* * *
That's kind of how it's been going. Humility Company has been busy locking down the E.D.I.S. in a no-nonsense by-the-numbers sort of way. Luke has been hanging around Private Fodder, lending his expertise. Buddy... well. Buddy managed to locate a Victoria's Secret franchise here in our little sub-mall and we haven't seen her since. I would give my left eye and a slice out of my liver to see what that woman is doing in the changing rooms right now, but it is not to be.
And so, since the ongoing security effort doesn't seem to require the services of either a mad scientist-in-training or an angelic cybernetic lycanthrope, Feeb and I are, um, shopping. I mean, what else are we going to be doing?
"Cutlery stores," Feeb is saying, as we once more pass the lingerie shop. "Be on the lookout for cutlery stores. Remember, Charles, we are here for a reason. We must find the Blade Azure of the Highly-Important Swords."
"Sure," I say, tearing my eyes away from the Victoria's Secret, certain that I'm not going to catch any glimpses on this pass, either. "Cutlery stores. Feeb, you really think that this artifact or whatever is going to be _for sale_?"
"Sure!" she says. "I mean, why not? We were to look for it in a mall, right?"
I shake my head. "I'm not buying it," I say. "The way I understood things, this was some kind of antique Toledo broadsword. And while I'd certainly believe that there's some kind of national franchise shop specifically dedicated to ancient medieval weapons of war--"
"Ancient Medieval Weapons of War-R-Us," volunteers Feeb.
"Thank you," I say. "But the shops around here don't seem to be conforming to Mundementian standards. They're more like the sorts of places I used to visit back, um, home."
"Yes," says Feeb, thoughtfully. "Like you, they are a bit boring."
"So," I say, with, I think, commendable composure. "Why don't we just relax, do a little, I don't know, conventional shopping, and when Humility Company has cleaned this place out we can actually get Luke to dig around in the foundations a little where you'd actually expect ancient artifacts to be buried?"
"It's a thought, Charles," says Feeb. "Of course, pretty much everything you can think of is a thought. 'In five minutes I am going to rub monkey doo into my hair and then jump around screaming "I am a potato!!!"' is a thought."
I frown. "You aren't, are you?" I say.
"Of course not," says Feeb. "I mean, where would I get the monkey doo?"
"Point," I say.
"Where were we?" says Feeb.
"Ancient artifacts? Kicking loose for a while? Lemurs doing the dirty work for us while we relax with Orange Smoothies?"
"Ah, yes," says Feeb. "The problem is, I'm not convinced this is such an ancient artifact after all. During his long and tedious expository section, L'Abbe de Trephane revealed to me that the Blade Azure is of Spanish craftsmanship, true. But technically, anything crafted by a Spaniard is of Spanish craftsmanship. The smith who forged the blade was identified as the 'Mad Iberian' of Medina. 'Iberia', of course, is just the name of the European peninsula containing Spain and that Other Nation."
"Shhh!!!" hisses Feeb, hunkering down and looking around. "Jesus, Charles, don't do that!"
"What?" I say. "Say 'Portugal'?"
"ShhhShhhShhhSHHH!" she says, then takes a moment to look around. "God, do you perceive them teaching you nothing in the Mundane world? Don't ever say the name of the Nation That Ought Not Be Named!"
"Why?" I ask, in dumbfounded tones.
Feeb straightens up. "Complicated," she says, abstractedly. "Anyway. Merely identifying someone as 'The Mad Iberian' is no more helpful to us than saying the blade is of Spanish workmanship. But what he did tell me, and this is important, is that the blade was cooled in the waters of the Scioto River. I did some research last night at the Picotel's Business and Porn Center, and do you know what I found? What the Scioto River is?"
"If I say 'yes'," I say, "can we skip the rest of this exposition?"
"No," says Feeb. "I will merely quiz you on your knowledge."
"All right. No."
"The Scioto River," says Feeb, "is a river in Ohio."
She looks at me importantly. I think this over for a while.
"Oh," I say. "So it's a Toledo... Ohio broadsword."
"Per-zactly," says Feeb.
"Yeah," I say. "Then it might be something you could buy in a mall."
"Right!" says Feeb. "Nobody _said_ the swords had to be ancient. Just legendary, is all."
"So what is it about Ohio?" I say. "We got all our guns and body armor from a store that does all its manufacturing in Ohio."
Feeb shrugs. "They make the best," she says, simply. "They have to. Ohio is such a desolate, horrible place that its citizens have needed to become the world's finest weaponsmiths and arms manufacturers just to survive. Typical vacations to Ohio involve, on the average, six hundred and eighty-seven attacks from crazed animals, demonic presences and émigrés from The Evil Negative Dark Matter Universe Place. And that's just if you stay on the tollways."
"Aha," I say.
"Ohio is the last, great frontier," Feeb continues. "That we have colonized it at all stands as a monumental achievement of the human race. As Dad used to say, 'Dag-nab it, if we can put a man in Cleveland, we ought to be able to manufacture an aspirin bottle a man can open without his own mule team.'"
"A total hick, yes," says Feeb. "When he became too annoying, my mother had him destroyed."
"Aha," I say, again.
* * *
Also, why did I ever think that Perspex Island was a piece-of-crap album? I am thoroughly enjoying it tonight.