Teleportation is basically when something is pulled into small pieces and put back together somewhere else, and when a person’s stomach goes through this process, the result is a mystifying feeling called nausea. Coming out of the teleporter, every member of Tally Hall swallowed their breakfast for the second time that morning. Everyone, that is, except Andrew, whose stomach contents hadn’t rematerialized as fast as the rest of him and so were sent back into the face of some poor bystander in Pittsburgh.
The Tallies were all still shaky from the vibrations felt in the warp, and for the next several yards none of them could walk in a straight line. To add to this, the bright blue lights from the warp tunnel had put a deer-caught-in-headlights look in their eyes. They looked like a group of newborn fouls tromping through the teleporting station.
Unfortunately, they were not yet in Glenside, but in Philadelphia. This was because Glenside was not significant enough to have direct teleports from large cities such as Pittsburgh. Two or more teleports were required to enter the town, so two or more teleports later, the Tallies were in Glenside’s quaint empty station with Andrew dry heaving into a nearby garbage can.
After making a gagging noise not unlike the call of a velociraptor, Andrew raised his head from the trash bin and said, “I feel like my stomach wound up where my lungs should be. I am never going to be happy again.”
“Don’t say that,” Zubin said while trying to blink out the spots in his vision. “Someone around here has to be happy when no one else is, and I refuse to fill that position.”
Ross smiled at Andrew and Zubin’s cross-eyed expressions before he checked his watch. They’d made pretty good time, and the base was only a fifteen minute walk away, that is, if they were all still capable of walking after that last teleport. Ross himself was still rather dazed and had to look at his watch five times before correctly seeing the time. Meanwhile, Rob had tried to steady his legs by supporting himself on Joe’s shoulder, and the two fell against the wall like a couple dominoes.
Joe didn’t seem to have energy enough to be annoyed by this, but he was a bit uncomfortable with the lack of personal space. He tried to shrug Rob off when he felt the side of his face being scraped against an odd texture. “Hey, is this brick?” he said with his mouth smushed against the wall. “Oh, wow, I’d never even noticed ‘til now what these walls were made of.”
“Well, we just haven’t been here in awhile,” Ross said as he helped Rob and Joe regain their balance. “It is nice, though, since we didn’t see many traditionally made buildings like this on the tour.”
“If by traditional, you mean ancient,” said Andrew. “Did you see how long it took for this garbage bin to recycle and filter everything out?”
“No, I’m glad to say I didn’t see that,” Ross replied.
There was something else that Ross would’ve been glad not to have seen if he had been paying attention, but he was too busy now trying to keep Rob from using him as a crutch. What Ross and the others had failed to notice was that through one of the old-fashioned window frames and across the train tracks was an emaciated man with a shock of brown hair wearing a dark suit, and he was staring at them.
Of course, the members of Tally Hall would not have been bothered had they seen him. They were used to people staring at them, if not because of their snappy dress style but because of their random bouts of beatboxing. They were also used to people who were either odd or completely eccentric in appearance. It also didn’t bother them that the man across the tracks was plotting their ultimate doom. After all, none of them even saw the man before he walked out of sight, let alone read his mind. The only reason they would’ve been disturbed if they had actually seen him was because he had a large booger hanging out of his nose.
And like a booger being blown into a hankie, Rob flew out the doors of Glenside station and into the open air, dashing over what he was certain was solid ground until he woke up to see the others staring down at him with amusement. With a typical smirk on his face, Zubin reached out his hand to help Rob up off the train tracks.
“We might want to just sit for awhile before we try walking to the base,” Zubin said, “unless you’re trying to lose another body part to a fast metal object.”
Rob squinted as the metal part of his hand reflected sunlight into his eyes, and Zubin hoisted him back up with a grunt.
The group was traipsing back to the terminal with Ross in the lead when he finally noticed the thin man watching them from the street corner. When their eyes met, the man opened his mouth slightly, and for a moment Ross thought he was going to say something to him, so he stopped walking to give his full attention.
The man held his mouth agape for a moment. He then unleashed a powerful sneeze that sent a snot rocket onto the pavement and made Ross recoil in disgust. When he had finally looked away from the wet spot on the concrete, the man was gone. Ross looked to the others to see of they’d also seen the man, but they had all been listening to Joe who was going on about how lovely brick walls were.
Glenside, being a suburb, did not have as many lights and noises as large cities, but compared to other towns, many aspects of Glenside were very old-fashioned. The cityscape only went up to seven levels, and some of the gas stations were so primitive they didn’t have pay-at-the-pump.
The Tallies walked casually down the street, which was odd because in most places mechs shook the ground too much for sidewalk travel to even be possible. There didn’t seem to be any mechs at all in Glenside, however, so there were actually cars travelling on the roads. The particular road Tally Hall was walking down, one might add, was very much like a movie series.
That is not to say that the road was cheesy and full of hams like modern movies; having ham and cheese all over the road would have made any passing cleaning droids commit suicide. But like a movie series, the beginning of the road was good: lined with the ritzy sort of houses typical of suburbs with bits of foliage here and there that Zubin quickly pointed out (“Happy, Joe?”).
