Most of the customers in the Mart were used to the scene and paid it little heed. Bob turned to Pflud.
"Pikeís meditating. It helps him to relax. But weíd better order something else. Letís see ... I understand the Sweet Ďní Sour SnoCones are pretty tasty ... plus, theyíre semi-intelligent, and can communicate with you, provided you donít eat their talkpores. How does that sound?"
But Pflud wasnít listening. The light shower from the sprinkler system had moistened her leaves enough to awaken the weevils with which she was infested. No amount of chlorotonic seemed to be able to rid her of the embarrassment. She began to twitch uncomfortably.
Bob leaned over to affectionately press one of her leaves to his temple, and several hundred of the wriggly critters dropped onto his shirt and neck. Brushing some of the hungrier ones away, he said, "Itís okay, Pflud ... I understand."
But he didnít really. He didnít understand why heíd had so much difficulty on the Ecstatocaster. He didnít understand why his orders had suddenly been countermanded, cancelling the expedition to Saturn. He didnít understand why he dreamt the same awful dream each night, in which the Likable Triple Cities were horribly demolished by a force from beyond the Mokus 5 system.
Pflud sighed, her breathy voice wafting sensually through the room like so many lice cuddling together in an open sore. Bob roused from his reverie.
"Perhaps weíd better go, Pflud."
But suddenly, from out of the steam-shrouded cooking area a low moan arose.
"Ohh ... ahh ... thereís danger! So much danger!" Pike had apparently untranced himself and was reviewing his revelations.
Punching a row of buttons on the counter, the sprinkler system shut off and the steam clouds were sucked out through some vents in the floor. "I need some AstroGastro," Pike muttered, dumping a new batch of Space-a-roni into the wok.
Except for Bob, Pflud and the old proprietor, the Mart was empty now. Bob was determined to learn what Pike had foreseen in his trance, since he had made a pile of money off of the outcome of a Chewball Tournament which had been envisioned during a previous "meditation.í
"Well, whatís up?"
Pike flushed. As the water swirled around in little blue concentric circles, he said, "Thereís trouble, Bob. Someone from out there ..." -- he pointed vaguely off in the distance, towards Saturn -- "... holds the future of Mokus 5 in his tentacles, and heís not in a particularly sound frame of mind right now. I fear doom is just around the corner!"
"But...but there must be something we can do!"
"Thereís an underground terrarium near here. Your friend might be safe there. But as for you and me ..."
An ominousness rumbled at them from high in the sky.
"Then again, it may already be too late."
The three of them glanced upward and saw a speeding aerobus, its aqua tint glinting in the mid- day sun. It didnít take much arithmetic to deduce that the space vehicle was on a collision course for the Likable Triple Cities.
"I, ah, think I could use a shot of that AstroGastro stuff myself," said Bob.