The manager

Editor's note: This story is best enjoyed using the voice of someone pretending to narrate a Lord of the Rings movie.

Once upon a time, a young manager was summoned to take a long journey through the mountains. He, along with 22 brave warriors, left the comforts of home late one February morn and went south to combat ferocious clans throughout the Mud Foot Region.

Not yet arrived at the first field of battle, more than half of the warriors fell ill after a ruthless innkeeper poisoned their dinners. The town of Franklout proved unwelcoming to the incoming visitors, perhaps to give the nearby Cullowhee an advantage in the days to come.

After the fight saw the weary, weakened, short-handed travelers succumb to a quick and early defeat, they ventured east, where they heard a horde of Spartans were preparing for their arrival.

That afternoon in Boroughgreen, on a Wednesday in which Whabamming had not yet passed, the manager filled up on hearty soup and bread before heading off on an adventure of his own. Across the divide stood an oasis of wonderment and awe, and he knew right then what his purpose was. He said not a word to anyone as he left, but buttoned his coat, looked both ways, and opened the door to a land unknown.

"Good morrow, sire. Welcome to Menschenwagen. How may I be of service?"

The manager remained stoic and steady. He'd had the whole trek to prepare himself for exactly this moment.

"Good morrow. I am unfamiliar in this village and need a new, reliable mode of transport. My poor old friend Fox is in dire need of assistance, but I fear it is too late for him."

"Certainly, sire. Right this way."

The short, sticky-haired man led the manager to a small table in the far corner of the room. Though the structure was made of nearly all glass, it remained remarkably dark even in the middle of the day.

"Tell me more about your needs."

"I have been chosen to join a select group of young people to practice the art of medicine at a great and hallowed institution just east of here, in Churchill Mount. I am moving from a great distance away, from Beau Fleuve. It is my belief that the journey from there to Churchill Mount will be Fox's last. The poor lad is aging quickly and I fear his end will be upon him subito. In the event of his passing, it is my wish to keep him close in spirit, and to replace him with one of his kin."

"Ah yes, we possess just the one you seek. Please, follow me."

He arose from the table and promptly approached a bright, red vessel.

"Ecce, Guelph."

Guelph was a simple beauty. Her glowing exterior was nothing flashy, but it remained elegant. The tiny man coaxed the manager in, then sat down beside him before continuing.

"She is a most reliable transporter, and quite similar to Fox in many ways. You could go so far as to say they may even be long lost cousins."

The manager examined the interior closely, noting everything from the transmitter to the storage unit.

"A truly fine specimen. But how does she perform?"

"Splendidly. Guelph has not been prepared for demonstrations, but we have another model exactly like her. Would you care to see for yourself?"

"Indeed."

He scampered around the corner, emerging a few moments later with keys jingling in his left hand while his right ran through his slicked, greasy hair. The manager followed as he bustled out the entryway and into a sea of transporters. He got onto his toes and peered around briefly until he heard one whistle. He followed the noise until the two of them arrived in front of a spitting image of Guelph, save for the black exterior.

"This is Goldie. She's quite similar to Guelph, but doesn't possess the same standards."

The man, the manager, and Goldie took off down the road, passing several other buildings similar to the one the manager just stepped in. Rolets, Siturns, Adzams, and Jaggers lined the way. They even ventured past Fronds that looked just like Fox. Then the man stopped, and told the manager to take over.

The manager decided to turn the three of them around and head back, but was surprised she ran so smoothly. With Fox's age, he'd forgotten what a capable pal he'd once been in his prime.

Upon their return, the man and manager left Goldie behind before taking their places at the table once more.

"Shall we talk further about you and Guelph?"

"I must say, she was as remarkable as you said she'd be, but I regret to inform you that I do not have the finances to make such a commitment at this time."

The man tensed up, and a look came over him that indicated to the manager he did not foresee this circumstance arising.

"I am not scheduled to arrive at Churchill Mount until May. It is at that time I wish to return for Guelph."

The man hesitated for a moment. A soft rage was starting to simmer inside him.

"You mean it is not your intent to pursue this beauty any further?"

"Not until my expedition from Beau Fleuve is complete. I'd hate to burden Guelph with such a trip so soon."

"I see."

The small man sat back in his chair. He closed his eyes momentarily and once again ran his hand through his thick hair before continuing.

"Here is my calling card. Please send a message once your move is complete. I'd be happy to finalize your arrangement."

"Certainly. It's been a pleasure."

The two stood up and shook each other's hand. The manager turned, taking a glance at Guelph, knowing it would be his last, then proceeded out the door from whence he came. Once more, he buttoned his coat, looked both ways, and returned to the warriors.

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