Friday, November 25, 2016

Mongrel: Tardi living Callum

Bit of chopping and changing among stories happening due to time constraints. 

Tardi walked around while Shad cut up vegetables. The monster was doing a time lapse thing in him, it felt like. Trinnet and Callum sat opposite sides of a camp fire the monster showed Tardi, first looking from one set of eyes then the other. 

Trinnet talked a kilometre a minute. Tardi shut his mind to Trinnet. The man burbled out everything Tardi already heard.

The monster apparently also heard it all before. It transferred its own and Tardi’s awareness to the calm in Callum. The silence in the young one’s head. 

“If only we’d known,” Tardi said. 

“Known what?” Shad said. He filled a pan with water, set that to boil. He smiled at the stove. “Who’d have thought Ionic Exchange is just another name for a battery operated cooking thingie.”
“Young one being so calm, so resolved. He’s made his mind up to do something and he’s going to carry it through. I don’t know what,” Tardi said. 

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Shad said. “That you don’t know?”

Tardi circled the whole restaurant, thinking it through. Back to Shad. “The Great Bastard seems to have learned to make himself transparent. He can have me believing he isn’t in with me, when he is. Wonder if Callum is aware of that?”

Funny how when he talked about the entity with Shad or Trinnet, he got used to thinking of the alien monster as the Great Bastard. Partly because there hadn’t been much going on. He’d exulted, thinking he’d got rid of the bastard’s input into his life. Got used, in fact, to not having it. 

Shad added soy noodles to the water. 

Tardi stayed to watch the pot with him. Better they could feed Cele on al dente, not the soggy mess they ate on the road when they tossed their findings in and made a starchy stew. 

With the steam rising, he got an eyeful of Trinnet’s hands preparing a similar meal. Seen through flames and smoke, Callum was like a watchful buddha on the other side of the fire. 
The young buddha turned his head and watched the light leaching from the day. His mouth made a series of shapes, over and over, the same words, as he scanned the surrounding countryside. 

What was he saying? 

Callum’s mouth funnelled slightly while the muscles beneath his jaw drew together and lengthened. His lips pressed together in a plosive sound, p or b. His mouth opened with rounding lips and dropping jaw. Three separate sounds. 

Tardi experimented making the same shapes with his mouth.  Goo … p … eye. Not that. Goo … b … eye. Oh no. 

Callum said good-bye. Under his breath and over and over. To everything in the landscape he knew. In between he glanced at Trinnet, always noting the same place. 

All Callum’s repeated glances went to Trinnet’s neck, Tardi discovered. He blinked on green tears. Saw the steam again, the pot he and Shad watched. 

“I can’t be here for dinner,” he said thickly. “I can’t look Cele in her face and make conversation. I’m going for a swim.”

“Salt to salt, brother?” Shad said. “Is just a saying. Truly, I will manage the women better with you out of my aura.”

But instead of finding a jump-off point outside, for swim in the ocean, Tardi ghosted through the corridors looking for Cele and Zebe. Not to talk with them, but to know where they were. 

Floor-plan of the Reefarium, he thought at the entity, though he had plenty of nous to vision up a floor-plan from his own memories. A trick he practised while he still drove and jockeyed. 

A multi-colour floor-plan strengthened from nothing on the virtual interface in his mind. The colours were the proof it wasn’t his own. Monster in him, invisible. Fuck. Two turns from where he was, were the basement guest quarters where Cele and Callum lived. Where also Cele kept the tank of mud. Could he get in, with everything locked up like fort nix? 

He tried them and the doors were unlocked. Meaning the sea-doors were to be opened imminently? Good thing he swam. But anyway his wood would float. 

Worth a grin? 

He wanted another turn in the grey mud before it was flushed away on the outgoing tide. After his bath the other day, he’d felt renewed and flexible for the first time since the tree-bug infected him.

Last time also, the monster had felt stupefied after the first ten minutes despite that Tardi had felt invigorated. 