Like movie sequels, unfortunately, everything appealing began to disappear as they continued onward. After the Tallies had crossed some railroad tracks, there was an immediate drop in class. Past a rusty fence on their left was a parking lot full of used cars, mechs, and droids for sale. On their right was a ramshackle bar/pizzeria behind which was a very conspicuous pile of scrap metal, perhaps where all the used cars and mechs had been taken from.
Eventually the Tallies strolled up to their destination. The shopping plaza before them consisted of food stores stacked lopsidedly one on top of the other. The highest level, by some epic architectural failure, happened to be the largest and required hoverpads at each corner to keep it from crushing the floors below.
The top level was a party favor company, and it advertized itself with a hologram meant to look like confetti streaming from the roof and onto the ground. It would’ve looked like confetti too if its holographic projector hadn’t conked out ten years previously. Now the pixels were too small, and it had gone sepia toned, looking like a waterfall of sand over the front of the plaza.
Because all the stores jutted out at odd angles anyway, no one complained about this hologram obscuring any part of the plaza from view. What many people did not know, however, was that there was a level directly below the party favor company, and it was the only floor completely covered by the hologram of sand. But Tally Hall knew. They knew because it was their fans’ headquarters.
Now, usually when a band walks into their fan base, they are swarmed by whatever multitude is present. This has led to many an agoraphobic musician and caused most to never even step foot in their fan base during their careers. Tally Hall’s fan base, on the other hand, wasn’t lucky enough to even have a tumbleweed blow through it. They were perfectly safe from agoraphobia.
The plaza elevator took them to their floor, and they stepped into the fan base foyer that had walls like circuit boards. It had been so long since they had been in the fan base, they’d forgotten how very much like a blogger’s basement it was, what with its cold hard floor, dim lighting, and quick Internet access. Albeit, if it was the basement of a blogger, it belonged to a blogger with cash to burn.
Their boots squeaked over the sleek floor into the main hall, and Joe called out for Coz. There was no reply.
“We are on time, right?” Andrew asked, and Joe nodded. “And why’d he close off the monitor room? He usually leaves it open.” He gestured to the large metal doors shut tight at the end of the hall.
Somewhere close by came a female voice that said, “I think Coz got tired of hearing me be awkward.”
The Tallies scanned all the doors lining the hall, looking for the source of the voice they’d recognize anywhere. Suddenly, a wispy girl with messy brown hair came bounding out of one of the doorways, holding what looked like a can of tuna in her hand.
“Hiya!” she said.
“Hi — ” Rob lost his balance momentarily as the girl threw her arms around him. The two of them hugging looked oddly like a cat attacking a scratching post.
“Sorry,” she said as she pulled away, “I got a little overexcited.”
“You just kinda surprised me,” said Rob, regaining his footing. “I wasn’t sure at first if you were actually there, or if you just came here as a hologram.”
“Yeah, my dad decided last minute that we could come in person since you guys were as well,” she said.
“Don’t I get a hug too?” Andrew said with a puppy pout.
The girl continued, “We got all your Effects up to date,” and she handed the tuna can to Joe over Andrew’s shoulder. “All except your Rickenbacker. Ol’ Whatshername did something to the computer, and we had to restart the download. We’re working on it.”
“That’s okay. Thanks for doing all this,” Joe said with a smile. “Is there anyone else here besides the two of you?”
“Just us and Coz, but I expect more people will be coming later via holograms.” She went on to hug Joe and Zubin. “So, did Coz explain what was so important that he asked you to come here? ‘Cause he didn’t say anything to me, and I’m just…” Her voice trailed off as she made to hug Ross.
“Oh, you look terrible,” she blurted.
Ross looked down at the bleach stains on his tie and vest. “Yeah, thanks for noticing.”
“I’m sorry!” she said, clapping a hand to her mouth, and the others laughed.
“It’s fine,” Ross said calmly. “There was just a little mishap this morning at the hotel.”
The girl looked accusingly at Zubin. “Why are you always picking on him?”
“‘Cause it’s easy!” Rob interjected. The girl rolled her eyes.
Zubin stared back at her and said frankly, “I’d like to take credit for it, but you can blame Ross’ appearance on the wonder of cleaning droids. Unless you weren’t talking about his clothes, in which case you can blame genetics.”
Ross chuckled slightly and gave the girl a brief hug.
In the meantime, Joe had used his thumb to flip a switch on the side of the “tuna can” and a mist leaked from the top before materializing into a Stratocaster guitar. Joe caught the neck of it with his free hand before it completely solidified and fell to the ground.
“Yeah, you guys should try out the new Effects,” said the girl. “I should probably check on the download for your other guitar and make sure Jillian’s not messing with the computer again. Can you tell me what Coz says when I get back?”
Andrew answered affirmatively, and the girl turned tail for the door she came out of, trying to walk and dance at the same time and looking rather goofy doing so. “See you, guys,” she said over her shoulder.
“See ya, Jennie,” said Rob, and the Tallies headed for the monitor room.