|A mongoose, image from iStock, is a formidable opponent despite its small stature|
Jeb's husband Mongoose is a worthy Totem alterity
More clothes are being shed to make into ropes, and now also into nets. Those of us who cannot climb will need to be pulled up. No one will be left behind.
I see this from a distance because Mongoose and I are still under the central substructure supporting the listing Totem Reality. We are ringed by the Maremma dogs. Kosi Lionhair, the machine pattern, still inhabits the lead dog.
“We’ll have so much fun, Jeb,” the poor machine pattern says. The dog she is embedded in ignores Mongoose a half pace ahead and right of me, with my shoulder behind his.
Yes, I’m thinking the poor thing now, though she can prevent us from leaving. She can slide the inner doors of the central airlock to and fro, which would cut the knots wedged behind them with friction, dropping whoever. Fewer clothes to make into ropes would mean a more dangerous haul. And those are only two things I can think of.
She must suspect there is no way I will be left behind. I’m racking my brains. How can I leave her happy?
Mongoose whispers in my ear. “My mother travelled when I was young. Left me with my father. Always gave me a job to do for her return. Made me feel important.”
I nod. I see a couple of problems. I leave Kosi a job, I need to return to see the completion. What kind of job? “What sort of thing were you good at when you still lived with your mother and father?” I say at the Maremma dogs.
“You talking to me, Jeb? You could say my name. It’s Kosi. Kosi Lionhair. I called myself that because I used to fluff my hair out to feel brave. I was very good at gymnastics despite that I had to do them totally silently. Because I lived in a Tween House?”
Tween House? I suspect that it would take too much time to have that explained. Gymnastics? “You mean tumbling and rolling?” Nothing in that I can use.
“But Hen said I was way up there with researching,” Kosi says.
Could be something in that. “Researching using a desktop and a database, Kosi Lionhair? I did that at shaman school.”
Kosi giggled, then boasts. “I guess you had a Lotor-wide database. I had a world-wide database at my fingertips.”
“There is a lot we don’t know about surviving on the Ark Ship,” I say. “And later on Earth.”
Mongoose pinches the inside of my elbow.
I look at him and he mouthes alarm. “Should you be telling her that?”
Nod. Whisper. “She’ll find out in a snap. Do we even know whether she could stop us?”
He shrugs minimally.
A couple of the dogs stare intelligently at our exchange.
I address her again. “You said something about time travelling, Kosi. What’s that about?”
“This ship doesn’t know anything about when, that is, about time. And so neither does the Ark Ship while they are joined. You are not the same people who left the Ark Ship to go to Lotor, are you? Could be a rude surprise for you—a rude awakening for the Ark Ship when you get there.”
Slip of the virtual tongue there, my girl. I knew you know I’ll be going with the rest. “Is there a database on this ship?”
She laughs. “Wrong question. Is there a database on this ship that I can use? Answer is no. Everything on this ship is too alien. I patched myself into the Ark Ship’s database. It is very good.”
“Oh good.” If I knew what she was talking about. “So could you research something for me? For us?”
“I would clap my hands if I could, Jeb. You’re setting me a project. Hen used to set me projects when she went home for the weekend. I love research projects.”
I feel Mongoose relaxing a bit. I figure it is going to take us some time to get to the Command Centre and to sing everybody back into their human shapes. But after that, would we trust the Ark Ship when we know nothing about flying a spaceship?
“Could you find out how to make these ships move through space the way they are stuck together?”
Because she is thinking?
“Because,” I say. “Could we trust the Ark Ship if we asked it that? To go back to Earth? Given everything the Ark Ship has done to its humans up to now?”
“You want me to discover the thrust-program the Ark Ship will use to change the direction of travel,” Kosi says. “So that we can supervise the process and possibly stop it, if necessary?”
“Your husband does not approve,” Kosi says. “You’re not even wearing any rings. How was I to know you’re married?”
“How do you know now?” Mongoose says.
“You are still here with her when no one else is,” she says.
He looks so pleased I dig my elbow in his ribs. I frown. “She’s is not a person. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by her.”
“If the Ark Ship discovers how you Lotor-people have ruined its solutions, it might decide to send us all into the nearest star. Is that what you are afraid of, Jeb?”
I cup Mongoose’s muzzle to stop him hissing. Could the Ark Ship do that? I wouldn’t know. “So it’s better to have a way to check, I thought.”
“That’s a huge project. How long before you return?” Kosi says.
She sounds plaintive. I feel guilty that I blamed Mongoose for letting himself be influenced by her.
“I’m not a fast runner and I don’t fly,” I say. “It will take me some time to get to the Command Centre. Get into the Command Centre and to convince my friends of this need, and then to set up …”
“Yes. Blah blah blah. It’s going to take some time,” Kosi Lionhair says. “Go now.”
Mongoose lays his arm around my shoulders and starts me walking. He whispers into my ear. “Prattling because you’re nervous.”
I look into his eyes and nearly burst out weeping because he sends me that special look of love. I manage a smile. “And you’re not?”
“Terrible case of heebie jeebies. Feel my tremble? They’re ready for us.”
They are only Lithe and Limber.
“Had to throw Meerkat in, he was that keen to be last with you,” Lithe says as he hauls me up the two-man-high door sill. “I needed him to accompany Thyal. Jeb, wait here right by me for Mongoose.”
“We’ll be right after you but that isn’t any confirmation we’ll all end up in the same place,” Limber says.
“I want some of that rope,” Mongoose says. “Everything you’re telling me.”
The airlock doors into the alien ship close behinds us when Lithe disengages the net’s knots. “Stuck in here now until the other deigns to take notice.”