Saturday, June 28, 2014

34 - Scaly Chick-cowering Asses

Werfas looked over at Kyrus, his face protected from the tearing wind of flight by a clear shield that the Nadumon had come up with.  They actually said it was a Rumon idea.  He didn’t particularly care whose idea it was, as long as it worked.

Ilax was half distracted with his children coming and sending him and Elemfias and Kyrus flying out to meet them would calm his mind and let him work in code instead of worrying.

They swooped down on the camp ground and the reaction of the older warbirds was interesting.  Some crouched and began making ‘feed me’ chirps in their basso voices… others began stamping and waving crests and wings at their apparently flighted relatives in what looked like fight challenge.  Still others began hopping and uselessly flapping their tiny wings, making a noise that Werfas had never heard before… a plaintive, mournful honking.

They got their birds down as fast as they could before the Milari caravan lost all control and scattered to the horizons.  Maks and Ila were standing on their birds’ saddles, waving wildly, even as their mounts ran in circles, beaks open, trilling wildly under where their stepbrother, his wingbrother and their teacher were landing.  The pair of warbirds were orange with black stripes and red eyes… some of the new-breed birds.

“Hey! Ky! Hey! Wer! Wer! Zon!  You came to get us! Can we fly the rest of the way? The FireDrakes said no and they’re being nasty about it, saying they had no harnesses and if they did we could have been in the city days ago and the Hippifrei princess… she’s tied up tight, right? She’s not making bone monsters anymore is she? Hey, did you guys bring flying sticks for us?  Or can you make the FireDrakes fly us?”

Werfas was glad that his veil, plastered tight to the bottom of the face-shield hid his smile.  Maks and Ila jumped off their birds as they landed and came tearing over, to fling themselves at them.  He’d gotten so used to the Lainz propriety that he nearly laughed out loud as they continued to chatter at high speed and top volume.

As he caught Mak’s hug he cast a glance up at where the FireDrake ‘escort’ circled.  I’m not surprised you’re still up there, you cowards!

He hadn’t intended them to hear him but a faint chuckle was his response.  *Not our warbirds. Not our Caravan. *

*It most certainly is your Caravan you recalcitrant machines, * he thought back at them.  *They are going to be your programmers.*

*Oh. Comprehension. Alarm.*

Kyrus looked up at them as well. *Get your scaly cowering chick selves down here.  You are going to help us fly everybody home. Today.*

Friday, June 27, 2014

33 - Lady May I?

As they walked along the pathway up the cliff-face, he didn’t look at her but said “You didn’t have to come and fetch me personally.”

She had her over-veil on and he couldn’t see her eyes so he had no idea what was behind the blank cloth.  And the long silence.  “I realized that.  Would you have come out if I weren’t standing right under your nose?”

It was his turn to be silent for more than a few breaths.  “Ah. No.”

“So I was correct in thinking that an Agador message or a Mom poke would have been ignored like a crazy street preacher?”

“You mean like someone denouncing the Font of All Knowledge?” He grinned.  “They usually get picked up by the lesser Immoderates and hauled away.

He thought he could hear a smile in her response. “Exactly.”

“You really need me and not just Mom?”

She stopped and turned to face him.  He could just see her eyes and was suddenly glad he had the protection of a layer of cloth between them.  “Terence Cameron… I don’t know exactly how that damned Prime taught you…but it is imperative for us… we cannot win if you keep this up… that you stop this habit of yours, of running yourself down.  You know what you know and you have promised to help.  Do less than your best and you will be foresworn.”

He twitched a bit as if she’d just punched him in the stomach.  “How old are you, exactly?”

She tossed her head and turned to head to the bridge.  “I told you.  Besides, in Lainz no one knows my birthday… only Ky’s.”

“Hmmm.” He followed after her, staring at the back of her head as they stepped out from under the shade of the Rim Gate.  Siwion. You’re used to being the one in the centre of attention.”

She snapped around and stopped in the middle of the roadway, crowds pouring around them, most of them going in to the city. “Why you well um er…” She sputtered, then drew a deep and audible breath.  “I’m used to being privileged, you mean?”

