Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mongrel: Zebe's Plotting.

Metamorphis in the aquarium, please imagine
the circle of magnifying glass set in the centre ...  

How Zebe's plotting plays out. 

“You’re right. SoHAB has the alien, and Beardy is right that my sister works there.” 

Joe listened with rising colour, as though he suspected her to be starting him on a wild whale chase. Zebe carried on fabricating. “Xanthe sent me some of the adulterated dust that they vacuum from the cage.”


Zebe shrugged. “We’re sisters. Twins. We play games. We send each other mysterious stuff to try and identify. We award each other points for winning and losing.”  

Joe narrowed his eyes. “I’m waiting to hear about the krill.”

Zebe turned to the curtained-off tank and switched on its internal display lights in the passing. Swept the curtaining aside. Almost said, Ta-rah! Turned back just in time to see Joe’s face as white as if his blood had drained away. Like he was the walking dead. He pointed at the display with a trembling finger. 

The water was bluish and clouded like a gassy underwater nebulae, crowded with silvery points, that, as they swam in behind the inset disc of magnifying glass, enlarged to the krill creatures. 

Joe pressed up close to the tank and was silent for many minutes. “So what we have here,” he said finally, “is some kind of quick-grow material sprinkled into illegally siphoned off live water! How could you when we have so little! I should sack you for just that!”

Zebe hardly heard Joe’s accusations, he was so impressive in his anger. He turned to face her halfway through his tirade. He was red now, with fury. Cords stood out on his neck. His fists clenched as he stepped toward her. 

She a step back, despite her disbelief that he would really do anything.

Laura walked into the wet room, Cele behind her. “Beardy is checking the water levels but I don’t believe Zebe would do anything of the sort,” Cele said.

Joe’s turn to be speechless. He dropped his arms and stood aside as Cele and Laura joined him in front of the tank. 

“This is very impressive, Zebe. Would you recommend excitement?” Laura said. 

Zebe flicked a glance at Joe. Was it safe for her to say anything?

Cele said, “Leave Zebe to me, Joe. Technically she is my student.” 

Technically Cele mentored Zebe and non-technically they were friends. Zebe was fine with Cele saving her if Cele could do that without endangering the dolphinate and Callum. 

“I’m definitely on Zebe’s team for this,” Laura said. “What you do to her, you’ll do to me.” 

Wow! Laura was going to save Zebe too, when Laura and Zebe were cool because Beardy once upon a time had a thing for Zebe. Zebe had switched to studying corals to get out of Laura’s way.

Beardy put his head around the door. “The water levels are good.”

Cele, Laura, Zebe and even Joe looked at Beardy and then at the tank. Involuntarily. Beardy was the krill fanatic. 

Watching them, he came in. Stared at the tank. The swimming creatures. “You stupid bastard!” he said. “You’re a goddamn idiot to even think of sacking Zebe!”

Beardy, though technically a student, never gave anyone respect who didn’t earn it. “If it was me who discovered this little beauty and you sacked me, I’d have been out of here as soon as the words left your gob. On my way to the competition, with my krill.”

Joe spluttered.

Ignoring Joe’s burbles, Beardy grabbed one of his arms. “Laure, get his other arm. Let’s get him out of here so Zebe can get her story out.”

Cele locked the door behind them. “Only to keep them out, not you in.”

“Yeah, that’s okay. It is all a bit amazing.”

Cele smiled. “Not very, when you remember that that little creature is meant to be practically extinct and the water it is swimming in is meant to be the worst poison on the planet. Care to enlighten me?” She gestured at the communication unit listening to every word.

“I can only tell you what I … what I did.” Good thing she was a known stutterer when she was nervous. Thinking the story up a kilometre a minute, she was.

Cele narrowed her eyes. “That’s a good start.”

“Well,” Zebe slid off the bench. Started to walk around a bit. “I filled the tank with water from outside. Not stagnant water. I fed the hose-end into one of the fairly clear pools a bit further out.” Near the dolphinate’s pool, she said with a head gesture and hand movement. Those of the new species who could not speak, signed their wants.  

“Got that,” Cele said. 

“Tide was rising. I made the intake slow, so the pipes didn’t gurgle and give me away. It took a couple of hours to fill the tank. Then,” Zebe hesitated. “I should really take you through the beginning of it all.”

“No need. Heard it all over the PA. How much of the dust?” Cele said. 

