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Jeremy kept walking until the commotion at the station gave way to the sights and sounds of central Middlebrix. He had a map, but he dared not take it out now. He didn't want to risk anything that would suggest he did not know his way about, at least not now when the authorities were looking for interlopers. He had not expected to have to hide so soon. He hoped his mask hid the sweat beading on his brow. He slowed his pace, trying as hard as he could to resemble someone who knew the city. He  spotted a small restaurant with a newspaper stand outside then walked directly to the shabby boy with the tattered mask hawking the paper. The boy saw him approaching then straightened himself.

"Morning, sir," he chirped. "Would you like a periodical?"

"Yes I would," Jeremy replied. 

The boy handed him the paper and Jeremy hesitated. He had no idea how much a paper cost on this level. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two chits.

"Here you go," he said, tossing the coins to the boy. The boy's face lit up and Jeremy realized he'd paid him too much.

"Thank you! Thank you sir!"

Jeremy nodded then entered the restaurant. The maitre d met him with a slight bow. Her mask was a plain design bordered by glistening crystal.

"Welcome to Malon's' she said. "Please follow me."

To his relief she led him to a small table near the rear of the restaurant.Jeremy sat then opened his paper.

"Since this is a slow time of day I'll be your waiter," she said. "What would you like to drink?"

"Water and coffee," he said.

The woman bowed then scurried away. Jeremy opened his satchel then took out the map, hiding it between the pages of his paper. He peered through the window to the corner road sign then set about finding his location.

"So you are not from here," he heard the waitress say.

He looked up slowly, expecting to see a suspicious glare. Instead the waitress's eyes twinkled with curiosity.

"No, I'm not," Jeremy studdered. "I'm from Cambrix."

'I though so, ' the woman said with a smile in her voice. "You don't usually see masks as fine as yours in Middlebrix. What are you looking for?"

"The guild district. My master told me I could find work with one of his old apprentices."

"That's not far from here," she said. "Only a few blocks. I'll show you once you're done with your meal."

"Thank you," Jeremy said.

The waitress sat his coffee and water on the table. She began to walk away before turning.

"What's your trade, if you don't mind me asking."

"I build watches, clocks and music boxes," Jeremy replied.

"That's nice, especially the music boxes. I've always wanted one. They're so expensive."

"Not mine," Jeremy said. "They're simple, but they give a good tune."

"I bet they do. Maybe I'll stop by and take a look at them once you set up shop."

Jeremy was glad his mask hid his smile. "I hope you do."

"My name is Charlotte, by the way. Charlotte Jemson."

"Jerry Stark," Jeremy said.

"You don't strike me as a guildsman," she said. "You're too polite, and your mask is too handsome."

"It's different in Cambrix," Jeremy lied.

"Apparently." The waitress sauntered away.

Jeremy lifted his coffee with shaky hands then took a sip. It was exquisite. He never realized how bad the swill they gave them Below was until that moment. He was too young to drink coffee before he was kidnapped, but the hard life he'd grown accustomed to demanded it. But that life was gone now. He had to put his mind on other things. 

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Comment by Milton Davis on January 13, 2014 at 8:39pm

Thanks!

Comment by Penelope Flynn on January 13, 2014 at 2:14pm

Wonderful, wonderful. wonderful update!

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