“This is going to be a very stop and start conversation if we keep on like this, Hara.” He locked his hands at the small of his back.  She dropped back beside him and even if he couldn’t see, her stance under the veil hinted that she’d just taken up the same posture he had.  “Yes. I suppose.” She sighed.  “Kyrus… well… he is a younger version of you.”

He stopped himself from stopping but stumbled.  “What? Um…”

She’d gotten ahead of him again.  “You don’t have to worry… I’m not propositioning you.  We might all get wiped out next week if Prime figures out our deceptions.  I want to come with you.”


“You said that already.”

He snapped his mouth shut.  “You’re not propositioning me?”

“Is that all you heard?”  By this time they were on the first bridge and instead of stopping, she walked faster.

“No! No! I heard the rest of it… I’m just not used to listening to lighter voices...” he let his trail away.  It wasn’t what he wanted to say. It wasn’t what he meant. She turned toward him, slowly, her steps slowing as well.  “That’s not what I mean… I mean… I… don’t know.” He flung his hands in the air.  “My life is ruined and I don’t know how to say anything anymore!”

“Maybe we should let our hormones be and just focus on the war?”

He couldn’t tell if she were joking or not and finally just shrugged.  “Yes.  That sounds good.  Um… lady… may I court you if we survive?”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

32 - Sandals. Sandals Would Have to Do

He sighed, heavily.  “I’m not saying you’re my father coming to whip me out of bed.  But give me a moment.”  He dragged himself out of the clutch of pillows, pulling his trousers on completely, fastening his cuffs.  He didn’t feel terribly guilty about leaving her to sit outside while he put himself together because Agador had designed the overhang and waiting area of his little cave pocket.  He hadn’t cared much as long as the machines left his refuge alone but the tiny lip of rock hid a miniature pool and a place to sit and more Earthan green plants than would normally have sprouted here by themselves.  It was a tiny puddle of shade, green and cool.

He slid out of the pile and stepped to the door, barefoot, running a hand through his hair to push it back off his face.  That was one thing he missed from home.  In the back garden of the townhouse there was a carefully tended patch of green grass, smooth and clipped, just for the express purpose of walking on, barefoot.  Only in private though. He wiggled his toes and just couldn’t make himself drag anything over them.

“Come in,” he said grouchily.

“Thank you,” she said and stepped through the mist wall that blocked that strange, glaring light.  Another thing.  Surely the sunshine was the same… but on Xanadu there was so much green it was possible to rest one’s eyes.  Here everything was sullen orange, eye-searing yellow, tear inducing white, a red strong enough to make one sneeze.  She was wearing a cool looking blue-green veil that was very easy on his eyes and her eyes over the edge of it crinkled at him as she smiled.  “Terence.  I’m so sorry that we can’t let you work through your discomfort with our life here.”

He closed his eyes and waved at a cushion.  “Please, do sit down, Haraklez,” he said firmly, even as his head ached with how different everything was.  “I quite understand that your fathers need me to be ready to subvert Station if I can.  Surely they don’t need my actual presence until the attempt to actually get me to the Station…” he hesitated.  “I mean you’re not ready to send me up now are you?” He looked around a little frantically.  If that was the case…

“—No! Oh no, Terence, we’ve just come up with a couple of possible ideas… actually Mom proposed them.  If they work I’m sure we’ll test them tomorrow.  We won’t be ready for any kind of attempt for at least two days!”

“You realize that is phenomenally fast development of something so complicated,” he said.  “Two days?”

She shrugged.  “That’s why I came to get you.  We don’t want to just do this and set you into Mom without having any kind of input into the whole process.”

He stared at her and then just flopped back onto the cushions from where he stood.  “Set me into Mom… just strap me in and away I go…” he chuckled at that… the image of him being bundled into the emergency vehicle as though he were a drunk being hurried into a carriage just suddenly tickled him.

“All right.  I’ll get ready and come with you.  I have no argument with any of that… oh… that murderous child. Is she?”

