Always On Call

Vernon Drive
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
October 8, 2014
10:04 AM PST

Gadgeteer headed down Vernon Drive, unsure of what to do. His conceptions had been shattered. In the true universe of Creation, the grey area was too large. There were no true innocents, even among children.

A sound snapped him back to reality. Hearing a beeping noise, he looked around and realized it was coming from his BOGGLES

He extended his pinkie and thumb in a "phone" gesture and put it up to his ear. "Hello?" he said, unsure of who to expect.

"I hope you've had time to get acquainted with the world." said the voice of Rau over the built-in mobile phone in the BOGGLES "Because you're now officially on duty."

"Alright, what's your first order?" Gadgeteer sighed.

"Nothing, for now. My job isn't to tell you what to do all the time. It's to keep you in line and add small things to the list of things you are required to do while serving the War with the Excrucians." Rau said. "I have no requests, but I should warn you. Excrucians and even other Powers, in fact most likely the latter, can attack your estate as a whole and drain it for their own use. You'll feel it when it happens. You'll even know where it is happening. But you won't be able to foresee it, so be prepared to do some fighting and major cleanup." Rau explained.

"And you can't do it because Imperators' influence and actions are too long-term to fight back on Earth?" Gadgeteer said, remembering the things he had learned from talking to the people of his home Chancel of Locus Apepi.

"Exactly. Speaking of attacks, the last major attacks on your estate were when the Power of Gambling created sports betting in the 1920s, when the Power of Television slowly leeched Play away in the mid-20th century, when the Power of Computers created firewalls in the late 1990s, when the Power of Music created rhythm games also in the late 1990s, when the Power of Toil made Minecraft popular in the late 2000s, and when the Power of Money introduced Pay2Win and microtransactions also in the late 2000s. Look out for other estates butting in where they shouldn't be, and insert Play itself into as many other estates as you can. Now go forth and serve Creation." Rau said, followed by a beep indicating the call was over.

"How can I possibly handle this?!" Gadgeteer thought. "If something goes wrong…"

As if to answer, he felt a tremendous feeling of wrongness wash over him. His estate had just been attacked in… Spain? A small city called Iniesta.

He needed help.

Using the same gesture as before, he placed an outbound phone call. If this was anything like the world of his false memories, the work of 'Kidpunk', he would hear the voice of the operator asking for the number he wanted to dial.

Instead he heard a different voice. "Hello?" was all the unknown she said at first.

"…is this the operator?" Gadgeteer asked.

"You could say I'm the next best thing." she answered.

"That's a relief. Can I please get in contact with the Powers of Disruption and Video Games?" Gadgeteer asked hoping this contact wouldn't be offended by the request.

"Stone Cold Eeyore, at your service. I get the feeling you don't have a way of dialing, so I'll transfer you now…" she said, and a ringing sound started as soon as she finished speaking.

"Alex Chaser speaking." Alex said after picking up on the other end.

"Alex, it's Gadgeteer." the Power of Play answered. "Where are you?"

"In my office in St. Louis!" Alex complained. "How did you get this number?!"

"I'm not entirely sure. But if you talk with someone called Stone Cold Eeyore, maybe be polite?" Gadgeteer said vaguely.

"I have no idea what that means." Alex said.

"Hello?" Feeney suddenly said after picking up on the three-way call. "I didn't even know this shop had a telephone…"

"Feeney, it's Gadgeteer. I think my estate's been attacked." Gadgeteer explained. "Somewhere in Spain."

"Your estate was what?!" Alex said worriedly. "Just my luck! I have to deal with your problems too, you know!"

"Why? They're my problems." Gadgeteer explained. "I just thought-"

"According to Rau, we have to stick together." Feeney said. "When one of our estates is under attack, that's a problem we all have to help solve."

"The three of us are tied together… whether we like it or not." Alex groaned. "Where should we meet up?"

"I'm already in Sea City, I'll give you the address I'm at." Feeney said, telling them the address. As Nobilis, they were easily able to remember it.

"How do I get back to Locus Apepi?" Gadgeteer asked. "I flew west using my jetpack and after it disappeared behind me I suddenly saw Vancouver on the horizon."

