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Give Them A Chance, part 2 - Hekatverse

Location: POW Camp 3, Isle of Sheppey
“Evening Raxicarifallatorus, just a quick one. It’s been a few weeks since we last talked, hasn’t it?” That was true, Raxicarifallatorus had been doing too much to attend his regular meetings with Joe. But Joe had been fine with that, he’d understood, and just politely requested that he make sure to pop around at some point.
“You need to stretch after the f, like you’re saying rifffall.” In return for Joe’s work counselling him, he’d begun teaching how to pronounce various Halxian words, including his name.
“Do I? Damn, thought I’d gotten it perfect that time. Ah well. How’s it been? You’re at… 6 months in the camp, correct?”
“Yes, passed that two days ago.”
“Interesting. Do you know what’s important about this month?”
“No.”
“It’s 1 year, 3 months, since the invasion started. By our estimates, the reinforcements would have arrived roughly around now, had we not won. Now, we just have to look out for the second attempt at invading.”
“Forgive me for asking, but why have you brought this up?”
“No problem. We’re looking at getting a lot of people out of here very soon, you included. Technically, I wasn’t supposed to mention that, but I don’t see much of a problem with it. You’ve behaved perfectly, you’ve taken well to the stuff we’ve discussed here, and you’ve made excellent progress with the history stuff we’ve given you. I’ve even heard words that you’re coaching another prisoner to read, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I have been doing that.” Raxicarifallatorus enjoyed his chats with Joe, but the man was terrible at getting to the point.
“Excellent. So yes, we’re probably going to let you go. But before we do that, we need to talk about what you’ll do next. What do you reckon you’ll do when we let you out of here?”
“Find work I assume. I’ve tried my hand at cooking, and I’d like to work in something like that. Plus travel the planet, as soon as that becomes an option obviously.”
“Not a bad answer. Lotta Hekatians I’ve talked to don’t have the slightest clue. Good news is that they finally got around to making sure you’re all covered by welfare, so you’ll be secure enough.” Raxicarifallatorus had heard a lot about what the government had been up to over the past few months. He was surprised at the amount of laws they’d put out that specifically included his people, but then, considering what he’d heard all those months ago from Joe, perhaps he shouldn’t be.
“Aren’t they going to run elections soon?”
“Ah yes. They’re making some changes to how it all works though, to account for population changes, bringing in new systems, etcetera. Did you know they’re talking about creating a couple of special MPs, without a constituency, just to represent the Hekatian community? There’s more of you than there are people in most cities here, so you gotta have representation, especially since your issues are quite a bit different from ours. Maybe you should have a look at running, that’d be nice.”
“Wait, I could run?”
“You meet every condition. Didn’t commit any war crimes, perfect record in prison, etc. The government is salivating at the thought of getting to show their commitment to reconciliation. And you’d do a decent job of it. Of course, you’d have to pick a party, run for it, and then actually win, but you probably could. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. The reason I got on this tangent, was that I want to talk to you about what happens when the Empire comes back.” Ah, there we go, the big issue. The Humans didn’t talk in “if’s” regarding a second invasion, they talked solely in “when”.
“Took you long enough.”
“You know me too well. The thing is, by our best guesses, we here won’t be the main target of a second attempt. It’ll be somewhere else, god only knows where. We’re tooling the army up as best we can to make it an expeditionary force, and when the time comes, we’ll send everything we can to go and assist whoever is hit. It’s only fair given what they did for us. Part of that involves us getting guns together, but we also need bodies. People who’re willing to fight. You’ve heard of the Hekatian Free Army, right?”
“Of course, ex-soldiers who’ve pledged to fight alongside you.” The HFA represented about a battalion’s worth of strength currently, and were adamant that they were under no nation. Their soldiers may be citizens of whichever country would take them in, but the HFA itself was independent, at least as independent as you could be with UNCO calling strategic shots.
“Yes, well, we’re intending on forming a British-Hekatian force. It’d be under British control, then subordinated to UNCO, and we’d manage everything like it was a regular unit, just filled with Hekatians. Don’t worry, before you ask, we’re not demanding you join. What we are suggesting, is that if you are interested, you either sign up as a reservist, who we call to action and train up when war happens, or you do monthly training to keep you fresh and acclimatised to our tactics as we refine them. If you’re really gung ho, then you can join full time, but you don’t seem the type who wants that. What are you thinking?”
“How many have you got to pledge already?”
“2 regiments reservists, a battalion’s worth of active full timers.”
“Fuck it, I’m in. Give me that monthly one.”
“Ah, we’re getting to you already. You swore in English there.”
Location: Salisbury Plain Training Area, Wiltshire
“Hey, Raxicarifallatorus! Over here!” The voice shouting his name was familiar, Raxicarifallatorus thought. Focusing his long distance eyes across the crowd of Hekatians on the field, he could see why.
“Alknurtyb, I didn’t know you were alive!” Alknurtyb was an old friend from basic training, one that Raxicarifallatorus certainly didn’t expect to see here. He’d gone into medical training after basic, which was probably responsible for the big red cross the Humans had painted on his armour.
“Of course I am! No matter what they throw at me, I’ll never be put in the ground.”
“You also going to tell me you’re a day away from retirement? Or that you’re about to get married to the love of your life?”
“Aha, that’s more like it. You another weekend warrior then?”
“Pardon?”
“That’s what the Humans call us monthly reservists. I don’t have a clue where they got it from, but they like saying it.”
“Ah, yes, that’s what I’m up to now. I’m full time at a new restaurant they’re opening up, you see.”
“Are you? Never figured you for a cook. I’ve been working for the military directly you see. They flew me to some other country, Russia I think it was, got me to do a few tests for physical capacity, sit in a few devices of theirs, and they’ve been asking for my guidance on treating Hekatians. Plus I showed them how some of my gear works.” Raxicarifallatorus was about to ask more questions, when he heard the sound of a Human clearing their throat. Turning around, he found a woman standing on top of an APC.
“Uh, hello everyone! I’m Major Bone, and I’ve been assigned to try and develop cooperation between regular Human infantry units and our Hekatian units. We’ll be running regular exercises, to try and hammer out a joint doctrine. We’ll be showing you how to work with some of our stuff, you’ll show us how to work with some of yours, and so on, hopefully by the end of it we’ll be able to work together properly. Are there any questions?”
“Aren’t you a little young for a Major?” Someone shouted towards her.
“I’ve got plenty of combat experience from running rings around you lot, so shut it! Any questions from people who aren’t arseholes?”