“The school has her locked down tight.” Hara tried not to twitch at the thought of Alissa.  “Amardad has recovered enough to begin finding out what kind of lessons she’ll need. Apparently she’s absolutely enamoured of Homa, and keeps giving her what she thinks are sweet little bone toys.”

“Oh dear.” He really didn’t want to think of the monstrosities the child was apparently building, even cut off from the planetary programs as she was.  Hara’s absolutely smooth tone told him more than he wanted to know.  “Well…” he couldn’t manage to pull on his boots over sweaty feet.  They were riding boots for horses anyway.  What did he need them for?  To hurt his feet on the roads and sand and rocks here?  Sandals.  His sandals would do.  And his hat.  He set the overly warm thing on his head, snapped his sun-goggles over his eyes.  “Shall we go?”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

31 - I'm Not Your Mother

Alissa and all her horrors has been a charming distraction, I’m sure, Haraklez thought to herself.  It doesn’t change the fact that we have less than two weeks to get into orbit, subvert Station, and get our message out to what Mom calls ‘The Advisory Board Lawyers’.  I have no idea what an Advisory Board Lawyer IS.  Much less a ‘Company of Company Marines’.  Mom assures me that the so-called Marines are the teeth that will make Prime stop trying to kill us.

Apparently Prime does have to answer to someone else… a ‘Board’.  A group of businesses who keep each other in check. They… the board members… are the rulers of what Mom calls ‘Corporate Space’. Prime is violating their rules here.  In fact, Stepapa and Pa, and Head and even Alissa, are Board members, because they’re descendants of planetary owners. Apparently they have the right of appeal, if only they can get a message out.

I suppose that means I will be a Board Member one day.  Is the criterion for that membership merely my blood and bone?  Does that mean that Terence will not be?  Do we have to accept that culture?  I mean Prime set up this horrible culture, where everyone has their place and everyone has limits on their knowledge.  His horrid ideas about women… as if they are insensate incubators.  Or fleshly statues to be venerated, controlled, and placed here and there to beautify the landscape.

She shook her head as she closed the office door behind her, leaving the think tank building variation models of ‘parachute’ or ‘balloon’ sandsheets.  Agador, Mom and One were in there helping.  Terry wasn’t.  He was sulking again and Agador had made clear that he wasn’t coming out any time soon.

I just have to fix that if I have to drag him out by the ear and shake him.


“Terence…” The whisper in his head was very quiet, and he turned his head, covering it with a heavy cushion as if he could block it out physically.  He’d found a pocket in the canyon rock that he’d lined with cushions and rugs because he found himself wanting to actually remove himself from M.O.M.’s presence sometimes.  It was part of his depression that he was looking for solitude, however spurious it was because he had Agador and Mom and One all lurking in his head.

“Terence… I’m sorry to interrupt your privacy…” He buried himself deeper in the nest of cushions.  The Lainz were treating him like a prince and just gave him the materials… the rugs and the tapestries and the bolsters and pillows

“Go away, Agador.”

“Mom informs me that Haraklez is on her way to speak to you.”  Terry popped his head out from under his cushions, sweaty and dishevelled.

“Oh, no!  Agador, tell her I’m busy!”

“She inquired of Mom where you were and confirmed with me, but she is still on her way despite us telling her you wanted privacy..”

For a moment all he did was stare before he scrambled out, flinging soft furnishings in every direction. “Shit on the First Page!” he bellowed and began rooting through the jumbled mountain for his clothing. “Ink and sand and paper and blank screen!” He jammed one foot into his trousers, hopped on the unstable surface before falling onto his back, fighting to pull his trousers up from that position, ankle flapping as his foot caught and stuck somewhere around the knee.

The linen shirt slid over his head, all askew, laces hanging and he fumbled with the cuffs, forelock falling in his eyes when a solid clap sounded outside in lieu of knocking.  “Terence?  I’m sorry to interrupt your solitude, but we need you.?”

He froze where he lay.  “Go away…” he drew a deep breath.  Not only was she a woman, with no keeper, she was the local equivalent of a princess. “Please.”

“Terence.  I’m not your mother come to call you down for your behaviour.  We need to talk.”