Though he couldn’t know whether when the monster was stupefied in him, it was also stupefied in Callum and Trinnet? He could only hope. The alien support system managed the alien with that mud, and presumably with that stupefaction. 

He had to hope the mud was like a drug to the monster, and that that stupor might be the thing that would help Callum achieve his plan. Otherwise Tardi would have to find Trinnet and … Fuck Trinnet, he were a loose cannon. Kick yourself for thinking like that of Callum’s intention. 


From the direction of the sea-doors. Perhaps the women had been visiting the dolphinate. Tardi hid behind the tank. 

Cele shut the doors behind her.

“Do you need to lock?” Zebe said. 

Cele murmured but then did not lock the doors. Tardi frowned. Did Zebe know Tardi was in the tank room? Didn’t matter. They hadn’t met. 

He waited, listening for their further intentions. Finally he heard the gnarling metal over metal sound of the elevator rising to the cafeteria’s level.

He clambered over the tank wall, and finding the bathing stool with his feet, hunkered down onto it, shoulder deep in the warmed mud. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This is Not a Werewolf Story: 3. Maliced Genes

The reins slap down onto the oxen. They lurch into motion. The traffic stops entirely to allow them their way. 

“Don’t let that surprise you, “ says the accountant. “It’s that nobody wants a contact-incident. The beasts and the wagon are the only solid transport around.”

I wish the man would tell us his call name. I’m not a fan of titling a person ad infinitum. 
At the end of the street the wagon rolls onto a track slithering up a slope. A stunted forest takes us onto a remnant of the plateau. 

“About my business,” says Esse. “Will you tell me your secret name?”

Will he or won’t he when he’s doubtful already about his call name?

The accountant whispers near the Esse’s ear. 

He doesn’t allow any part of himself to touch her. He is well informed. 

The young chief frowns. “So it is to be a secret business,” she says. “I expected action. Fireworks. Fighting.” 

The accountant rolls his eyes. 

The girl, for that is what she still is, faces forward abruptly. Her face and neck flame red. She pulls at the harness bridling the oxen.   
She feels shame? She should. How things have changed since last I was a man, that such youngsters are chosen to rule. Or is that one of the mysteries about this action that I should study? Her particularly, or all three? 

My Esse ignores my wavelength. She nods the conversation along. “So Monk said. He organised the details with you?”

The accountant nods. “With Tim at the same time.” He nods into the back. 

“Tim,” the techie says, reaching out his hand for shaking. 

I do the honours. Touch is one of my roles. An ordinary mortal will flare and burn should the Esse touch him. 

 “I have a laptop and a mobile phone with me,” Esse says. “They contain an accounting of my years so far, numbers and words both. I need them both under the protection of a dependable House?” 
She waits. 

I have time to notice the labour of the oxen, the backward slant of the load in the wagon, the trainees walking now to lighten the strain on the animals. 

“The lady asks about the why-and-wherefore of Bec,” Blaze says. “If I’m not mistaken.” He bows. Toward the Esse. Toward me. “Hail to you, Esse and to you, oh Warrigal.” 

He names me Warrigal with an honorific? “Loup is my call name,” I say. 

Perhaps this is the hangup with the accountant? I did not tell him my call name therefore he won’t tell us his? I can’t believe it’s a power play. He seems an educated man. 

While I cogitate, the accountant sags as if overcome with emotion. “Blaze. Please relieve Bec,” he says. 

Rope is Bec. There is a mystery about her. 

Bec walks to her father’s side, speaks across him. “My mother is the real chief,” she says. “She lies broken. Her a woman of honour with two husbands. The other and two of my brothers are dead. All four killed by the fucking Naif miners.”

She punches the side of the wagon. 

I take back what I thought about Bec, my Esse. My inner face is red. 

We share our thoughts, both of us having been implanted with one of Shaman Jeb’s chips, in our case liaised only to each other. One of the blessed Silver Ship’s innovations.