“How are we doing this? Like, what equipment are we using?” Alknurtyb asked.
“Excellent question! We’re using a laser based system. We haven’t yet figured out how to make your guns fire blank ammunition, so unfortunately you’ll have to make do with no visual effects, but we’ve made some replicas that share their proportions and weight, and they will play sound effects. When fired, they produce a laser, which is detected by this sensor equipment we'll attach to your armour. If the laser produces a hit, it will simulate an injury, which requires medical attention. Very complicated, I know, but it should work!”
“I admire her optimism.” Raxicarifallatorus whispered to Alknurtyb, who laughed.
Location: Copehill Down, Salisbury Plain Training Area
“Ready? Grenade in, now!” Lieutenant Assaf shouted, and Raxicarifallatorus complied. He knocked the door in, Private Jolly throwing a flashbang inside. He looked away, just to be sure, before waiting for the characteristic detonation. Then he moved in.
Through the door, rifle raised. Soldier on the right, he’s too dazed to do anything, ignore for now. Another soldier, sheltering behind a sofa, raising their gun to fire at the attackers. Raxicarifallatorus pulled the trigger twice in quick succession, “killing” the target, but they still squeezed a single shot off after their equipment detected the hit, their brain clearly not processing their “death”. Raxicarifallatorus’s left arm sensor flashed once in response to the shot, but clearly decided it would have been stopped by the armour, allowing him to proceed. Behind him, Jolly edged into the room and killed the other target.
They’d gotten a nice pattern down. Hekatians entered rooms first, their superior armour letting them take a hit. Humans would act as the follow-up, their agility enabling them to quickly support their teammates. Initially they’d tried separate units, but that was simply not viable. So instead, they’d split the Hekatians up among Human units, one Hekatian in every fireteam, and brought in a few more units to join their games.
Outside, Raxicarifallatorus heard a tank rumbling down the road. The Humans might not be able to match the hyperrealistic sims used by Hekatian troops in their training, but they compensated for that, by just doing regular reality, and sticking enough safeguards in to keep it from getting all gory. Though he had heard more than a few rumours of careless tank drivers crushing soldiers during training, which he chose to not believe.
Jolly nodded to him, snapping him out of his daydream. He’d positioned himself against the door to the next room, and was almost bouncing on his boots, hyped up on adrenaline. Quick nod back, kick the door in, flashbang goes in. Gunfire greets the grenade, but no hits. Wait in cover, firing around the corner, before it goes off.
Raxicarifallatorus pushed through, his sensors flashing in response to the hostile fire. He spotted several of the soldiers firing their rifles over the back of their cover, allowing them to set up a hail of fire without having risked their sight. He blasted one‘s helmet with a few shots, before throwing himself to the floor.
Jolly charged in, his gun’s muzzle flashing as cartridge after cartridge was ejected from the side. The enemies were starting to raise their heads, confident they could get a better shot with the threat of flashbangs out of the way. Jolly responded by snatching his last grenade, and tossing it behind their position. It turned out this would be his last action, as his equipment began to flash, a signal that he’d been “injured” too much to proceed. He dropped to the floor near Raxicarifallatorus, in the kind of movement you did when you were invested in playing along, but didn’t want to have a rifle butt smack into your face as you dropped.
That left Raxicarifallatorus alone, and outnumbered. He kept laying rounds down, hoping to force the enemy soldier’s heads down for as long as possible. The ploy worked, the grenade going off, as another ally appeared at the doorway to give supporting fire. Within seconds, the final hostile had collapsed, their sensors flashing.
The friendly human advanced to the next door, gesturing towards Jolly, as if to say “you handle him”. Raxicarifallatorus complied, crawling over towards him. Jolly was fine, of course, he wasn’t actually injured or anything. But the system required medical care of some sort after a simulated injury, so Raxicarifallatorus pulled several bandages from his medical kit, and began applying them to Jolly at random. Back home, the simulations would provide proper representations of bullet holes, with blood that felt real, and visible wounds. That wasn’t possible with Human tech yet, so they opted to have the responder pick injury points around where the sensors flashed.
Raxicarifallatorus applied the bandages as fast as he could, Jolly grinning the whole way through. When he’d applied a separate dressing for every flashing sensor, Jolly got up, and reset his system, ending the flashes.
“Come on, that’s us done for the hour I reckon. Let’s get out of here.”
“I didn’t expect it to be this warm. Thought I’d have frozen to death.” Raxicarifallatorus whispered to Jolly as they lay in their sleeping bags, watching the training area through the darkness. It was the end of the day’s exercises, so they were safe from the threat of a night attack. Those was anticipated to come tomorrow, when the exercises would last a full 24 hours.
To be able to sleep, they’d been told to build a “basha”, a Human invention. When completed, it was a simple thing, forming a right-angled triangle shape. The hypotenuse was a camouflaged sheet, with holes in each corner, secured through a mixture of tent pegs and ropes attached to nearby trees.
Raxicarifallatorus had never seen anything like it in his life. In his Hekatian Army career, he’d slept either in nice proper barracks, or inside a heated portable tent, that could provide all the basic amenities. They were both wonderful things, of course, but they did have the slight flaw of being fiddly to set up. And being heavy. The basha was light, easy to set up, and small enough to be carried by anyone.
“Everyone expects that their first time, don’t worry.” Raxicarifallatorus’s worry had been caused by the fact it had no sides, or floor. When safely ensconced in their sleeping bags and “bivvy bag” combo, on top of a “roll mat”, this became more of an asset though. They had a close to perfect line of sight outwards, and with the knowledge that their fellow soldiers were watching their backs, it actually worked rather well.
“Suppose you had to have known it would work though.”
“Oh of course. We used these to run rings around you lot. I marched from Liverpool to Hereford, sleeping only in one of these. See, they’re perfect for infiltration, I can tell you. When you have to set up somewhere to sleep, in pitch black, they’re perfect.”
“Feels like it would be good for an observation post. You can see all the way out, and you’re so low to the ground, it’s super hard to spot when done right.” Raxicarifallatorus had the rather morbid thought that those qualities he was praising, had likely been partially responsible for many of his fellow soldier’s deaths.
“Definitely, definitely. You have anything similar?”
“We pitch our tents in woodlands, yeah, but nothing quite like this. They’re so much more advanced than what you have, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you… but then these are extremely good at what they do.”
“Classic paradox isn’t it. More advanced isn’t always better. Oh, by the way, you don’t snore in the night, do you?”
