‘Treason, this is Ubiquarian. Ubiquarian, this is Treason,’ said 13 and, with a final glance towards the door to ensure that 1 hadn’t returned, he sat down. ‘I do not think you know each other.’
‘I don’t believe we do,’ said Treason, smiling as she extended a hand. ‘Nice to meet you.’
‘Likewise,’ Ubiquarian said, the word sounding muffled. He coughed to clear his throat. ‘Sorry, I’m pleased to meet you as well. So, what’s one of my fellow words doing here?’
‘As far as I can gather from 13, something along the same lines as you,’ she said before turning to 13. ‘13, I hope I didn’t make things awkward for you just now. I assume from what you said about him last night that that was 1?’
‘Correct,’ replied 13. ‘It is OK, I think. It is expected that we should display deference to 1 but I am sure I can explain the situation to him if I have to.’
Treason held her hand up in apology. ‘I’m sorry, 13. I didn’t mean that to have any repercussions; it’s just that he was so bloody arrogant expecting everybody to kow-tow to him. Is he always like that?’
‘He is 1. He is accustomed to receiving attention when he requests it.’
‘Not mine when he behaves like that. Anyway, let’s not concern ourselves with that pompous idiot. Oh, sorry, 13; I’ll lower my voice. You know something, you guys shouldn’t allow yourselves to be…what?’ Treason paused when she saw Ubiquarian smile.
‘Quite the firebrand, aren’t you?’ he said.
‘I’m not the type to stay silent when I see something I know is wrong but I do stay silent if I’m expected to fawn over somebody. Are you sure we haven’t met? You seem familiar.’
‘Do you know many words outside of the official OED buildings? Thought so…few if any, eh? Well, that’s why you wouldn’t know me. And what did you say to 1’s lackey? He really looked as if he was put out of joint.’
13 squirmed and both Ubiquarian and Treason noticed. This time, Ubiquarian held his hands up. ‘Sorry, 13. You’re probably not used to irreverence like this. It’s how some of us words react to authority. No offence meant to your glorious leader.’
13 nodded, smiled and lowered his voice: ‘Thank you. It is interesting for me to hear conversations such as this one.’
‘Good man.’ Ubiquarian grinned and clapped 13 on the back. ‘We’ll make a dissident out of you yet.’
Treason leaned in towards Ubiquarian. ‘And you call me a firebrand! You don’t seem the shy, retiring type yourself.’
Ubiquarian shrugged. ‘You haven’t answered me yet about what you said to…to…13, who are those guys who trail around after 1?’
‘They are his personal assistants: 101, 999 and 1001.’
‘You’re kidding!’ said Treason. ‘God, this guy really is priceless. He couldn’t make do with, I don’t know, 230 or someone like that.’
‘No, that would not be possible. 1 would never allow an even number to work closely with him. May I point out that have not yet answered Ubiquarian’s question.’
‘Oh, 101 or whoever said that 1 wanted me to join him at his table and I just said that I was already meeting someone and, besides, I’d no idea who he was and my mother told me never to speak to strange men. I take it that 1 hasn’t much by way of a sense of humour.’
13 giggled. ‘Nobody here would ever dare say something like that to him.’
Treason shrugged, sipped her coffee, groaned and pointed towards the door. ‘Oh, not that moron...I come over here to get away from the likes of him. Hey, what’s up with you?’
Ubiquarian had slunk down in his seat and partially shielded his face from view. Onesie had just arrived and was looking around the café. He turned and spoke to someone just outside the door. Treason leaned sideways so that she could look Ubiquarian in the eye.
‘Don’t tell me you’re worried about that Onesie idiot. Why are you trying to hide from him?’ she said but blanched when Crook, accompanied by Criminal and Cad – all of whom she recognised as part of the infamous bunch of C-block undesirables – trooped through the door to join Onesie. ‘Oh. You’re trying to avoid somebody else, aren’t you? Why?’
‘I got into a spot of difficulty, Treason. That’s the reason I’m here. Look, if I said that I have an inquiring mind and a willingness to use it for the betterment of everybody, would it make sense?’
‘Oh my God,’ she whispered. ‘It’s you, Crusade. What are you…? Er, why? Er, 13, could you excuse us for a few minutes, please?’
‘Yes, that is not a problem,’ 13 replied, crossed his arms and sat back in his chair. ‘I shall wait for you to come back.’
‘No, 13. What Treason means is can you leave us here alone for a few minutes, please? Er, no; on second thoughts, stay here and keep talking. I’m going to pretend to be asleep for a few minutes.’ Ubiquarian laid his arms flat on the table and rested his head on them. Treason guessed what was happening, kept her eyes on 13 and asked him as casually as she could what he was doing for the day. 13, thoroughly confused, said that he had not planned anything and looked up as Onesie, Criminal, Cad and Crook filed past their table. They nodded to 13 and glanced at Ubiquarian as they passed.
‘Someone had a good night last night, eh?’ Crook drawled with a nod towards Ubiquarian.
