Thursday, May 30, 2013

71 - A Horrid Silence

Werfas and Kyrus stood, with an Amir they knew.  “So, young Nasers,” he said, dismounting beside where they watered their birds at the enormous trough that ran around the whole Nadumon square.

It was like a fountain in a way, but with stone and glass decorative hinged covers all the way around to allow access to the water so attractively displayed.  It was enormous enough that all of the ‘escort’ for Ilax and Kyrus could water their birds in only two shifts.  “How are you two doing?”
Dukir had actually ridden straight through some hard country to catch up to the minor horde, to be at Kyrus senior’s back when he went in to speak to the Nadumon.  He was just as pleased that Ilax, as the negotiator, would be leading the talks about this endarkened, enlightened, bloody owner’s piss of a dam.

Kyrus blinked.  He hadn’t seen the Amir the whole march, all along, and he’d thought he’d seen all ten of them.  Now... he ran his eye around the circle and realized that this Amir made it eleven.  “Ah.  Well, Amir.” Werfas poked his shoulder and he picked up the bird’s goad and hooked the chain under its chin.  “Excuse me, Naser, I need to water my birds.”


Dukir’s bones ached with the shifting wind.  He was getting too old for all this dashing around the landscape.  Shashi was running things so well that he’d had to do next to nothing by the time he’d gotten back to the city.  And her with an infant.  His granddaughter. This ride hadn’t helped his left hip in the slightest.  Perhaps after these negotiations and hopefully war averted, he really would retire to the family Loggia and garden. And the moon will start raining algae instead of water, he thought to himself, sarcastically.

“Amir... we haven’t seen you.” Werfas leaned back against his bird, blocked its half-hearted snap at him with his raised goad, not taking his eyes off Dukir.  I spotted you before, boy.  I’ll have to see what my daughter thinks of you.

“And neither have the Nadumon, hmmm?” Dukir turned to scan the surrounding people.

“Milar...”  A tentative voice from the watchers, a young man with an around the eye tattoo elaborate enough to show he had some rank.  He glanced nervously at both Dukir, standing with his arms crossed, not moving except for the flutter of his veil, and Kyrus, just straightening from letting his warbird drink.  The Amir was in his Rasheem blues, and Kyrus wore the silver so was pretty distinctive.  Werfas wore soft greens and had the broad, open Milari face.  Ky had to admit that if someone were going to approach the three of them, it would most likely be Wer.

The fellow had a bright yellow fluffball in his arms and looked tremendously inoffensive.  That alone was enough to make Kyrus distrust him on sight.  Too many ratboys that he knew had practiced that ‘I’m not that tough’ look and they were always the most dangerous.

“Most honoured Nadu, how may I be of assistance?”

The boy didn’t move any closer, which was a huge relief to Ky’s mind.  He kept his hand on his sleeve knives though as he stepped so that he had a clear shot at the kid should he try anything.  It was just so tense.  Even with the Nadumon accepting them as guests and not enemies... they could all just pull out their nasty curved scalpelettis and fall on them from all directions here.

He could see Dukir ease sideways, a shift of weight on his hip to give him a clear shot at this young man should he prove either personally dangerous or setting off an attempted massacre. Werfas had his hand casually on his sword hilt, as if just resting his gloved hand there.  You don't want to piss off my mander wingbrother, boy, Kyrus thought.  To part of him it warmed him down to his deepest innards, even as he told that little proud glow to 'shut up'.

“Is it true that the Milar surdeniliarch married the Radiance?”

They all have such naked faces.  This boy looks... hopeful?  Horrified? Both?  Ky straightened up slightly, drawing the kid’s gaze.  “My da.  The Radiance.  Yeah.  Ilax is my married father.  His Radiance is my da.”

“Oh.  Oh... that is...”  They didn’t get to hear what the kid said because there was this wild klaxon from the council hall and the surrounding Nadu DID pull their swords.  Everybody else drew as well, to not be caught flat footed and everybody turned to the doors.  Birds squawked and bucked and slashed at the men around them and men of all three nations threw themselves into tying them down tight but they were knots of strange activity in the tense crowd around the Hall of Directors.

The boy hadn’t put down his pet but turned with everyone else.