“What’s sno-ring?” Raxicarifallatorus had to pronounce that one in english, he’d never heard the word before now, and his translator didn’t catch it.
“I’ll take that as a no then, thank god. Night Raxic.”
“Night.”
Location: “Soho Scran”, Soho
“Nice work Raxic, you’ve been great all week. Here’s your packet.” Steve, manager of the takeaway Raxicarifallatorus worked at, gave him his pay for the month’s work. “Little bonus for being the only hand on deck that Tuesday.”
“No problem.” Raxicarifallatorus had come in one morning to find the rest of his coworkers crippled by food poisoning, after a full team visit to an upmarket restaurant. It seemed the virus had no effect on his biology, so he’d been left to handle the place by himself. By all accounts, he’d acquitted himself more than admirably in the process. “Back on Monday then?”
“Nah, take the Monday off as well. You’ve more than earned it.” Raxicarifallatorus nodded, and walked out the door, heading for the nearest tube station. Going down the street, he passed several new pieces of graffiti. Mostly they were the regular tags, but a few seemed to be targeted insults, usually at certain enemies of whoever wrote it. Raxicarifallatorus saw a man working at cleaning some of it off, specifically a message in red paint where the visible part read “ENOS OUT!”. Raxicarifallatorus had the feeling the full message was not particularly friendly.
He kept going, passing quite a lot of Humans as he went. Most paid no mind to him, a few nodding or smiling, while a couple actively averted their eyes. Notably, a small gang of men seemed to take notice of him, quickening their pace as he passed. Raxicarifallatorus sped up, passing a series of glass fronted restaurants while trying to get to the station before they could catch him. Then, he swore, realising that no matter what, they’d still be able to outrun him. He was sprinting down the pavement now, the men still in a jog.
They were toying with him, he was certain of it. Looking back, he saw them break into a run, quickly closing the distance. Raxicarifallatorus decided to stop, reasoning that running might only make the situation worse. One of the men grabbed him, pulling him towards a nearby alleyway, while another pulled a knife out.
“What’s the matter, you slow four-eyed bastard? Never seen a knife like this before?”
“What the fuck have I ever done to you? Do you think they’d let me out into the country if I’d done something criminal?”
“Not my fault the government goes too easy on you scum, they should have lined y-”
“Oi, hands in the air! Hands in the air! British Army, you’re under arrest!” The man stopped, his knife hanging in his grasp as he turned. Briefly, Raxicarifallatorus spotted a group of Humans bearing guns at the gang which had cornered him. “Trevor, disarm that man!”
“Put it down lad. On the ground, slowly. That’s right, perfect. Now, hands back in the air. Step away.” A man wearing a green t-shirt and camouflaged trousers and carrying a carbine approached the knife-wielder, as he slowly dropped the weapon.
Another uniformed woman then moved him up against the wall, her gun trained on him throughout. She gestured to the other men, and they joined him, a look of resignation upon their faces.
“You alright there mate? They didn’t do anything to you?” ‘Trevor’ asked once all were against the wall.
“No, I… how did you get here so fast?”
“Our section decided to stop after a patrol for a meal, saw you pass by the window of the restaurant at speed, and them lot following. Thought it might be something suspicious, turns out we were right.” The man who had originally shouted the halt order walked towards Raxicarifallatorus, talking as he did so. “Corporal Allen, glad you’re ok. Want a lift home once police are done with you?”
“Certainly fancy my chances more that way.”
“So, you an ex-soldier then? Or were you a contractor?” Corporal Allen asked as he turned the wheel of their JLTV. Raxicarifallatorus sat “shotgun” as the Humans called it, while the woman who had taken the men up against the wall sat in the back. That was apparently a safety measure, to prevent lone drivers from getting up to no good.
“Soldier unfortunately. Captured at Swindon, went the Class D route, ended up cooking for a takeaway.”
“Swindon? My brother fought there.” Raxicarifallatorus noted the past tense. There was an awkward silence, as all occupants thought about the implication that their families may have crossed paths violently.
“How did he…” Raxicarifallatorus decided to break the silence before it got too uncomfortable.
“Die? It was an accident, they were making a bomb, must have gone off in their faces. It would have been instant.”
“That’s terrible. I’m sorry for your loss.” A bus pulled into it’s stop, allowing them to speed past. The streets of London were apparently much quieter than they used to be, as the only vehicles on the road were military, buses, or vans dropping off products for stores to sell.
“Nah, it’s not your fault. Well, not your fault specifically. Probably. You have any family?”
“My parents passed away the year before I set out on the invasion. For surviving members, I have a cousin who was deployed somewhere up near Glasgow. Still not heard anything from him though.”
“That might just be bureaucracy. Gotta consider, your cousin could be dead, on the run, a Class A getting a guided tour of every lab in New York, Class B or D, or he could be C and currently on trial. Or even out in the world again. Lord knows how any of you keep track of each other under those circumstances.”
“Well, let’s hope he’s the last option. Oh, left here.”
“Thanks. You a religious guy, by any chance?”
“I’m a believer in Aligimito.”
“Is that the one where all religions are true at once?” The Humans had a hard time wrapping their heads around some of the belief systems of Hekatians. Then again, Raxicarifallatorus has struggled to understand the Human political systems, so the confusion was mutual.
“Yes, although I’m on and off in practising.”
“Does it have an afterlife, or a Heaven, or anything like that?”
“Sort of, well it’s complicated. You can choose which religion’s afterlife you adopt, upon death, and switch it up after adopting it.” Raxicarifallatorus saw they were coming up to his house.
“Well, let’s hope your parents, and my Charlie are in a good one then. Take care mate.”
“You too Corporal.”
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Pawn

So, as usual it's been a while but I emerge from my nest yet again! Here is another contender for a possible story I could follow up with next. I know people were interested in Apotheosis Siezed but I wanted to give options before settling on anything.
Without further ado here is Pawn! I hope you enjoy!
Neu Vieumau Joint Occupation Zone
Arana carefully held her pack close to her body as she peered out across the street, looking either way for activity. There was a squad of human soldiers in their dull blue armor just up the street inspecting a box hauler for some reason. But they soon moved on. The human soldiers always made her nervous. While the humans hadn’t stolen anything from her personally she’d had a lot of trouble with the various occupation forces since the end of the war. Everyone had. They kept promising that the new round of reforms would fix things. Yet, here they were.
