The worst part wasn’t that people were always in a hurry and often in a bad mood. Janelle was used to that; such was the tempo of modern life when the outside world had finally caught up to what had long been the airport norm.

No, the worst part was people’s tendency to select an item, pay for it, and then leave it on the counter.

Janelle’s superiors at Schuylkill News and Convenience were very clear on one point: save on one of her 15’s or lunch, there was no leaving the store, no exploring Metro Airport.. So there was never any chance of reuniting an item with its departed owner, who had probably long since departed for another continent. Be it water bottle, Coke, cell phone power cord, or James Patterson page-turner, it would sit forlornly behind the counter for two days before being released for resale.

Sometimes the person would come back, often livid with recrimination. “Why didn’t you tell me I left my water bottle here? I paid $2.50 for it!”

“They don’t let me leave the store,” Janelle would reply. People would usually mistake her honesty for sass.

Ebi never liked cutting through the Alchemy District. For all the talk in the upper echelons of the city about how uncivilized the marketplace could be, for her money the pushiest buskers in the city were peddling potions.

One leered out at her from under an embroidered awning. Can I interest you in something this fine evening, my lady?”

“Not interested,” said Ebi.

“What about a Potion of Merciless Vegetarianism? Smells like meat, tastes like lettuce, and guaranteed to make the taste of red meat so abhorrent that the bile rises just thinking of it! Lasts one month! Very popular with ladies of the court for crash diets!” The seller danced out into the street, blocking Ebi’s path and dangling a vial in front of her.

“I said that I am not interested,” Ebi said, stepping aside.

Not taking ‘no’ for an answer, the merchant deftly stepped in front of her once more, and produced another vial from a fold in his robe. “Is there someone you’d like to get even with, or simply out of the way for a bit without the fuss of hiring an assassin? Try our Potion of Procrastinated Pestilence! Looks, smells, and tastes like drawn butter, but guaranteed to keep the victim sick in bed for two weeks afterward! Two-day incubation period to avoid detection! Bump off your rivals yourself without angering the Assassins’ Guild!”