Quiche To The City

 

“It’s a rough town, VAL,” said Martin in a low growl, because he was starting to get a cold.

“Yes?” said VAL, through her walky-talky.

“Shanties and favelas,” said Martin, looking around.

He sniffed.

“Delicious, delicious favelas.”

Martin (and VAL, by extension) was walking the streets of Slum’s Kitchen, a rough neighbourhood of the oni city. Various oni were standing around burning drums for warmth, while other oni played them, in the hopes that their smooth beats would induce more oni to live there, thus driving up the area’s quality of life.

Martin had his walky talky at his belt, his police badge pinned up-side down to his t-shirt, and his Godmade mop stowed at his back. Instead of sliding it under his shirt and through a belt loop, he now had it holstered in a standard-issue leather police gun holster, albeit a very long and thin one that stretched across his entire back.

The slightly shabby looking head of the mop swayed to and fro cheerily above Martin’s shoulder as he walked through the rundown cavern suburb.

“Hey man,” said an oni in a trenchcoat to Martin.[1] “You wanna buy a watch?”

“No thanks,” said Martin.

“Oh, okay,” said the oni, sounding disappointed.

His eyes narrowed, which was an impressive feat for an oni.

“Wait, are you a cop?”

“Yes!” said Martin. “Why, do you have special police watches?”

“No!” said the oni hurriedly. “All of my watches were sourced independently, and they are legitimate. They are neither broken, stolen, nor broken and stolen.”

A couple of somehow illicit-looking watches fell out of his pockets, where he quickly stuffed them back inside, then scurried off down an alleyway.

“Wait!” said Martin, running after the oni. “You dropped one of your watches!”

He looked at it.

“Its name is ‘Property of Hibiya’!”

“Martin, what’s going on?” crackled VAL’s voice through the walky-talky at Martin’s hip.

“I am in an alley,” said Martin, “trying to return lost property.”

Though Martin walked through the alley of the shadow of being a bit dirty and dangerous, he did not fear, because it’s Martin we’re talking about.

“Say there, lad,” said a wrinkled light green oni in a long white lab coat. “You wouldn’t happen to have some organs to spare, would you?”

“No, sorry,” said Martin.

“Dammit!” said the oni. “I haven’t eaten in days!”

“Oh, you poor dear,” VAL transmitted. “Is there a soup kitchen nearby?”

“Ironically, no,” said the oni, “there are no kitchens in Slum’s Kitchen.”

“Never mind,” said Martin. “I’m sure you’ll find something to…wait!”

He rummaged through his pockets, and pulled out a large and slightly hairy croquembouche.

“You can have this croquembouche I made in the Foodcombinator!” Martin said.

“…I don’t know what either of those things are,” said the oni, “but thankyou.”

He warmly accepted Martin’s dessert, and bit into it.

“Yes!” cried the oni. “Even better than a spleen! Oh, thankyou, officer.”

“You’re welcome,” said Martin. “Just for posterity, what’s your name?”

“Marunouchi,” said the oni.

“And you’re a Professor?” asked Martin, looking at Marunouchi’s coat. “What of?”

“Statistics,” said Marunouchi. “I tried applying my knowledge of odds to gambling, and gang members threatened to break my legs when I lost their money in a Snap game.”

“Snap?” asked Martin excitedly.

“Yeah, that game where your opponent snaps your legs if you have a worse hand than he does, like I just explained. Try to keep up!”

Despite his wizened appearance, Marunouchi still managed to do a little hopping dance on the spot to emphasize his frustration.

“I noticed that one of them seemed to be having abdominal pains, so I told them that I’d eat his appendix if they left me alone,” he said. “They agreed, and he pulled through, but I still don’t have any money, and now I’m trapped here.”

“Professor Marunouchi,” said VAL sternly, “you might have had a hard life, but that’s no excuse for cannibalism!”

“I’m not a cannibal!” said Marunouchi, “I just eat people’s organs!”

He stomped off, grumbling as he rubbed his empty stomach.

Coming out of the other end of the alley, Martin wrinkled his nose as he walked in between a cabbage factory and a butcher’s.

“Lunch time!” cried a worker, ringing a bell, which was just loud and piercing enough to cut through the ongoing rhythm of the flaming taiko drums.

A bunch of grubby-looking oni barreled out of their factories, and climbed up on the rooftops to eat their lunch. Martin made a note of this in his police fire news notepad, but wrote it very small, so Safety Ninja would be less shocked if he read it.

“Wow, I’m tired!” said Martin.

He looked at both his own watch, and Property of Hibiya.

“I think it’s about lunchtime,” said Martin. “Let’s have a rest, VAL.”

He cast his eyes around for somewhere that would sell food. There was a large food cart near the factory, which some oni were queuing up for, but the lines looked very long, and it was only selling something called ‘brusselkraut’.

“Wait,” said Martin, staring at the food cart. “but there’s no kitchens in Slum’s Kitchen.”

“That’s ‘cus’a sanitary conditions,” said a hairy purple oni in the queue. “We hav’ta bring the food in.”

“Hmm, I don’t think I like brusselkraut,” said Martin.

“But Martin, you’ve never had brusselkraut,” said VAL.

“Well, it smells weird,” said Martin, wrinkling up his nose.

“You should at least try it!” said VAL.

“I’m not gonna!” said Martin.

It’s good for you,” said VAL.

“Noooo!” Martin complained petulantly.

A tinny and distant ‘GRR’ came from the walky talky.

“Now you’ve woken up EVIL CAR,” chided VAL.

Further crashing and noises of destruction fuzzily croaked out of the walky talky.

“He’s feeling a little restless,” explained VAL. “He hasn’t been for his walk today.”

“Sorry VAL,” sang Martin dully.

Lowering his walky, he continued to glance around the street.