Once the soldiers had moved on she carefully picked her way across the street. The various vehicles spread across the street were all in poor state. Some missing their wheels and stacked up on blocks. A few looked like they might be functional, even if the paint was mostly stripped or they had mismatched doors. Just about all the buildings around here had some form of damage done to them leftover from the war. Though this neighborhood was mostly intact. Not like her home in Shadowbrook. Half the buildings there were just rubble. It was low on the priority list for the Urban Reconstruction Corps.
As she walked she noticed a few others on the street as well. Just like her they were moving with purpose, heads down typically. If one didn’t look around too much they wouldn’t be able to see what was wrong in New Vieumau. To think it was once so well known for artists, academics, and as much free thinking as free parties. It might not be the home she once knew, but she still hoped she might one day see it restored to its former glory. Even if she didn’t intend to stick around through this current phase of… redevelopment.
Which is why she was here. She paused as she looked up at the shop before her. Unlike the other buildings this one had been patched up. Bullet holes plastered over, and new masonry patching up damage from the war. The owner must have done the work personally. While she knew the human letters she still wasn’t sure what it meant exactly. “Pawn Shop.” She knew that it really meant barterstore, but wondered what the human term meant. Feeling a little nervous she took out her small compact mirror to look at her face. Her horns were polished and sharpened. Her hair was clean. She gave a big smile to make sure her teeth were free of bits of food. Finally she gave her tail a quick wiggle as if to encourage herself.
Then she opened the heavy door and stepped inside. It wasn’t like the stores she was used to. There was a big main room with what looked to be heavy stronglass separating the customers from the goods beyond. None of the aisles or shelves she would normally browse. Just floor to ceiling panels of stronglass isolating the owner and goods behind it from the outside world. She could even see what looked like a few scorch marks, scratches, and divots where people had obviously tried to break it.
In front of each panel was a sturdy looking console bolted to the floor with a swipe screen on it. It took her a moment to realize that besides the various items and goods she could see each console could be checked for more goods not on display. But she was mostly focused on a large vidscreen set behind the stronglass.
“Offworld tickets.” That was what she came here for. But she sighed when she saw that instead of prices it displayed: “Updating.” Looking around she didn’t see the owner, or any clerk so she carefully stepped closer in to start looking at the goods on the shelves. She wasn’t surprised to see a section dedicated to rations and medical supplies. While the worst of the long starve was over food security was still important. Not to mention getting meds from the occupation authority was like pulling scales off a razormink.
However beyond that she noticed a much larger variety of more… seemingly random offerings. Old fashioned physical books, art supplies, musical instruments, knives, jewelry of every shape and size, boots, hauler parts, computer parts, bot parts, so many parts! Then she neared the edge of the store and paused as she looked over a section that actually interested her. Old fashioned physical games!
She saw an incredibly detailed Devious Confessions board. She hadn’t played that game in ages... Then there were a few sets of Dashings, plus some of those Krenka games she recognized even if she never played. Every species seemed to have a few games on display. Though her eyes then settled on an incredible black and white board she’d never seen before with little detailed pieces arrayed across from one another. One side was dazzlingly white, as if just the smallest bit of light would be reflected and make each piece glow, while the other side looked to be so dark and shadowy she had trouble focusing on each piece even just before her face.
“Interested in chess?” The sudden human voice made Arana gasp and jump back, dropping her pack as she raised her fists to ward off a surprise attack. She even tilted her head to bring her horns to bear if need be. But instead of some hidden ambusher she just saw a human behind the stronglass, hands raised. “Whoa! Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Oh.” Arana straightened up then and dropped her hands, somewhat sheepishly tugging the strap of her pack to pick it back up and hug it. “Apologies. I didn’t expect a human.” She studied his face for a moment. Tan flesh, simple yet practical merchant’s attire, brown hair with speckles of white around his temples. She noticed a bit of grease and oil along his hands and forearms, plus a number of tools tucked into the pockets of his apron. Tiyava hadn’t mentioned this merchant would be human…
To her great surprise however he then spoke up in Divine. “[Wouldst thou prefere instead to converse in the tongue of the Divine? Many shadows across the moon have passed since this humble proprietor has had chance to partake of the great barter under the eyes of one of Swagin’s faithful.]” Arana shuddered a little. He sounded just like a shadow bishop.
“That’s okay.” She replied back in human. “My human is pretty good. If you don’t mind?”
“It’s called English, but yes you do speak it well. I only meant to try and set you at ease.” The human explained, obviously having no idea he had done just the opposite. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had someone speak to her in Divine and not had it be part of a lecture during the Great Feast, or Suffering Moon.
“This is your store?” She asked, trying to set her mind a bit more at ease.
“It is.” The human nodded. “My name is Gustavo Clay. Though most just call me Clay. You’re free to do so as well if you like.”
“Clay…” She spoke the word carefully for a moment and nodded. “I am Kwansularanadivo. You may call me Arana.”
“It is nice to meet you Arana.” The human nodded and then walked along the backside of the stronglass and shelves to point at the board she had been looking at before. “I saw you admiring the chess board. Are you interested?”
“It’s beautiful.” She nodded a moment. “It is a human game?”
“It is.” He confirmed. “Very old. Lot of history. Though… I’ll admit I don’t care for it myself.”
“Oh?” She stepped back up to the window as he lifted a piece off the board and slowly turned it over, letting her see the detailed work. She had no idea what the piece was meant to represent but it looked well made even so. “What is the goal?”
“To take the opponent's king.” He held out the piece he had picked up. The king apparently. “Each piece has a set of movements it can make across the board. You take turns and try to capture pieces and win the game.”
“You don’t care for it?” She asked and the man shrugged.
“Just because it’s got history doesn’t mean it’s a great game. Only two players, and kinda stuffy for my taste. But you’re welcome to it obviously.” He tapped on a button in the back and she saw the screen of the console switch to various views of the chess game he had.
“I am looking for a good game to play on a ship. I like to find a game when I travel and teach it to other passengers. It’s… rewarding.” She nodded a little as she felt that human word worked.
“Ah, a travel game? Might I recommend…” He moved over and instead picked up a small bit of carved wood that had a little compartment in the bottom and a set of tiny holes on top. “A cribbage board, and a deck of cards.” He opened the compartment to reveal small pegs, and then grabbed a deck of cards from somewhere behind the shelf.
“It looks… simple.” She frowned a little at the board.
“This is really just to track points. The main game is in the cards. You deal, then play numbered values to add up to certain numbers. Fifteen and thirty one mostly. But there’s various stages in the play which keep it interesting. Plus you can play with two, three, or four players. Here, you can download the rules free.” He motioned her to the console once more and she saw a burst code show up.
