"Two's a loud-mouthed, selfish, procrastinating, lying, two-faced son of a flat-chested lesbian. Hell of a great friend, though."
- Narrator Number One
"… so then One said that we should just abandon the children, but I dove back into the whirlpool…"
One of the girls asked, "Weren't you afraid of the three-headed sea beast with laser eyes?"
Two waved her off, saying, "There were children in danger. Even if I had been scared, I had to try, and One had already teleported himself back to the Elsewhere Mansion."
Two's story was cut short as his gaze fell on a couple just outside the dance area.
He squinted through the dancers for a moment before exclaiming, "Max!"
Abandoning the girls and pushing his way through the crowd of dancers, Two made his way to the buffet table, where Max Crestorm and his wife, Naomi were waiting. They were members of the Elsewhere Incorporate as well, and had left on assignment some months following Two's joining of the Elsewhere Incorporate.
"Max! Naomi! You lovebirds look as happy as ever."
Max smiled and tried to say something, but his mouth was full of Lauren's cooking. Naomi, however, beamed at Two and replied, "We had a good trip. How have you been doing, Two?"
Two shrugged. "Same as always. Some party, eh?"
Swallowing, Max said, "Yeah. When we heard that Alex was to be married, we had to come give our best wishes."
"Yeah, I never thought anyone would take ol' Alex. He's so friggin serious all the time. Sure is smiling now though."
The three watched as Alex and Lauren, resplendent in their wedding clothes, spun by on the dance floor.
"So, how's life been treating you two?" Two asked, taking a plate from the stack at the end of the table.
"Oh, same old thing. Help people, see new places. You know how it is."
Two's hand paused a moment on its way to the popcorn shrimp. "Oh, yeah. I've been running around a lot lately myself. Lots of people in trouble, eh?"
Naomi and Max exchanged glances a moment before Naomi asked, "Have you even taken an assignment yet?"
Two sighed, saying, "Haven't had time. I've been, y'know…busy."
Naomi and Max regarded Two with obvious incredulity.
"Okay, Okay! I've just been hanging around the Elsewhere. I'll take an assignment eventually … I just want to spend a little time doing what I want to do for a change."
"You've been in the Elsewhere Incorporate for over a year now. You are a charismatic kid, you're strong enough to take care of yourself, and you're more than clever enough to handle what the world slings at you. You should be perfect for the kind of work our little charitable organization deals with. Don't you think you aught to do something meaningful with your gifts?"
Two slapped his knee, saying, "You're right! I should go out there and render aid to my less fortunate brothers and sisters!"
Walking away with his plate, he muttered, "… or I could just stay here. That would be good too."
Naomi called out, "Oh, wait a moment, Two! We have something for you!"
Two was back in an instant, his hand out expectantly. "Oh, lemme see! Is it something cool?"
Naomi put a folded piece of paper in his hand, saying, "We think so."
Two shook the paper open and read aloud, "Narrator Number Two, please come to the Library immediately to discuss your first assignment."
He looked up to find the forest and the party gone; instead, he was standing in front of a pair of mahogany doors with tarnished silver handles and a large crest emblazoned across both doors.
Two said loudly, "I hate you both, you know that?"
Sighing, Two brushed off his jeans and his muscle shirt, straightened his black baseball cap, wiped bits of food from his scraggly goatee. With a final sigh, opened both doors and strode inside.
Books lined the shelves of The Library. Teach, the Dreamer who lives in the Library, enjoys historical accounts, and has quite an impressive collection, as any norm who has had the privilege of entering his floor will tell you. Two had only been there once before, when he first arrived in the Elsewhere Mansion.
Trying to block out the musty smell emanating from the bookshelves, Two walked towards a large desk literally covered with old books. Looking around, he called out, "Teach? I'm here!"
There was no reply. Somewhere between relieved and annoyed, Two shouted, "Yo, Teach! It's me, Two!"
Two leaned against the desk, muttering, "Daffy bastard's probably asleep somewhere…"
A voice beside his ear said, "I heard that."
Two spun around in an instant, only to find himself face to face with a man in his late twenties, wearing khakis, a well-worn blue jean shirt, and a pair of steel-rimmed glasses that magnified his bright green eyes.
