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"Oh my god those are loud sharks!" I yell over the cacophony.
"Yes we're coming in too low over the river!" First Mate Quiller shouted back. "Take us up, Ensign Filbert!"
The roar receded as we rose over the trees and then the hills of what could only have been the South Shakes. Ridges turned to stone fins and vertical drops, trees growing directly out of cliff faces, and tree houses and scaffolding sprinkled throughout like a delicate spiderweb made of ropes and wooden planks.
The denizens of the South Shakes lived vertically. Rope ladders, dumb waiters, and service lifts connected tree houses and common areas built on the tops of trees growing straight out of the stone. If anyone dropped anything off their wooden decks -- like a tea cup, or a beer can -- a neighbor somewhere down the line would notice for sure.
First Mate Quiller pointed the app at the jungle of tree house shanties. Then she slipped on a pair of high tech glasses and stared into space for a moment.
"They're pairing," she said.
"You're watching the South Shakers... do it?"
"No! The glasses are talking to the app. There's an immersive AR mode."
"Ah," I said. Like that helped. But I was learning to not look like a complete dummy.
"What do they take us for, complete dummies?" Quiller said.
"These coordinates are for the back end of a dark alley in the warehouse district. Somebody called us here to jump us."
"I read about it in the manual."
"So we turn around and leave, right?"
"No there's a whole protocol. First we report it, which is this little red button... here!"
The Witch Delivery™ app suddenly leapt out of Quiller's hand and enveloped us in a three-dimensional grid made of neat green laser lines. It had a low, growling hum about it. Pensive, like it was coiled and ready to strike.
"Ah! So THIS is immersive AR mode!" I exclaimed.
"I'm beginning to have second thoughts about this Witch Delivery™ app," I said, nursing my finger on the bridge.
First Mate Quiller had already unlocked the coordinates of the target destination and her finger was poised on the button.
"Oh, it's just operational security. DNA is a lot less invasive than what they used to use, believe me."
"But how long till I run out of fingers?"
"Once we've done a few runs, we start building up stars. Enough of stars and we get a blue checkmark, which means no more pokes for you."
"Hmmm. Well the sooner we get a blue checkmark the better. What's the heading?"
"The South Shakes, east of the Big Nose river, in Shark Country."
"Sounds loud. Let's hit it."
"Then here we are, 420 Toadsbottom Lane," said First Mate Quiller.
The somewhat vague and undefined landscape we had previously inhabited had been suddenly replaced by a quaint neighborhood subdivision. From our vantage point in the air we could see the neat little streets and cul-de-sacs, manicured lawns, roofs and backyard pools. I think we were all a bit motion sick for a moment.
"Well, that's convenient," I said. "So, now we do the 'picking up' part?"
We took the Invictus down low enough to get a gauge on the street names, then followed the house numbers to the address.
"Next," continued Quiller, "they'll need to sign off on transferring the package to us. It says that sometimes they just leave it on the porch, but for specially insured packages there's small ritual."
"Well, heh heh, I hope it doesn't involve blood or anything!"
"Captain, you'll need to come along."
We came to a stop directly over the yard of 420 Toadsbottom Lane. Quiller and I made our way down the rope ladder. Sprinklers were sprinkling next door. A dog was barking in the distance.
"Yes, we're here now," said First Mate Quiller over the phone. "Okay, we'll meet you on the porch."
A kindly old woman opened the door, then pushed a large sealed cardboard box out through the door with her boot.
"All right!" the old woman said. "Ante up!" and offered her hand.
Quiller took her hand, softly. Then, with the stylus that came with the app, she gave her finger a sharp poke.
"Owwwww!" cried the old woman. "Haven't you ever done this before? Gimme that!"
The old woman took the app from Quiller, and smushed her bloody finger on the screen.
When that was done, both Quiller and the old woman looked at me expectantly.
"Awwww, no. Really?"
It seemed best to give Quiller control of the Witch Delivery™ Pendant. Young people do better with this new fangled technology.
"For the last time it's NOT new fangled," she says.
Yes, well, this particular "app" (or Ancient Pathway Predictor) is a bit particular, and first mate Quiller does seem to have a way with it.
"Oh, so I'm first mate now? That's good to know."
"Do you have heading for us, First Mate Quiller?"
"Yes, 420 Toadsbottom Lane."
"I see. Is that near here?"
"Well sir, it doesn't specify what city. Just that it's our confirmed Witch Delivery™pickup."
"I see. Ensign Filbert, would you mind getting out the dead reckoning maps and looking for a Toadsbottom Lane?"