“A … a micro … micro … gram in this first tank. Increased by doubling.” Had she just endangered her own sister in favour of Cele? 

“What did you mean by adulterated?” 

Zebe realised Cele listened closely earlier. The others probably too. “As it was collected. Straight out of the vacuum bag. Mixed with every other kind of dust sucked up that during that shift. You can see the patchy results even in the jars.” She moved to the bench along the wall the others hadn’t even noticed. All the unused jars she could find, all with agar and various amounts of the silvery dust. 

“I see. Three of them with hardly any growth.”

“I have an antique microscope in my quarters. So I spent my spare time the day before yesterday separating the silver dust from the grey dust.” For one desperate moment, she wasn’t sure any more whether the alien’s dust was silver. 

“The tank had its original furniture … that is, the coral, the sand, and the fake seaweed?” Cele said.

“Yes. I filled the tank with the wild, supposedly dead water. That was going to be my test. To see if it really is dead.” 

“Do you think perhaps the dust contained the larvae?”

It couldn’t be more than Cele thinking aloud, testing her thought. Krill larvae in the dry dust from the aliens’ cage in Brisbane? Don’t think so, Cele. Zebe said the impossible.  “I think the larvae were in the water, encysted perhaps.” There, she’d said it. What she believed.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mongrel: Zebe, one of the love interests.

Krill creature by Alvaro Migotto
In this, Snippet 7, we're back-tracking along Mongrel's timeline to pick up Zebe's story.
Zebe's apparent presence in Monster-Moored begins way back in Mortal, part 1 of the series. But her actual story begins here, just before Joe Loreno takes home a flask of the mysterious quick-gro material and spreads it over the Byron Bay hinterland with disastrous consequences for our hero. 

Zebe flitted to the wet room before dawn. And anyway, in the below-sea-level tunnel of aquaria, dawn was a foreign concept. Lights would begin to glow in the different tanks at the appropriate times for their individual days to start. Each tank had its own cycle. 

She’d stayed all day yesterday watching the mysterious new process, like a rabbit trapped in a python’s stare. By the end of the day, the mass moved of its own accord with silver specks glittering through it as if they were alive. 

She laughed nervously because this morning krill-type beings swarmed through the tank. All of them with a silver element in their body organisation. Oh way oh way, she thought in the sing-song voice of her South African grandmother when something didn’t compute and had to have a new way thinking applied to it. 

She pulled across the overhead robo-cam by its extendable arm. She used the macro function and snapped a couple of 100x magnification close-ups and she saved to her workstation in the dry-research department. 

The saltwater-rotted two-way communication system crackled into life. “Zebe! Up here! Now!”

Uh oh. Joe Loreno, sea-life expert of renown and sounding peremptory. Zebe didn’t answer, not wanting him to know where she hung out these days. She ran silently through the staff byways that cut through and across public access areas. 

Man wasn’t in his office. 

By way of the two-way and a speaker near his desk, he said, “I’m at your workstation.” As if he could see her.

Her heart sank with fear that Joe’s displeasure would prevent her from concocting the greatest cover-up she’d ever be involved in. Touch wood that there wasn’t a greater one just around the corner. She zigzagged between the workstations. No one else up yet was good. Joe at her actual desk, glowering at her most recent files open in front of him, not so good.  

She came up behind him. “Yes?” Like Beardy, she never gave Joe the satisfaction of hearing her call him boss.

Joe gestured at the monitor looping a five-second take of the silvered krill. “That is a near-extinct species. Not seen for a good few years. Yet the loop is framed as if by the display window of our aquaria. I know for a fact we don’t have any of these little beauties in our collection. Beardy, the krill expert, will tell you the same.”

Joe always got talkative when he stressed over something. Zebe puffed. “Long story.” She pulled a couple of heaving breaths into her lungs. She was out of condition. Take up long-distance swimming? Don’t think so.  

Joe got up from her chair. “We’ll go to the wet room. You can tell me there.”

“I don’t think we should leave that … swimming up there,” Zebe said.

“Why not?” he said belligerently. “Because your buddies will know instantly it’s a recovering species? The greatest sign of hope and you want to keep it from your mates?” 

“It mightn’t be what it looks like.”

“Is it or is it not?”

“I was coming up to compare it to the database.” She reached past him to the keyboard. 

He gripped her wrist. Squeezed her fingers cruelly. 

Bastard. “It really isn’t good seeing this without first knowing the whole story.” Oh way, show me a way. She waited for him to release her hand, then closed the file and switched off the monitor.