"Son of a … don't do that!" Two snorted in an annoyed kind of way and plopped himself down on a nearby chair as Teach cackled at him.
"Sorry, Two. I get so bored sometimes. Now, I assume you're here for your first assignment."
Two tried his usual tactic, a.k.a. lying through his teeth. "Look, um … Teach, I have a lot on my plate right now, and …"
Teach snorted. "I'll bet. You know, just because it's all you can eat doesn't mean you have to eat it all."
Teach waved his objection aside. "A joke, and ultimately irrelevant. You can stuff your face later; for now, I have a serious task for you and Max…"
"Whoa, back up a sec! Why do I have to work with Max?"
Teach seemed surprised by this. "What's wrong with Max?"
Two scowled, saying, "He's always on about some stupid invention he's made: the steam powered lamp, the hiccup gun … the chamelon necktie!"
"You put it on, and it coordinates with whatever clothing you're wearing."
"Okay," Teach amended, "Then I've got a job for you and Lucaius …"
"Dude, not Lucaius!"
Teach's eyebrows met sharply. "What's wrong with Lucaius?"
Once again, Two had a reason. "He's too pushy. He'll make me do everything while he sits on ass!"
Sighing, Teach tried again, "In that case, Fate will …"
Teach tossed his glasses on the desk, saying exasperatedly, "Oh, for heaven's sake!"
"She hates my guts, Teach!"
"Why does Fate hate you?" Teach asked.
Two threw his hands up, saying, "I don't know! You think most girls would like to be complimented on their appearance. All I said was that she had a killer pair of …"
"I get the picture." Shaking his head, Teach flipped through his black leather notebook a moment before glancing back up at Two. "How about Lena? You like her, don't you?"
"She'd be fine if she didn't hum all the time."
"He always goes on about his old assignments."
"She keeps hitting me with her guitar."
"He's okay, but if he came, Eddie would come, and Eddie creeps me out."
As Teach scanned through his notebook, presumably to name off a few more potential partners, Two put his hands on the desk and leaned forward, asking, "Look, can't I just take this by myself? I know I haven't done any assignments yet, but I can handle it just fine on my own, I swear!"
"I don't know. I like to make sure new members take assignments with at least one other member of our organization …"
Two pressed, "Oh, come one! I can take it on my own! I am the great Narrator Number Two, after all!"
Teach glanced up at Two, a smile on his lips. "Oh, yes. I've already heard a bit about your little adventures. Tell me, is there actually a Narrator Number One, or are you just using him as a scapegoat?"
Coughing, Two replied, "I like to think of him more as a being of spirit than a real person."
Teach rolled his eyes. "All right, fine. You can take the assignment solo, but I'd really feel better if you took another member of the Elsewhere along with you."
Two waved Teach off dismissively.
Rolling his eyes, Teach wrote something in his notebook, saying, "So, you'll be picking up the new guy by yourself."
Two spun around immediately. "Wha … new guy? Another Dreamer?"
"I was surprised as well. We usually don't have two members join so close together. All you have to do is go pick him up and bring him back. You don't have to train him or anything, just bring him back here. Sound easy enough?"
Two nodded, his face suddenly sullen again.
Teach took off his glasses and began massaging his temples. "What's wrong now?"
"I know I just complained about having to take a partner, but if those guys weren't busy, and having new guy is so rare, why don't one of them take the job? Why do I have to do it?"
Teach sighed and set his notebook down on the counter. "Look, since I brought you into the fold of the Elsewhere Incorporate, you've done nothing but eat, drink, and try your damndest to bed every girl you've met, including my wife."
Blushing, Two began, "Sorry dude, I didn't know Karma was your …"
His cheeks red, Teach continued, "All I've asked of you is this one, simple thing that if done right will only take about an hour, tops. Considering how little I've asked of your since your arrival, I thought that you'd be willing to at least do this one favor, but I guess I was wrong."
"Whoa, whoa!" Two said, his face red, "I never said that I wouldn't take the assignment! Just tell me where he is, and I'll go grab him!"
Teach looked at Two for a long moment before picking up his notebook again, saying, "Very well then."
