Jeff liked playing the keytar and he liked singing background vocals for Jeffster. He didn't mind the screaming crowds. It was no worse than the Buy More on Black Friday or on a game release day. It was just that all this performing and travel was so much darned work. He and Lester had avoiding work down to a science—a science they were like Nobel laureates at. If they ever put half as much brainpower and sheer determination into actual work as they did into finding ways not to work, they'd probably be executives at Roark Instruments.
But where was the fun in that? Jeff was too old for this rock star lifestyle. He wanted to get on stage twice a month, jam for an hour or two as the now world-famous cover band, and then go back to just being Jeff and Lester the rest of the time. He missed his van and his ferret and the job that only required one color of shirt and gave him two-hour bathroom breaks. Yeah, there was an occasional install or an afternoon spent fixing computers in the cage. But at his age, that was a lot less energy-consuming than all this go, go, go and perform, perform, perform, and living from a suitcase in motels where nobody spoke English.
He felt bad for Lester though. His Canadian Hin-Jew pal wasn't as old or as burned out on substance abuse and residual carbon monoxide poisoning as Jeff was. He couldn't abandon him to the obscurity of being 'Ster, with no keytar and no background vocals. This was Lester's dream, too, and he needed Jeff.
So when Lester suggested they break out of the motel or hostel or whatever this cage was called, to embark on a quest for edible food, Jeff was on that like white on rice. It was about time they showed Dieter Schmeeter who was boss. Jeff wanted to mention it might be a good idea to go find Dieter and ask about their money before they went AWOL and broke contracts and whatever else was going to get them in deep doggie doo doo, but Lester might have second thoughts and that Meatball Marinara sounded way too appetizing to risk. They put on hoodies and sweat pants because it looked cold outside.
"Which way?" Lester asked when they were in the hall.
"Let's avoid the lobby. Dieter might have spies."
"Yes. Good. We're no dummies about spies anymore."
Jeff still wasn't sure if he believed that story about Chuck and Morgan and John Casey all being spies. Something had been going on with them for a long time and that secret base under the Buy More sure seemed to defy any other explanation. But really? Carmichael Industries? Who ever heard of private spies? Jeff suspected it was really just an elaborate LARP, like a Renaissance Faire. Chuck and Morgan built all that fake spy stuff to make their little underground gaming clubhouse look cool. They all pretended to be spies just like that one roommate candidate he and Lester invited home. Jeff had been crushed when he caught a glimpse of his driver's license and found out he wasn't a real king.
It was overcast outside. Jeff immediately dropped his Japan theory. Japan would have more funky asian characters on their signs. The signs here reminded him more of Wolfenstein games. "German," Jeff whispered to Lester. "We must still be in Germany or Austria."
Lester nodded, but it was hard to tell whether he believed it any better than he believed the Japan theory. That really wasn't fair; the only clue Lester gave him before was "Mario". Now they had a whole bunch of German signs.
There were a lot of people walking all over the place, even though it was cold and looked like it could rain. That was weird for Jeff. People in California drove everywhere, but they might come out to jog or ride bikes when the weather was good. No one would be out on foot or bike in this kind of sludge.
"Does anyone speak English?" Lester asked loudly to the street, enunciating each word. But people were passing way too quickly to listen.
"Spreckin zee English?" Jeff tried. He wasn't even sure those were the proper words. It may have come off an old episode of Hogan's Heroes.
Lester gave up asking for a translator and just started asking everyone he passed, "Subway?" or "Can you point us to the Subway?"
After a few odd looks, Lester whispered an aside, "They're toying with us. They know we're stupid Canadians...uh, and American."
Jeff shook his head and pointed at a set of German signs. "Can you even pronounce their language? We wouldn't know what they were saying if they came to Burbank."
"This is Europe. Everyone is supposed to speak English."
"Well, then why do they come to our concerts? We sing in English."
"Maybe it's like doo-wop. The words don't have to make sense if the music is great."
Lester couldn't argue with his logic. "Jeffrey, I am going to die if we don't find a Subway."
A pretty blonde turned at Lester's dire prediction.
"Subway?" Jeff asked her hopefully.
"Ah. Untergrundbahn," she replied. Which could have meant anything from "you utter moron" to "oh, I understand." She pointed in the direction of a sign with a big letter U on it.
Man, she was hot. "Gracias," Jeff said dreamily as she disappeared somewhere behind them.
Lester elbowed him in the side. "That's Spanish, you idiot."
"French. Besides, she's already gone." Lester was more intent on following her directions than thanking her.
Maybe skinny guys lost all sense of priority when they were hungry. That was the only explanation Jeff could think of for Lester not wanting to stalk the extremely hot woman who had spoken to them. The sign with the U on it turned out to be beside a staircase leading down. Lester looked down and then back at Jeff.
"She sent us to the subway, you know, the kind with underground trains." His voice had an edge of desperation in it. Heads were going to roll if he didn't get a Meatball Marinara soon.
Lots of people were headed down the stairs. So many that Jeff and Lester were having a hard time going against the flow.
"Let's check it out," Jeff said. "I've never been on a subway before."
"You uncultured swine, there's no food involved. It's just trains in tunnels."
So what? Jeff stopped trying to fight the crowd and let himself get herded down the stairs. He wanted to see a real subway. Lester might have been able to make it out, but he probably didn't want to lose the only person he knew in the whole country. He came down the stairs too.
Underground, there was a bit more room and they were able to extricate themselves from the stampede. All the people hurried toward the trains or the machine that said "Fahrausweise" on it. Right next to the machine was a map.
Jeff pointed the map out to Lester, specifically, the large letters across the top. "Berlin. I was right. This is Germany."
"Okay, so maybe they have a Wienerlicious?"
Just then, some Goth kid approached with a flyer in hand. Their flyer. Both of their faces were clearly reproduced in grayscale, along with "Jeffster" plastered across their chests. The kid studied them, then pointed and yelled, "Scheffster!" along with a whole string of German gibberish.
Jeff thought at first that it was cool to be recognized. This was what fame was like. People recognized you and adored you and wanted your autograph. But in the next second, he realized there was no escape. They were surrounded and the mob was closing in from all sides. These fans didn't appear to have American sensibilities for personal space either. People were jabbering in German, ooo-ing and ah-ing, and men and women both were grabbing at their clothes and pulling like they wanted stuff to get torn off.
"Jeff, we gotta get outta here," Lester yelled over the din of the crowd.
An escape route presented itself and without even saying a word, they both ran for the opening and right onto the train. They pulled their hoods over their heads and took seats in the very back. Lester found a magazine he could pretend to read, to keep his face hidden. Jeff grabbed something too. It appeared to be the U-bahn equivalent of the emergency information cards on airplane seats. He held it over his face, not paying any attention to what was printed on the paper.
They huddled close. No one bothered them with their faces hidden. People sat all around, and then the train pulled away from the station and whooshed out into the tunnel. They were on their way, but where they were headed, Jeff had no idea.