As Cracker´s crowing announced the start of a new day, Lola and Billy were already in the Tofu yard. In fact, they´ve been there for several hours now. Lola attempted to fall asleep almost all night, but to no avail. Finally giving up at 4am, she wanted something to distract her. When she glanced out the window, she saw the small light in Billy´s window next door. Immediatly knowing, that her boyfriend must be having the same troubles, she quickly phoned him and in less than 10 minutes later they met in the yard. They proved to be the perfect distractions for eachother as they spent hours talking, joking and cuddling under the trees until the sun rose. Soon enough Chichi came out still yawning, bade them good morning and walked across the yard to the fence, on the other side of which a blue van was parked.
A few moments later he and Miles started to load the cages into the van. The young couple joined in as well and in no time at all the van was loaded and the foursome dined in the yard. Their laughter was abruptly ended at the sound of several loud puffs, that were heared across their neighbourhood.
"What in the...?"muttered Billy looking around, trying to find the source of the noise.
"Sounds like an exhaust engine."said Chichi recodnizing the sound as it grew louder.
"Sounds like its coming here."said Lola as all of them stood up.
With a giant puff the sounds stopped. Looking at eachother for a while, they sprinted into the house. They found that Mom, Pop and Buba were also getting up from the table.
"Did you hear that?"asked Pop slightly alarmed.
"I think it stopped here."commented Mom.
"Well let´s go take a look."said Buba as she was getting up.
Together, everyone stepped out the front door.
Before the Tofu house´s gateway, blocking it completly stood a large green van, almost like the one Pop owned. However, it was now emiting steam like crazy. Infront of it stood a tall, slightly chubby man, dressed in bright green trousers and a yellow flannel shirt, who was looking at the van, scratching his brown curly hair.
"Oh dear. How could that happen?"he asked himself.
"Amyas."called Pop from the door, obviously happy to see his nephew.
The young man turned his head and his face was similar to that of Pop´s only much younger. It also mimicked the same happy smile.
"Uncle Jake, Aunt Violet"he exclaimed before he ran up to them and hugged them both at the same time.
Billy and Miles stepped back a bit to give the Tofus some room for the reunion.
"How you´ve been Amyas?"asked Mom smilingly.
"Oh not bad... Buba. Its been a while."he said letting go of them and embraing Buba in turn.
"It sure has. I can´t believe how much you´ve grown."she said hugging him back happily. She haven´t seen him for a few years now.
"Lola you precious flower, you look more beautyfull each time I see you."he said happily before hugging her.
Lola smiled slightly before returning the hug.
As he released her he took a look to the youngest Tofu.
"Woah, Chichi is that you?"he exclaimed in complete astonishment.
Chichi grinned and nodded.
"Yup. Surprised, Amyas?"he asked cheekily.
"Sure am. My favourite little cousin is really growing up."he said in surprise before embracing Chichi as well.
As the two broke away from eachother, he noticed the two he didn´t know.
"And who are you guys?"he asked kindly.
"Amyas, this is Billy. My boyfriend."said Lola with a small blush, immediatly going to Billy´s side who smiled.
"So you´re the boy she´s told me about so many times."he said before shaking his hand.
"Billy Hubbub."answered Billy happily as they shook their hands.
"Always charming"added Lola, drawing a blush from her boyfriend.
"And this is my good friend."said Chichi gesturing to Miles.
"Michael Miles – always greedy."said Miles with a jovious gesture, before offering his hand.
Amyas looked completly confused, while the rest of them let out a short laugh.
Suddenly the van gave out another loud puff and a wave of steam.
"Woah. What´s wrong with your van?"asked Pop eyeing the green van.
"I have no idea. It was doing that for days, but never this much."he answered.
"DAYS? Amyas, its obviously busted. Haven´t you been to the service with it?"exclaimed Chichi.
"Oh, I didn´t have the time, Chichi. I was too busy with the EPO. We had a tough case."
Chichi slapped a hand to his forehead.
"And that´s the result. There´s no way this thing is going to move now."he said pointing to the still steaming van.
"Then, how are we going to get into Megacity?"said Lola, silently hoping that this setback would refrain them from leaving.
"I could take you, I suppose but we´ll have to empty out my van."suggested Miles.
"Oh no. Look Michael, I´m sorry, but we´re not going in some four wheeled coal-eater."said Amyas.
Miles looked at him, then at Chichi.
