The other Tallies tested their instruments and everything went well enough with them. It’s not important to know the details of these tests since none of the other instruments were guitars. But since a bass at least looks like a guitar, the reader is permitted to know that Zubin’s black Fender Jaguar had a bit of a hiccup when it was played.
Having not generated any Sound Gates in the month Tally Hall had rested from touring, Zubin’s bass was less than cooperative when it was prompted to make a shield. But again, a bass is not a guitar and is therefore less relevant, so no more shall be said about it. Zubin only wished that no more would be said about the plan to rescue Casey. Joe had whipped out a tactical map and for the past hour and a half had been yammering on about what could possibly go wrong, in this dimension and in alternate ones.
Zubin glanced wearily at Rob who was trying to remain attentive, but the slight twitch in his eye gave away his impatience — that and the fact that he’d been incessantly popping his fingers since the first half hour rolled by. Ross stood next to Joe, his arms crossed and his eyes tired, as if staring at the tactical map for so long was making his pupils do pushups.
Every fifteen minutes or so, Coz’s voice would sound out from one of their phones (and one of the rooms in the fan base) testing their communication and checking to see if they’d gone to find Casey yet. After awhile, Andrew took to walking out into the hall and shouting that they were still there, not just to silence Coz but also to get a break from Joe the Perfectionist.
“And here,” Joe said as Andrew walked back in with hunched shoulders, “would be a tight fit for anything but a Deaf Rider.” He pointed to a niche in the hologram, a small corner of the warehouse Casey was last seen in.
“Shouldn’t we be going soon?” Ross said lightly. “You know, before he’s eaten or something?”
“My dear Ross, you know that Deafcaps don’t eat people. They only maim them, and steal their voices, and leave them emotionally scarred for life.” All this Joe said with a bright smile.
“All the same,” said Rob, “I don’t think any of those things are on Casey’s bucket list, so can we…?” He made a swirling, wrap-this-up-or-I-will-cut-you gesture with his hands.
Joe frowned, because now they would not have a course of action planned in case the Deafcaps had nerve gas leaking out of any warehouse corners. He turned off the projector and straightened his tie in his most dignified way, letting the others know he was going to finish up with something very important to say. With his tie smoothed out, his shoulders back, and his curly hair as tidy as it could be in the morning, he said in his most impressive manner, “I’m gonna use the bathroom.” And he walked out.
As he went up the steps and into the hall, the others just stared blankly at him, still not through defragging their brains of Joe’s plans. Ross, who was constantly defragging his head of all the things the others said, was the first to return to his senses, and he called after Joe, “Do we need to do anything?”
“You could get a voice thingy out of the junk room,” Joe called back. Yes, Joe thought, a voice modifier would help if they ran into a cloud of nerve gas. An added bonus of voice modifiers was their ability to filter not only voices, but also air. Another bonus was that it could freshen your breath after a day at the onion farm. The down side was that breathing through a voice modifier was like breathing through a harmonica, and the metallic taste in your throat usually left you gagging worse than any nerve gas would. One might also gag just by sharing one voice modifier with several people. Joe had quite forgotten about the existence of saliva when he said to get just one.
“I’ll get one for each of us,” Andrew volunteered. Ignoring Zubin’s slight about being a helpful little elf, Andrew made his way to what Tally Hall and their fans referred to as the junk room. It was the largest room in the base, filled with innumerable oddities that were classified as junk in the junk food sort of way — magical, marvelous, and detrimental to your health. Only two steps into the room and Andrew had immediately set off a box full of small mechanical monkeys that hissed and spat at his foot. He bent down and carefully set them on top of a cubicle contraption filled with clocks, hoping he wouldn’t step on a box of combusting marbles next.
Many of the things Andrew passed in the junk room were kept in glass cubicles like the clock machine. He liked to think of the glass containers as the type of jars in candy stores to hold things like jellybeans, but really they was more like the glass used to hold lab specimens (as several things in the junk room really were).
With no one around to call him an elf again, Andrew skipped merrily through the aisles the glass boxes made, trying to find what he was looking for. Electric rocking chair…love tester…ellipsis maker… Ah, the odds and ends shelves! Crammed between a stack of floating music boxes and a vending machine for spray tans were the vertical rotating shelves where one could find small gadgets that, out of everything in the junk room, were the most useful and the least likely to electrocute you.
Andrew scrolled through the waterwheel of shiny objects before stopping at the small pile of silver lip-shaped mouthpieces. While swiping a handful of them off the shelf, his elbow knocked one of the music boxes, making it spin like a top. As it slowed, he could more clearly see the face painted on the top of the box: the face of Marvin Yagoda, a gray-haired man on whose broad shoulders he wore red, white, and blue striped suspenders.
Most of the things in the junk room were castoffs from Marvin’s own assortment of oddities, a collection which was by far more vast than that of the junk room’s. With all the dangerous knickknacks that he sent over, Andrew suspected Marvin actually made novelty weapons for a living. At this Marvin would always insist that he was just a collector of odd things, and that the Tallies should just enjoy his gifts and let him get back to polishing his ray guns…er…Potato Head figurines.
Resisting the urge to stop and dance to the tune coming out of the Yagoda music box, Andrew stuck the voice modifiers in his pockets and beat a hasty retreat from all the bleeps, whirs, and pops of all the junk room memorabilia. “No, we haven’t left yet,” he shouted as he got into the hall, not bothering to wait ‘til he passed Coz’s door, and he returned to the monitor room where he joined the others in their merrymaking.
Soon after, Joe also returned and walked up behind the others, who were all focusing on a screen where they had a video up. “All right, fellows, ready to be the big dang heroes?”
No one responded.
“Guys? Guys!” He tapped Andrew hard on the shoulder.
“Shhhh!” Andrew hissed, holding up a finger and not looking away from the cartoon mermaid onscreen. “Not now, woman! This is my song!”
Joe frowned once more, not because the others were now wasting time with princess sing-a-longs, but because he couldn’t decide on a course of action to take just in case the aliens did plan on eating Casey.