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It's a wonderful day in the former city of Jolipont. The sun is shining, parents walk their children happily down the street in hopes of denying them the focus they need for psychic powers, and there isn't a single giant robot attack in sight. The municipal bird, the ten-quill quail, hoot from their nests atop of the circularly-leaved Yordurt trees. A sign on the border of the town read, "No preventable deaths in the past |2|4| days", which was to everyone's knowledge a new record. Yes, indeed, everything seems to be running quite smoothly in Jolipont.
Likely the only people in all of the port town to not have things running smoothly at all must have been located in the small, run-down old house on Stallone Street, right near the hopelessly over-designed youth theatre. Located within this quaint suburban home was the business of the kindly old Mr. and Mrs. Imerit: The Merit Delivery Company, Ltd.
The source of their disruption was the following: without warning, four packages and $2000.00 in large bills had been dropped on their desk that morning- normally parcels were in the mailbox, or through the cat door or taped to the cat as they were supposed to be, but these had mysteriously appeared on their old pine table. On top of that, three of the packages had no address whatsoever, and due to their "Merit always delivers" motto, they would be stuck with finding a way to deliver the packages while trying to turn a profit.
Mr. Imerit was a pudgy old man of 62 years, quite bald with a rather sharply sloped egg-like head. A year ago, he'd slipped on a banana peel and landed funny on an air mattress while making a run. The resulting injury had knocked the spry old man down in his prime, and thus he was forced to use his elephant-headed cane to walk about, and worse, increase the hours of their only employee, as she'd be doing just about everything of importance from then on.
The wizened runner sipped the last of his putrid coffee and rest his paper on top of his half-eaten Goat & Goat Cheese bagel. As he moved his hand off of the page, the headline became clear: Their sensible Mayor McFowland was looking unlikely to win the "Least responsible Mayor" award for the Greater Doorway Municipal Region, and beatnik poet/hard-hitting interviewer Hal Soap wanted to know, "why, why... why don't you... want it...?". Answers at eleven.
Yelling unnecessarily loud to avoid the range of sound his wife's hearing aid actually picked up, Mr. Imerit called his hireling in. "ILLIA," he shouted without any thought to the precarious perching of the cat and what consequences his volume might have for the feline, "COME ON IN HERE, DEAR, I'VE GOTTA JOB FOR YA."
Their sole employee had been making herself busy by not doing much of anything in the main hallway of the house. Though she had today's paper in one hand she was more enthralled with a rubix cube keychain she had bought. She didn't know why she got the stupid thing, but it was colorful and interesting. She couldn't get the colors anywhere but everywhere on it. I guess you could say it was colorful and complicated, just like her.
Illia always wore colorful ensembles, and they were absolutely not suited for the type of work she did. Today she was wearing numerous shades of green, pink, brown, and yellow. The pinks, yellows, and greens were like a rainbow flowing down her shirt. She had added the light brown hairband herself which held back her long blonde hair. Her skirt was also that same light brown color so that she didn't just have some random brown accessory. She was probably the most colorful delivery person ever and she even had a trophy from winning first place in a Little Miss Pretty Lady pageant to kind of prove it. So what if she won that when she was 7, it could still apply to the present!
She was just about to turn another side of her keychain when the old man's bellowing voice made her jump! Luckily her keychain was actually chained to her, else it might have become a new toy for the Imerits' cat. The old man's yelling literally made her drop everything.
"I better not have to change the cat litter for them again." Illia grumbled as she made her way to where the old man had called her from. She could swear that cat had a vendetta against her even though it didn't do much of anything.
She made sure to put on her cheery smile before entering the room. "I'm here Mr. Imerit. So what's this job you have for me? Did you run out of prune juice again?"
Upside-down on the floor, a rather dark-furred Siamese scanned its beady little eyes onto Illiana in a very disconcerting way. This simultaneously shows that cats don't always land on their feet, and that the kitty of the house was still waiting for any opening it could get on her, even when the unexpected turns of life had rendered it helpless on its spine. Its bronze nametag rattled as it squirmed, showing off the confusing alien lettering that had forced the Imerits to adopt the darned thing.