Tugging her phone free of a pocket she waved it across the console, confirmed the download, and then saw a new icon appear. Tapping on it she found a list that made her blink. “How many variations of this game are there?”
“Oh, that’s just for all card games. I highly recommend traveling with cards. The amount of games is… there’s a lot. And it’s cheap. Just one credit for the deck.” He held up the cards behind the stronglass.
“And the board?” She nodded at the carved wood.
“Six credits.” Seven credits for a simple, yet nice wooden board, those pegs, and a deck of cards that could be played… She glanced at the app for a moment and marveled at the sheer scale of options. Yet, that chess board was so gorgeous… and the pieces as well… It would give her an air of sophistication. That might be important for her new life. She needed to reinvent herself after all.
“How much is the chess board?” Maybe she could get both? Seven credits after all was a very nice meal. Two lesser ones maybe. She could skip a bit of eating.
“Four hundred credits.” The human announced.
“Four hundred credits?!” Arana gasped. “Loopacooni! Even for an opening bid that’s outrageous!”
“It’s not an opening bid. That’s the price. It’s a collector’s item of… some variant. I forget but I’ve done the research.” He insisted.
“What sort of bartershop doesn’t come down off an offer like that for a boardgame?” Arana countered.
“Who said this is a bartershop?” The human asked with a frown. “It’s a pawn shop. Not the same.”
“My friend Tiyava said you were.” Arana was beginning to wonder if this was the wrong place.
“Oh Tiyava? I know her. Wonderful lady. She has many trinkets to sell. I think this is… a minor translation issue. I will buy things from you, and also sell them. But I don’t engage in [haggletongue.]” He shrugged. “Did you have things you needed to sell?”
“Yes…” Arana nodded slowly. This had to be the place then. Tiyava only mentioned one fence for her hauls. “I want to get off world.” She nodded at the vid screen up above.
“Ah. Then maybe you do have the credits. Hold on.” She watched the human step back and reach up to tap a button on the screen before it flicked over and she saw a list update. There were only a handful of places that they could still reach these days with most of the gates ruined in the war. But she knew where she wanted to go.
Partizania Rai. The archipelago planet had once been a retreat for artists wanting to escape the city life of Neu Vieumau. Now it was trapped in limbo as tourism was no longer viable, yet they didn’t have much infrastructure for a fishing industry or… really any industry. Still. She knew her future was on that planet. Away from this mess. Find herself an island somewhere and just… subsist.
That is until she saw the prices as they began to display. “Loopacooni safisco kawksuhkwa jinero!”
“I can assure you I, nor my mother are all that bad.” The human replied even as Arana glared at him.
“This is mistake! Or lies! How can a ticket be sixtreen hundids! Chepist! Other only moah!” Her human was degrading in her anger but she couldn’t help herself as her tail quivered.
“This is the price. That sixteen hundred one is if you already have a travel permit. I should also note I only deal with a private ship. Guaranteed to get you there. You’d be the only passenger. No questions asked. Discreet. If you have a travel permit and don’t mind flying a public transport then by all means go to the spaceport.” Arana continued to glare at the human, unsure if he was purposefully saying that because he knew she wouldn’t have a permit or if he was genuinely trying to be helpful. “Do you have any skills that can be used on a ship? It’s not a service I typically advertise but I can arrange for a work passage system. Work on a ship for a few months to pay for your voyage.”
“What skills are useful on a ship?” She was sure she already knew the answer but... “Art?” The human just looked at her for a moment and very slowly shook his head. “Loopacooni…” She couldn’t let this stop her. She wouldn’t have much left over to start her new life… but she could still do this. She couldn’t let him know how badly she needed this. He said it wasn’t that kind of bartershop… but she still suspected it was. At least a little. It was 2300 for the next ticket… That actually seemed right to her. Travel permits were about a thousand to grease the right palms… He was providing a discount. Likely since he knew better palms to grease.
“Did you have something to trade?” The human asked next and she nodded, opening her pack as she very carefully pulled out a temperseal case holding her Aunt’s prized possession. Which she left for Arana in the Grand Farewell. “Something delicate then. Please.” The human motioned for her to place it in an object scanner set in the middle of the store. Setting the case in place she watched and waited as the scanner got to work.
She was rewarded with seeing his surprise as the image came up on the screen. “A Wonderland Rose?” It was nice to see the human hadn’t expected it.
“My aunt, taken into the great party of Swagin’s palace, left it to me.” She mentioned.
“Oh, [May she forever grace your memories with pleasure as jubilant as the party she celebrates in her death.]” Arana was still a bit unsure how a human knew so much Divine. Yet, she nodded.
“[Her celebrations in death shall echo pleasure across time and memory.]” She completed the polite return. But she felt a bit self conscious about her own pronunciation. His Divine was better than hers. She was much more used to decktongue with other Davari.
“I know you Davari grieve differently but I’d also say I’m sorry for your loss. If your aunt left this to you she clearly cared for you deeply. She might be enjoying Swagin’s party but I’m sure you’ll miss her as well.” Arana was further offset by the human’s words. It was something she had been thinking about lately, but the scriptures frowned on such sentiment… Still…
“Thank you… but do not think I will let up on price.” She countered, fearing this was a barter tactic.
“Hah… no I’m sure you won’t.” On the otherside of the stronglass the human tapped on a console to carefully rotate the image of the rose. “Mmhhh… it’s a secondary production.”
“What?!” Arana nearly yanked the temperseal case out of the scanner, fearing a trick. But when he zoomed in the image she could see in much smaller print on the bottom of the rose stem the production date. He was right… She had always assumed it was a first run! The value… Her heart began to sink in her chest…
“It’s still in immaculate shape and the second production had some benefits over the originals. Even if it's less rare…” The human muttered and then looked down as he typed into a dataslate he was holding. “I can offer you eighteen hundred.”
Arana was once more surprised, the offer seemed… good. Yet it didn’t matter… It wasn’t enough. She looked up at the board as her dream began to slip through her fingers… Where could she go? Huzata? Yes, because she wanted to live on a rock of dust and debris. Plus she’d still be broke once she got there. Janlim? Oh by Swagin’s knife all those polens… She nearly sneezed just thinking about it. The Traitor’s moon? No. Not even an option. Krassian’s moon? Maybe life in low atmosphere wouldn’t be so bad… She could still find a way to subsist in the oxy-fens…
“If you don’t mind me asking… I’m assuming you want to go to Partizania Rai?” Arana returned her focus to the human.