"Maps, sir?" asks Filbert.
"Yes, I mean, we must have whole rooms full of maps... and indices, and... I mean, how do we know where we're going?"
"Hmmm, I see what you mean sir," said Ensign Filbert. "I guess I never really thought about it before. We just kind of... head out..."
"Yes, sir, in a... direction..."
"Yes sir. With intent. Intention is super important, or so I've heard."
"Or so you've heard? What do they teach in Airshipman's school?"
Quiller broke in. "Captain, wait, I think I've figured it out."
"There's a setting here in the app. A little gem embedded in the controls. If I touch that...."
I couldn't see how to make it work.
"I just can't see how to make it work," I said.
Quiller gives me that look like she can't believe what she's hearing. She's been giving me it a lot.
"You were only locked up for TWO years. Things haven't changed THAT much."
"I've just never been comfortable with new technology."
"But this OLD technology. WITCH technology! It's as old as... witches!"
"Ok, ok, can you just show me how it works?"
Quiller takes the crystal out of my hand. It's on a rope, like a necklace. I'd been trying to wear it.
"You spread your fingers out, and let the crystal hang down, like it's in a swing, see?"
"Then, you chant your user ID, kind of in the back of your throat. Subvocalize it."
"Uh huh. Subvocalize."
"So, what's the user ID?"
User ID... I remember I had to make it up when we unboxed the crystal. What was it...?
"Ok, now watch."
Quiller subvocalized, Nothing happened.
She tried again.
"You're SURE that's the user ID?"
"Well... I didn't write it down. They said not to write it down."
Quiller stared at me with that look again.
"Ok Try NathanHill 18"
"Ok looks like we need to reset your user ID. Where are those instructions that came with it?"
And again, there she is with the look.
After being held captive in the Squirrel Kingdom for over two years, it's great to be free again.
After invoking our Right of Control of Social Contract (fought by our lawyer proxies armed with heavy sticks, on a rotating plate with spikes like Flash Gordon) I gained legal control and captainship of the Invictus.
The goal was to complete the pickup and delivery of the Labour of the Squirrels, from the Squirrel Kingdom to the Animal Arts & Crafts Faire in Wilderbrook.
Admittedly, my captain skills were rather fresh at the time, and we ended up being arrested and thrown in irons by the Emperor of Squirrels himself! They had begun to worship the Labour of the Squirrels as a world heritage site, and when we started to box them up, they got quite testy.
In the last two years, of course, the Labour of the Squirrels itself has lost its market value, and is now just a priceless and culturally important copse of rotting snags, southwest of the Seat of the Squirrels.
I will not go into the story of our capture and subsequent escape at this time, but very much look forward to our new engagement with Witch Delivery™.
Just joined invictus, hope so see my crewmates soon.
Job claimed by Wolf 2020-10-22 08:27:37
Silly me I set up a witches' outsourcing website (for the gig spell economy) but turns out I need to provide transport too? I guess they're not all familiar with flying a broom.
So, arrange for regular pickup at any of our convenient locations throughout the Tri-City area and get these witches where they need to be!
Regular rates apply. References available upon request.
Which delivery? WITCH DELIVERY! ™
To the Crew of the Invictus: the Labour of the Squirrels remains in the clearing southwest of the Seat of the Squirrels, capitol of the Squirrel Kingdom. We were under the impression that you were removing them from the clearing and transporting them to the Animal Arts & Crafts Faire in Wilderbrook. Did we misunderstand? Should we engage the services of a different owner-operated franchisee member of Zephyr Air Transport to contract this work to?
A side benefit, however, to this delay in the pickup, is that the Labour of the Squirrels (which is now the name they've given to the installation of sculptures in the clearing) has increased in value tremendously, due to the natural weathering the pieces have endured form being outside and unprotected for such a long period of time. Wind has cracked branches, rain has smudged delicate paintwork (originally done in berries and root beer), and birds have taken to nesting in some of the more ornate pieces. As this natural tendency towards decay and rebirth is seen by the squirrels as part of the dynamic they seek to create, they are pleased with this unforeseen outcome, and if it pleases the squirrels, then it pleases the art community, and as a result we've seen opening bids for the auction raise over 10x.
However, such rise in price is not sustainable, especially as at some point the squirrel's work will decompose entirely and soak into the ground. So please, we ask that you pick up these works as soon as possible, or let us know if we should seek to engage a different delivery service.
I am here. Ready to do the work of the gods and deliver all that is to be delivered upon Invictus. God Speed.