Bec resumes her accounting. “This husband-my-father fights with words. He brought you and your red-eyed wonder to burn the fuckers, I hope. The daughter tries to fill her mother’s shoes. They try to pretend it’s business as usual.”

Tears want to slide down her face and I want that for her. I spit over the side despite that Monk warned me that this epoch frowns upon such spitting. 

“Or are you just some Ancient itinerants,” the girl says choosing to hide her grief in a tantrum. “The same as we must feed and send on their way without expecting their help in any kind of detrimental event?”

The Esse glimmer-grins, showing her power sparking and blue behind her teeth. 

More than a tenth of a second and the two electronic devices she still holds will be fried. But even Blaze at the head of the oxen sees. He straightens. The accountant breathes the warrior way. In out. In out.

The Esse continues. “As I said, I need them both in the protection of a dependable house. You are Monk’s recommendation.”

“Why Tim, though?” the accountant says. “You’ll return from the action, we hand over your machines untouched.”

“Next time I sleep the long sleep,” she says. “It must be to merge with the red mountain. I want our stories told but wrote them encoded, to not fall into Naif hands. Hence your Tim.” 

I hear the tremble in her voice. Way oh way, my Esse. I swear I’ll not send you walking into the mountain alone. 

Maybe I gave her hope for she continues. 

“Our maliced genes are not the only influence on our actions. The ways that the Silver Ship rehabilitated us for our people’s benefit and for the benefit of this, our ancient home planet, should be known too.” 

She finishes with a sob. Hides her face in her scarves. She’s afraid. She is younger already than I expected, and must eat her Numen. 

Her fear sets our hosts blushing or freezing. The youngsters don’t know where to look. They grin embarrassedly at each other. Their elder becomes a pale statue. 

What did they think? That we live magically and forever? 

The accountant wakes from his stupor. “I swear you my secrecy.”

“I swear you my skills and talents,” Tim says. 

These two save themselves, in my opinion. 

My Esse wipes her tears. She hands over her laptop and her mobile. “Both are dormant.” She grins at Tim. “Your first test will be the password.” Then she warns him. “Not before you hear that we …” she hesitates, needing my confirmation. 

I squeeze her hand. 

“… That we have joined with the red mountain.”

The accountant slips the machines into a box under the bench. “Lead-lined,” he says. “According to instructions?”

He still doubts? Way oh way, my Esse mought not be doubted. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

This is Not a Werewolf Story: The Wherefores

Still the Ordinary Moon
Even a seat-of-the-pants writer such as I am, needs every so often to fix a few landmarks in her story-world. This tale (of ten or so instalments) is my attempt to explain the origin of the jinkers, a strange wizard-kind, at the heart of both The Half Shaman and the Monster-Moored Series. 