There was a horrid silence from inside... a living silence.  In the circle eyes flickered sideways.  Lainz Amirs’ bellowed everyone into stillness... sword tips twitched in brutal sun like sparks of steel spraying from a welder.  Anyone breathed wrong and it would be a blood-bath.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

70 - Act Normally

The dining room at the Cameron house was crammed full of people for Terry’s coming home party.  Too bad most of the people there he couldn’t stand, overdressed in a place that was much too warm. Other than that it was quite a pleasant morning tea.

The women were all present, decorative, beautifully dressed and completely silent reflections of their menfolk.  Their Keepers, drawn by a discretely raised hand... some had been with the elderly ladies they escorted that the twist of a head or a raised eyebrow was enough to bring him in close so she could whisper in his ear what she wished to say.

Keepers were obvious just from the positions they took at the elbows of those for whom they spoke, but every one of them wore his chain of office over his morning coat.  Most women didn’t wear the key to that chain openly on her wrist or throat, though it would have been perfectly acceptable.  After all, the woman was truly the one in charge of her Keeper who spoke for her.

They looked like peacock snakes basking in the heat of the room his mother had decorated a generation ago when his father achieved Technician Second Class.  It had white neo-silk panels on the walls, edged with a tiny gilt border, the raw silk had grey highlights in its depths that echoed the white stone tiles on the floor, while the white and gold carpet kept things warm underfoot.  It had to reflect the glory of the family, of course.

Mirrors hung over the fireplace and were set in place between the floor to ceiling windows looking out over the tiny garden that was full of earthan planets, carefully tended inside the walls.  The walls, of course, were the walls of the neighbours’ gardens in the whole row and everyone pretended there was a vast estate on the other side of those garden walls.  Gerry had had a gazebo built in the bottom of the garden where the horse was parked in its niche until needed.

“Terry... do come and tell us about how it was being the only man on the moon!”  That was Reg, a friend whom he’d gone to school with, and who had somehow managed to escape maturity even though he’d grown taller.

“It was quiet, I assure you,” Terry managed, over his tea cup.  He put a smile on his face even when he wanted to rip all of this protocol off and run screaming along the back mews all the way out to where Xanadu stopped and fell away to the sand below.  “I read my books and wrote my letters.  I saw the couriers come and go from there, to here, and then on to there again.”

“But to interact with the modern people of the corps!  How exciting!”

He had to blink at Reg’s burbling.  Is he trying to make me say something subversive? If so, he was doing a horrid job.   

“I love the cut of your coat, Reginald. So smart.  You must have a new tailor, hmmm?”

“Oh, yes, an illiterate I’ve found all by myself!  Well, my man found him really.  Down in Low Town.  You must come with me and get a new wardrobe done before you go back up into the wilds of the moon.”

“Indeed.  Excuse me, Reg.  I’ll only be a moment.”


It was as though his seed had opened up vast possibilities in his head that he had never considered before.  Before, he’d been like Reg, and like Jim and Harry... When had that all changed?  It had certainly been before he’d found out about Gerry’s little problems with Prime.  He closed the door of his private restroom and stood looking at himself in the mirror.  He hadn’t needed to use the facilities, but the excuse afforded him some privacy.

His seed blinked suddenly, the icon in the corner of his awareness.  Unthinking he tried again to access his code and his programs began unfolding as they had on the moon.  He smiled, astonished and then fell to his knees as Prime’s security spiked into his brain.  The pain was as if someone had heated an ice pick and driven it into his head through his eyes.

He managed not to cry out, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes as if to hold them in place, frantically shutting down, hiding, cancelling requests, pulling his awareness away from his code as hard as he could, like pouring a bucket of ice water onto his own head.  He touched the cold water tap on, with one flailing hand and splashed actual water over his head, soaking his cravat and his coat.

“Ow. Ow. Ow. Oh endarkened hell.  You asshole, you sinsuka!  You gibreet!”  He clenched his teeth and dragged himself up to standing, by the edge of the basin. “I am going to find out how to get at my data without your gibreet programs turning my head into mush!” The hammered metal flowers all around his basin cut into his hands he held on so tightly, until his balance came back and he could catch his breath. “Someone tried to contact my programs.  Someone I wanted to talk to.”

He straightened slowly and shook out his hands, ran them through his hair.  His cravat was ruined but he could change that... and his coat... before he had to go back down to the party.  Act normally.  You are only capable of learning so much.  You’re a Tech Second Class.  Deep breath. Pretend you are mildly ill, perhaps too much sherry last night.  Act normally.

69 - His Name Must be Silly

“Oh, you enlightened bird stop, give me that back, come back here!”