“I am.” She nodded.
“There’s a way… we could help each other.” Arana looked at the human and watched him carefully. Tiyava had never mentioned him being… overtly shady so she hoped that he wasn’t about to suggest what she feared. “I have something here you might be interested in.” She watched him move along the wall of stronglass to a display case that seemed to hold various trinkets and toys she hadn’t paid much attention to. “This is Jiji Numaske.” He pointed to what seemed to be nothing more than a toy robot of some kind. It was a little on the large side. Perhaps as long as her forearm. But… looked like plastic and nowhere near the fine material craftsmanship of the chess board she had admired earlier.
“What of him?” She asked and looked from the robot up at the human.
“He’s worth thirty six hundred credits to the right buyer.” Even as he said that she couldn’t help but laugh.
“You are telling me! This children’s play thing! Is worth more than a ticket to another world! With a travel permit!” She gasped out.
“I am.” He nodded slowly and her laughing trailed off. Now more curious about what he was getting at.
“How does this help me? I cannot afford it.” She reminded him.
“I said it’s worth thirty six hundred credits to the right buyer. I am not the right buyer. Unfortunately the right buyer hates me because he thinks I stole this from him. Which, before you ask, I didn’t. I knew how much it was worth and bought it up from a repo auction before he could. Now he refuses to buy it from me. So I have a very expensive piece of junk that no one wants to buy. Because no one other than a collector cares about it.” Arana looked from the human to the robot toy and back, waiting to hear where she came into this. “Do you know that tower two blocks over?”
“Past the Cathedral? The ugly teal one? Teal… is the color yes? Not green, not blue, trapped between in defiance of both?” She had trouble remembering human color names sometimes. Or really… most color names. When every language had its own names for colors and not all species saw colors the same… it could get confusing.
“Uh yes. Teal.” He confirmed. “Well, the collector lives there in the penthouse. So. You sell me the rose, and I give you Jiji here for what I paid for him. Sixteen hundred credits. And… two hundred more credits because the rose is worth eighteen hundred. You, then take this to the collector and you get the full value. Come back here and you get your ticket offworld today. The ship is actually in the starport right now.” He checked his watch and she tensed up a little.
Was this a trick? A ploy? Or was he being serious? The notion of limited time made her nervous… She could leave the moment she had her ticket. What was in her pack was all she wanted with her for her new life… It had to be a trick. Why trust him? It didn’t fit. “I don’t know you. Why do this? Why not have Tiyava do it?”
“Ah… your friend is nice but… She never has sixteen hundred credits to pay my cost for the toy.” The human shrugged.
“I’m not trusting…” Arana held her pack close to her chest as she thought it over. “What if toy is worthless and you just… swindle grift me?” The human eyed her carefully then just as she eyed him in return. He took a moment and brushed at the greying edge of his hair while he seemed to think.
“That’s… fair… Okay… How about this. I give you Jiji here. You go get the credits. Come back. And either buy the tickets and sell me the rose then, or just buy the ticket and get less credits for your trip.” This also made Arana frown… this now seemed… too lenient? Why would he trust her if they had just met? Surely this human was as wary of her as she of him?
“Why would you trust me with this then? I might run off with your precious toy.” Arana did her best to study the human now. Trying to remember all she could about their body language.
“I know that sometimes we must trust one another. That to benefit us both I have to have some faith in your intent. If this toy sits here for years it’s worthless to me anyway so I might gamble a chance at a return of money for once… I can survive the loss. Plus… I saw it in your eyes earlier when you looked at the board. You really want this trip. I don’t think you’re pretending. Is it a chance to start a new life?” He asked and she nodded slowly. “Then I especially wish to help you. I had my own chance at starting a new life. I’d like you to have that same opportunity.”
Arana considered this… It certainly sounded good… What did she have to lose? But… that somehow made her more nervous. Swagin said to be wary of a deal made to look too good… Yet Swagin also said to take advantage of kindness from those who don’t know better… Did this store owner know better? Then he spoke up again. “Plus, I’ll be honest. If I really wanted to I could track you down and get my value out of you. Tiyava doesn’t try to steal from me because she is afraid of me.”
That sounded right to her. It all fit in. He would profit more from trusting her than not. Plus, he could strike revenge should she betray him. All was within the teachings of Swagin. What had the human called himself? Clay. “Very well Clay. There is just one issue. I don’t have a pass to enter the Ravex zone of occupation. Which that tower is within. Is it not?”
“But you are Davari. You’re allowed to go through the cathedral.” He pointed out as he carefully took out the toy to seal it in a steadybox for her to take. “There is a single Jipasi guard who checks worshipers in to the cathedral. No matter what it looks like he’s doing, give him fifty credits… Do you have fifty credits?” Arana shook her head and he sighed before pulling out a few bills. “Give him these and move on. Take the elevator to the penthouse. Ask for Huurg. No matter what, don’t tell that Kra’Kto’Sui idiot you got this from me. Say… whatever. Just don’t tell him it was from me.” With that he pressed the box and the bills into a rotating stronglass container, spinning it around to her side so she could grab it.
“I will return soon.” She tucked the box into her pack, zipping it up and slinging it over a shoulder while she kept the bills tucked into her hand. Eying the rose in its temperseal on the counter she hesitated a moment and pointed at him. “If this is still a trick I can get revenge too.”
“Hah… I don’t doubt it.” Clay smiled at her and shrugged. “I’ll make sure to tell the ship to wait. Just in case.”
That reminded her… if she did this quickly she could be off. No more old life. No more history. A totally new experience awaited her… She focused on her task then and stepped out of the door before checking up and down the street much like earlier. No occupation forces in sight. If she ran she’d make good time. But that would draw a lot of attention…
So she settled instead for a light jog. The strap of her pack held tight as she moved. A person late for a meeting. Or work. Nothing too strenuous. Just a light jog… pay no attention… As much as she could she tried to will this thought at those also on the street. But much like earlier they kept their heads down and also moved with purpose. It wasn’t a good time for a mugging anyway.
As she rounded the corner she saw the cathedral up ahead. There was a group of Ravex soldiers on the street past it, guarding a checkpoint. Arana was always nervous around the giant scaled, clawed, warriors. Who strapped blades to their tails? Then again she had ritual scars etched across her body that other species also found worrisome. Everyone had something to mistrust in others… Yet, her Aunt had spoken about them killing her servants in the war and casting her into near squalor within Shadowbrook so she had a very real reason to hate them as well.