The Esse and I don’t hug. I may not even hold her hand lest I set her magic free before it can be known. Way oh way, my Esse. My heart mought burst into my belly I am so warm that you picked me. 
Ancients walk fore and aft of us, but untidily, to portray a friend-group out welcoming their oldest lady, though, in fact, under her scarves she looks quite young, I’m disturbed to see. She chatters, as I predicted. She’ll make a friend of anyone.
Local grandpa waves till-we-meet-again. 
I wave tell-you-then.
Rope might’ve said a negative thing had she known our acquaintance, Rope’s expression says. 
“Be easy, young woman,” says the Esse. 
“Why would Monk ask us to bring our accountant?” Rope says, attempting to counter the Esse’s attitude with some of her own. 
Good luck with that, youngster. 
“Glad you asked,” Esse says. “May we settle somewhere, carry out a few odds of business?”
We pass the long horizontal cafe-window. People at the bench look out on us with interest. 
“Not the cafe,” Esse tells the chief.
I see with her the table with nine chairs surrounding it, coffees steaming or variously consumed, with ninety-nine or some such Naifs encircling. They resemble naked-neck vultures waiting for a kill. Some, when they look to see us walking past, start to get up. Some get their mobiles out. At least one already presses a particular digit three times.  
They remind me to con the scene like a hunter. Who do these vultures await? Whom are they trusting to deliver their prey? 
“Not the park opposite the police station,” I say, foreseeing the possibility of a nasty flickering-in-and-out-of-character scene should I need to use energy to maintain my cool. 
Neither Esse nor I are in our steady-state. My heart and my head buzz as if fat golden bees zip in and out. My wolf-hair reluctantly allows itself to be transformed, hair by hair. 
The lack of a shaman in the other-lands means we must perform the appropriate rites ourselves, on each other and soon, if the transformation is to ‘take’.
“The wagon?” the accountant says. 
“That’ll work,” Esse says. 
We stop by a wagon-and-pair parked parallel to the pavement, taking the place of two electronic vehicles. 
“Monk said no electronics,” the accountant says. “Lucky we use oxen for carrying up and down the stone road. We borrowed the wagon from the museum in return to bring them a load of sandstone for repairs.” 
The wagon sits nearly as low as a foundering sea-ship. The sandstone on board already. 
Esse slides onto the seat beside the accountant and motions for me to join her. 
The wagon dips some on my side. Despite my looks, I am no lightweight. It’s the accretion of stone in my old old bones. 
My Esse smiles out of the corner of her mouth near me. She’s having trouble not sliding into me. She is a lightweight. I’ll need to feed her up. Wonder if this country has rabbits? 
We somehow have forced the young chief to walk at the heads of the animals. I don’t see anything other than pride going before a fall. The warrior and the techie cross-leg on the load. Win a friend and gain an enemy might-and-ought also sum the situation so far. 
“Where to?” says the accountant, holding the reins up off the backs of the oxen. 
“I have in my mind a ridgeway,” I say. “A track running along the top of the ranges. Do you know it?” 
I also have in mind a cave of golden sandstone warmed by the westering sun. Private. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This is Not a Werewolf Story: Loup

The Ordinary Moon
Part 1: Loup

I am a ramshackle man, old and grey and barely holding it together, is what I read on the Naif faces surrounding us. 
I’m sitting at a table in the fucking middle of the only cafe in a town where Naifs outnumber everyone else three to one. Three Naifs to one Local or one African or one Ancient. Even when the Ancients are us.
My minders don’t notice the staring. They’re agog in their own way for being lumped with me, a figure from their ancient mythologies. 
I do resemble a wolf somewhat. 
Or I did when I looked into a window at the jail, at my reflection. I’m long, lean and rangy. I lope no matter how I adjust my pace. My eyes, beetling under my grey man-brow, are wide-spaced and often red-sparking. I dress to cover the fringing on my heels and elbows. 
Be on the fucking bus, Esse. I do not want to be a wolf in a shooters’ paradise and my living days gone before the work.
“Fucking Monk,” says Rope. “What does he think we can do with you?”
I call her Rope due to the way she wears her hair. She is our Chief, apparently.
“I’m not here for you to do anything with,” I say. “You’re keeping me company till the bus gets here. Monk said to pretend you are my daughter. You always bring warriors to meet your old father?”
We speak in the ancient, it-is-to-be-hoped generally unknown tongue.
“My-old-father is the laugh,” Rope says. “Bring your accountant, says Monk. This is him, my not so old father.”
“Not a warrior,” says the man firmly. 
I see now how he lightly carries his years. 
“Our trainees,” the accountant says. “A warrior. A tech. All of us as suggested by himself. Monk’s wish, our command.”
The young people are so riveted I’m not sure they’ll do. 
A waiter comes. A Naif. “Five coffees,” she says. “Drink up and out of here. The old fucker is scaring people.” She speaks the english of this region.
Rope hisses. “Must I put start a cafe myself and take your customers?”
The waiter looks confused. I almost laugh, Rope is a lateral thinker. 
The techie takes out his mobile and messages people. The warrior fetches willow-back chairs from where they can be got. 
I missed the signal for their actions, nor which of the leaders grimaced it. 
“Four more coffees,” Rope says, smugly laughing so no Naif will see it. 
Oh way oh way, my Esse. Nor can I live out my days without you in them in these new times. Or would I want to. 
“Bus ETA in seven minutes,” the techie says. 
I rise, shaking off a wait-a-while hand. I’m out of there. “I need her to see me. Why would she alight in this dim place otherwise?”
The warrior joins me in my standing-and-waiting. A youngster, he stares out front as if he is on parade. 
My heels still hurt with me upright. 
“Hey Blaze,” says a young tenor. “You waiting to travel on the bus?” 
A Local, if I’m not mistaken. He has set himself beside the young warrior. 
The warrior tips his head to me. “Waiting along of this guest we have. Keeping him company. Stranger in a strange land.”
“You out of school totally then?”
Blaze nods.
“Times a-coming, our grandpa asks? He’s across the road, not wanting to formalise.”
The warrior looks to me. 
For my input? The kid is out of school totally to help deal with the times a-coming? Local Grandpa is across the road not wanting to alert the Naif if the action is still a secret? 

