Of course, there was utter chaos when Daniel returned to the main room. He knew Viper’s head whipped toward him as he grinned, and his staff almost seemed to grin with him. And he also knew she felt the overwhelming feeling of despair as she knew she wasn’t going to get what she wanted from them, ever.
Suddenly, something big crashed through the wall. Even Sophie, swinging on the rope of a hanging lamp, looked surprised – she hadn’t planned this. Hannah stopped turning Gateguards into frogs, and Angel flitted down from her perch on one of the ceiling beams. She’d been teasing the Gateguards about how they couldn’t fly, couldn’t get her. That was worse than turning them into frogs – as frogs, they still had a certain amount of dignity.
The dust settled, and Jeff, from the ranch, had crashed through the wall. It must have been a tent – either that or the building was made of Legos – because the car was relatively undamaged, and Jeff was whooping and hollering.
“Hey, guys! C’mon, let’s ditch here. I know a greasy food joint down the road!”
“But we’re in that dimension that only has one city,” Daniel said. “I can feel it. How it there a restaurant chain in the middle of the wilderness?”
“Jeff jus’ knows where to find greasy food in any dimension,” Ryder said. “It’s a Jeff thing.”
“How did he know where we were?”
“That, I dunno,” Ryder said. Daniel noticed he’d become a lot quieter since the start of the trip. Maybe Wiz was talking to him.
Then they were sitting, cramped, in a car designed for maybe five people, trying to fit a party of about eight or nine. Daniel sat next to Ryder, who was driving, because it was illegal for Jeff to do it, and he’d already had to evade a few cops. Daniel sat in the passenger seat, twitching at every bump and pothole. Then he looked in the side mirror and yelped: The car behind them seemed to have no driver. Wait – there was a car behind them? They must have gotten teleported back to the Mirrorworld or something while Ryder was driving. He wouldn’t put it past Ryder to pull something like that.
“What now?”Sophie asked.
“The-the car behind us…”Daniel quavered. He was already shaky with adrenaline after the Gateguards had tried to stop their escape (although they weren’t a problem because Hannah turned them into frogs – “I learned a new spell!”) and nauseated from the way Ryder hit every pothole in the road. Fortunately, the “disreputable” dealer had given them “bad” tires, so they were still going strong by the time Jeff directed Ryder to the greasy-food stand. Daniel’s stomach turned at the thought.
“DacMonalds?” Sophie giggled as they got nearer.
“The-the driver behind us…”
“What?” Sophie said. “What is so important about the driver?”
“There is no driver,” Daniel said.
“Daniel! You need glasses. There is too a driver in the car behind us. Look.” Sophie pointed behind her.
Daniel leaned back – there was a driver in the front seat. He frowned, and looked back in the mirror.
“No,” Daniel said carefully. “I think the mirror needs glasses.”
Sophie raised an eyebrow and peered into the mirror. “Hey, you’re right. Maybe there’s a VAMPIRE over here. Ooh, scary. I’m gonna wet my pants.”
Ryder just grinned and aimed for another pothole in his delightful way, making Daniel want to retch. He shifted, and remembered once again that he didn’t have to be plagued by carsickness. It would take a while for him to get used to using magic, even after the party’s whole experience. He casually shifted again and for once didn’t feel like he needed to barf.
Ryder pulled into the greasy food stand. The vampire behind them did the same, but they didn’t see where he parked. Ryder hit about a million potholes, pacing around the lot, taking eons to find a spot.
Daniel got out and nearly fell over – Ryder had parked in a pothole. Maybe it was a Mirrorworld-citizen thing.
Ryder ordered massive quantities of grease and soda for everyone. They sat at a table nearby. Sophie dug into everything – she hadn’t had a meal for at least twelve hours and didn’t care what she ate, ever, anyway. Daniel clutched the soda, but nobody seemed to notice that he didn’t touch the burger, the bun of which seemed to have been dissolved by the grease of the hamburger underneath it.
Daniel had never felt so high-strung before. Something bad was going to happen. He knew it. Daniel didn’t believe in psychic stuff, but he did believe in instinct and that you should pay attention to it.
He noticed the vampire walking toward them, waving his burger and grinning at them with fangs covered in braces. He had thick, square glasses and severe acne. If this guy wanted to date, he was out of luck.
“You guys are awesome!” he said. “I saw you in the paper in the cat town. I heard that you’re real wielders! That is like so cool.” He laughed again, looking pleased he’d found them.
Khorabelle glared at the unshaven vampire and went back to dabbing daintily at the grease on her chicken patty, which basically meant rubbing off 99% of the sandwich.
Molly took one look at him and sighed. “I guess you’ll want to come along on our quest. Well, I won’t cross a vampire. You got your own car, though, and you’re taking it. With about half our party inside. It’s too cramped in ours. And I’m gonna warn you, we’ll be fighting. You need a weapon.”
The vampire nerd grinned and held up a dull, greasy switchblade knife. “I found it in the parking lot of this joint two years ago. Been holding it ever since.”
Molly gave the knife a questioning look, but shrugged it off. The guy had a car, after all. She decided to question him instead.
“Who are you? Where are you from?”
“I’m Alex,” the vampire said. “I live somewhere near this place. I’m vegetarian, as far as vampires go. I don’t count the burgers, though, cause there isn’t that much meat in them. Plenty of other stuff, though.”
Daniel turned green and tossed Alex his still-wrapped burger. Khorabelle huffed impatiently and threw her chicken and her napkin away with her nose turned up in disgust. Jeff looked up from his burger-mess for the first time, then immediately looked down again and continued pigging out.
About an hour later, after Jeff and Ryder had polished off about fifteen hamburgers combined, the party left. Daniel offered to drive instead, and the ride was much smoother. Ryder and Jeff fidgeted, but the others were breathing a sigh of relief.
“Near here is a Gateguard camp with valuable objects being hidden,” Mage said. “These objects will be used against us if we do not take it from our enemies.”
“So we’re breaking in and stealing something that belongs to the Gateguards?” Sophie asked.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Somebody go tell Alex. He probably knows where it is.”
Ryder hopped out of the car. Just for comfort, he stepped in a few potholes on the way.
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