The dealer and I are both very, very quiet as we ride to the police station.
Then we are strapped in to cushy frog-shaped chairs and told to wait. The chairs are surprisingly comfortable. The receptionist seems to be ogling the man strapped in next to us, wearing nothing but a scrappy blue speedo. "Ah didn't do ennething wrong," he cries to me, "ah swear it, they made me wear this!" Eventually the policewoman who brought us in takes him into the next room.
The dealer seems to be trying to ignore me.
"Look, let's just say we had mutual responsibility in the case of our arrest." I say. I'm being generous.
"Fine, fine," the dealer responds, "And for the record, I wasn't trying to- shortchange you just for money." Their voice cracks. "My mother and brother- they both have the fever. It's not easy to cure, and they aren't well at all. I need those two extra specials."
"Sure, you can have them." I try to reply in an appropriate friendly/empathetic tone. "Buuut I'm not paying for them."
"And- and I need the money." The dealer sinks lower in their trenchcoat. "I'm part of the SharkSnake gang."
"I knew you were wearing a speedo under that!" My voice is way too loud and half of the waiting room's inhabitants snap their heads towards me. "Sorry."
"I'm not. Only the full members wear speedos, and that's all they're allowed to wear. Just speedos, no coats or anything."
"That must get cold."
"I guess that's why they wear them, to prove they don't care. But I'm not a real gang member. But I need to be one, so I can get money to buy the specials to help my family, and to do that I need to be a gang member, but to do that I need money."
They definitely just lost me.
"Couldn't you just, I don't know, take the specials and leave?"
"The SharkSnakes aren't like that. You're in the gang for life- they'll hunt you down and make sure you never drink a drop in your life again."
Now this I understand. "No more drunk dialing, no more relationships." The original law about drunk dialing (signed by the Almighty Toad King's own Holy Priest Toad) proclaimed that it would henceforth be the only way to propose a marriage. But since then any relationship or romantic confession that happens while both parties are sober has become taboo.
"Oh," I say.
"Yeah," the dealer says.
We sit in an awkward silence. For five seconds. And then the policewoman bursts in again. "Did I hear the word Snake in my reception hall?!"
"No ma'am," we both reply quickly.
"Excellent." She disappears back into her room, doing the 'my eyes are in you' thing with her hand.
"Wait, do you still have my Specials?" I ask the dealer. I didn't see the Toadies take anything off them.
"Yep. If you have any money, we'll probably need it for bail. I just need to get these to my family and then we can rot in a cell. Or pay penance by picking up frogs off the side of the road."
"We're ready for you now!" calls the policewoman. Two Toadies push our frog chairs into her office. "We have done some extreme DNA analysis on your confiscated Hershey's Dark Chocolate With Coffee Shot bars and I am afraid to say that you have both been charged with trafficking obscene amounts of caffeine."
The dealer's face pales and I can feel my palms starting to sweat. Actually just sweating more than they were already.
"And thus, on that offense, you have been freed of all charges."
I look to the dealer. What?
"Recent scientific studies in the Capitol have discovered that frogs enjoy eating chocolate!" exclaims the policewoman, a look of joy filling her face, "It's likely that soon chocolate will be perfectly legal, despite the fact that it contains the Great Unholiness of caffeine." She frowns. "The coffee shots are borderline illegal, but since I've never seen you two in the station before I'm considering it a first-time offense and letting you off easy."
The dealer grins at me. "We're good!"
I smile back, slightly wickedly. "Now I can be my university's number one chocolate dealer without fear! Those sleep-deprived and anxious scholars won't know what hit 'em!"
"So can we go now?" asks the dealer, looking more cheerful than I'd seen them all day.
"Well," says the officer, "we also ran some tests on those Ecrivain's Specials. And those are definitely very, very illegal."
The dealer's face falls. Uh oh. Maybe it's frog prison for us after all.
"Your charge shall be two week's worth of frog patrol duty! You must work with the Toady Police Force to help save our holy champions who have blessed us with the name Giant Friends."
"So picking up frogs off of the road." The dealer looks very relieved.
"Ahem, rescuing our precious friends from the terrors of concrete and gravel," corrects the policewoman. "And that will be all. You two are free to go."
I do not get my box of chocolate- or my Specials!- back, but the dealer agrees to give me back half the money. With that we leave the station out into the bright blue afternoon. Just another adventure that comes with the chocolate trade.
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Lords & Ladies of the M'Verse: An Ooorah AnthologyScience Fiction
Each of the 100 stories featured herein will be set within a Universe of the writer's creation, all being a part of a larger, shared Multiverse. Writers have free reign to tell the story they wanna' tell and providing...