‘I do not know,’ replied 13. ‘He suddenly seemed to…’
‘Ssssh,’ interrupted Treason and gestured for them to lower their voices. She turned to Crook, grinned and whispered: ‘You’re right. The poor guy needs a bit of rest.’
‘Have you guys seen any strangers in here this morning? Words, I mean.’
‘There was someone here earlier who I did recognise. He left in a hurry,’ replied Treason in a monotone voice. ‘I am not sure if this person was a word. I cannot always distinguish them. Are you a word?’
‘What do ya think, love?’ replied Crook with a leer. He continued walking and said to Cad: ‘Not your typical looking number, is she? That voice would drive you nuts, though.’
‘I wouldn’t worry too much about the voice,’ said Cad with a wolfish grin. ‘Ding dong!’
Treason waited until the four had left the café and nudged Ubiquarian. ‘It’s OK, Crusa…er, Ubi, umm, whatever you call yourself…they’ve gone.’
Ubiquarian raised his head and nodded in acknowledgement. ‘Thanks, you got me out of a potentially tricky situation there.’
13 looked from Treason to Ubiquarian and smiled. ‘I have reached a conclusion on what is happening here. I think that you two know each other.’
‘Go on,’ said Treason.
‘Ubiquarian said that he was not successful with ladies. I think he was referring to you.’
Ubiquarian grimaced. ‘Jesus, 13…don’t beat around the bush! Say it as you see it.’
‘I do. I will. I now wish to know what will happen next between you two.’
Ubiquarian winced and turned towards Treason. She met his gaze with a smile which he returned. 13 looked from one to the other and nodded: ‘I think that you two should get a room. I do not think that will be a problem because 33 has found a room for Treason. I will soon leave this table.’
Treason laughed. ‘That’s probably a good idea, 13…a good idea that you leave the table, that is. It’s not that we don’t want your company but we have a few things to discuss and your contributions are a bit too forthright right now.’
‘Treason is right,’ Ubiquarian said. ‘Thanks, 13. We’ll, er, I’ll, one of us will give you a call later.’
‘I will await that,’ said 13 as he rose to his feet and left the café. Treason sighed, ran a hand through her hair and leaned back in her chair. ‘So, you first; I think you’ve got more to explain me. Why the disappearing act and the name change?’
‘Well, it’s a long…actually, it’s not that long really. How did you know I disappeared?’
‘When I couldn’t contact you, I went to C-block and I saw one of your friends talking to Crook and then a group of your friends came looking for me in T-block. That was when I decided to make myself scarce for a few days; hence me being here. So, that’s my story. Hey, it’s good to see you again.’
‘And what about the room? 13 said you had a room.’
‘No, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant, how come you got a room here?’
‘Oh, one of 13’s colleagues arranged it for me.’
‘And why would…er, nothing. OK, my side now. I…after that night last week, I wanted to… I had a think about things and decided that I…Hell, this isn’t making sense. I felt a bit low that night and needed to think things through and the best way I could see to do it was to get myself a new identity. Whether I still think that was the best thing to do is open to debate but when you make a spur of the moment decision, it isn’t necessarily always the correct one. Look, Treason, I’m sorry for going about things the wrong way but…’
He was interrupted by Treason who jerked a thumb to her right. Ubiquarian looked around to see that Onesie had returned although he hadn’t noticed Ubiquarian who, again, ducked his head. Treason watched Onesie as he scoured the room. When he finally saw her, he smiled and ambled towards her table in his lurching, stumbling walk.
‘He’s not really with it at all, is he? Hur, hur, hur,’ he said, looking at Ubiquarian.
‘Can I help?’ Treason asked.
‘I was just looking for…hey, that looks like him…the bloke I was looking for.’ He leaned down and peered at Ubiquarian before he was pushed away by Treason.
‘Look, I said earlier, just leave him be. He’s not feeling well,’ she said, testily.
Onesie looked doubtfully at her, backed away and shrugged. ‘But it’s him; I was talking to him last night and I follo…and I knew that he would be here today. I don’t know his name but I can get my friends to find that out.’
‘Your friends? You mean those guys with you earlier? Nice friends you’ve got.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Oh, the hell with this,’ Ubiquarian said as he lifted his head. ‘Yes, it’s me. Now, what are you going to do about it? I’m no threat to you; I never was and I’m certainly not any longer. I don’t particularly want to see you in the OED. No, make that I definitely don’t want to see that and I don’t approve of the way you’re going about it…but that probably wasn’t your idea. Anyway, if you want to make an idiot of yourself, go ahead, I’ve got more important things to think about.’
Onesie stood in the aisle, his mouth opening and closing as he struggled to find words while Treason and Ubiquarian had already turned away from him.
‘Hey, don’t be like that; I know when I’m not welcome. There’s no need to be nasty, I can take a hint.’
Still, he lingered. Treason stood up, whispered something to Ubiquarian who smiled, nodded and joined her as they walked away from Onesie without comment.
Next episode: Meet & and ? in the punctuation warehouse....