Saturday, February 17, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 6. The Helpful Soldier

Roll-ups from
Will we still be eating spinach and soy cheese roll-ups in the 22nd century? 

I danced through the grey bare-concrete doorway with the 8-W painted above it, so happy to have made it. The concrete space opened out to each side into a concourse filled with crowds of people moving through, knowing where they were going. I would think about my destination in a minute.

First I wanted to browse through the stalls sprinkled through the space, as some others of the crowd were also doing. Besides, I was hungry. Would I be able to buy something for 2 credits? I had to keep 4 for the way back.

A woman stood or sat selling something by every grey column. One sold flowers from a half dozen water-filled buckets. I sniffed the air, she watched me suspiciously. “These are real flowers?” I asked.

“On your way, fetcher.”

Another had a pyramid of bottles of water on a cart. I wasn’t thirsty. But when I smelled the bags of fluffy popcorn the next woman had in a couple of big baskets, I swallowed a sudden rush of spit. “I’m hungry enough for three bags,” I told her, smiling.

“These aren’t for the likes of you, fetcher,” said that stall-holder. Not friendly either.

 But I couldn’t walk away. I’d missed at least three meals. I stayed to drool.

The popcorn seller screeched. “Get away! You stink!” She flapped her hands at me to get me gone, and caught the eye of a soldier-woman passing. “Help me get rid of this pest? Give you a bag of popcorn?”

The soldier came ambling over. She was tall and had muscles showing under her uniform. She grabbed my arm and towed me away. “Pew! You do stink! Though you do look like a fetcher. You’re not on your level whoever you are. Tell you what, do me a fetch and I won’t report you.”

She took my silence as agreement. “You look like a beginner. But never mind, we all have to start somewhere.”

What could I say? I nodded. “Fetch what?”

“A girl of my house left her shoes on Level 7. New shoes that she took off while waiting for her transport because she got blisters, the silly little goose. Worse, she was too embarrassed to go back for them when she realised she’d forgotten them.” She walked me to the balustrade overlooking the flight space, keeping hold of my arm tight enough that I couldn’t wrench loose.  “Can you see them?”

Level 7 was the next level down. Seats surrounded the open space where you could wait for your ride. There weren’t any shoes that I could see near the seats on the opposite, eastern, side of the concourse. “Did she say where on level 7?”

“I don’t remember. I was too busy regretting that I would have to make another trip in.” The soldier dragged me north so we could check 7 south, and then 7 west.

“There, under that seat!”

 “Check. Go fetch them, fetcher.”

“Bring them back here?”

“Run them down to W-7-12. Put the shoes in the entry and pick up your credit chit.”

My ears pricked up. The girl who owned the shoes lived not in the same building as me, on the level below. And she wasn’t a Tween. I wished we could’ve been friends.

My stomach grumbled and I remembered I was about to fall off my perch with hunger. “I’m too hungry to run.”

“Well, we better get you fuelled up.” The soldier walked me to a snack stall. “Much more wholesome than popcorn.”

“One of those?” I pointed at a sort of roll that looked appetising.

“Soy protein filling. That’ll be 15 credits,” the stall-holder said. “Sauce?” she said so frostily I didn’t bother.

The soldier paid by swiping her cell.

While I gobbled down the roll, she stared into space. Disowning my lack of table manners probably.

Licking my fingers after eating, I checked out the way the levels were connected. In two opposite corners were wide ramps going to the floors above and below. The other opposite corners had spiral stairs, one on either side of the wide maw where the flying transports went in and out. “W-7-12, you said.”

She nodded and took out her cell, dismissing me.

Me, I took off left, towards the ramps.

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