Dag sat down abruptly on the stairs.  ‘Her’ bird had snuck out of the main flock once more and sneaked into her rooms again. This time while she was sorting her laundry, and had snatched one of her veils out of the basket and run off with it.

When she sat down the bird stopped as well, all the way down at the bottom of the stairs where it had already dragged her veil to ruins, even before pulling it, flapping, over the mud and sand and grass down here in the valley bottom.

It turned its head sideways at her one way, then the other, a billowing cloud of green mist fabric clenched in its beak. Expensive, delicate, hard-to-replace fabric.  It stamped and squawked at her, a muffled sound.  She compressed her lips together, hard, to not scream at it, and frighten it.

“You shouldn’t be doing this!  You should be over there!” Dag waved at the flock of young birds spread along the river, the valley floor, ridden by the feather-spitters assigned to them.  The young man who was supposed to be training this bird to take saddle and hood, was just now trudging up from the water’s edge to re-capture his charge.  “You should go play with the boy!  Go on!”

It cocked its head, waved it back and forth with the motion of her wave, then lowered it almost to the ground, cheeping around the beak full of fabric, an absurd sound for something that had shot up from knee high to eye-level in a matter of weeks.

“You go back and be good for Hami, you silly bird!”

It groaned and croaked, spit out the wad of cloth, head still hanging around its feet, swinging back and forth as Hami walked up with the saddlepad over his arm and a hood in the other hand.  “Come on, you.  You don’t want me to get the bird goad now, do you?" were the first words out of the young man's mouth.

The bird stretched its head out straight and sank into a full crouch, which put its back at about eyelevel for Dag now.  It didn’t stop cheeping, though it slowed to almost a groan.  Dag stood up and came down the rest of the way.  “Hami... has this one done anything that you’ve asked it?”

“No, Nasera.”  He shrugged and sighed.  “It doesn’t attack me, it sometimes lets me saddle it up.  But it will not take the hood no matter what I do and when I get the goad out it runs and stuffs its head into the crack in the rock behind the cisterns so that all I can see -- or reach-- is its behind!  And then it screams at me and howls like I’m torturing it.”

She shook her head.  A dozen of the hatchers had already found that the birds that had imprinted on them from the egg were indeed tame, but desperately wanted to be with their hatch-mothers.  The program director had already decreed it was easier to train the girls to be warriors than try and force this hatch to work with the already trained.  Some of the birds took to almost anyone and they were working as a fighting flock already.  “You silly thing.”

It turned its head flat on the ground, blinking at her pathetically.  “Why don’t I help you, Hami?”

“Thank you, Nasera Dagdovah.”  She stepped up and reached across the bird’s back and together they settled the saddle onto the featherless shoulders of the young bird.  It stopped cheeping.  Dag tickled it under its chin, getting it to raise its head up.

“Stop sulking, Silly.”

“Is that the name you’ve called it?” Hami asked. “It responds to it.”

“Oh dear.”

But no matter what they did, no matter how Dag scolded, Silly would not accept the hood that would let a rider blind him.

Hami finally hooked a finger, instead of the goad hook, into one of Silly’s nostrils and he froze, panting in distress as the feather spitter began to force the hood on.  “Wait,” Dag said and Hami stopped, stared at her, then shrugged.

“As you say, Nasera.” He unhooked his finger and when he let go of Silly’s beak, the bird swung its head around and nestled it against Dag’s chest as if it were a much younger chick.  Its beak still hung open, tongue protruding.  She noticed that Hami’s hand had a smear or two of blood on it and Silly had blood trailing on his beak.

It was a usual practice when training a riding bird; more humane now that they could safely use fingers instead of the goad, but Silly didn't deserve that kind of treatment. She couldn’t stand by and watch this new kind of bird receiving it.

She sighed and scratched all around Silly’s earholes until he quit panting.  Then she tapped the saddle and he crouched all the way to the ground, for her.  She swung her leg over, hiking up her skirts shamelessly, tucked her knees under the fighting straps, setting the toes of her slippers into the loops, securing her veils under her knees.  “Hami... would you hand me the ruins of my veil, please?”

He looked annoyed but handed it up, Silly snapping at the trailing end as it went by.  Dag let Silly grab the tough silk and leaned forward to catch the other end.  Silly shook his head and she let him, then pulled on one end so that as he tugged... the same way he played tug-war with her... his head came around and he looked at her with one eye.  Then she ‘let him win’ so he shook the fabric, and then she pulled his head around the other way.

