We were in trouble. I should have foreseen something like this happening but being in a new world had scrambled my wits a bit. While previously it had been summer in the world that I can come from it was winter here. The city was also a lot bigger then the town that we had come from. However beyond that this world was almost identical to our own.
I had found out a couple of things. The city that they were now in was called Bay Port and it was not just large it was busy. There were roads for cars but they were packed even when at night. This meant that there were also a lot of people walking along the streets. To counter the congestion some of the streets had even been closed off to car traffic and only allowed people on foot.
And the signs. I had never seen such a sight before. Large neon signs, giant digital displays. The whole place seems like it never slept and the entire experience was different to deal with. Unsurprisingly we learned that our cell phones did not have reception in this new city.
Then in an ill-advised attempt to get out of the cold and to form a plan on what to do next we went into a family diner. We had not eaten since we had come to this world so we unwittingly ordered food to eat and began to decide what we were going to do here.
I was of the opinion that we needed to find out what we could about this city and the people that lived in it. Valarie however decided that we needed to find out about that poster in the man’s room and how that related to us. Eventually I surrendered to her superior suggestion as it seemed more pressing to know the answer.
All of that was fine and well but the problem came when we left our table to pay. I handed over my ticket and card like I normally did but was surprised when the cashier told me, “I’m sorry but your card was declined.”
I blinked for a couple of minutes before that horrifying realization dawned on me. I knew that our phones did not work but for some reason I hadn’t considered that I would not have any money either. I opened my wallet hoping that I had enough cash, there were a couple of bills but certainly not enough to pay for our meal.
I nudged Valarie and quietly asked, “Do you happen to have any cash?”
She tried to remain happy looking as she whispered back to me through her teeth, “This is probably a bad time to mention that I didn’t bring my wallet with me today.” She had left it back in our world. Oh, boy, was this going to be a mess.
“Well you see…” I was began to say to the cashier. She had a scowl on her face which made me feel like this conversation was not going to go very well for us. I briefly considered out options. Running would probably work but that would probably have some consequences, at would using any of my Tools to deal with the situation. Especially because I had not used my Tools since coming to this world and I didn’t know how they had changed. I imagined that Valarie was in the same sort of situation.
However there didn’t seem to be any other option. I prepared myself but was interrupted before I could do anything rash.
“Is there anything that matter here?” I turned behind me and saw a large muscular man wearing slightly professional clothes. His head was shaved and his glasses were slightly tinted. It was the kind of man you would expect to see guarding the entrance to a fancy night club, or so I would imagine having not been to one myself.
The woman at the register seemed to recognize the man, “Oh, Martin. These two woman seem to not be able to pay their tab.”
He looked over at us and asked, “Is that so?”
Hoping this was an out that wouldn’t require us to make a scene I nodded, “Yes, you see we are from out of town. Normally I expect my card to work but something must have happened and unfortunately I seem to spent all my remaining cash elsewhere.”
Martin looked me up and down like he was trying to get a good judge of me. He paused and examined Valarie too. I could almost see the cogs turning in his head but I could not decipher his thoughts about us. Finally he nodded, “I see, well that must be quiet the trouble.”
He turned toward the cashier and said, “I’ll cover them tonight. Just bill me and don’t worry about it any longer.”
She nodded, “Sure, I’ll at it to your tab.” Then she glowered a little at me and said, “Any don’t cause Martin too much trouble.“
“Yes ma’m” I said not wanting to cause her any more trouble.
With that matter dealt the three of us moved closer to the front door. Before me and Valarie could leave Martin blocked our way out. He was slightly intimidating. He said, “I don’t mean to be rude but you too seem to be in a bit of trouble.”
I turned my head slightly away from him while I said, “It is nothing that we can’t handle.”
His mouth widened in a small smile, “Is that so? You seemed to handle that back there pretty well I can see. I suppose you already have a place to stay for the evening? After all it is rather cold outside and without money it would be rather hard to find a place.”
I grimaced and looked over at Valarie, “What do you thing?”
“Well, we know his name. That makes him a little bit more trustworthy then the last man to help up. Although I’m not certain about the moral character of a man that invites us to his house at his first meeting.”