He ripped a sheet from his notebook and handed it to Two, saying, "Here are the coordinates he will be passing through in the next thirty minutes. Like I said before, all you have to do is pick him up and bring him back here … to the Library. His name is Michael Gineros."
"Michael Gineros." Two took the paper from Teach and stuffed it in his pocket without looking at it, saying, "No problem, Teach. You can count on me, you'll see! I'll bring him back!"
Two awoke with a snort. Sitting up, he gingerly held his throbbing head in his hands. After a few moments, he realized he was sitting not on the smooth linoleum of his floor, but on grass. "Where am I?" He muttered, trying in vain to press his wildly protruding hair against the side of his head.
His eyes suddenly opened wide. Leaping to his feet, Two checked the coordinates on the paper Teach had given him and compared them to his position.
"Oh, thank the Creator…" Two said feverently before breaking into madcap dash for the place where he was to meet the newest member of the Elsewhere Incorporate. I hurried after him
As we skidded into a clearing, we saw someone sitting with his back against a tall oak tree. Two squinted at the figure, but his eyes were still a little blurry from just waking up.
"Yo, dude!" Two said, slightly out of breath from his morning exertion, "You Michael Gineros?"
The young man didn't reply, but he did set his notebook down on the grass beside him. A black leather-bound notebook with the symbol of the Elsewhere on its cover. Teach's notebook.
Before Two could react, Teach stood, turned around, and fixed Two with a glare that froze the youngest member of the Elsewhere to the spot. "You know, even though I knew without a doubt in my mind that you would somehow manage to screw this assignment up, I find I'm still extremely angry. Do you know why that is, Two?"
Two seemed to have lost his voice. It didn't matter though, because Teach didn't give him time to respond. "I'm angry because somewhere deep inside, a tiny part of me thought that you might actually be able to do this. A part of me expected to wake up this morning, walk into the Library, and find you and our newest member waiting."
Finally finding his voice, Two said, "Look, Teach, I'm sorry! I don't know why I ended up here …"
"Oh, Then let me remind you." Teach flipped through his notebook until he found the right page. "Let's see, after leaving my floor, you returned to the party for about two hours, where you continued stuffing your face and trying to exercise your libido. After that, you returned to your floor, where you drank three two cases of premium brew, and topped it off with a round of tequila shooters. After the binge, you came here, though how you could walk at that point is beyond me. Immediately following your arrival, you fell flat on your face and slept while Gineros just walked on by."
"Er, yeah. That sounds about right." Two said sheepishly.
Teach slammed his notebook shut, saying, "I knew I should have sent Max with you, but I thought I'd give you a chance to show that you're more than just some barfly of the Elsewhere!"
Two scowled at Teach, saying, "Look, so I messed up once, big deal. Tell me where I can pick him up, and I'll go get him right now."
Teach stared at Two for the longest time, so long in fact that Two wondered if he was about to be ousted from the Elsewhere.
Shaking his head, Teach sighed and said, "Fine. I'll give you another chance, but I expect my faith in you to be well justified."
"Great! Thanks Teach! I won't let you down this time, " Two said happily, "Just point me in the right direction and I'm gone!"
"Oh no," Teach said firmly, "This time I'll bring you to the pickup point myself, just to ensure that there are no detours."
As Two slipped into consciousness, he groaned and tried to bring a hand to his head. When it didn't reach, his eyes opened and glanced to see what was wrong.
He was laying spread-eagled naked on a bed in what looked like a hotel room. He was spread-eagled because someone had handcuffed his hands and feet to the legs of the bed.
"Great. Just great." He muttered, testing each of the cuffs, "The only way this could be worse is if …"
The door swung open and in walked Teach carrying a steaming breakfast tray.
"Good morning, Two." Teach said pleasantly, striding up to the bed and setting the tray strategically across Two's hips.
Two winced as the hot plate touched his bare skin. He wiggled around, trying to keep his more sensitive bits away from the heat. "Look, Teach, I can explain …"
Teach settled comfortably on a chair and waited expectantly.
Two opened his mouth a few times, but nothing came out.