The feather-spitter had his arms crossed over his chest, frowning as she repeated the game, with Silly still crouched on the ground.  “So... I’m to tell our Director that you’ll be training as a warrior now?” He was almost rude, watching her invent a new way to control a warbird.

She clucked to Silly to get him to rise and stand.  He’d learned that, first thing, and responded promptly.  “We’ll see,” she said, from her higher viewpoint.  “Troops need support as well as more warriors.  I’ll tell her myself.”

He sniffed, making his plain warrior's veil bell out, and took himself off.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Weird Spam Comments Continuing

The comment moderation continues.  No, the blog did not eat your 'long comment'.  I spotted that your website link had to do with sex, porn, financial software, or hot blonds/brunettes/redheads/twins and marked it as spam.  I'm not going to 'drop you an email'.

To all my legitimate readers... I should have started saving the most awful of the spam since they are sometimes funny Ingrish spoked here and are so wildly off the mark that I blink at them sometimes.

The 'template' for such spam churned out relentlessly from third-world software sweatshops has showed up on a few blogs and makes for a fun once read.  Kind of like 'ah, that's how they create such crap so fast'.

I'm working on the next post and have two stories to finish this week.  I also have to do government gymnastics to get the truck into the country legitimately.

Life goes on!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

68 - "I'm Afraid That's Not Possible"

“Sooo... you’re not real?”  Hara sat down on the floor, still finding the slowness of her motion unsettling.

“Of course I’m real!”  The young man looked at the edges of the box he was in.  “I don’t see you.”

“I don’t want to be seen.  You make me uncomfortable.”  It was the oddest thing.  It... he responded as if he were real.  Of course this was code.  “What are you?”

“I... sir, am a watcher program now transformed into ‘first contact’!”  He sounded almost proud of himself.

“First contact?”  She prepared to ease out of this odd moon room.  “You aren’t an owner, are you?”

“Oh, heavens no!”

The dismay obvious on the face and in the voice was enough to reassure her, so she settled  back to her seat-bones, however lightly. “Good.”

“You people aren’t...” the young man’s image paused.  “Sorry.  I don’t have the appropriate response set... My programmer did not leave appropriate instruction for ‘rebellious citizen’ responses.”

“Rebellious citizen?  I’m not rebellious!”  Hara huffed and sat up so that the image could precieve her.  “I’m an owner myself!”

She clapped a hand over her mouth.  That was a bad idea.  Oh dear.

The image stared at her, then looked over her shoulder as if looking for something, or someone.  “Aaaaaaaaa....” the sound went on quite a lot longer than it should have.  “Lady?  Where is your Keeper?  Who may I speak to?”

“Me,” she said flatly.  More of this anti-woman nonsense.  

“I’m Haraklez Vania ah Ruikart.  My father is Ilaxandal Vania ah Ruikart.”

“Ruikart...? Ah.  Oh, my.  Are you descended from the Bio-Technician First Class Ruikart?”

“I don’t know.”

“Of course.  Do you mind if I speak to you as if you were male, then, Hercules Vania Ruikart?”


“A variant.”

“I’m Haraklez, thank you very much.  Now it’s time you answered some of my questions.  You said something in answer to ‘What are you’ that made no sense to me.  Try again, please.”

“Of course.  I’m a program designed to turn on, if your ‘image/response/biomarkers’ impinged on the code that my programmer created.  He’s Terence and I look like him as you might remember, or he looks like me.  I’m a very simple program but designed to engage you in polite conversation.”

“And record my responses.”  She rose and eased out of range of the screen, careful now not to bounce herself up to the ceiling.  “Terence is an owner.”

“Oh, no, Haraklez Vania Ruikart.  Terence is, himself, a ‘rebellious citizen’.  He is in a great deal of danger just having made me and all other programs like me.”

She stopped where she stood by the door.  “Is he?  Perhaps I would like to speak to him.  Perhaps we have common cause?”

“I suppose Haraklez Vania Ruikart –“ “Just Haraklez will do—“ “Certainly, Haraklez.  It is possible.  Shall we continue speaking?”

“No.  I think I want to speak to this Terence person directly, without giving you any more information about me, rather than let you record me.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry.  I don’t have a solid connection with Terence right now.  The Font of All Knowledge’s security systems are too active to allow me to do more than keep a bare minimum of connection with Terence when he is home on Xanadu.”

“When is he coming back?”

“I don’t know.”