“Hey, don’t look at me like that.” Said Martin. “I’m a respectable member of this community and I wouldn’t be so shameless as to invite a couple of unknown women over to my house. I have a store nearby, it isn’t much but there are a couple of couches in the break room if you want to stay there for the night.”
Me and Valarie shared a look before I finally nodded and said, “Alright. We will accept your offer.” Then wanting to make sure everything was proper I continued, “I’m Yiskah and this is Valarie.”
“Indeed you are. Now if you would follow me.” The way he said it made me think that he had already know what we were going to call ourselves. I wanted to question him about it but I flashed back to that poster in His room and I wisely decided that, at least for now, I would keep my mouth shut about it.
We walked for a couple of blocks in the cold before we rounded a street corner and he stopped in front of a small building. The sign outside read, “Pendulum Lounge”.
“A bar?” I asked. From his looks I would have been surprised.
“Not really. More like a cafe but that isn’t really what it is either. It is truly just a Lounge.” He pushed open the door and held it open while me and Valarie entered. Like he had said the place was like a cafe with tables and chairs. There was a small sign near the entrance that read ‘Seat Yourself’. There was only really one room and it wasn’t very big. There were a handful of people sitting at the different tables doing various activities. A few of them had drinks and one was eating a sandwich while reading.
A couple of the customers waved or nodded their heads in greeting to Martin. I examined things a little before I finally said, “This place actually looks rather nice. A lot more pleasant then I would have imagined.”
“Oh? And what did you imagine? You shouldn’t really judge people on their looks wouldn’t you say?” I motions toward the free tables, “The lounge is still open for a couple more hours so you can have a seat at one of the tables until then. Once we close I can show you the break room.”
Martin left to go behind the counter. The two of us took a seat near the back away from the others. Once we had taken out seats I spoke softly to Valarie, “Do you think that we can trust him.”
She looked around the place, “More than our other options. He did say that he was a respectable member of the community and this place seems to reinforce that. Although I do have to wonder why he is helping us.”
“Yeah, he does seem like a nice guy but offering a place to potential vagabonds seems rather risky. What if we took his stuff at night and ran off into the night. After all we have already shown ourselves to not have any money.”
We quieted our conversation as Martin came back carrying a tray with a pot and some three cups on it. He placed the tray on the table and took a seat on one of the empty chairs. “I brought some tea. It has been cold this winter so it should help warm you up.” He began pouring us some of the tea and then finally poured himself a cup.
“This all seems rather charitable of you to do to help us.” I said trying to draw some kind of comment out of him.
Martin shrugged. “Bay Port is a city of visitors and travelers like you. Those lost on the road of life are not uncommon. My lounge is supposed to be a refuge to people, it would go against my standard to let travelers go without a roof. However,” He raised his hand menacingly, “kindness only goes so far. I know people well enough that they want to avoid charity.”
“So what? You want to arrange a trade for your lodging?” Asked Valarie. She didn’t sound too suspicious and I agreed with her. Martin felt mostly honorable, if not fully trustworthy. I agreed with him that I wanted to avoid charity.
“Well,” Said Martin, “My impression was that your card was declined because there was not money left.”
“I suppose that is true.” I said trying to avoid saying too much. More likely the bank account that it was linked to didn’t actually exist in this world so the card was basically useless.
“In that case my Business has been rather busy recently and my usual employees are not able to keep up. I can provide a few days lodging and small paycheck if you want to work here for a few days. That should be enough to get you back home.”
“We’re not going home.” Said Valarie too quickly and defiantly.
“Is that so?” Said Martin. “You both are too old to be running away from home so I’ll assume it was something complicated. Well, if you want to stay in Bay Port I’m sure I can help arrange a place for you to rent, that is assuming you are good workers. Of course you are willing to reject my offer. I’ll still let you stay here for the night too.”
“We will consider your offer.” I responded not wanted to commit too much without privately discussing it with Valarie.
“Very good. Now I’m sure you have quite a story to tell since you are stuck in Bay Port without any baggage and no home you want to return to. You will have to tell me about it but right now I have to help close the place. Please excuse me.” Martin slipped out of his chair and went over to the other employees where he began closing the store.