kind of new computer?

Aroen: Cylinders, child. Music plays on wax cylinders.

Afiach: But…my album is on a flash drive.

Aroen: A what now?

[Afiach starts to reply, but is cut off by a machine next to Farothar that begins to beep and whir. It eventually spits out a piece of paper.]

Farothar: Boss, telegram. [Hands it to Aroen.]

Afiach: What does it say?

Aroen: [Reading.] "Hyenas laughing. Stop. Ready to open the zoo. Full stop." Excellent! That's code, you know. I don't want the constabulary to get wind of this. It's my biggest plot yet!

Afiach: What are you going to do?

Aroen: Why, nothing less than the most spectacular caper of the century, of course. Allow me to expatiate, mayhap? A railroad, as you may know, has two great rails, yes?

Afiach: I was aware.

Aroen: And without both of these rails in top-top condition, the railcars can't operate.

Afiach: Agreed.

Aroen: So I've placed gigantic spool-cars at strategic points along the Joshalonian Imperial Railway. When I give the signal, they'll start up, and in their way they shall gradually wind up one of the two rails along each railroad. My underworld enterprises will be swimming in valuable steel, and the Joshalonian Empire will find itself completely without rail travel!

Afiach: Why would you do that?

Aroen: Balance, as I said. But no, there's more to it. What I do, I do foremost for the prestige of it! Most people are of low character and would never understand such a noble motive, but dare I hazard that as a bard perhaps you apprehend something of it yourself?

Afiach: I understand the desire for prestige, but—

Aroen: Indeed you do! Now, let's hear your music.

Farothar: Another telegram, Boss.

Aroen: [Reads it.] Simply outstanding. The operation is underway.

Afiach: Why do you use telegraphs?

Aroen: I'm surprised you ask. In this day and age it simply wouldn't do to write a letter. Why, with the power of the telegraph I can communicate anywhere in the world in mere seconds!

Afiach: But, we have cell phones now.

Aroen: A…"cell"…phone? Is that some kind of sound battery?

Afiach: Don't you know?

Aroen: Gentle thing, I pride myself on knowing the latest innovations, but I can't be bothered to keep track of every last fad.

Afiach: I don't think they're a fad. They're little devices—

Aroen: What's their function?

Afiach: Telecommunications.

Aroen: And what are these "cell phones'" power source?

Afiach: Er…a battery, I suppose.

Aroen: You just said they weren't batteries.

Afiach: You asked about the power source.

Aroen: I mean horse-powered, steam-powered, or electrical?

Afiach: Oh, electric.

Aroen: Outstanding! You know, I think there's a real future for electricity. Not that dreadful automobilized carriage, of course, but I digress.

Afiach: Are you…do you get out much, Aroen?

Aroen: Not as often as I'd like, I admit.

Farothar: Here's the phonograph, Boss.

Aroen: Excellent. Let's insert the cylinder.

Afiach: I'm afraid this won't do. I don't have a wax cylinder.

Aroen: You don't? Oh, no matter. I am a mate of vast recourse. Fists, send a telegram to the engineering room. Prepare for dictation.

Farothar: Ready, Boss.

Aroen: Engineer. Stop. Interface with…[He checks his pocket watch.]…Satellite No. 3. Stop. Instruct Quantum Deliberator to instantiate active scan. Stop. This location. Stop. Ascertain electronic media format and emulate. Stop. Deploy holographical arrays. Full stop.

Farothar: Message sent, Boss. Another telegram coming in. Stand by.

Afiach: You have a satellite?

Aroen: My dear, I have several hundred.

Afiach: And a…a quantum deliberator, you called it?

Aroen: Among my various utilities.

Farothar: Here's the telegram.

[Aroen reads it and his face turns horrified.]

Aroen: No!

Afiach: What happened?

Aroen: My spool-cars coiled the railroad-steel without fail. The operation was flawless.

Afiach: What's so bad about that?

Aroen: That rascal and scoundrel Josh simply converted his railroads to monorails. Curses! He's always a step ahead.

Afiach: All of this happened in four minutes?

Aroen: Oh, I'm afraid I'm much too distressed to listen to your music now, Afiach. I think it would be best if you simply left. I apologize, but I need to douse myself in a bolt of strong liquor, and that's no sight for a member of the fairer sex.

Afiach: I…understand?

Aroen: Good, good. Another time, perhaps. Fists! Get me a bottle of that '87 and my fainting pillow!

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!