They met no one, retracing her footsteps. Her vaunted workmates still in bed, in the accommodation wing, not knowing there was anything afoot to hurry to work for. Only public visiting days got anyone out of their quarters punctually.

The wet room smelled of salt, rotting algae and seepage. The complex was a hundred years old and there still hadn’t been a product invented that could keep out the ocean. 

Zebe forced herself not to look at the curtained krill-filled tank. Fortunately, she had left the robocam on its arm pointing away. She led straight to the jars, to start at the beginning.

Joe said, “Did you really think I wouldn’t wonder if you cleaned out the wet room before dawn, and spent half a day on the waterworks?”

“That was a few days ago. I suppose you were up in the cafe?” When the complex was closed to tourists, the staff used the facilities for their recreations. The cafe/restaurant was usually above water while their common room was always below the waterline. He must have seen her on the seawater intake pontoon, fiddling with the plumbing. 

“Beardy says your sister works at SoHAB,” Joe said. “What have they got we haven’t?” Clownishly he hit himself on the head. “Why, the alien of course.” 

Joe was completely enraptured with his four-year-old daughter. Mostly his co-workers forgave him his kiddie-theatrics. This time, he was over the top. Zebe rolled her eyes.

He grabbed her shoulders and shouted into her face. “I demand to know what you brought into my facility!” 

His facility. Pff. “Okay okay, I heard you.” Should she further inflame the situation by wiping his spit from her face? Maybe not. But no way would she give him Cele, and therefore the dolphinate, and so also Callum. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mongrel: Learning a bit more of the Stormy lingo

Sugar cane trailer such as used by Callum to haul laboratory
glass and stores from the jetty.
Still in the chapter where Tardi and his Stormy companions have arrived at the Reefarium. They're meeting Cele King, an important figure in the saga. Trinnet teaches us all a bit more of the lingo and Shad makes friends with Callum. 

Callum met them in the entry hall, having parked the chuffer near an elevator platform. 

“What about unloading?” said Shad.

The boy flashing Shad a smile with his pearlised teeth. “Later we can?” he offered. He pushed through a set of double doors ahead of them, then stood aside and, Tardi was vaguely aware, closed the doors behind them with himself on the outside. 

Cele King stood in the middle of the room, the same woman Tardi saw in his monster-generated visions, back when he still surfed for a living. 

She greeted Shad and Trinnet, elaborately getting their names. “Stormy?” she said. “Is that a cult local to where you come from? It must have been quite something to decide to travel in these difficult times.”

In other words, she was performing a total put-on. Tardi could see even Shad bridling at the falsity in her demeanour. And that crack about travelling … He laughed and they all looked at him. “Twenty-five years so ordinary I totally forgot to celebrate my quarter century whenever that was.”

Only Trinnet would know the fog Tardi often operated in and he smile, albeit sardonically.  

Cele just looked at Tardi. As in, really studied him. 

Her silence was so noticeable given her recent volubility that Trinnet stopped his visual inspection of the place. 

“And you…” Cele finally said. “Where did you get it and what possessed you to take it?”

Shad, behind her, raised his eyebrows at her unfriendly tone.

Was it the ways in which Tardi resembled a tree that upset her? And so she attacked him? “Should’ve said that to your buddy Joe Loreno,” Tardi said. “He worked out of here, I believe.”

She didn’t quite crumple, but he could see that his words affected her. 

“Shad, get a coffee on,” Trinnet said. “Woman is in shock. Accusing the man without even knowing him? Stormy women don’t do that even in unordinary times.”

Shad opened and slapped shut cupboard hatches trying to find a source of heat. “Fuck’s sake, how do these people cook?”

“Heaven save me from primitives!” Cele said.

They were all cut by that lash. 

“Steady on,” Trinnet said. “You graciously forgot to give us your name?” 

She stared at Trinnet, probably to have him grovelling, could she work that magic. 

“Her name is Cele King,” Tardi said. “Zachie Cortin told me. He worked for Procyon Products a while ago.”

“Ah, we know him,” Trinnet said. “The gent that does not have a good relationship with his vehicle. We help him sometimes and then we chat.”

Not so surprising then that Zach held the same views as the Stormies about the monster’s influence.
Trinnet made signs at Shad.

“Right,” Shad said. “Inventing is the go, a primitive strategy that can’t be bested.”

“Answer the Tamer, woman,” Trinnet said.

