Wild, that’s all I can say about the place. The cool air held scents I found new and stimulating. Better yet, I’ve survived so much that now seems less threatening than frightening. All I can say is, we will miss Chassy. Did the flood kill him, her? or will we meet again?
See, my family are emissaries representing several manufacturers, corporate farms and services. We joined forces with our gingak neighbors and trading allies to Celoņa, a star system a parsec or so from ours. Our purpose, to open negotiations for new trade, and possible alliances.
I tried to make friends with the gingak children. I don’t care who or why, just friends. Except the lighter skinned ones, children of the dignitaries, seemed cool to the idea. That turned frosty when I succeeded with the darker skinned ones. Me, I think people are people. They thought there are people, and then there are people.
We loaded into the slip-ship cab, which locked into the slip-ship frame, which passed the plasma-rail-coupling-slip-gate just fine. Then we hit the Deneran Junction Ports and Station, and waited our turn at the gate that would take us to Celoņa. The place was interesting. I wandered the halls with Ce, my new friend, tried some of the cafés and canteens, the ones I could eat at, that is, and tried our best to stay out of trouble. Not going to happen.
First, there’s this little pop. It opened a plasma conduit at a wet bar we were enjoying the people at and Ce could cool herself in a pool. In the ensuing chaos several of us where herded into a Celoņan utility van and whisked off the station. Naturally, station security gave pursuit. Neither they nor the pirates wanted us dead, bad for business. Until we crossed some forbidding line in space, that is, some kind of nature preserve. The Celoņans started shooting something a bit more dangerous. Let’s just say the mild pings to the hull became crackling thuds. The pirates went from jovially firing back to trying to keep going where they were going.
Then things went from wild to terrifying. The port side of the van warped, like water might when a rock is dropped into it. It killed the hamazakaran watching us for trouble, half trying to keep her feet, half keeping her disruptor pointed at us. Like there’s a one among us with the heat to take her down. Then that wave and she became a messy pile of bone and goo at the top of the bulkhead. Really, that’s when the terror started. The slip-jockey had trouble keeping the van on course. We could tell because the graviplates failed, forcing us to cling to what or whomever for our lives. Oh, I was so glad for Ce’s flexible tail. She kept me close, even when I’d lost my grip.
Ten micks of that and we could feel the change as we entered a planet’s plasma well. Not that it got better. The jockey barely kept us from free falling. It sure impressed me, I tell you. Then we hit the ground hard, and bounced. No, inertia didn’t tell all that. The bulkhead that had been warped shattered like window glass. That also let me see the pursuit van, also in free fall, land even harder, breaking into dozens of pieces. When we hit again it was in a river. Packing crates and hostages flew all over that place. No, I didn’t see that part. I only know because when Ce woke me up at the river’s bank I could see the mess. Not all of it was pretty. The slip-jockey now had three pieces to his body, and his badly, space mangled antlers kept his head and upper spine suspended from that tree just fine, while his leg slipped down the throat of a monster I’d never seen before.
The escape exhausted Ce, so I pulled her deeper into the jungle. Now all I’d need to do is find us all something to eat–my tester rested nicely in my pouch–and keep myself from getting chilled. The jungle was moist, very moist, and very warm, so that wouldn’t be a problem. If it did get cold, sorry, I’m lost. I left my thermals back in our slip-ship cab.
Well, we survived, the five who survived that, two of the pirates who did alright in the jungle. Their company came to reclaim what’s theirs, contraband and hostages, and see what they could find while on this forbidden planet. That didn’t go so well. Of the eight hostages only three of us survived, and we were nowhere to be found. Did you think we were going to trust them with our lives and survival? Well, honestly, there were a couple of times I’d thought about it. Ce wouldn’t hear of it, and neither would Chassy, the Bodhi Dhom candidate from the xendrai people. Surprising to me, I didn’t need to go hungry so much. Just about anything I tested was edible to me. It’s like we came from the same planet, or something.
Anyway, we watched while the pirates’ bosses yelled at them for losing the most valuable part of the cargo, the hostages, when we slipped into a new world. Don’t ask me how we did that. One moment we were watching, wondering where that smell came from, munching on termites, the next we were chilling ourselves under a much larger moon in a smellier bog. Before I got cold enough to worry, this rather large version of a xendrai crept up to us. Xe touched my head, then handed me some clothes. I say, if I could get this recipe back home we’d be as rich as the law would allow. Xe then told us, in a language we’d never heard before but for some reason understood very well, that we needed to travel west, that the swamp was not safe, not even for Chassy.
So, there you have it. We are now in a strange town called Hemehiem getting an education and wondering where is that place xe told us to travel too. Did we miss a turn off avoiding that bear?
My folks don’t always see it. We owe a lot to the grace of strangers. See, there’s this house, seemed empty. So, we took shelter there. The world had gotten chilly, and I’m not talking about the weather. In Kon-ę-childar one was either a person, or he was people. How does one become a person? One is born with a light complexion, a ridged tail and cowl, and all the rights and privileges of citizenship, good education and employment.
My folks aren’t like that, as you can see. Dark skin, darker than mine if you work on a farm or fishery. Long flexible tails help us swim quite well, and our cowls won’t sit still long, especially if we’re excited, if you know what I mean. Not that it would matter to any of you. Sorry.
So, there we were, resting in the cold room of that house, munching on what bread we had left when suddenly the door opens up, this man standing there quite shocked at our presence, looking just a little lost.
It looked like he meant to ask us something when the bell rang. He looked at his, rather highly priced, if you ask me, com-watch and muffled two words, only one was loud enough to hear, Brownies. He snatched an amphora from a shelf and left with the third ring. My sister, Jord’lean, could barely contain her fear. We had to cover her nostrils to make her open her mouth to keep the wheezing quiet.
Well, twenty micks later, a few boisterous laughs later he finally returned. He surprised us by offering us cheese and weak ale. Oh, and a cellar warmer than this one.
Two days later we were ‘escorted’ out of the neighborhood, then town, then Kon-ę-childar. It took two more months to find our mum. And it wasn’t just on the grace of those two.
Mum hadn’t been lazy. She’d landed that job with a sorent who tolerated us nakras only noticeable more than they did in Kon-ę-childar. We remained people working for persons who happened to be graced with public sector work, managing the legal framework of treaties and lesser contracts. We still weren’t allowed to learn reading, though our mum saw to it we spent a few gours violating that rule, and the one against learning to cipher, and we couldn’t play–as I think about it the only real difference between Kon-ę-childar and Kon-ę-sommerta is here they don’t go so far to kick you when you’re down.
Don’t know if that’s the story you wanted to hear. If you let us, Bo and I, dog your tables I assure you there’ll be no complaints because of it.