[Things are not right in the Diner: Sarah's speaking backward, there's Musketeers in the back booth, and they're speaking in Blank Verse... and just what *is* The Drool?]
The Drool was not happy. The floor was too slippery, the Men's Room door was blocked, the Dinerite's were acting strangely, and The Bassett wasn't here yet.
The LabRats™ were here, though, and they were usually entertaining. Only Speaker seemed to understand them, but they took instruction well. It was a bit too crowded for them to start cleaning the diner, maybe they'd start out back. The Drool would follow along and watch.
Under the direction of the biggest one – 'Ratley' is what Speaker called him – the rats pushed a wedge under the Ladies' Room door and moved a sign in front of the doorway. 'Closed for Cleaning.' The sound of water, paper rustling, and brushing sounds came from within.
Amanda came back and stood outside the Ladies' Room and stood tapping her foot impatiently. The rats finished up and quickly got out of her way. The Drool wisely slid over toward the Men's Room. It Would Not Do to be caught outside the restroom door when one of the Diner's females came out.
There was such an intriguing blue glow coming under the door. A couple of rats finished in the Ladies' Room and tried the Men's Room door. When it wouldn't open, then moved on to the utility washroom – handicapped restroom back by the kitchen. With Laura still rattling around in the kitchen, they wouldn't dare go in there yet.
The smallest rat, Ratface, came back and stood in front of the Men's Room door. He leaned on the door. It didn't move. He looked under the door, squeaked a couple of times, then squeezed himself through the crack under the door and disappeared. The Drool considered whether to follow. Certainly if a small rat could squeeze under that door, The Drool could do so as well. The blue glow, though. Whenever things Glowed in the Diner, strange things happened. Meanwhile Amanda came out and returned to the dining room. Strangely, it hadn't taken her very long considering that she had changed into that long dress with the ruffed collar.
In a little while Ratface came back out and ran back to the rest of the cleaning crew. At least The Drool *thought* it was Ratface. He had trouble squeezing under the door, and his fur was more gray than black, but since Ratface went in, it could only be Ratface coming out. Right? The Drool thought about this for a moment, and never for a moment thought about the fact that it was *thinking*!
"Dom. Lunch." Laura called into the intercom. Whatever was happening out in the dining room, she knew she had hungry customers. She had a complete menu ready to go. Soup and sandwich for Sarah, Faux chicken enchilada casserole for Dom, waffles for Dick, bangers and mash for Kit, a burger and fries for Wolfie, croque monsieur for D'Artagnan, fish and chips for Elizabeth…
"Ratley, if you're going to be in my kitchen, get to work."
"Yes, Ms. Laura."
"You and the boys take this out to Table 1."
"Sure thing. Ratso and Ratfink. Table one. MOOOVE IT!" Two of the rats grabbed the tray and scampered over the counter. "YouDirtyRat, get away from the soup. RatsNest, you will NOT touch the silverware drawer!" The big rat had the most *amazing* drill-sergeant voice.
"Right." said Laura. "Before those two get back, go and take Speaker's order." He had claimed his usual booth in the back and had his laptop open, doeskin gloves, brass goggles and ivory walking stick on the table beside it. Ratley had to climb up onto s2la's grey felt top hat to catch his eye.
Sean and Chris had finally returned, the chase having given way to hunger. Sean was taking off the jacket of his customary zoot suit while Chris laid his plumed hat on an extra chair. "Serving rats! ORDER UP!" Laura called, ringing the counter service bell in the window.
"Yes, Dom?" Laura hadn't noticed the trapdoor opening, or heard footsteps coming up from the dungeons.
"Why are the *rats* serving lunch?" Dom asked, taking off her flying helmet, glasses and scarf.
"Well, they were here and nobody has seen the mini-onions. Why do you ask?"
"You don't find that unusual?"
"Nope. Hungry? Better grab a seat while you can."
More customers were coming in, and the dining room was getting crowded. The LabRats™ were running all over, carrying menus, delivering trays… even The Drool had been pressed into service – clearing tables. The Bassett had finally arrived and was seated opposite s2la, stroking his moustache and saying: "Tepes. Not Teeps. Not Tapes – 'Tseh-pesh', you idiot!"
Through the outside windows the day had turned to dull gray, neither dark nor light. Looks like rain, Sarah thought. Drak and Robin walked in. Strange to see the dragons *now*, since they didn't usually fly in the rain, but then again, considering the amount of flame a dragon could put out, there was no certainly no need to worry about mid-air collisions.
"So how was the christening and launch?" Drak asked the Chief Dragon Lady.
"Wonderful!" said Robin. " 'Kitty Hawk' CVX 80 is a beautiful ship, and perfectly named."
"Yeah," agreed Drak. "They couldn't exactly keep naming them after Presidents, could they?"
"Is that the new 'Prince Roger' book?"
"Uh huh. 'March to the Market.' Just released, I pre-ordered mine from iMazon five years ago. Ya gotta love Baen's advanced release schedules."
Ev joined them at their table. "I'm surprised they found the time."
"Well, after David finished 'Great-grand-children of Honor' and John finished 'Circumstantial Aldenata Palladin Wars', Toni told them she wouldn't pay them for any more books until they finished it, and it *still* took 10 years."
[Hmmm, perhaps Sarah's had enough? Tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion in which we hear...
"Hi Sarah! – look who I found – I told everyone I needed to find someone who appreciated my genius – I just needed another genius! – master da Vinci, this is Sarah – Sarah, this is Leonardo da Vinci..."
See ya soon!]