"True Tofu isn´t he?"he muttered quietly to Chichi, who nodded.
"Be my guest Amyas, but please call me Miles."
Amyas looked at him for a while.
"I apologize if I offended you..."he started, unsure how to take Miles´ plea, but Miles held his hand.
"Not at all, but I prefer to be called by my surname, that´s all."he siad with a genuine smile.
After a few seconds, Amyas nodded.
"I could always fire up our car and lend it to you."suggested Pop while getting an angry hiss from Lola.
"No need Uncle Jake. I´ve got a back-up plan for just such emergencies."
Amyas turned and ran towards his van. He opened the back-door on it and brought out two bicycles.
"You have to be JOKING!"exclaimed Lola.
"Why not? I mean its ecological and perfectly good exercise."said Amyas happily.
"But Megacity is 30 miles from here. I doubt you will get there so soon."commented Chichi.
"Don´t worry cousin. We´ll be there in two hours or so."said Amyas cheerfully.
"Aren´t we supposed to be there... you know, like on certain time?"asked Lola.
"I´ll just call the guys in EPO and tell them we´ll be a bit late. Its no problem at all."
Mom, Pop and Buba looked at eachother and nodded gesturing Amyas into the house.
"Well Amyas, in that case there´s no problem."said Mom.
"You can call your collagues from our house."suggested Pop.
"And in the meantime, you can have a bite to eat. I don´t know if you had breakfast."finished Buba before the three of them plus Amyas went inside the house leaving the young teens rooted on the spot.
"Please tell me it´s not happening."lamented Lola.
Billy instantly took her in his arms, hoping to comfort her a bit, but to no avail.
"Look Lola. Even without emptying the van I can still take you. Just tell him you´ll meet him somewhere."suggested Miles.
"Nah. You heared him. And besides I would have to wait for a long time before he would come."said Lola depressively.
"Here Lola, I can give you some money. You could wait for him in some shopping center or anywhere else for that matter."said Chichi drawing the small ammount of bills Miles had given him five days ago from the breast-pocket in his red vest.
"No Chichi. I can´t possibly accept this."she said waving away the offer.
"At least use it for a train ride. Either here or the way home. Please."he said with a sincere look on his face.
"NO! I insist. At least for the way home."he said seriously.
Lola looked at the defiant look on his face and after a while smiled and nodded.
"Ok... I´ll ... I´ll return this to you Chichi."she said as she slowly took the bills from his hand.
"No need. I get more than I can spend from Mr Greed over here. Fixing his van and all, which needs constant service I might add."he said with a small glare on Miles, before continuing."I just want you to get safely home by train, rather than paddle back on the freeway."he said once more in a serious voice.
Moved, Lola quickly embraced her brother, hugging him tightly.
"Thanks Chichi. You´re the best little bro a girl could ask for."she said and she really meant it thistime.
Chichi chuckled against her.
"Then again, you can always get me the new Gzorbial galaxy set later on."he said in good humor.
"Hey, don´t get carried away there, squirt!"remarked Lola in mock-exasperation as she let go of him.
The Gzorbial playset – a model of the frachize galaxy was to general knowledge extremely expensive.
Billy and Miles laughed a bit at the interaction the siblings were exchanging, until a loud voice from the other yard called Billy´s name.
"Uh-oh. That´s my Dad. Gotta go."said Bily sadly.
Lola immediatly came to him and kissed him full on. Both Miles and Chichi turned around pointedly and started to whistle to themselfs.
"Good luck today. I hope you´ll have a fine day."she whispered to him as they broke away.
"I´m sure I will. I only hope you´ll have a bearable day. I´ll meet you in the evening."he said quietly, before he turned away and went back into the Hubbub household.
Lola watched him longingly for a second before hearing the front door open.
"Lola, sweet buttercup, its time to get dressed for work."said Mom in a happy sing-song voice, waving an official EPO green shirt.
Lola sighed and bowed her head.
"Well, might as well go and face the music."she muttered and slowly went into the house, leaving Chichi and Miles standing there unsure how to feel about the situation.
"...so we´ve got to fix Amyas´ van, so that means no Hidehole for at least a day or two."
Chichi finished telling Phil and April everything as they went for their first lession.
Phil looked visibly saddened by the latter. April however looked thoughtfull.
"Until such time I don´t see a problem with riding a bicycle to Megacity. Its certainly something different and it really can´t hurt to get a bit of exercise."she said optimistically.