I smile a glimmer. “Seems to me the Locals has the ball.” A good feeling warms my belly. “I’m waiting for a garrulous old woman. She’ll tell us.” 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Mongrel: Zebe Arrives

The boat bringing Zebe from the mainland

A Zebe point-of-view section. Cele drops three hints. Is Zebe on the ball enough to understand what she is being told? 

Mr Boatman-and-boat, as named by Callum, dropped Zebe off at the Reefarium jetty on the Monday. Cele tied off the ropes thrown toward the bollards, looking livelier about it than many youthful crew. 
Look at her. Rosy cheeks framed by fly-away grey-silver hair. Brown eyes. Hardly a wrinkle despite living outdoors more than in. Cele’s maths, her years at the Reefarium, and how old she was on arrival never made any sense to Zebe. 

They waved off Mr Boatman and picked up Zebe’s innocent bags. The dust in a sachet in her bra, a sweaty square against her breast. 

They walked measuredly, their backs to the PoleWatchers. Everywhere there was a pole carrying communication transmitters, and there were at least two in sight of the Reefarium, there would be a spy camera attended by sneaky technicians, in the pay of the EMBers more often than not. 

The jetty was long enough to meet, greet and get any serious news out before it must be shared with whoever was in residence. Or not, Zebe thought, recalling their abandoned state. 

“You look happy like you have solved a problem,” Cele said. 

Zebe’s stomach fluttered. Cele was onto her? She caved in. “What do you know so far?” 

“What do I think I know so far?” Cele said. “The silver mud I brought from the valley has somehow escaped this facility and, hallelujah, is being spread through the landscape by natural forces.”

Zebe was stunned. “You mean to contaminate the whole world?” she said.

The wind soughing among the jetty’s pilings was like a sign for the end of the world.

“You bet. However you want to describe it. The mud is in no way inimical, unlike the dust. The revival of that krill was like an omen. I started releasing mud in a big way. Come see my witches cauldron?” 

Zebe let Cele guide her into the visitor overnighting quarters, Cele skipping behind and in front unlocking and locking up again. 

“Security still as tight as ever,” Zebe said. 

“Forgot to tell you we have a bunch of visitors. Three that can’t, or won’t, live below the water-line. I put them in the upstairs ocean-side apartments.”

“From where they can see the dolphinate?” Zebe said in the same tones as she might ask whether she should hyperventilate. 

“Give them something to think about,” Cele said. 

Mysterious visitors indeed. “When do I get to meet them?” 

“Dinner. Which the two remaining are catering. I gave them the run of the restaurant kitchens though they look more used to cooking over a campfire.” 

Still hours till dinner time. Zebe ignored Cele’s innuendos as well as the three-visitors-two-remaining conundrum. “In the meantime?” she said.  