Chuckling, Teach said, "You know, I'd be really pissed off if this wasn't so hilarious. I wish I had a camera."
Teach rose to his feet and started circling around the bed. "Two times I've asked you to do something that should have been extraordinarily simple, and two times you've managed to mess it up."
"Look, Teach, I'm sorry!"
"No, I'm sorry, Two, " Teach said, "I'm sorry I thought you could take care of this when you obviously can't. I should have insisted you take a partner along despite your whining."
Teach massaged his temples and said, "I'll get Max to pick up the new guy, so don't worry about it anymore."
"You … you aren't kicking me out of the Elsewhere Incorporate, are you?" Two said, real fear in his voice.
Teach shook his head, saying, "Of course not. When I picked you up, I told you that once you're a member of the Elsewhere Incorporate, you're a Dreamer for life. Still, I have to tell you that I am very disappointed in you for this."
"I'm sorry, Teach." Two said, feeling genuinely ashamed.
"That's all right, Two. Just make sure that next time you take an assignment, you actually complete it."
Teach patted Two on the shoulder and gave him an encouraging smile before heading for the door.
Two struggled against his handcuffs, the heat from the tray now quite uncomfortable. "Hey! You aren't just going to leave me here, are you?"
Teach walked back to the bed and bent down so he could whisper in Two's ear, "I think this will be excellent practice for your next assignment … and just so you know, I've put a guard on the cuffs, so don't think you can use your Dreamer abilities to get out of this."
After ruffling Two's hair, Teach walked out of the room.
Three hours later, Two stormed out of the inn and into the city. He attracted a lot of strange looks from passersby as he walked down the street with a sheet wrapped around him like a toga and a handcuff trailing from his right ankle.
Two stormed through the streets until he reached the park at the town square. Once there, he plopped down on a bench beside a large oak tree and stared angrily at the centerpiece of the large fountain in the center of the park: a statue of a short, bald man with a top hat leaping into the air with an expression of joy on his face.
After staring at the sickeningly optimistic statue for a few minutes, Two wanted very much to punch the model of the sculpture in the face. A few moments and some violent swearing later, Two walked back to his bench, cradling his right arm. He plopped down on the bench, muttering angrily beneath his breath as he stared balefully at the mocking sturdiness of the statue.
"There are more healthy ways of taking out your frustration, you know."
Two and I turned to see a young man with long brown hair and a green and grey striped shirt sitting beside him on the bench."Wha…" Two said, startled, "Where did you come from?"
"I've sitting been here for an hour." The young man replied.
Two sighed. Leaning back, he said, "I was a little distracted. It hasn't been a good day."
The stranger eyed the handcuff around Two's ankle. "I can see that. If it makes you feel any better, I'm not doing to well myself."
"Sorry to hear that. Did you screw up a job too?"
The young man shook his head. "Yes … no … well, kind of, but that's not what's eating me right now."
Looking closer at the young man, Two realized his conversational partner looked tired, both physically and mentally. His hair was a little unkempt, his eyes had dark circles under them, and the way he sat suggested that he wasn't feeling as well as he spoke.
"Wanna talk about it?" Two asked.
The young man shook his head, saying, "I'm not gonna bore you with the details of my life."
"Aww, come on!" Two slapped the stranger on the back, "How can you expect your problems to go away if you keep 'em bottled up inside?"
"Very slowly." He replied, a dour expression on his face.
Two gave the stranger his most caustic look. "You're a funny one. Tell you what, since you're too chicken to go first, I will."
The stranger straightened and turned to listen as Two told him of his past few days.
"I tried to pry it off, " Two said, drawing his story to a close, "But in the end I had to break the bedpost to get away. I can get it off when I go home, but I don't want to face any of my friends right now."
"I can't blame you. When I muffed up a mission back home, I hated going back to HQ. I always felt like everyone was laughing at me." The young man sighed in an extremely melancholy way. "I miss them."
"So that's why you're so down? You're homesick?"
The young man shook his head again. Staring down at his shoes, he said, "No, I'm down because of …"
The young man blushed, and muttered something unintelligible beneath his breath.
"Ah," Two said, an understanding look in his eye, "It's a girl, isn't it?"
The young man nodded.