"With all the speed-maniacs on the freeway, not even counting Miles, yes it can."replied Chichi with a glare.
He was really worried for both Lola and Amyas. Nearly everyday news brought at least one case of a freeway accident.
"Can´t see what´s his problem riding with Miles."said Phil darkly.
"A fuel problem. I only wish I got the van running on bio-diesel. Had I known I would´ve done it a week ago, when I was fixing the crash damage."brooded Chichi.
"Anyway its not something you can influence now. Right now, you´ve got to concentrate on Starchy´s geography test. You know she puts up a mean test thistime around."said April and Chichi visibly tensed.
"Uh-oh. I forgot. That stupid test is like right now."he said nervously.
"Don´t worry. As long as you remember everything we went trough yesterday, you´ll do fine."said April consolingly.
Chichi didn´t want to tell her, that he wasn´t sure if he remembered anything at all. Geography tests always made him so nervous, that he could barely think straight. All he could see was old Starchy´s smug face as she announced a zero infront of the entire class.
As they entered the classroom, many of their classmates came to them, thanking them once more for their pets.
"Don´t worry, Chichi. I can always slip you an answer if you need it."said Chloe, knowing Chichi´s geography weakness.
"Thanks, Chloe. But April tutored me for a bit yesterday and I think I´ll be able to hande it. No point risking a zero plus a detention."he said earnestly, lying a bit about his certainity in handling the test.
"Its the least I can do after you helped my little Snowball."she said in equal earnestness.
"Thanks for the offer though."he said with a smile.
"Just remember. One small whisper and I´ll help."she promised as she winked and walked to her seat.
"She´s a good friend."commented April, who was standing at Chichi´s side.
Chichi nodded but a second later Mrs Starchy entered the classroom. Chichi gulped as he took his seat next to Phil.
"Archie! Take those ridicilous sunglasses off this instant."Starchy screamed at her nephew.
"But these are special. They are..."he was cut off by Nick who elbowed him in the stomache.
"Shut up and take them off! No one is supposed to know about the brotherhood yet!"he hissed quietly and Archie did as he was instructed.
Chichi, though sitting right behind them didn´t notice. He was too busy trying to calm himself down. As Mia handed out the test papers he took small solace in the fact, that however bad this situation was, it was probably nothing to what his sister and her friends must be presently facing.Taking a deep breath he took a pencil into his hand and looked at the sheet.
"Let´s see now... question one..."
"This could NOT get more boring."thought Lily Robins as she was looking at the Stony moutains´ cliffs.It was now almost noon and she has been bored stiff for about four hours. She and her mother left early in the morning in order to be on the excavation site exactly on 8am sharp. Her mother being the head of the excavation was busy organizing, even if there was not much to do right now. They have run into prehistoric fossils underground but they needed to get them to the surface and the special drills they had was too worn out to continue work. That meant, that until they either got the equipment fixed or replaced by new ones they were on a standstill. All they could do is wait for someone to resolve the situation. Mr Digdeep, the chief of the workers said, that he called for some unusual help, so they had to wait for it.
"If only I had a book with me. I could at least finish some reading, since there´s nothing else to do."she thought as she approached a scope overlooking the stony valley.
She amused herself for a while at the thought of how Phil and Chichi would act if they were here. Chichi´s seemingly neverending curiosity would be in seventh heaven, especially seeing some of the smaller fossils they´ve uncovered. The two boys would undoubtably try to uncover more.
"If they´d be here, they would certainly look at some of those machines. Maybe even fix them."
As she looked over the edge she had a small image of Lola and Billy enjoying a sunset watching the valley and cuddling... just the way she herself wishes to cuddle with a boy, sharing a loving and romantic moment.
"Oh, man! I really need a boyfriend."she sighed as she continued walking around watching the scenery.
She took a moment to recall the unfortunate romances she had. All of them were crushes and the boys turned out to be very different from what seemed on the surface. Perhaps its some sort of a law. In fact, besides Miles she had yet to meet a male representative, who would be completly open with his emotions. He was an incredible exception to the rule. Sure he was fixed on his goals – as she called it sometimes, but it was nice that he was honest enough to announce what he was up to even if it was a bit dishonest. But at least one knew what to expect.
"And to think, That just two or three weeks ago, I thought of him to be something of a criminal."