Locus Apepi, their Chancel, was an island not found on any printed map, home to the faux metropolis of Sea City, a Grand Theft Auto-like setup that imitated Vancouver and Seattle.

"You don't have a plane or car?" Alex asked rhetorically. "Can you find a GPS? Rau said something about having 8 dollars and 10 cents, and using a GPS to get to a nearby transit stop."

“What is that even supposed to mean?!” Gadgeteer said. “I have some cash and access to a GPS function, but do bus stops even have addresses?!”

“Use 108 10th Street, Sea City, British Columbia, Canada as your destination.” Feeney recalled.

Gadgeteer took to the skies and scanned the streets below with his BOGGLES and spotted a location marked 'Destination' where a lone bus stop stood, with a couple people waiting for a bus. He landed in front of the bench, and just as he did a bus turned the corner. It looked different than the typical TransLink bus found in Vancouver, bearing a logo for 'SeaLink Transit' and being a sleeker, more futuristic-looking design. “I think I've got it. I'll see you soon.” Gadgeteer said as the bus pulled up to the curb. “Click.” he stated to end the call.

The bus doors opened up and Gadgeteer went onboard. The bus driver raised an eyebrow at how Gadgeteer was essentially a cartoon character, and looked towards the elderly man and teenage girl sitting on the bus stop bench. “Hey! Don't either of you two notice anything odd about this kid?” he called over to them. The old man adjusted his glasses and looked closely, then shrugged. “No more odd than the fact your bus says it's Out of Service.” The teenager looked up from her smartphone for a half a second, squinted at Gadgeteer, then blinked and said “He looks alright to me. Why?”

“Never mind, it's nothing.” the bus driver said, and pointed to the sign on the fare box. Fare is exactly $8.10, Canadian money only. “First time riding?” the driver asked.

“Yeah…” Gadgeteer said, putting the money he'd taken from 'Damien' earlier inside.

“Might want to get yourself a transit card.” the bus driver said, closing the doors as Gadgeteer took a seat near the front. The bus jerked forward, and the driver struck up a conversation. “I used to be a seagull, believe it or not. Being human is a bit new to me, so I'm wondering if you weren't always this way. How did you become some sort of animated character?” the driver asked.

“Actually I was a character in a tabletop RPG called Kidpunk. It was based on a cartoon, including the art style of the characters.” Gadgeteer explained.

“Why are you a drawing brought to life, then? Everyone else was turned into a human if they weren't one already.” the driver said out of curiosity.

“I guess Rau decided that even as a Nobilis, I would still be a Kid, just like I always was.” Gadgeteer sighed, looking at his reflection in the glass of the bus window.

“You're one of them?” the driver said in disbelief. “You don't sound like those other two. The teenager was too busy with that game thing of his to care about what's been going on and the scarecrow seems to just shrug the whole thing off, but something tells me you're not exactly thrilled about this world.”

“Of course I'm not! Being a Noble doesn't make me superior to people! So I try to treat people fairly. I don't get why other Nobilis think they are suddenly above consequences once they realise they're…” Gadgeteer trailed off.

“Go ahead. Say it.” the driver said with a dark tone.

“…gods.” Gadgeteer frowned. “That doesn't change anything. I've seen the other side of things too much to fall into that trap. In the fictional world I came from, Adults were so proud of their so-called civilization that they even created a church and tried to make Kids worship some vague idea of a perfect Adult. They tried to take everything from us, all so they could say that Adults were somehow better than Kids. A Nobilis who treats those who aren't immortal as beneath them is no better than an Adult who oppresses Kids.”

“That's a weird world you came from, but I see your point.” the driver said. “Oh. I hate to ask you this, but I can't figure out how to get this big metal box back to where it came from.”

Gadgeteer got up and looked at the dashboard more closely. “Have you tried the big green button?”

The driver pressed said button, and the bus was engulfed in a beam of light, which dissipated quickly to reveal the vehicle had been teleported in front of Sasquatch Central Station in Sea City, a building with the address 108 10th Street. The bus halted at a transit stop in front of the train station, and Gadgeteer stepped out onto the street. Taking to the skies, Gadgeteer spotted the address of the shop Feeney mentioned using the augmented reality of his BOGGLES and headed straight for it.

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