But for now she ignored them, and instead turned to enter the cathedral. All around her the stone work had scaffolding up covering a great deal of it. The faces of Swagin, his icons of wrath, the halls of pleasure, the finality of death, all the great segments were being carefully restored. This is where the money went for the reconstruction fund… Thousands living in Shadowbrook? Eh. A bunch of stones in a cathedral that no one really needs? Better fix that immediately! She tried not to hate too hard… Lest Swagin take offence. Really she knew his works must always be maintained. But Swagin himself would likely rather see his faithful made safe so they may take pleasure in better housing!
There was a small security checkpoint just before the doors into the cathedral interior. A lone Jipasi was sitting on a chair next to the security scanner. While Arana wasn’t sure what to make of humans she always found Jipasi amusing. The furry bipeds seemed so much more lively and amusing than their human allies. Plus who didn’t like those glorious brightly colored tail feathers they had? This one though was stretched out, arms crossed over his chest, his helmet carefully tilted over his eyes as he seemed to be sleeping…
Arana squeezed the fifty credits in her hand… Should she save the money? She slowed down to a careful creep instead of her jog… The human had said to give him the credits no matter what. Even if he was sleeping? Maybe she’d check it out… Bypassing the security scanner she leaned down and reached out to carefully tug the Jipasi’s helmet up. Then she nearly yelped in surprise as pulling up his helmet revealed his eyes to be wide open looking at her.
Gulping she carefully lowered his helmet, then reached out to tuck the credits into a pocket on the chest of his armor. A moment later she lifted his helmet slowly once more and now his eyes were closed. Lowering the helmet a finale time she stepped past, thankful for the human’s warning to her earlier.
Stepping into the main cathedral now she was almost entirely plunged into darkness. Such was the realm of Swagin. But there were a few bits of light at least. Two were from the depictions of the Eternal Party taking up the main wall in the back. Another was from the Shadow Bishop’s pulpit of storms near the ceiling. These three points normally cast the pews and pillars into dark shadows for the faithful to file into every Hoorsinda.
But the Cathedral had another light source these days. A giant hole in the ceiling casting a ray of sunshine down upon a Void Cruiser’s escape pod. It had lodged itself in the vista of virtuous sin and had actually crushed Shadow Cardinal Exckhartismal during the war. Many said it had been used by a vile Absolute Dynamics synth to escape capture. Many said he still roamed the streets at night slaughtering organics. Or some such nonsense. Arana didn’t really believe that. Even so, the Shadow Cardinal had actually been embezzling from the church, and he had been killed in such a spectacular fashion that it fit too well with Swagin’s code of vengeance. So the hole remained open, and the pod remained untouched. Guarded by the Ecclesiarchy even. Scripture made odd choices sometimes…
Ignoring that for now she scurried along the back wall, doing her best not to be noticed by any stray acolytes or priests who might think she was here to partake in holy whiskey or scar herself for the favor of Swagin. Today was not the day. Instead she moved to the side entrance to try and get out of the cathedral as swiftly as possible. While she still wasn’t sure that the toy she now had was actually worth what Clay had said… She hoped it was true.
Swagin of course would remind her that hope is a harlot. But still… Sometimes even the faithful must hope.
When she stepped out of the side door she saw the teal tower just a block away. One of the lower levels had several missing windows from some firefights but the rest of the tower looked intact. It was somewhat near the other side of the Ravex checkpoint however. Arana’s tail gave a quick twitch of anxiety but she pressed on. This time taking a more relaxed stride. She belonged here. Not a care in the world. Just heading home from church.
Near the entrance to the tower two older Davari were sitting on crates playing a game of Dashings. The smell of their cheap nicosticks filling the air as she approached, making her snort a little. Filthy human drugs… They glanced up for a moment but quickly returned to their game as she pointedly ignored them and walked past. The lobby had faded teal carpet with only a few stains here and there. None of them blood stains either. Upscale then.
When she hit the button to the lift she was a bit surprised that it quickly opened up. She wasn’t sure the last time she’d seen a working lift in such good condition. Before the war? Probably. Yet, just as she stepped inside she spotted another Davari step out of a door on the main floor and approach. She tucked her pack closer to her chest as he stepped on with her. He gave her a smile and nodded at the control. “[What floor sister?]” He asked in decktongue.
“[I’m not your sister. Penthouse.]” Her fingers crept into a side pocket in her pack, wrapping around the hilt of a knife.
“[Penthouse… Got some business worth my time?]” He asked then and opened his jacket a bit to reveal the grip of a pistol tucked into his pants. Did he want a fee?
“[I have something for the collector. But if you think you can tax me you best aim for my heart. I won’t bend.]” Even as she said that the other davari laughed and raised a hand.
“[Settle sister settle! No need to sprint to the great party. You sound serious though. Lets go see him.]” He hit a button for the top floor. Even as the doors closed and the lift began to rise up the building Arana kept her fingers clutched tight around her knife. Was he security? Clay hadn’t mentioned security. Then again, he was a barter store owner. Why would he? If this collector hated him he’d never have been here. “[Got something cute in the pack sister?]”
Arana just glared at the other Davari who smirked, seeming to be amused by her behavior. When the elevator stopped the door opened to reveal another door. This confused her a moment until it opened up as well to reveal some kind of… command center? There were desks and computers spread out around what was once a giant living room. A towering Kra’Kto’Sui began to lumber towards them even as the other Davari waved her out of the lift. He hadn’t pulled his gun yet… but she understood the idea.
For now her focus was on the big aquatic xeno lumbering towards her. The Kra’Kto’Sui were a species of aquatic multilimbed creatures that could live on dry ground in big suits kept constantly wet. She didn’t know much about their species except they typically were enemies of the Ecclesiarchy, so it was surprising to see one moving among so many Davari manning the computer desks. It used pairs of limbs to move along like a quadruped, since they needed the extra support to move around outside of water. Looking past the figure out the window she saw a big pool on the roof with furniture under the water. Perhaps he slept out there?
“[Bossman, found this one slipping up the lift. Not a resident. Says she has something for you.]” The other Davari from the lift announced as the Kra’Kto’Sui stopped just before her, head and shoulders bigger than her as it peered down with strangely shaped oblong eyes. His wet flesh slowly changing color while she watched.
“[I know. This one… came from the Cathedral… We did not see her enter… Curious.]” The xeno’s strange accent of decktongue was slow… pondering.
