Welcome to the serialization of my humorous scifi novel, The Bore of Babylon, Book One: Nate Blackpool, Time Pilot. Please enjoy the story and I welcome your feedback. Start at Chapter 1
The Dentist was not going to be pissed. In fact, he didn’t notice at all that his referral appeared to be lost in a sea of flame. The old man leaned back in his patient chair and puffed lightly on his pipe. He wondered about Gilmanson when he first entered his office. The small man seemed uneasy, timid, like a little mouse yet had found a way to steer the conversation, all while the Dentist’s fingers were probing his mouth. It was as if that prone position gave the man confidence.
Before Gilmanson’s appointment was over, the Dentist had sent his boy to check his references, particularly at the bank. Everything checked out. He figured Nate could make a nice paycheck with this client, with the Dentist getting a substantial cut for himself. Yet something about the little man worried him. The clearness of his eyes? The comfort he displayed in the dental chair? The direct look he gave the Dentist when he agreed to refer him. He shivered and pulled a long drag from his pipe. Best not involve myself any further, he thought. He leaned back, looked at the ceiling and shivered again.
Much to Nate’s surprise the client showed up at the garage two minutes early for their appointment. Gilmanson stood just outside the open garage doors, feet inches from the border between street and interior and bowed. “Good morning, Mr. Nate. I believe we have business today.” He shook his attache case and leaned forward, expecting to be invited in. Nate stared at the little man, standing there very much unburnt in a cheap brown suit and bowler hat. “You…we…yes. Ah, come in?”
“Thank you,” Gilmanson said. He removed his hat and held it with his case in his left hand. He held out his right. Nate took it and motioned to an empty seat near his desk. The front of the garage consisted of a makeshift office where Nate took in clients and talked to his referrers. The desk had a small electric lamp that he never used, several notebooks and pens, and at least three weekly newspapers. Sunlight came in from the two open doors, but most of the room was in shadow, though one could make out a cabinet, some extra chairs and what looked like a large animal cage off to the side. A thick felt curtain hung behind Nate across the width of the garage, apparently separating the front from the deeper parts. Gilmanson wondered if it was back there. No one but the Flah-psi and the client ever passed behind the curtain and at this moment, Nate wasn’t sure Gilmanson was still a client.
“How was your evening?” Nate asked.
Gilmanson shifted in his chair. “Oh, ah, it was fine. I took in a music hall show. I’d never been to one before and it was quite,” the little man blushed which made Nate cringe. “It was quite raucous and risque!” A worried look crossed his face. “Oh, that doesn’t mean I’m disqualified for today, does it? I assure you I took in no alcohol or other substances.”
“Where did you go after?” Nate put more effort into his interrogation face, still trying to compress his amazement that this fellow was alive at all. What was he made of that he could survive that blaze. The newspaper he’d been reading said the fire took out at least three other warehouses and a small sloop docked nearby. “Did you go straight home?” he pressed.
“Ah, no actually. I took a bit of a walk around town.” Gilmanson bowed his head. “Please, Mr. Nate. I’ve pulled a lot of money together for this adventure and I would appreciate it if we could get started. I assure you I have done nothing to expose you or your work nor have I been dishonest with you.” The man trembled with what looked like a combination of frustration and fear. Nate relaxed a bit and reminded himself that Gilmanson’s background had been checked out thoroughly. No client gets to this stage without Nate being sure of their discretion. He rubbed his face. Maybe he was wrong about seeing Gilmanson going into that warehouse the other night. Looking at the little man now, his thin sandy hair sticking up in the breeze, the eyes behind his round spectacles threatening tears, Nate felt a bit of a heel for his tone. “Alright, Mr. Gilmanson. I’m satisfied.” He reached into a draw and pulled out a contract. “I need you to sign this contract before we process further and you pay.”
“STEVIE!” Nate yelled. Gilmanson jumped at the sudden shout and flinched when a young boy of no more than thirteen came bounding into the garage and stood at attention to his right. “Yeah, boss.”
Nate sighed. “I need you to witness the signatures and then take this to The Lawyer.”
“Right, boss.” Stevie said, brimming with keenness and enthusiasm.
“Take your time reading, Mr. Gilmanson. I won’t have any surprises on this trip.” With that Nate left the man to read in the less than idea light, the young Stevie radiating youth and vigor beside him.
“Boss is a good man. He’ll take good care ‘o ya.” Stevie said and gave Gilmanson a manly nod.
“Yes, I believe he will.” The little man smiled and signed the contract. “Do I give the money to you?”
“Ah no,” Stevie answered, rolling up the contract and sticking it in his jacket. “Give it him.”
“Him?” As Stevie darted out the door, Gilmanson felt a presence emerge from the darkness near the curtain. A man, surely a man, a very tall man approached. His face was long, distinguished and, curiously soft grey. After the height, it was the eyes that grabbed your attention next and Gilmanson, already aware of his own smallness, retreated into a realm of insignificance that could only be described as atomic. He felt distinctly like prey.
“I will take the case, sir,” said Flah-psi in his low steady voice. He held out a hand, no, a paw, it could only be described as a paw. Gilmanson’s will broke. If this being had asked him to pull out his own liver and hand it over, he would have done it by now. He felt his knees weaken.
“Follow me please. We’ll take care of you back here.”
Unable to disobey, Gilmanson followed the seven-foot warrior rabbit behind the thick curtain, certain of his impending death.