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The fire crackled with a pressure of about 20 dB as Frederick tolled the bell. The owner of the 1033 square foot house simply sat at his chair and pressed a button playing the pre-recorded message: “Come in”.

Frederick did as he was told. Well, it’s raining at a rate of 60 mm per hour outside and I don’t think you’d stay out in the porch for any extended period of time. He left the umbrella in the convenient umbrella-box, an entrance exclusively for umbrellas. Just like one of those bags except infinitely reusable.

“Sit down,” chimed the old man. Frederick looked around and saw an Ottoman about 60 cm tall. Without a second hesitation he jumped on it… and then bounced off. Quite a loud thump resulted.

“Let me try that again,” said Barth. “Sit down, and try not to injure yourself.”

Frederick tried the Ottoman again. This time there were fewer thumps.

“Good. Now let’s get to business.”

Except they weren’t. Silence was absent of course, and as the rain continued to pour and the hearth continued to burn and the radio continued to notify the house about the rainstorm warnings I don’t think that Silence will be around for quite a long period of time.

After eight and a half minutes of the awkward non-silence, Frederick asked, “So what’s this about?”

Barth was still halfway across the room in his rocking chair. “There have been a couple of rumors over in Delphi3, you know?”

“Of course. And six in eight are true.”

“Three in four,” Barth snapped. “Reduce your fractions, young man!”

“Yeah, yeah. There’s been odd gods running around and there are strange combinations of science and religion going on here. You know that I don’t care much about what happens in Delphi3, so why are you telling me this? Go on, you’re ruining my cookies.”

“Of course you could care less about those. We’re talking about organizations here, not science, religion or Sky-Rails.” He gestured at the Sky-Rail logo, a rather disconcerting combination of a cross, a star and a pipette, with a couple of odd symbols thrown in for good measure.

“So what is this?”

“Well, we’ve received some information that, while not related to Sky-Rails, may have some connection to them. It’s about this something about buts.”

“Buts? You mean butts right? Those of the cigarette persuasion, right?”

“You wish! ‘However’, ‘ends of cigarettes’ and ‘waste removal’ are all involved in this.”

“What.” Frederick sat and looked out the window. The rain was still going on. The radio continued to blather: “There had been new reports on the whereabouts of the Squall Gods. He may be near the in-center of the triangle formed by Hurricane Jade, Hurricane Quincy and Hurricane Etta. However, as there are more than twenty hurricanes around this may be inaccurate. Further observations will be published as soon as they are compiled.”

Barth slouched around, waiting for Frederick to stop being so unresponsive. Being a veteran of the Fifteenth Corporeal Army, he’d no problem with all these so-called “supernatural” things going on. It’s just that half the time there was no one nearby to hear his studies and explanations. Living in Mt. August, a mountain 1,200 meters up from sea level, is probably not helping his case.
Eventually Frederick came around. “Let me guess. This is part of the Annual Junkers festival, isn’t it?”

“As far as we know, yes. We’re not entirely sure. But the fact that both tend to lie in line with the lunar calendar is kind of telling.”

“How did you know this?”

“Tons of laughter, everywhere. Channeled in the underground sound pipes so that no one can hear them.”

“But why?”

“Who knows? Perhaps they want to use the vibrations to make some kind of earthquake.”

Frederick glared at Barth.

“Okay, that was an explanation that I just made up. But that’s not much better than any other explanation behind these pipes. We can’t get at them, because they’re hiding under all those pesky roads around Deplhi3, but I’m sure that they’re around there somewhere, and we may be able to get at them one day.”

“Mm-hm. So?”

“Well, the Sky-Rails were all very interested in these people with all the cigarettes. They’re an unknown; most likely, they’re sitting on some odd magnum or something that gets them completely potty.”

“So you’re saying…”

“Yup. They may be hiding a jackpot to bribing the gods.”

“Ah. So, what do you want me to do, exactly? Bust this whole job? Play with them? Mingle with them? Gather information but not anything physical?”

“For now, I’d rather you not do anything. They’re a black box yet, and busting them may be detrimental to Sky-Rail interests. We’re just getting the data to you so that there’d be someone to immediately understand everything and ready for action.”

“Oh.” Frederick looked out the window again, wondering whether or not he’d tethered his car properly.

“Oh don’t worry. My little speech is over. You may go.”

Frederick looked at the old man again and said, “You have a point. I’ll mull this over, and maybe tell all the other guys over in the UN: UO department. How’s that?”

“Do what you want with this. Just don’t leave it on the street or anything.”

“I don’t think anything can be left on the street with this weather,” Frederick said. There was a small river where the drain was.

“Point. I think you’d have to go now, else your car may be in a little bit of trouble.”

“Right. See you later.”

As Frederick exits the house, he cannot help but notice how the rain is always a little heavier than it was ten minutes ago. He thought nothing of it, and drove away from Mt. August, away from the polished white house.

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