“I’m going to get something to eat over…there!”

He pointed to a small stairwell.

“How’d choo know there was a bar there?” asked the purple oni.

Martin did not. He thought that people often cooled pies on stairwells, so he simply assumed that the stairwell may have food on it.

“I’m going for the stairwell pies, VAL,” he said gruffly.

“Maybe there’s a stairwell quiche?” suggested VAL.

A quiche is not a pie!” said Martin huffily.

He descended the steps to the bar’s front door, concealing his disappointment at finding no baked goods whatsoever.

“Not even a bagel!” he moaned.

He pushed open the door to the bar, and stepped in.

Two dozen particularly menacing oni wearing pinstripes, and one somewhat nervous-looking oni bartender, all looked up the second Martin stepped into the darkened bar. They were sitting around a table, with many charts and papers in front of them, as well as a dealt-out deck of cards. A few of them hastily rolled up or flipped over some of the charts.

“Hello!” said Martin, unaware of the dangerous silence he had created. “Two pies, please!”

“Martin, I am not actually physically with you,” said VAL. “And I don’t like pies. And I can’t eat.”

“…one and a half pies, please,” said Martin.

“Martin!” said VAL in a warning tone.

“Fine, one pie,” said Martin, heading over to the bar.

“And an extra half please, but don’t tell VAL,” he whispered to the bartender.

“Martin, your finger is still on the walky-talky button,” said VAL disapprovingly.

“Didn’t you see the sign?” asked the bartender.

“Huh?” responded Martin.

There was a sign hanging on the door of the bar, indicating that the bar was currently closed for business due to a private function. However, since oni were mostly illiterate, this was rendered in a series of helpful pictograms. However, since Martin was mostly foolish, this was rendered pointless anyway as he had not noticed it.

“Let me handle this, Clinton,” said one of the menacing oni, who crackled his knuckles then shuffled over to Martin.

He was thin but solid-looking, with mostly dark grey skin and light grey fur, although flecks of dark purple ran all through his pelt. He had the kind of face that made most people very nervous, because it was always looking sideways at things, weighing up the odds – for what, nobody could say, which was part of its intimidation factor. Small ears stuck out prominently either side of his head, and his thin horns curved heavily back from above his beady eyes, staying close to his very round skull.

He pulled out two barstools and plonked them down close to each other.

“Take a seat,” he said, in a tired-sounding sandpaper voice.

“Thankyou!” said Martin, sitting.

“My name is Gravesend,” said the oni. “You’re a cop?”

“Yes!’ said Martin. “I am a Police Fireman News Officer.”

“What’s a fireman?” asked Gravesend.

“We move fires around,” said Martin.

“Right,” said Gravesend, reaching his arm around Martin to brush some imaginary dust off his shoulder, “well, officer, I’d like to establish what’s going on here.”

“…pies?” said Martin hopefully.

“No pies,” said Gravesend.

Martin sighed, resigning himself to the fact that he’d have to eat quiche.

“We are a legitimate circle of businessmen, conducting a perfectly legal transaction,” said Gravesend slickly. “So there’s really no need for you to stick around.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” said Martin, “I want to be here. It’s such a nice place! You’re very good at decorating, Clinton.”

Clinton waved jerkily from behind the bartop.[2]

“I’m not sure you understand,” said Gravesend. “We’re very busy, and we think that you’d prefer to leave.”

“Yes, but VAL is probably right,” said Martin. “I should eat quiche more often.”

“Supposing we do have quiche,” said Gravesend. “And supposing you do…‘eat’ our quiche. We’re very attached to that quiche, and so are a lot of people. Could be trouble if they don’t get their…quiche.”

“Well, honestly, I don’t actually like quiche,” said Martin. “Really, I hate quiche! I’d be happy if everyone got rid of all their quiche, because everyone would be way better off eating something else! Like pies.”

“Wanna get rid of our quiche, huh,” said Gravesend.

“Yes,” said Martin proudly, thinking he was finally getting somewhere. “I think you’d be a lot happier. And so would the people who you’re selling quiche to.”

He very visibly checked to make sure his finger was well off the walky-talky’s button, so that VAL couldn’t hear what he was about to say.

“I mean, it’s just a lot of eggs and horrible stuff.”

Noticing Gravesend’s look, he added:

“You’re taking my hatred of quiche a lot better than VAL!”

“Who’s VAL?” asked Gravesend.

“Oh, she’s my partner,” said Martin. “She loves quiche. She wants me to eat quiche, but I’m very strongly against it!”

“Maybe you should listen to your partner,” said Gravesend. “Sounds like she knows what’s good for you.”

“Ugh, tell me about it,” sighed Martin. “All the talk about ‘Martin, why don’t you make vegetables in the Foodcombinator’! I might have been raised by babies, but I’m a big boy! Uh, I mean, I’m a grown-up! I eat what I want! But if quiche is all you have here, I’m sorry, I can’t get lunch today. But thankyou anyway, Gravesend and Clinton!”

He got up off his stool, and turned to point at the rest of the oni.

“And all of you, too,” he said in his gruff police voice that he had been practicing.

As he went to push open the door, he remembered what VAL and Robert had taught him about being rude, so he turned around and added:

“Don’t worry, though, I’ll be back sometime later. Just to check if you’ve replaced your quiche with pies, yet.”

And with that he was gone. Clinton glanced erratically between the other oni, sweating on the spot.

One of the oni threw his hand of cards down in front of another.

“Snap!” he said.

The oni in front of him glanced reluctantly at his own legs and gulped.

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[1] At least, Martin assumed he was the one being addressed, since VAL was a woman.

[2] In the sense that his movements were not fluid; not that he himself was a jerk, though this didn’t stop him from subtly adding a cover charge to his patrons’ bills.