"I'm afraid it's not prune juice," the wrinkled old man muttered as he rubbed some dandruff from his smoothed head, "this time it's potentially disastrous for our little company. Some sneak dropped these parcels off to us, and most of 'em don't even have addresses- even worse, the one that is addressed is going to the BT!"
The old man's fretting made sense- BT stood for "Burning Tower", a very exclusive set of condominiums that only the super rich could afford, as the entire building was constantly ablaze. As you might guess, it's very difficult to get in- it's members-only!
Looking over his employee, Mr. Imerit shook his head. "I just wish you'd wear something a little more appropriate, maybe. You kids these days just do whatever you want- I know I said you didn't have to wear the ratty old uniform and that dress code is all-or-nothin' by law in this town, but it wouldn't hurt to be a bit more professional when you're representing Merit Delivery down at the BT, girl.
Sighing, the wrinkled septugenerian pulled a pen and paper from his pinstripe suit pocket, as well as a set of brass keys and laid them out on the table as he wrote. The letter read: "Carl Shalesman, 34 Dripps avenue, BT, apt. 299 on 1203 Marcy street (that's the main north/south street in Jolipont), Multi-ethnic diversity library of law, 12 taupe crescent."
"I'm sure you'll need these," the boss told her, wriggling his unkempt mustache, "Take the van and visit my buddy, [COLOR="rgb(75, 0, 130)"]Carl[/color]; he might be able to help you get in to BT, but he's a slippery fellow and you'd do well to watch yourself around him. Visit the library whenever you're unsure where to head next; there's no better place to go if you know what you don't know. Good luck with the deliveries- our reputation is riding on you, girl. Good luck."
The van is now available. It's a standard three-wheeled vehicle that has a very colourful history, however with the terrible parking and traffic it's often worse to drive than to walk, the advantage being the lower probability of being mugged by the town's criminal element. Oh, did I not mention that? Well, there is one. Illia is free to instead walk and explore the town that way, or take the delivery bike.
Not wanting to miss her chance at taunting her feline arch-nemesis, Illiana stuck her tongue out at the flailing furball. Normally she adored cats, or any animal, but this cat was EVIL. She had no idea how the Imerits could live with that cat. It could be plotting the end of the world while hiding behind old people to look innocent!
Finally focusing on the task at hand, Illia looked over the parcels. "I'll be going to the BT huh?" Oh boy oh boy! Rich people meant good tips! Or no tip, but she would never let that happen!
She chuckled at the comment on her choice of clothing. "You know Mr. Imerit, any attention is good attention. With a wardrobe this colorful you're guaranteed to get a lot of it! I don't see why you don't understand that. It's really quite simple." She said taking a spin around to show off her whole ensemble even though it wasn't really anything special.
And then there they were, those glorious brass keys! Illia had owned a car herself for a little while before it had exploded. Turns out she didn't have giant metal death machine insurance, so she's been without any sort of vehicle for a while. Sure the van wasn't some snazzy sports car but a car's a car. You cannot say no to a car.
She snatched up the keys and looked over the address paper. She knew her way around town pretty well, so she wasn't worried in the slightest. "I think I will take the van, thanks Mr. Imerit." She said as she began to get ready. "Oh, and I'll do my best so don't you worry your wrinkled little head off."
Illia then loaded up the parcels into the van and plopped herself down in the driver's seat. If this Carl guy could get her into the BT then this whole delivery would be easy. Since none of the other parcels had an address, she figured they'd all go to the same place. Or if they didn't maybe they'd take them off her hands anyways... Regardless, that did make it less work for her to have to do. She turned the key several times before the silly little three-wheeler got itself going and then she headed straight for Carl's address.
As the quirky little vehicle moved out of the drive, Illia found herself face to face with the standard city-wide traffic jam that occured at all hours. Holding her red "C rank" licence out the window, a "D rank" man in a two-wheeled Chevron Crapheap was forced to let her go first with a sullen sob. This was probably not the first time this had happened today, and probably wouldn't be the last.
The drive was nice, though slow as usual- starting by the seaboard and the concrete slope leading down into it, and gradually making its way through the straight-but-chaotic intersections of the town. What few old wooden homes there were quickly turned into dirty concrete apartments- solid and ugly, except for the lush green ivy and hanging baskets that seemed to cover them. Jolipont was quite lush despite its forbidding architecture.
