Kurt reports on the Academy Ball - he did go after all - and tries to work out how he ended up in Drowsington wearing a novelty hat.
Drowsington's a lovely place - in May. In January, the town's wreathed in a wet fog that turns into drizzle around 6am. I know this because that's where I woke this morning, wearing a ruined tuxedo and a novelty tretretretre hat.
I wasn't in the best mood to go to the Academy Ball on Monday, having been suspended from work for something that wasn't my fault, but Caine and Violet came over in the afternoon and forced me to put on my black tie outfit.
It was awkward right from the start, I remember that. While queuing up in Taversen Square, Garnet came over to speak to someone in front of us in the line - some Council functionary or Defense Forces officer, no doubt. When he looked my way, he hesitated and then gave me a curt nod. I ignored him. As soon as we made it inside, I left the happy couple and Scarlett to head for the bar.
Myra Champaign was the star of the proceedings, with a halo of fans and journalists asking her about the secret of her success. She was more than happy to oblige them, telling everyone in her high-pitched voice about her natural talent and the awful, awful challenges she'd been through to win the championships. I lurked on the periphery, grimacing into my drink.
I wasn't the only person feeling sorry for themselves at the ball: Von was grimacing into his soft drink beside me.
"Sorry to hear about the suspension," said Von. "I know it can't have been your fault."
"Thanks. How's university?"
We both stared at Myra for a while.
"I was sixteen once, you know," I said. Von nodded thoughtfully, and took a swig of his orange juice.
The awards ceremony was predictable as ever, although there was some comic relief in seeing the ever-diplomatic Sente shake his head just the slightest bit when he handed the trophy over to Myra, which set Violet and Scarlett off into giggles. Thankfully the awards ceremony itself was shortened ever since somebody realised that being able to solve puzzles doesn't mean you're a brilliant orator, so we got stuck in to dinner without much delay.
I was making good progress into our table's supply of wine when there was a disturbance at the back of the hall. No doubt you've heard by now that Sente was arrested. It may not seem like a big deal, but having police walk into the Academy Ball and arrest the Master was a brazen show of power by the Council. Right now, I don't have the presence of mind to analyse the political side of this, although I'm not sure I care anyway.
Scarlett predictably broke down into floods of tears and had to be consoled by Caine; Violet was the responsible one and ran off to follow her dad to the police station, after giving me a dirty look; and I kept on drinking.
The Academy Ball usually goes on into the early hours, by which time most of the hard-core have deserted it for other parties around the city. I'm fairly sure I went to some disreputable place called The Missing Piece on the opposite side of town - at least, that would explain the matchbook I unaccountably have with the name 'Call me, Jess' in my pocket, sadly with no key number. And possibly also the bruise on my face.
Exactly how I managed to get to Drowsington is beyond me - I probably had to be carried, and whoever 'helped' me disappeared long before I woke up, no doubt in search of a cocktail. As for the tretretretre hat, which says 'Property of Perplex City Kid's Zoo', I don't want to know.
Drowsington isn't just sleepy in winter, it's practically catatonic. I'd be hard pressed to prove that any of the commuters on the train I'm on back to Perplex City are actually alive. Perhaps they hibernate in winter. Sounds like a good plan.