“[I have something to sell.]” She announced and let go of her knife to open her pack and pull out the toy in its case. She hadn’t fully pulled it free when the Kra’Kto’Sui raised a big tentacle to swipe it from her hands.
“Jiji!” It gasped out and stepped back.
“[Hey! That’s mine!]” She growled and reached out, but the guard besides her finally pulled his gun free of his pants making her stop in place. He hadn’t aimed it at her yet…
“Did you get this from him?” The big tentacle waved the toy in her face as she noticed he spoke in human. How did she play this?
“[My human isn’t good. What’s he asking?]” She looked at the guard.
“[Did you get this from the bartershop a few streets over?]” He gestured with his pistol out the window.
“[It was left to me in a final farewell gifting.]” If she considered it a trade for the rose that was true enough.
“[Hey hey, death ever profits doesn’t it?]” Even as the guard smirked she glared at his rude response.
“[Is she the trinket seller?]” Arana returned her focus to the collector as he addressed another female Davari at a desk.
“[No. I haven’t seen her before.]” Were they watching the bartershop? What was this? Did he really hate that guy this much? Well they must not be actively watching it since they had no idea she’d just come from there…
“[How much?]” The collector looked back at Arana as he held up the case with the toy robot inside.
“[I know what it’s worth.]” She announced and held her chin high. He’d have to make the first offer.
“[Get four thousand from the safe.]” The guard besides her was obviously surprised as he gasped.
“[What?! For a toy robot? C’mon bossman I’ll just shoot her and-]” The colector smacked the guard across his horns with another big tentacle. “[OW! Hey! What-]”
“[Do not be so rude to guests! Get it! Now!]” The last word was snapped out as the guard scurried away from the Kra’Kto’Sui. Arana just held her ground, one hand gripping her pack very tight. Four thousand? Clay had said thirty six hundred! Play it cool…
“[You should get better help.]” The Kra’Kto’Sui leaned forward, towering above her a moment. Maybe she had played it too cool…
“[They are zealous. But loyal.]” Out behind him Arana watched the guard open a safe that had to be filled with tens of thousands… hundreds of thousands of credits! The stacks of bills! What sort of place was this?! But he returned with an envelope and handed it to her. She snatched it from him and looked inside. She’d never held so many credits in her life… Sure she’d had more in her account at one point but to hold it like this? Her dream neared…
“[The transaction is complete. You leave now.]” Arana barely had time to understand what was being said as a tentacle pushed her back into the lift, pressed the button for the ground floor, and quickly whipped back out before the doors closed. She had four thousand credits… Four thousand! She couldn’t help herself as she jumped and raised a fist in the air, her tail whipping back and forth like mad. Her landing was a bit awkward as the lift kept descending but she managed it and then quickly fixed her clothing and pulled her pack back over a shoulder.
The moment the door opened she was moving. Focused. Head down. Out past the two old Dashings players, yet again ignoring the acrid smoke of their drugs. She paid no mind to the Ravex checkpoint. Right to the Cathedral. Praise by Swagin! She had triumphed over the harlot! Hope no more! She had cash! She couldn’t contain the continued wagging of her tail as she scurried along the back of the cathedral yet again. Just as she exited the main door she didn’t stop, she just reached out to drop a fifty on the still “sleeping” Jipasi soldier and kept moving.
Don’t run. Just… walk quick. Head down. Focused. She was barely containing her breathing now as she had her eyes set on the sign for the pawn shop. So close… just half a street away. “Hey!” Don’t stop. Don’t look. “Hey! You! Lady! With the bag!” She hesitated. No! Worse she looked and saw a group of human soldiers. They were by that box hauler they’d looked at earlier. She was stuck in place. Did they want her money? She was so close! Don’t let them take it! Run! But there had to be a dozen of them spread out around the street. They could gun her down in an instant…
“Yes?” She did her best to stay calm.
“Is this your van?” She frowned with confusion as he pointed at the boxhauler.
“No.” She shook her head.
“Do you know whose van it is?” The soldier asked next.
“No.” She shook her head again.
“Damn.” The soldier sighed and looked over at another nearby. “Sarge we don’t know who the van belongs to.”
“I can see that you idiot! Lady you’re free to go.” The moment the other soldier waved her on Arana scurried on into the store. Though she saw a Jipasi on a scooter driving up the street stop just before the door. Arana was surprised to see him drive right past the soldiers without a care in the world, but they didn’t seem to mind him either.
“Hey, are you the passenger for Partizania Rai?” The Jipasi asked just as she set her hand on the door to the pawnshop. What now?! She was so close!
“Yes.” She prepared to bolt inside should he try to grab her or… really appear to be any kind of threat. But the Jipasi was a bit smaller than her and she found it hard to imagine he was a mugger.
“I’m supposed to take you to the ship. You ready?” A scooter? For her? Had Clay called him?
“Ah… give me a moment.” She started to open the door.
“Oh wait!” Arana almost screamed in frustration. She was so close! “Pack of strawberry bubblegum.” She looked over in confusion as the Jipasi held out a credit, waving the bill at her. After a moment she snatched it from his fingers and finally went in.
The moment the door closed behind her she let out a heavy sigh of relief. She didn’t see Clay behind the stronglass yet… The temperseal case with the rose was still on the counter… She could snatch it and run… Instead she shook the thought from her head and walked up to tap on the stronglass. “Clay?”
“How’d it go?” She saw him step out from a door in the back just after she called out his name.
“Great! I got fort housand!” She held up the envelope of credits.
“Wow… I’m assuming you mean four thousand?” He asked and she nodded fervently. “He really wanted it bad… Lucky you… Maybe I should have gotten Tiyava to do it after all…” He rubbed his chin in thought.
“It’s too late! I already sold it! No takebacksies!” She insisted. “This is proper human term? No takebacksies yes?”
“Yes, that’s the proper human term.” Clay nodded and laughed. “I called my friends on the ship. They should send a scooter over to take you directly to their berth in the spaceport. They’re itching to keep a schedule.”
“They’re already here outside.” Arana set the Jipasis’ one credit in the little revolving stronglass container for Clay as well as the temperseal case with the rose. Then she peeled out the rest of the credits she needed to pay for the ticket and travel pass. “One pack of strawberry bubblegum. One ticket to Partizani Rai.”
“Oh they sent Nin? Well… you’ll get there fast. If you survive. Take my advice, don’t open your eyes.” This made Arana frown as she looked back at the door.
“Why? What’s wrong with him?” Now she was worried.
[Continued In comments]
submitted by RegalLegalEagle to HFY