It was difficult to find Carl's place, as it was with anything- the city was not built on a grid of streets, but rather squares around important buildings that branched at right angles to one another like a pixellated octapus. Smiling and generic fellows in overalls or plaid hats waved from the streets at Illiana- were they just polite, or was she someone special? The world may never know.
As Illia found the proper intersection, suddenly everything came to even more of a stop than usual. People shook their fists out of their cars, horns honked, and some furious drivers even stepped out before taking one good look, getting rather sheepish and then stepping right back in.
Looking out the window, our (hero?)ine spotted the problem: In the middle of the next intersection was a seal dressed as a cross-walk guard, balancing a beach ball on its nose. Everyone was frozen with indecision and self-doubt, and if things stay on their present course it might prove impossible to go further using the truck...
There wasn't anything terrible about the traffic, it was just terrible traffic. So Illiana cruised along in the jam packed streets. The drive would have been boring except she seemed to be getting a decent amount of attention from people. She waved back to all of them with a big smile of course. Like she had said before, attention is always a good thing.
When the traffic became even more ridiculous and she looked up ahead to find the seal in uniform she sighed. She noticed that not a single person was actually trying to solve the problem. That meant she'd have to be the one to do it if she wanted to get anywhere. While she always liked to be in the limelight the one thing she didn't like was having to work to get in it.
It was too late to turn back and she couldn't just leave the van and go on foot. Despite the girl's reluctance to leave the van, she finally slid herself out between her three-wheeler and a trashy looking truck next to her. She didn't want to leave the deliveries all by themselves, but what was happening here had to be fixed if she was ever going to get anywhere. What exactly do you do to fix a problem of a seal in uniform holding up traffic? She hadn't a clue, but that wouldn't stop her from trying. As she sneaked and squeezed her way through the traffic she finally reached the odd crossing guard.
"Excuse me, Mr. Frederick. Can I call you Frederick? You look like a Frederick. Anyway, could you either do this job better or go home? Traffic is normally pretty terrible but I'm afraid you're making it worse." Illia asked knowing full well that she was talking to a seal. It's okay though, she had a plan B if Frederick didn't speak English. Which he probably didn't, he looked like he could be Spanish though.
She didn't have to wait too long before realizing nothing was going to come from negotiating with Frederick. She really didn't want to do what she was thinking, but if it worked she might just get traffic moving again. In one swift movement she grabbed the beach ball off the seal's nose and waited to see if it would be anything like a dog or if she'd just provoked the wrath of an angry seal.
As the glaringly-garbed delivery girl smacked the sphere from the street-clogging specimen, it reached out a fin and twiddled its whiskers in protest before talking in protest. People from their cars gasp in shock that someone is actually taking some sort of action in this situation.
"Hey," It arfed in a whining tone, "I'm so sorry, senorita, but this is my first day! They told me at the zoo that I was overqualified, and my vocational re-assessment told me I'd be a perfect crossing guard! I'm doing the best I can, but I'm afraid my only real skillset is balancing a ball on my nose."
The seal flops towards the ball and lifts it again. "My name isn't Frederick, by the way, it's Frederk. It's a common mistake, Chica. Since you're saying I'm not helping I wish I could stop, but I have pups to feed and I haven't seen my boss in days. Say, are you an Isabella? You really look like one."
Frederk looks genuinely apologetic (not that seals don't, with their adorable beady eyes) but he also seems like a bit of a pushover. Also, there is no ring on those fins of his.
Illia was a little surprised when Frederk started talking. Less surprised over the fact that he was talking to her and more surprised that she was right about him being Spanish AND was close to guessing his real name. Maybe she was hallucinating? No...no.. There was still a seal crossing guard causing traffic to build up, it was very real.
It was a little unfortunate that she couldn't enjoy getting the attention of the people stuck in traffic here because now she was actually concerned for Frederk. Probably because he was a seal and not a person. She did have a slight case of species-ism.