“That can’t be your name?” she said at Tardi.

“A title that must do for the nonce,” Trinnet said formally. “Help you cognise why we came, crossing the salt and all.” 

Trinnet signed an M by his side out of Cele’s sight hopefully, by catching his pinkie finger under his thumb and leaving the middle fingers standing proud.

One of Herm’s letters. Little Tardi learning to sign long ago. Oh. The monster present in Trinnet? Tardi pressed his middle finger tip with his thumb for ‘I’ and curved his thumb and fingers into a ‘C’ shape. Acknowledging Trinnet’s message with an ‘I see’.

Cele still just listening, or looking, or lost in the conversation. 

“Gives you a nark of breathing space talking lingo at the sapients,” Trinnet said. “Them having to figure.”

Or perhaps Cele was trying to figure out Trinnet’s turn of phrase. Tardi grinned. “I see that totally, now that I’m not so often on the receiving end.”

“I smell a fire and pretty soon Shad will have the coffee boiling,” Trinnet said.

Shad, inventing, had a fire burning in one of the stainless steel sinks. He balanced a coffee percolator on a couple of wooden spoons laid across. What could he be using as fuel? Tardi sniffed. Rosemary was the strongest aroma. 

Trinnet sniffed too. “Nice.”

“In here or out there?” Shad waved inside and outside. 

“In here,” Tardi said, sitting at the nearest little round cafe table. “Where the tree-in-me can’t get a grip in the floor.” The deck outside had run-off gaps. He’d be dancing a jig in two minutes.

 Shad served the coffee. Trinnet’s mug to Trinnet. Tardi’s mug to Cele. Shad’s mug to Tardi. “No sugar to be had and not enough fuel to really heat or stew,” he said. 

“You're not having any?” Tardi said. He sipped. The coffee was bitter, lukewarm and left him with a mouthful of grounds to chew. “I understand.”

Shad on his way out already. “I’ll be squaring away the glass with the young one.” 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Mongrel: A Live-mind Freighter and an Arrival

Numerals refer to the order of posting. In the final manuscript some of these scenes will have been shifted here and there ...

These are a couple more of the areas I'm writing in. Centred around Tardi Mack, the main character and his journey toward the monster's physical abode. The Freighter is a just the description of the truck. My intention is always to describe through living the experience. Let me know if that works for you?

The second part, Across the Water, is the section where Tardi, Shad and Trinnet travel from the shore to the Reefarium. By boat, it is a new experience for the Stormies. This is the description of an activity, easier to have it be experienced. Again, all and every comment will be appreciated. 

4. The freighter looked fearsome enough to give anyone second thoughts catching a ride. Snub-nosed with no windscreen or side windows visible, a huge steel-look B-double. Articulated rather than joined and so from straight-on, it resembled a long large locomotive. 

As the freighter’s bulk settled on half-deflated skirts, its windows became transparent and the doors, walkways and gantries extruded. 

The door that was equivalent to the front passenger door in one of Tardi’s vintage drives, opened and Ut, a gnomic jockey, grinned into the morning. “Is that a trio of passengers I see waiting for this old bus?”

Tardi slop-slopped forward. “If you’ll still have me in this state, though my friends are fine.” He pulled Trinnet forward by a pinch of his sleeve and motioned his head asking for Shad to follow. He walked to meet Ut up on the gantry, them below, to the steps midway the first section of the freighter.  
“Let me have a close-up at you then,” Ut said. 

“Not so different," Ut said, plucking and teasing at his hair. "I mean, I see the same eyes, the same hair-styling, the same jawline. Same height. Feet … yes okay … feet are a bit different. Come in anyway. Let Thelma get a gander at you. Tell us all about it. You too, friends of a friend.”

They single-filed up the gangway and into the cabin. 

Tardi enjoyed Trinnet’s gaping surprise. Every time he saw the cabin himself, he appreciated the paradox. 

The cabin was large, as befit a large freighter. A table and four chairs centred on a red rug. Red tablecloth. A silver tray with silver tea-warmer, strainer, sugar and jug. Nearside cupboards held Stu’s hobbies and games. Far-side his kitchen. The waist-high shelves in front contained all that was left of the driver’s console along with Ut’s prized collection of antique books. 

5. Across the Water

Tardi laughed the whole way across the water. He stood on the load, half a dozen pallets of glass stacked in a double line of three. He balanced very well, unsteady though that was with the jars shifting and crunching in their crates. Trinnet and Shad hung onto the gunwales, unbalanced all out of their world, according to Shad. 