Grinning widely, Two relaxed back in his seat and said, "Well, when a man and a woman are in love, or kinda like, or are just attracted to each other …"
"That's not what I …" The young man sighed, his face burning bright red. "When my group was … disbanded, I came here and met a girl named Teria. She had run away from home, I had no home left …"
Two waved him off, saying, "And after a bunch of wacky adventures together, you eventually confessed your love, but she turned ya down, huh?"
The young man shook his head, saying, "Actually, she proposed to me."
Two blinked. "Huh. That's … different. Well then, I'm guessing you found out that you don't like her and you're feeling guilty."
"I said yes."
"Hmm…" Two tapped his lower lip with his thumb. "Too scared to commit?"
The young man appeared insulted. "Of course not!"
"Not you, her!"
"Oh. No. She's definitely not afraid of commitment." His cheeks flushed.
The young man's face paled instantly. Two quickly added, "Just a joke. Well, I'm not sure what …"
His eyes suddenly brightened as another idea struck him. "How do her parents feel?"
The look on the young man's face told Two that he had struck gold. The young man nodded and hung his head.
"Aww, that's all? Man, I thought it was something tough." Two clapped him on the shoulder, nearly sending the young man tumbling off the bench. "I'm sure with a little smooth-talking, you could convince her parents to …"
"I overheard her father saying that he'd consider marrying her to a politician before disgracing his family bloodline with my kind."
"Ouch." Two winced sympathetically.
The young man nodded, saying, "Her mother was nicer, but she seemed worried that I wouldn't be able to support her properly. She seemed to think I'd be spending more time at work than by her side."
"Occam's Razor, then, man. Just elope; you already were making it on your own anyway."
The young man shook his head, saying, "She just made up with her parents. I can't ask her to abandon them after that."
Two thought for a long moment before sighing. "I'm sorry dude. I don't know what to tell you."
The young man kept his gaze on his shoes, saying quietly, "I've already found a solution."
"Really?" Two asked, "Whatcha going to do?"
"I gave up."
The enthusiasm left Two like air from a popped balloon. "Wha … give up? Just like that, you're leaving the girl of your dreams?"
The young man nodded, saying, "I left her city two days ago. By now, she's found the note. She'll forget me over time. I just hope she finds someone who can make her happy."
The young man let out another sigh, saying, "Still, I wish I could just see her again. I know it's too late, but …"
A slow smile spread across Two's face. Putting hand on the young man's shoulder, he said, "Maybe we can help each other out. Tell men, where does this girl live?"
"Talynies. 113 Melrose Drive; Minister's residence."
Two groaned. "Minister? Wait, you're in love with the Longshoran Minister's Daughter? Yeesh. You got a picture?"
The young man handed Two a folded piece of paper. Two unfolded it and let out a low whistle.
The photograph showed a young tigreth woman with auburn fur and a patch of white on her chest holding the young man close, laughing as she looked at the camera.
"Dang, I see why you were so broken up. She's a real beauty … for a cat-girl, anyway."
Handing him back the picture, Two said, "Here's the plan; I'll bring us to the forest outside Talynies … there is a forest there, right?" Seeing the young man nod, Two continued, "I'll go and bring her to you, so you two can say goodbye private-like. Good plan, eh?"
"Why would you do this for me?" The young man asked. "We just met like five minutes ago."
Two shrugged, saying, "I dunno. You seem like a nice guy. You coming?"
By the time Two reached the house, Vinta's twin suns were just falling past the horizon, and three of the five moons were climbing into the evening sky.
After a cursory examination of the grounds turned up nothing (or rather, no one home), he quickly hid in the shadows of the large estate and waited.
Hours passed, yet the girl the young man had called Teria still didn't appear. Licking his lips, Two's eyes suddenly locked on a neon 'Welcome' sign to a pub across the street, where many men and a few women were crowding to get in.
"No." He muttered resolutely, "I've got to stay here."
Time moved on. Two glanced at the pub every so often.
"God, I'm so friggin thirsty …" He whispered hoarsely, shivering slightly in the cool night air. He was halfway across the lawn when he felt a pang of guilt. The guy was counting on him.