"Isabella? Well my name does start with an "I" but it's much more elegant than a name like Isabella, I assure you. My name is Illiana." She said with a slight curtsy as it seemed polite and while Frederk probably could kind of shake hands with her, she didn't want to get in the way of his balancing again. Especially when he seemed to be a nice guy. Also, seals are adorable. End of discussion.
"Mr. Frederk?" Illiana opened with a curious look on her face. "Doesn't the zoo feed the animals in it? If you live there wouldn't they just feed you for doing exactly what you're doing right here?"
Scraping mollusks from his side, Frederk is forced to shrug weakly. The ball wobbles a bit as he does so, so he quickly returns to his former position in a fit of confusion.
"They told me that with this economy, you know, that they just couldn't hold on to an overqualified seal. Had to get the new blood in," he explains, obviously having no idea what he's talking about. He has a bit of a solemn air, and although mostly confused about what the heck is going on, he doesn't really seem willing to contest it.
Some people in the cars around you have also begun to resign themselves to their fates, some of them lounging on the hoods of their cars, others simply writing concepts for new game shows involving waiting in traffic. One man brings out a guitar and begins playing that good-ol' soul-singin' favourite, "shingles without a rooftop". The seal is far too cute for anyone to take action.
"Wish I could help you out," the sea-faring mammal offers, "After all, you have a very pretty name, chico. My flippers are tied for now, but if you could convince my boss to at least take today off I would be forever in your debt."
"Why thank you Mr. Frederk, I rather like my name as well." The delivery girl replied, quite pleased with her own name. "So, who is this boss of yours then? I could try to give him a call if you know their number." She pulled a cell phone out from her hand-made pockets that she actually sewed herself. She didn't care for carrying around a purse, so she had made herself some crude, simple pockets separate from her skirt that were tied around her waist and hidden under her skirt. They weren't cool like a utility belt or anything, but she could use them with ANY skirt or pants rather than having to sew pockets on everything. She only kept essentials in them like her phone, some make-up, a sharpee, and her silly little keychain.
Illiana was starting to get a little annoyed even though Frederk was so sweet. She might have to lie to this adorable little sea mammal to get on with her job. While she would hate to have to do that, it might be necessary. In any case, she began mentally prepping herself for what could possibly be her first acting job.
"Ah... Senorita," Frederk arfed nervously, fumbling with a business card in his flipper, "You are as bold as your name, Illiana. The number for which you search is, ah... (667)444-1313. You may find my employer to be somewhat, euh, difficult."
As he says this, he drops the card and pulls out a packet of cigarettes. Frederk trembles as he brings the white cylinder to his mouth, keeping the ball balanced all the while. He quickly lights it with a duct-taped plastic lighter (where does he keep these things?) and inhales in time with the cell phone's ringing. As someone picks up, he gulps and his whiskers vibrate like a diving board might after a car was driven off of it.
"Greetings," a sinister voice answers. It is incredibly sinister. The degree to which it is sinister is higher than one might expect in general from sinister voices, and the quality one would attach to it is unmistakably "sinister", rather than anything else. Indeed, it is difficult not to imagine that the voice belongs to someone named something like "sinestro", except that would breach copyright so that can't be the case.
"Greetings," the voice repeats, as if it knows the kind of long explanations it necessitates, "you have reached the office of Rose Regalia, Vice President of Vicious Solutions, Ltd. I'm afraid she's out at the moment, but if you have any business with her, you're free to... bring it up with me."
Rose Regalia is someone that is difficult not to have heard of. It's not very clear what Vicious Solutions sells, or why it has such a name, but it is very clear that they make lots and lots of money doing it. Her Father is the president, and has given her basically free reign to do as she wishes. She claims to have a serious naturalist bent, but historically she's done nothing but oppress the wildlife with her wanton whims.
Illiana really had no idea how Frederk had ever duct taped a lighter to his flipper nor could she guess where the cigarette came from, but really all she could do was just look baffled as this seal defied all science and logic.
She had been wandering about as the phone had been ringing, trying to stray a little ways away from Frederk so he wouldn't be able to overhear, thankfully the people in traffic were a noisy bunch. She immediately stopped however when the well-described sinister voice played through her phone. It sent shivers up, down, and all around her spine. She realized that she was probably in this problem deeper than she ever wanted to be, but now that she was in it she was stuck. You can't lie to someone with that sinister of a voice, if you sound that creepy then you probably ARE at least part evil. Evil people know when you lie to them, they just do. Heck, they could probably smell your fear through the phone.
