Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 04 - "Tranz-D"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

at the Mall

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG - Genres: Fantasy,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-10-22 - Updated: 2008-10-22 - 1785 words - Complete

The whole room seemed to waver before Max’s eyes like a mirage, then resolved itself into a completely different room.

There were still shelves of books, but they weren’t as tall, and they crowded around him. Whereas he had previously been walking in the open. Even the lighting had changed in some subtle way that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

But at least Bandit was still at his side.

A moment later, he noticed another major difference. Beyond the shelves, he could hear mingled strains of conversation. He had heard faint murmurs from the other levels on his way back up earlier, the only suggestion that there had been anyone besides himself and Swanson in that entire library. A fact he had found reassuring after the fake vacancy of Tranz-D, but not only was the light different, on top of that this place even smelled different than the Library.

“Looks like he was right about the rift…” he commented to himself.

For a moment, Max was afraid to move, for fear that he would step between dimensions again. Then he told himself that whatever was going on was beyond his control, and he didn’t want to get separated from Bandit in yet another strange place. Around the corner he saw people showing each other books or searching among the shelves by themselves. Dressed in styles he had never seen before, even among Outlander visitors.

More people than he had seen in the past five years, just in this room. More than ever, he wished Justin was still with him, it had been too long since he was in the company of others. Too long, he knew. Thinking about his friend filled him with an unarticulated dread, even though he knew it was all he could do to deal with his own situation. He knew that he was the Outlander here, and this left him with mixed feelings.

Hoping he could find someone here as helpful as the librarian was there, Max approached one of the browsers, saying, “Excuse me, man…” faltering for a moment before deciding on the direct approach, “Where am I?”

“You’re right there,” the young man replied, smiling as he turned back to the magazine whose title was a word Max didn’t recognize.

“But where is here?” Max pressed, not sure if the man understood him.

“This isn’t a joke, is it?”

“No, I’m serious. Where is here?”

“This a trick question?” Max was getting the impression that this guy was getting annoyed, bothered in some way he didn’t quite get.

“No,” Max told him, trying to keep from sounding too impatient. He could see the man’s eyes kept roving back to the page. “I don’t know where I am. I’m lost. Would you tell me where I am? Please?”

“You’re at the mall, dumbass,” the man told him, turning back to reading as Max walked away. Conversation over. “Seriously, dude, lay off the crack, okay?”

Max had no idea what that last remark was about, so he shrugged his shoulders and set out searching for more information.

He didn’t get very far before a little girl remarked, “Wow! That’s a big kitty!”

“His name’s Bandit.” Max couldn’t help but smile at the girl’s curiosity and delight.

“Hi, Bandit!” The girl reached out. Then she hesitated. “Can I pet him?”

“Bandit?” It was something Max hadn’t thought about in years.

The girl reached out, and Bandit let her pet him. In fact, he even seemed to be enjoying it. Max’s relief quickly melted into amusement at the amount of attention his feline friend was getting lately.

“Jessie!” A woman stepped in, grabbing the girl by the wrist even as she was scratching him behind the ears, right where he most liked it. “You know better than to play with wild animals.”

“But Mom…” the girl protested.

“Bandit isn’t going to hurt her,” Max assured her, remembering a moment later just how protective a mother can be. Still, he couldn’t help feeling slighted.

“Jessie, don’t ever do that again…” Yet her mother wasn’t even listening to him. She whisked her daughter away, launching into a very maternal-sounding lecture about the dangers of wild beasts and strangers (in general, and what an awful man Max probably was in particular) as they walked away.

The two of them stood there for a moment, Max scratching his head, then they moved on to the next section. Which Max discovered right off wasn’t another section, as it was in the Library, but an enormous corridor. He gazed up past lines and letters that glowed in the same radiant colors as energy blades, at a ceiling that hung many feet above him, seeing clouds drift by through arched skylights. People passed both ways through this palatial hall by the score, garbed in ways he had never seen before. Bright colors seemed to be all the rage; shorts, t shirts, faded jeans, and various types of footwear the like of which he had only seen on the feet of Outlanders. Some at leisure, some in haste, others flocked to booths that further piqued Max’s already insatiable curiosity.

