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.