When Tardi jumped aboard, Trinnet changed his complaints from 'I’m not getting into the boat' to 'I’m not moving from this side'. 

Shad shaded his eyes with his hand, staring at Tardi enjoying himself but trying not to stare into the sun. 

Ut negotiated them the transfer in exchange for their labour unloading on the Reefarium side, what he usually did by himself. Though Thelma could extrude a small crane, pallets had to be emptied once they stood on the dock, with the crates handled one by one. 

Mr Boatman, whose name could surely not really be how he introduced himself, Tardi thought, chuckled about the landlubber Stormies. Tardi slop-slopped on the glass with only a minimum of shifting under his feet.

The Reefarium, what he could see of it, presented as a large round house with a low conical roof. A bare few tall windows were visible from this angle. 

“The rest of the windows are covered with storm doors,” Mr Boatman said. 

The colours were grey and white trims. Long jetty out front, its planking weathered grey. An old cane-chuffer trailed by two flat-topped carriages approached jockeyed by a chunky teenager. 

“There’s your transport,” Mr Boatman said. He spat over the side. “Boy’s handle is Callum. Lonely for someone to look up to. You want to treat him right or have me deal with you.”

 “We’ll treat him,” Shad said. “If we be how he imagines men are.”

You’ll do.” The boatman half-smiled. He lifted his chin toward Tardi. “Stranger critters than him are seen around here.” 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mongrel: A Misfit and a Pair of Mules

...up the garden path aka en-flummoxment ...
Still working in the connective tissue mode, in Snippet Two Tardi discovers Shad is his cousin by marriage as well as by choice, and some culture, language and en-flummoxment ....

Snippet 2:

Shad led them onto a service road beside the sugarcane fields on the flat land.  “Good place to boil a billy. Peace and quiet. Cane only half high, big enough to hide us without losing the breeze.”
Trinnet and Shad hunkered. 

“You still don’t trust the entity entirely?” Trinnet said with a glance at Tardi sitting on his blue tarp.
Tardi countered. “You believe it knows what a promise is?”

“I believe he thinks promises are for little people like us.”

“How big is he, to your mind?” Tardi said. 

How would Trinnet interpret Tardi’s project of finding a road into the Stormy three-dot history? 
“There I go again, believing in him no holds barred. What will you do with me?” Trinnet said without a change in tone for his question. 

That was Trinnet trying to slip something by someone? “How is it up to me to decide anything?” Tardi said.

 “There’s a lie already,” Trinnet said. “Ace said that if I could stop the boy lying, it’d have been worth sending me.” 

“I asked a question, how is that a lie?” Any more mention of Ace and his thinkings I will get caught in a spin of aggravation. Tardi narrowed his concentration. He rose. “I can’t sit too long. The tree in me is never going to stop its land-grab no matter what promises were promised.”

He walked a little circle deciding on his next tackle. “Do you trust the monster, Trinnet? Trust him to know what’s best for humans?”

“Humans when Stormies aren’t? This is what he can do with the sapient lot,” Trinnet said. He gobbed up a goodly wad of saliva and spat. 

Tardi’s mental antenna went up the same as for a weirdo driver when he hitch-hiked. The ideal was not to accept such a ride. The last time he contradicted his instinct, it was Col Smith driving and look what trouble he and Steve … Away from there, Tamer.  He swallowed. This time he was also already embroiled. The Stormies didn’t consider themselves human? Why? Why not? Did Shad know? 

“Best for the Earth, I follow where he leads,” Trinnet said. 

“Primly said,” Shad said. He’d built a fire. “I’m boiling a brew. “ He shrugged and raised his eyebrows to widen his eyes for telling Tardi his disbelief. Punched himself over his heart. Shook his head. Not me! 

Oh. Shad was angry? Embarrassed? Tardi didn’t know Shad all that well either.

Shad set Tardi’s wok in the flames. Poured water into it. 

“Signing could’ve been a goodly strategy, young one,” Trinnet said. “If I weren’t here translating.”
Shad pulled back his shoulders. 

Tardi too, in sympathy. Well. So. Tardi had a support team of one. Trinnet would have to be eased away. Where? Because not home again. 

“The entity asks me to ask you how we will get to the north other than on foot. To the place where we can cut west. On foot we are slow. He has space-time and the tides of the planet to consider,” Trinnet said.