Indeed she felt a slight pang of shame in believing the rumors going on about him in Megacity. Eventhough she got to know him just over two weeks ago, he was very easy to befriend and get along with. Also it seemed, that he never needed to hide anything no matter who was infront of him. Lily herself envied him a bit, to be able to be so open with his emotions. Plus there was the fact, that he was a man of experience, handsome, muscular, funny and eventhough he played a fool at times, he was knowledgeable. But he was always a constant mystery full of surprises. It was something she found appealing and she was starting to get interested in unraveling the mysteries that surrounded him.
Suddenly the ground beneath her shook for a second and she felt herself losing balance.
The rocky surface she was standing on, weakened by the excavation gave out and was slipping downward. She tried desperately to grab on to something, but nothing was at hand. In a matter of nano-seconds she felt herself going over the edge. She screamed and closed her eyes, she would surely fall down and die. Suddenly she felt something grab her arm. A strong hand. She slowly opened her eyes and looked down. She was hanging suspended in mid-air a three or four meter fall beneath her.
"Woah. Close call there, flower-girl."
The voice she heared was all too familiar. She raised her head and looked up to see her saviour.
"Miles!"she exclaimed, as he slowly pulled her back up with one hand.
"Oh my God, he´s strong."she thought.
"OMG, you´re light."he said.
Once she was back on solid ground she felt herself blushing as Miles grinned.
"LILY! Oh my God! Are you all right?"
She heared her mother exclaim as she and some of her collagues rushed to her aid.
"Yes, Mom. I´m perfectly fine, thanks to my saviour."said Lily gesturing to Miles with a smile.
"Thank you. Thank you very much..."Mrs Robins was stammering to Miles while hugging Lily.
"Aww shucks."replied Miles sheepishly while scratching his head, blushing a brilliant shade of red which suprisedly suited him.
"Mom, this is my friend, Michael Miles."said Lily gesturing to Miles once more.
"You´re the mysterious Michael Miles?"exclaimed Mrs Robins pointing her finger to him.
"No. I´m the greedy Michael Miles."he said, pointing his thumb to himself with a grin.
This got a giggle from Lily and even her mother let out the small chuckle and let out her hand.
"Pleased to meet you. Julia Robins."
Miles took her head, but instead of a handshake, he lowered his head respectfully and kissed the back of her hand.
"Madam."he said nonchalantly drawing giggles from both mother and daughter.
"Being all respectfull doesn´t suit you, Miles."giggled Lily.
"Its cute though."commented her mother with a wink.
"What are you doing here Miles? Not that I mind having you around."asked Lily.
"What else? Business. This dude Digdeep called me up wanting drills, so I brought ´em. Then I saw you walking around here and wanted to say hello, before I saw the rock break beneath your feet."he explained as all of them went back to the site. Lily could just see Miles´ blue van standing there.
"Some of those edges are very unstable indeed. You should´ve been more carefull, Lily."scolded her mother and Lily blushed a bit though she was unsure why.
"Sorry, Mom. I´ll be more carefull."she answered quietly and embarrassedly.
"Aww come on Mrs Robins, accidents are unpredictable. Let´s just be glad nothing happened."said Miles in a off-handed tone.
"You´re right I suppose."she said, before they were interupted by a older chubby man with a mustache.
"Oh, Miles, you´re here! Thank goodness! You´ve brought what we needed?"
"Jeez, man. Who d´you take me for? Of course I brought the drills. But you gotta pay a lot. They weren´t easy to get a hold of."said Miles as he opened the back of his van, inside there were quite large drills, which Lily was sure were not accessable in any of the shops.
"How much?"asked Digdeep narrowing his eyes. Julia sighed as though she knew something the others didn´t.
"400."said Miles cheerfully.
"HOW MUCH?"shouted Digdeep, losing colour in his face.
"C´mon a class 3 non-tradable object of this size? What d´you expect?"argumented Miles waving his hand.
"You want 400 dollars for THAT?"exclaimed Digdeep pointing at the drills.
Miles looked at the drills then at Digdeep.
"You´re right. 250."he said and Digdeep smirked.
"That´s better."he said smugly.
"For each."said Miles.
"Yeah. I figure you wanted this for bargain price, so I´ll collaborate. Without tax or anything else one of these babies fetch 250 a piece. Mucho price, man."he finished with a gesticulation and Digdeep inflated like a baloon, while Lily and Julia quickly pressed their hand to their mouths to stiffle the giggles, that were threating to erupt.
