The Maestro awoke in the makeshift warehouse. How many days had it been since the incident at the Gangplank? He rubbed his chin, which he found to be covered in stubble. That meant it had been a while since he had made himself presentable. That also accounted for the pungeant smell he slowly became aware of. He pulled himself up, rubbing his eyes to get the sleep out of them.
“This is unacceptable,” he said to himself as he pulled his jacket on. The bath would wait. “I was once a leader in my field, and now I’m reduced to hiding in this hole?” He immediately contacted his boss, Lord Alfred Grayson, and explained the debacle. He was not surprised when Lord Grayson informed him he was off the portrait case. He was surprised when Lord Grayson informed him that he would be coming to New Babbage to take over the warehouse. The Maestro had made things much to public for a secret organization.
It took a few minutes after Lord Grayson disconnected the call for it to sink in what had just happened. He had been fired! This was an outrage. He had been perfectly happy in that other universe, but dark forces had conspired to bring him back. He had been the one who made the connection between the Old Ones and the Artifacts. He had been the one who discovered the Artifacts slipping through the rifts. He had been the one who had straightened up the Ministry and its Warehouses. And it had been he who had suggested that New Babbage made an ideal location for a new Warehouse. And now, because of one minor screwup, they were removing him from the project. This would not stand! He would not allow it.
A few days later ~
The Maestro had turned things around rather quickly. He discovered upon returning to the world that Mr. Lighthouse had never made a big deal about the painting. For some reason he did not want word getting out. That suited the Maestro just fine. He worked for days finding a new location for the Artifacts that had arrived. He had sworn to protect them, and protect them he would. He knew he would also have to make amends with Mr. Lighthouse, for he genuinely liked the man, regardless of how accurate his tales were. He only did what he did because he was following orders. And he remembered now how much he disliked following orders.
One day, after all the crates had been relocated, he was on his way to the Gangplank to speak with Mr. Lighthouse about the incident. As he walked through the streets, he saw a herd of Urchins run in front of him. One stuck out in the Maestro’s mind; a small boy of about eight, wearing a tattered suit and tails, pinned to fit his diminuitive frame. A tartan cap covered his disheveled black hair, and despite being the beginning of summer, the boy wore a maroon and gold scarf around his neck. As the Maestro watched the boy run off with the others, trying to remember why he looked familiar, the faint blue light on his wrist gauntlet turned a bright red. “Not now,” he muttered. Then it turned blue again. He would look into this later. He opened the door to the Gangplank…
And stepped into a much more futuristic establishment. A man in a tuxedo greeted him.
“Welcome to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” the man said. “I see you have forgotten your towel, here is one on the house. Do enjoy tonight’s festivities, as they will not occur again for quite some time,” he continued, handing the Maestro a large white bath towel. The Maestro was then escorted to a table overlooking the restaurant’s many windows. As the day went on, he was treated to many fanciful meals, as well as many unique gifts. His favorite was a small automaton, although its personality matrix could use a minor adjustment. After many many hours of indulgence, and after most of the restaurant’s patrons had returned to their proper timelines, the Maitre’de informed the Maestro that the final showing would be occurring soon, and that perhaps he might like a seat at the bar.
The Maestro left his table and proceeded to the bar. As he did so, he looked out to one side of the restaurant floating silently in space. He noticed for the first time that night, a giant crack in space, the very same crack that had once threatened his home in New Babbage. Before he could give it much thought, he became aware of the galactic fireworks already in progress. Off in the distance, stars began to expand exponentially, swallowing up entire systems. The sky began to burn with the fire of a million suns. At any other time, this would have filled him with fear. But today, either because of the situation with the Ministry, or the vast amounts of alcohol he had consumed, he carried on like normal. He conversed with the last few patrons at the bar. He made a fool of himself on the bar. He fell off the bar when he passed out from too many Gargleblasters. He slept as Milliways was devoured by the end of the universe.
And he awoke at the bar at the Gangplank. At first, he thought it was just a dream brought on by too much to drink. As his eyes cleared, however, he became aware of a few oddities. A strange book had been placed into his pocket. And a diminuative robot sat in a freshly baked pie. The Maestro gathered up the robot, placed him in his pocket with the book, and wandered off to find somewhere a little more comfortable to sleep off his strange day.