|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.”