“One of them looks like he might’ve been your type before he was transformed,” Cele said. “I posted a treatment plan to his deck, for you to get prescribed for him and then to treat him with. It should be interesting.”

Cele stopped Zebe near a wet-room workstation in the gloomy wet-gold corridor. Non-essential lighting on half power.

With her hand on Zebe’s arm, Cele turned Zebe. Xanthe’s missive glowed on the monitor. “I highlighted the phrases that seem to relate to us,” Cele said.

Zebe laughed weakly. “Xanthe plays at being the world’s best spy.”

“Did you bring back a sample so that we can regularise the scene?”

“Because of our visitors?” Zebe said.

“They aren’t EMBers, or any kind of officialdom.”

“Had me worried,” Zebe said ironically.

Cele looked at her in that sizing-you-up-way that she had as if she seriously wondered whether Zebe could take what was coming. “One good thing,” Cele said. “It was your sister who went down to Byron Bay. Our visitors are convinced you are a blonde.”

“What did she do?” Zebe said.

“Infected a gent by the name of Poul with the dust. I hope she only pretended to infect herself.”


“It’ll go very badly for her should the Huddle discover it if she did infect herself.”

Zebe felt her blood drain from her face and extremities to help her labouring heart. She stared at the highlighted phrases in Xanthe’s email, engraved on her heart already. …. “That Poul is here?”

Cele looked nearly as sick as Zebe felt. “Remember that mattress-fish that hung around for a while?” she said.

“You fed it for the longest time,” Zebe said.

“Thought it might eat my people if it went hungry?” Cele said.

“How did you convince it to go?” Zebe said though what it had to do with the topic under consideration, she had no idea. 

“Not me. Bunch of orcas herded it away. I thought killing two birds with one stone. But, what I heard just now, the mattress-fish grew much much bigger and made it south. Suggests the tables turned and the orcas eaten. In Byron Bay it ate, maybe, that Poul. Though the informant swears Poul is alive in the fish.”

“Jonah in the whale come to life. Or, in other words, a story?” Zebe said. 

“I thought that too but for the informant’s state-of-being. Damn, damn Joe Loreno!” 

Cele cried, Zebe was astounded to see. Her tears spattered anywhere. 

“And damn you for killing my work, my life, my theory!” Cele said.

Dry-mouthed, Zebe said, “The spreading the alien dust through the landscape theory? When the dust is out there right this minute, spreading itself, you said?”

“I only ever spread the mud, Zebe. My theory that the mud is benign and will do more good than harm. You and Xanthe introduced the dust,” Cele said. “But everyone under the sun will believe that was me too.” 

Zebe stepped away. 

“I’ll be leaving as soon as I can. Get out of your hair.” 

“It’s a mess, is it?” Zebe said distantly. 

Crying again, Cele said, “Callum refused to come.”

“He’s not stupid, is he? Where will he go?”

“He went. Without so much as a goodbye. Away with the least trustworthy of our guests. Who are men, to his understanding.” 

“So,” Zebe said after a while. “Delete the hard drive?” Something to say. A way to get proceedings proceeding. 

“Don’t bother. I’ll leave the sea-doors open as I go. Seawater still very efficient at wiping hard drives.”

“You really are going?” Zebe felt aghast at last. 

“Why would I abandon my dearest friends?” Cele said. “The innocents in all this.”

Which put Zebe in her place. Cele that good with pin-pricks. “The only innocents in this are the children they will bear.” Something Zebe had thought since discovering Cele’s project. Never said anything, though. Cele’s project’s money kept them all. 

Cele laughed. “You’re judging me. Hope you find it easier than me to negotiate the cataclysm.”

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Mongrel: Shad Tattoos Tardi

Tribal tattooing method that is now called hand-poke,

If you've read The Half Shaman, you'll know that some of the details of Jeb's story mentioned in this installment have not been written in yet. Read, or refresh your memory by clicking on the link. 