Two looked at the bar, then back at the house, then back at the bar.
He took two steps towards the bar, abruptly turned, and headed for a garden hose on the outer wall of the house.
After choking down a few mouthfuls (and getting his shirt soaked in the process), Two closed off the valve, muttering, "Dude better appreciate this."
With a last regretful glance at the bar, Two hurried back to his hiding spot, and not a moment too soon.
A young lady wearing jeans and a blouse walked around the corner. Her eyes were red, from crying Two surmised. He was right. After a few moments, she started silently sobbing. Leaning against the house for support, she held her free hand to her face as though trying to stop the tears from flowing.
"Auburn fur, white patch on her chest, green eyes … hey, are you Teria?"
She looked up with wide tearstained eyes, asking, "Who…"
Two interrupted, "I was sent here by a friend of yours. Sturdy looking guy, wears a tacky green and grey T-shirt."
Her eyes opened wider. She opened her mouth to respond, but Two hushed her, saying, "He wants to speak with you."
She looked at him suspiciously, saying, "Wait a minute … I recognize you! You're that idiot Dreamer, Narrator Number Two. You tried to hit on my mother three years ago."
Two didn't honestly remember any such thing, but recently his memory had been filled with large gaps. "Did I? Well, that was the past … or maybe the future, I don't know. Can we go?"
Teria glared at him, saying, "How do I know this isn't some kind of tri …"
Two tapped the rune on the back of his right hand, freezing her in mid sentence.
Sighing, he slung her over his shoulder like a large sack of potatoes, muttering, "Women …"
The young man came out of the bush the moment Two unfroze Teria. She forgot about Two in an instant, and met the young man halfway with a passionate embrace.
Two outside the forest clearing as the two began to speak in hushed tones. After listening in for a few moments, he smiled and shook his head. "Wow, he's got it bad."
Two turned away to give them some privacy, only to see a glint of glasses from the tree beside him. "Teach? What are you doing here?"
"You didn't come back. I figured you had gotten lost."
Two scowled. "Or was still attached to that bed. You're a real bastard, you know that?"
Teach chuckled, but said nothing..
Scowling again, Two looked back into the clearing, saying, "I've been a bit busy …"
"I didn't know you liked to watch."
"Oh, shut up."
Teria and the young man had seemed to reach the end of their conversation. Teria's eyes were puffy, but she wasn't crying as she started walking back to her hometown. If anything, Two thought, she looks happier.
Once she had disappeared into the forest, Two approached the young man and asked, "So, how'd it go? Did you say everything you wanted to say?"
As he drew closer, Two could tell the young man's eyes were red as well. He had a smile on his face, however, as he replied, "No, but I'll tell her the rest next time."
"Next time?" Two asked, a mischievous smile on his face.
The young man nodded. "I'm coming back, and next time I'm marrying her whether her parents like it or not. I'll make a name so big for myself that they won't dream of objecting."
Two clapped him on the shoulder, saying, "Well, until you make that name, I'm gonna call you One."
The young man raised an eyebrow. "One?"
"Like in Narrator Number One. Listen, you're a strong-willed guy, full of loyalty and honor and that kind of stuff. I'm a clever guy full of ideas and tricks and … well, myself to be honest, though just a little. Think of it, One! Together, we'd be the best team since Mario and Luigi!"
"Odd comparison, but I think I see what you mean." Despite his doubtful tone, the newly designated One was smiling.
"That's what I thought! Now, we have an assignment to finish. Easy assignment, be over in a flash. Yo, Teach! Come and meet my new partner!"
Teach stepped out from behind the tree. He looked at the young man, and for just a moment, Two thought he saw surprise in Teach's eyes.
Clapping his hand around One's shoulders and pulling him close, Two said, "This is Narrator Number One, though you can just call him One. We're gonna go get that guy you told me to get."
Teach asked amusedly, "You really don't know?"
Two glanced at his new partner, who was still looking at Teach as though wondering where he had come from. Shaking his head, Two turned back to Teach, saying, "Don't know what?"
Teach walked towards them until he was standing in front of One. Teach extended his hand, saying pleasantly, "Welcome to the Elsewhere Incorporate, Michael Gineros."