"That´s 750 dollars!"he growled at Miles, who was at least a head taller than him.
"Yup. Bargain price, good deal."he replied with a thimbs up.
"And how do I know, that they are genuine! What if they break as soon as we start digging?"Digdeep growled eyeing him suspiciously.
"Well..."started Miles pulling out a bunch of papers from his pocket.
"...these are the insurance papers for them. With them you can get new ones should these fail. However, since the papers aren´t included in the bargain price, you would have to buy them normal price."
Digdeep was turning even more white, completly besides himself with rage.
"That means you´d be required to pay the standard price 500 a piece and the papers are included, wouldn´t want to blackmail you, you know."explained Miles calmly as though explaining the whole thing to a 5 year old.
Lily and Julia were forced to turn around to hide the looks on their faces, their hands clapped tightly on their mouths, the temptation to laugh getting stronger by the second. The workers however weren´t so successfull dispite one of their hands covering their mouths too. They knew of their boss Digdeep´s greedy personality and unwillingness to pay for anything unless explicitly required, and they were troughoutly enjoying seeing him getting his comeupance.
"1500 dollars? You can´t be serious, Miles!"yelled Digdeep.
"Damn you´re right!"said Miles as though in revelation and a wave of silence lingered.
"There´s also the matter of transportation plus these take for three to six weeks to aquire trough normal means so that´s 500 more for the speedy service."
"I AM NOT PAYING 2000 DOLLARS!"Digdeep´s yelling was echoing trough the valley and everyone was shaking with surpressed laughter as the arrogant old man was slowly getting more and more enraged and unable to do anything about it.
Miles looked at him for a second, and in a speedy motion closed the door to his van.
"Well if you´re not interested..."he said turning around.
"NO! WE NEED THOSE!"yelled Digdeep and Miles turned to him with an outstretched hand.
"Then pay up, fat man."
Everyone´s second hand immediatly came up to their mouths and some were even turning red, trying hard not to release a sound.
With a exaspirated roar Digdeep dug deep in his pocket and took out the envilope he got from the National Archeology Fund, which had a huge ammount of money in it. Taking the 2000 dollars out of it, he passed it to Miles, who opened the van´s door again.
"Get those drills into their places! We are behind scheduele!"he screamed at the workers, who were nearly crouching, trying to hold their laughter, while Miles counted the money.
"What?"exclaimed Miles and Digdeep turned to him.
"What now?"he asked arogantly.
"D´you want me to starve? No tip?"
That was too much for everyone. The valley erupted with laughter, some of the workers were even rolling on the ground in a fit of uncontrollable laughter as Digdeep let out another roar of rage and stomped away cursing.
Fifteen minutes later Lily, Julia and Miles were in the main tent, the former two still chortling.
"I´ve never seen Digdeep losing the highground in a bargain. You played it nicely Mr Miles."said Julia in appretiation, since she saw the workers and businessmen being ripped off by Digdeep way too many times.
"Just Miles, please."said Miles casually drawing a confused look from Julia.
"He likes to be called by his surname only, Mom."explained Lily and Julia´s confused look turned to one of curiosity.
"Interesting. May I ask why?"
Miles sctatched his head and grinned.
"Well, let´s just say, it suits me better."
Julia still looked curious, but decided not to push it.
"Anyway Lily, the installation of new drills will most likely take the remainder of the day. I guess you really don´t have much to do here today."she commented thoughtfully.
"May I go home Mom?"asked Lily suddenly.
"How? The workers will be too busy with the drills and I have to remain. There´s no one to take you home right now."
Lily however looked at Miles.
"You´re going home to Beauvillage, right?"
Miles looked thoughtfull.
"Well, I do have a few stops on the way, but yeah."he said and Lily smiled.
"I wouldn´t want you to hold Miles up, or change his plans."said Julia.
"No worries Mrs Robins. Lily can tag along, its no problem at all. And my ultimate plan is greed and no one can change that."
Julia smiled and nodded.
"All right then. You may go, then."
With that Miles stood up, bid Julia goodbye and made for his van.
"Thanks Mom. I´ll see you at home."said Lily before she too exited the tent and got into the passanger seat of the van.
"Hope you´re ready, flower-girl. Next stop Dry Valley."exclaimed Miles as he started the engine.
"Sure. As long as you drive..."before she had a chance to finish, Miles stepped on it and in a few seconds took three or four turns at top speed, before reaching the main road.