The dazzling array of novelties would likely have distracted him for hours if not for the fact that, of the many scents he and Bandit now explored for the first time, the ones that stood out smelled like food. Following their noses, they made their way down the corridor and around a corner, to what appeared to be the source. Wafting from this place were aromas neither of them had ever smelled before, all of them easily more tantalizing than anything Max had caught a whiff of in many years.

There was a large open area where many people sat at tables, and still more people flocking to several counters with brightly colored signs above them, from which they seemed to be getting the food. At first, all they could do was just stare at this scene, then Bandit led them up to one of the counters. There was currently no line at this one, so the young man at the counter, who name tag read James, spotted Max right away.

“Welcome to Happy Burger,” he told Max, “Where Life’s A Holiday! May take your order?”

“You mean food, right?” Between the irresistible flavors he smelled, and having had so little to eat in the last day or so, it was all he could do to talk, and try not to drool.

“Yeah. What else?” James replied. “So what do you want?”

“I don’t know,” Max told him, little realizing that he was playing into a script this man had been learning for months. “What have you got?”

“Well, our special today is the Happy Burger Holiday Value Meal, which comes with—”

“What’s a Happy Burger?”

James blinked, then said, “You’ve never heard of Happy Burger?”

Max shook his head, and Bandit continued to stare at the counter with a look that reminded him of sharing their first ration bar that first morning years ago.

“We’ve got locations from coast-to-coast,” James informed him. “You been living under a rock or something?”

Max just stood there, contemplating how delicious whatever he was smelling must be.

“Do you want a Happy Burger?”

“I guess.”

“How many?”

Max looked at his friend, remembering just how much the big cat could eat, then said, “Three, please.”

“The meal, or the sandwich?”

“The meal, I guess…”

James pushed some buttons on what appeared to be another computer, the told him, “That’ll be $14.97 please.”


“The meal costs five bucks, and you ordered three of them, so that’s fifteen dollars. You do have money, doncha?”

“Hmm…” Max now remembered hearing about how people bought food in other realms. Then he remembered the odd pieces of paper he had taken from Tranz-D and why they had seemed somehow familiar. Robert had something very much like them in his collection— cash, he called it.

He dug in his pocket, bringing out several of the notes and handed them over, saying, “Is this enough?”

“Um, I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t take Canadian.”

“What about this…” Max remembered there seemed to be several distinct types, so he fished it all out and handed it over.

James looked at Max in utter puzzlement, then sifted several bills out, shoving the rest back to Max.

Meanwhile, somebody came out from the back, where he could vaguely see people bustling about (where that mouth-watering aroma was coming from), and handed him a tray laden with three wrapped sandwiches and cardboard sides of a strange yellow food he had never seen before.

Max bowed his head in gratitude and took the tray—

“Wait— you forgot your change.”

“And your drinks,” the young woman who handed him the tray added.

“Oh.” Max took the money offered to him.

“So, what do you want to drink anyway?”

“Some water would be good.” Until they mentioned drinks a moment ago, Max had been too hungry and confused to notice how thirsty he was.

The woman placed three cups of water on the tray, Max bowed his head and thanked them again, then walked away, trying to balance the heavy tray while keeping a very excited kitty out from under his feet.

“Weird…” James muttered as he watched them wander away.

Max found an empty table near the glass-and-chrome railing overlooking a colossal atrium. As he sat down and unwrapped his sandwiches, he looked over the side, seeing the neon-lined railing of several levels above and below his. He gave one of the sandwiches to Bandit, who made it disappear almost in one bite, he sampled some of the yellow things. They were really salty, but good.

Alternately munching them down and sipping water, laughing because he hadn’t seen a drinking straw since he was little, one of Mom’s odd Outlander prizes. Bandit eating off one of the seats and lapping up water out of one of the cups while Max watched the comings and goings of the people on the other floors. It wasn’t until he had exhausted his supplies of fries that he remembered the last sandwich.

He would find that once he got rid of the crunchy green things, Happy Burgers didn’t taste half bad. Much to his surprise, just having a decent meal made him feel much more optimistic about his situation, resolving to set out and try to find a way back to the Centralict Library to resume his search for Justin.
Sign up to rate and review this story