She thought for a moment before answering. At first she had planned to just dramatize how Frederk got hit by a speeding ice cream van, but there was no way that would actually convince this incredibly sinister voice. So she decided to actually TRY. Honestly. If that didn't work, well... She could still lie to a perfectly gullible seal if she had the heart.
She composed herself with a deep breath and finally answered back. "Yes, hello." She rose her voice to be heard over the people singing on their cars. "I'm calling about the seal crossing guard named Frederk. He is not only terribly confused about having this job but he's also just plain terrible at it. Traffic is so slow that it's comparable to watching grass grow. Would you be able to relieve him of his crossing guard duty? Or alternatively replace him with a creature of some sort that actually has hands and knows what they're doing?"
She felt confident in herself after she had made the request. Maybe she could pull this off after all. Or if this voice refused maybe she could go back and try her plan A after all...
In response to her request, the secretarial sinister-sounding speaker sneered. It was clearly annoyed at the woman's well-worded, willful wishes.
"Although it runs counter to my mistress's wishes," it sinister-ally responds over the crackling cell, "it is company policy to recognize clearly-worded requests to fire employees. Unless..."
A strange sniffing sound comes through the speaker, validating one of Illia's possible concerns. Despite the indirect nature of the sniffing, it feels as if it's happening right there, as if there's a firm grip on her slender shoulder. It's pretty weird and, as stated before, more sinister than ever before. "Smell & Sound" had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now every fiber of the young would-be actress stood against it.
"Yesssss...." The voice laughed, with sinister levels approaching critical mass, "Hahaha! That is indeed the... SMELL... of fear! Despite your clear message, your very feelings betray you. As is company policy, I am forced to BANISH hysterical callers to... Customer Service! Huahaahahrhaahah!"
A button press and a dial tone are heard as the world goes dark around the young heroine. The world seems to spin violently as horrible visions escape from the space around her. The cars, the seal, everything that was normal (well, sort-of normal) had suddenly disappeared from view, and been replaced with bleeding eyes on the ends of gruesome worms, mouths opening to reveal more mouths, and hands of light reaching out of buildings in a very threatening manner.
Thankfully, her phone was on the verge of being out of bars and the call was out of range, thus cancelling it. Before the arms could grab Illiana, or the mouths could eat her, or the eyes could, uh, look at her closely, she was back where she started. Frederk looked worried, and some of the drivers were clearly writing their wills in the long line of traffic.
Holy armageddon burritos. What the poor girl had seen just then was almost as bad as that one time she watched that hit horror movie: Revenge of the DMV. That was the movie that made her swear off horror for the rest of her life. Regardless, she was completely immobilized now. Her fear-enlarged pupils could not un-see the horrors of customer service until...
Her little Nokia phone fell out of her paralyzed hand and smashed a crater in the pavement! Thankfully no one was injured. In any case, the sound of the impact snapped Illiana out of sheer terror and back to the real world. She scrambled to reclaim her phone wedged in the street and tried to regain her composure. She patted down her rainbow shirt and wiped off her skirt as if it had been dirty (even though it wasn't but it made her feel better anyway). After a minute or two of fixing herself up she finally turned back to Frederk.
"You work for Satan incarnate and you are on your own, sir!" She huffed at the sea mammal, infuriated. That was definitely something she would have liked a better warning for, and she was never going to forgive him for the horrible things she had just seen. Adorable talking seal or not, it took her two whole years to get over the DMV movie. This experience would last a while. "You want the day off? Maybe you can go hurt yourself and take a sick day. I on the other hand am out of here! I enjoy being alive too much to want to deal with that woman and her maniacal minion assistants from the netherrealm!"
She stomped off to go grab the packages out of the car. She had no choice, she would have to continue on foot if she wanted to live. Dealing with Vicious Solutions was now on the top of her "never do again if you enjoy anything in life" list just above reverse skydiving and extreme knitting (it's pretty extreme).