Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The first sign of trouble was that the fusion field detector Greyghost commissioned from Itzhak hadn't come in yet. In fact, it was three days overdue. This was unprecedented, as far as Itzhak was concerned; I could only remember one other time he had been late with a delivery, and that was only for a day.

That started me thinking. I flipped through the requisitions and found another item that was due from Itzhak, now two days late. I forget what it was; some kind of supersonic turnip twaddler or other.

Picked up Carl's purple book and looked up Itzhak's number. I had never actually talked to him before; all our exchanges had been handled through the mail and couriers and, rarely, e-mail. I dialed, listened to Itzhak's phone ring for about fifteen times, and hung up.

Now what?

Greyghost was out of town, tracking down the notorious Burnskull, and Cassie was following a planeful of drug dealers, so I was kind of on my own. I figured, what the hell, it's probably nothing; I'll go down and take a look around.

(cut to: montage of Dennis strolling through beautiful Empire City. Jaunty music plays)

Itzhak's address turned out to be in an old rusted-out industrial neighborhood. I walked up to 500 Conway St., which was a boarded-up eight-track-cassette factory, and knocked on the door. No answer.

Nothing was visible through the front windows except plywood, so I checked around back. There were more signs of life here; a little fenced-off dirt area with two cars and fresh tire tracks in the snow. Footprints, and well-stepped-down footpaths, and so on. The main footpath led to a fire door in the back of the factory. I knocked on the door, no answer, and peeked into the windows. There were lights on somewhere inside, but that was all I could see.

The door was unlocked. I slipped in and headed for the lighted area. In the shadows all around me was heavy machinery of types I didn't recognize or understand. I could hear arguing from up ahead.

There were two men seated at a table in the middle of a workshop, shouting at each other. One was an older guy, black and balding, with a two-foot-long beard, yelling in English. The other was a young Asian guy in a baseball cap, yelling in a different language.

The old guy noticed me. "Who to hell are you?" he said, getting up out of his chair.

"Dennis. From Greyghost," I said.

"Dennis! I'm Itzhak. This is Kwu. Come here. You can judge."

I entered the workshop area between a couple of lathes. They were playing Scrabble. Itzhak pointed at the board.

"Tell us," he said. "Is BUTTMUNCH a word or not?"

Now here's where I'm a jerk. I could have said 'Yes' or 'No', but that wouldn't have been enough fun. I said, "Doesn't it need a hyphen?"

This set Kwu off, shouting again and pointing at me and the board. Itzhak yelled back, and we were off to the races. Next to the Scrabble table was a blackboard with a set of scores on it. At the top of the board it said, "SCRABBLE CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE UNIVERSE", and below it was a complicated-looking playoff tree. But all of the nodes of the tree were 'I vs K'.

"You guys have been playing a lot of this?" I said, pointing at the board.

"That's the only fair format to see who's better," Itzhak explained. "We play three tournaments, and the winner is the one who wins two of them. Each tournament has a best-of-nine rounds format, and each round is best-of-nine games."

"So you're planning on playing, what, up to two hundred and forty-three games?" I asked.

"It's the only fair way," Itzhak said. The phone rang. Itzhak and Kwu ignored it.

"I can get that for you," I said.

Itzhak waved his hand in the air as he sat down again. "Ignore it. This is the championship of the universe."

"Uh huh. Would you mind interrupting the championship of the universe long enough to make Greyghost a fusion field detector and a hyperbaric cheese straightener?"

He looked at me blankly for a moment. "Oh, right. They're around somewhere. Sit down and relax; I'll find 'em for you after this game."

Actually it took him two and a half games to get off his ass and put Greyghost's equipment in a bag for me. Not that I wasn't having fun, drinking root beer and watching them play Scrabble, but when I ruled that VAVAVOOM wasn't a word, Itzhak grabbed me and the stuff and shoved us out in the snow.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?