Eased away after Tardi milked him. “Don’t even dream that I’m done yet with Stormy ancestry,” he said. “Everything else we’re talking about here is social grease and en-flummoxment.”

Shad laughed. 

“Mules. The pair of you,” Trinnet said. 

Shad dropped leaves into the wok. “Mules. Explain. And don’t give me grief about the three dots. I know you have them and I don’t.” He fingered his cheekbone. 

Only now Tardi saw the three dots tattooed above Trinnet’s cheekbone. 

“Don’t beat yourself up over not seeing them ever before,” Shad said. “When he’s out and about, he wears his hair over them. So do Ace and the rest. Women and all. So. Mules. Tar and I are a pair.”

Trinnet laughed. “I’ve been waiting a lot of years to tell you, oh up-jumped youth. Always Ace shut my mouth for me on the subject but what can he do out here? It were his mistake sending me with you on more than one count. We’ve got a system of marrying in and out. Not enough women, ever. A woman takes two husbands, we still have a man unrequited. Some requite themselves with each other being made that way.”

“What about women made that way?” Tardi said.

“What? How would I know, a man?” 

“He means,” Shad said. “How would he know, an unmarried man. He does not have the confidence of any woman, no matter how he charms them. The women will have a system.”

Tardi recalled Trinnet in the company of the two little ladies during the storm when he came apart. When Ace rescued him. What a cobble. 

 Trinnet continued, smiling about some private joke. “Some marry out. Like Ace. His woman outside bore you and your sister. Shaddy and Bundy. Tch tch. Pair of tainted children. But happy days for him because he proved himself fit for husbanding by fathering a girl. So deemed the women. Hyee took him as her second."

Tardi feared for Shad sitting like a stone man beside him. “You’re saying Shad and I are both half-Stormy?”

“Mules. Infertile. Like the children of horses bred with donkeys.” Trinnet smiled broadly. “No issue for either of you.”

“I’ve never heard of second human species alive in modern times,” Tardi said. 

“Did I say we are human?” Trinnet said.

“You’re not sapient, you said,” Tardi said.  

“The women drove your mother gone,” Trinnet said. “Never happy with what she had. Why she died in the end, I hear. Luck for me that it wasn’t by my elbow.”

“Doing it again, the flummoxing. Things the man already knows,” Shad said. “Letting your poor-me I’m hardly done by show is what you are doing. Because all the women turned you away. A proper trey we are, a misfit in the company of two mules, and with the entity a here and there at every conversing.”

“Fucking mulish know-it-all,” Trinnet said. “You didn’t know Ace kept you just for this.”

“I did.”

“Oooh, ye-es.” Trinnet laboured his irony. “You’ve got the second sight.”

“I have,” Shad said. “Which is why I’m here, despite your input.”

Both Shad and Trinnet bristled. 

“Here’s my mug,” Tardi said. “Brew smells challenging already.”

Monster-Moored Series: Part 2, Mongrel

There be snippets happening. The connective tissue needed to convert a bunch of scenes into the first draft of a novel. This bit was posted in Saturday Scenes two weeks ago.

Snippet One has Tardi learning to get on with various members of his new family. New, as in, him not being aware he was related to them until halfway Monster-Moored Part 1: Mortal. They are Stormies, with a culture and dialect he's having to learn as well.

Tardi lay totally enwrapped in the tarp. No concrete here to stop the tree in him growing while he slept. With his face at the fold-over to be able to breathe, he said, “What’s a trey apart from a three?”
Despite the tarp’s impermeability and instead of slop-slop, he worked his muscles. Contracting and releasing them in his feet, his lower legs, his thighs. Lower back, shoulders. The tarp’s tired old folds shifted and shirred over the ground.

“You never saw us but singly or in threes,” Trinnet said. He’d rolled himself into a smoothed old polar fleece blanket. “Stop that wriggling now, mule. So as at least I can get some kip.”

Tardi lay stiller, practiced minimalism. 

At last Trinnet snored.

“Treys, Fives and Sevens is how Stormies organise ourselves,” Shad said. “My father weren’t so loved that he could organise me into any grouping. When I was real young, it all hurt. When I got my weit-sicht I learned all the wherefores.”

Trinnet stopped snoring.

The ambience changed to suspicion. 

Tardi slept, woke, moved, slept, woke. The only second sight I will ever have is of the alien kind. 

In the dawn he smelled eggs frying before he even opened his eyes.