Shad gave things into Tardi’s hands and hitched his shirt-tail ends up over his shoulders. Draped himself face down over the slab table of the picnic setting. “I found the greaseproof paper that time I made the coffee. And I made the rosemary charcoal sticks then too. You trace the designs on my back.”

Tardi chortled. “No wonder the coffee was so ugh.” 

 “Talk me through it. It’ll help me see your tracings better.”

“What do I see?” Tardi began. “Over your left butt bone is a star system with a yellow star and a red star. Both have a planet. The fucking Procyon System? Why?”

“Moving along,” Shad said. “In the middle?”

“A broken staff of some kind, the pieces crossing. Not the kind of staff for fighting with, I think. A setting at the top with nothing in it,” Tardi said. 

“Half of Shaman Jeb’s staff while she still lived on Lotor. Don’t know why it’s shown as broken. Nothing in the setting because there are no crystals on Lotor. Above my right butt bone is a …?”

“Hard to make out. A human-like outline half-filled with all the colours of the rainbow in stripes and blotches while the other half is … a fucking bad colour. You don’t have some kind of death warrant on you?”

Shad laughed. “Would I be here? It’s the Hole-in-the-Day life-suit so black in the daytime that it appears to have no substance. Shaman Jeb’s life-suit that she was gifted by the pegasee on Lotor. An undercover kind of attempt by them to hitch a ride off-planet. Would’ve worked but for Shaman Thyal’s smarts. Jeb and he were the only shamans remaining. Trace over the designs with the charcoal.”

“I’m going to make the tattooing even easier,” Tardi said. “I saw pigment pens somewhere. You could trace over the charcoal with them and on with the needling.”

“Don’t want to make it too speedy, got to tell the tales while I do it,” Shad said. 

By late afternoon, Shad was a long way into the telling Jeb's story. He’d inked-in the binary Procyon Star System on the left of Tardi’s back, carving tracks through the tree’s bark-like skin with Tardi’s encouragement. The two pieces of the broken staff were inked in the middle of Tardi’s back. He was tracing out the Hole-in-the-Day life-suit to the right. They still used the picnic setting, Tardi laid out over the table. With the tide on the up, water lapped the under-deck.

“No!” Tardi shouted. 

He’d been close to a trance taking in the story at the same time denying the pain of the needling. 
He rolled from the table and sprang away from Shad. He shouted. “What have you done to me? My Gran worked all her life to save me from them. You are a bad, bad man!"

“Tar, wake up!” Shad said. “It were Trinnet doing something to the boy?”

Tardi panted. He stared past Shad to try and see Callum through Trinnet’s eyes. 

The monster played with him. It cycled him through seeing Callum from under Trinnet’s bushy brows and seeing Trinnet from under … from under …. Callum’s dark eyebrows. 

“Fucking Trinnet. He infected Callum.” Tardi all but fell over one of the benches. “He cut him while he slept. Did the blood exchange on him.”

“Sure?” Shad said.

Tardi walked. Turned. “I’m seeing Trinnet. Victorious. I’m seeing Callum. Furious. The fucker did it without asking.” His voice crescendoed on his disgust. “What excuse will he have?”

“He’ll say he did it to get a second opinion on things the monster is telling him,” Shad said. “Or he’ll say it weren’t right, Callum the only one out of them two without the influence. He was always saying that to me as well.” 

Shad talked at each place where Tar turned in his walking. “I always had the excuse that I swore to shadow you. I feel terrible, telling you the young one would be safe. What will we tell his gran?”

Tardi stopped. Thought. “Nothing. For now. Callum is not some ignorant know-nothing and so there will be a reprise. Better to tell the whole lot together. Or nothing if Cele leaves before it happens.”

“Dusk soon. Get some dinner going.” Shad packed up the tattooing kit. “Miz King is expecting Zebe, she said. Man, have you got some times coming!”

“Yeah, okay,” Tardi said of Shad getting dinner. Zebe’d be arriving, and Man I’ve got some times coming? Huh? Got no energy to follow that up.