Monday, August 6, 2018

Kosi Lionhair: 25. The Stranger

These posts have caught up to the wishy-washy borders of creation, where the first draft is still coming into being. I well remember telling someone in #SaturdayScenes how I had twenty weeks up my sleeve and yes I'd easily be able to keep ahead of the posting schedule. 

Ahh the plans of mice, women, and men ....

Eight weeks with my dominant hand in a cast, with no writing or sustained typing possible, two stints in hospital with heart disease with several weeks of (non-writing) recovery at home each time soon chewed up the weeks I had up my sleeve. 

So here we are now ... at the coal face of invention. Hope this tale will still make sense to you ... 

25: The Stranger

Pallas cleared her throat. When she had our attention, she nodded at the stranger she’d been talking to. “Meet Luke. He says he chose to remain behind to make room for Joddy and Lem?”

The stranger, tall dark and handsome I don’t think, was tall and did have dark brown eyes with dark green glints, and dark brown hair also with dark green glints. Some bits of him—say on the pointy bit of his elbow—looked as if his skin was in the process of wearing away. Fringes of skin hung round a dark, greenish … wound?

That couldn’t be right. When as green as that, human flesh was definitely ill. The man owning the elbow didn’t look sick. I concentrated harder and blushed maybe, I certainly felt redly embarrassed. Could what looked like a wound be his actual skin? The torn overlay was a torn overlay. Probably part of life suit. Right.

But still, that meant his skin was dark green. His face wasn’t, but I couldn’t stare at it to see how he’d solved that problem—by using makeup or with a stocking-weight facemask—because he’d surely notice me staring.

I stared at Jack and Pallas and Owen instead. Even Jack behaved as though he hadn’t noticed anything different about the fellow. I frowned at his silent query, asking me what’s up?

“Did they get back?” the stranger said. “Joddy and Lem. Only it’s been about …”

The rest of what he might’ve said went lost in Marti’s outcry. “You were in that crew? Oh, I’ve had such a time waiting to meet you! Can you take me to Lotor? Ple-ase?”

She just about simpered. She certainly tried to grab Luke’s arm to get familiar.

“Splat,” Jack said. “There goes my dinner.”

“Mine too,” I said. “Though it has been a good while since we ate.” Well, I was hungry.

“No food up here,” Luke said. “I always eat in the hold. Get off me, woman!” He shrugged Marti off.

I narrowed my mind’s eyes. Would that be Luke, a dark-green stranger, attending to a pair of stowaways he wouldn’t have known even if he’d been human? Because he definitely wasn’t from Silo 23. Why?

“Man is planning something for us,” Jack said.

“Not a man,” I said right by Jack’s ear. My head in the way of anyone else hearing.

Marti pouted. About what, I wondered. Luke’s interest in us, aka the stowaways? Or had we upset her with our byplay? My brother used to throw tantrums after such pouting. Hen always said that anyone over the age of two had to plan tantrums. So probably Marti was planning something too?

When Luke joined Owen at a workstation without further interaction with either Jack and me, or Marti, Marti started to drag one of the remaining bodies toward the side of the room. “Help me,” she said. “Might as well not trip over them every time we take a step.”

Not such a silly idea as the work gave us a surreptitious opportunity to keep our eyes and ears on any action by the three EMBers.

“It’s pretty weird, this system of borrowing other people’s bodies,” Luke said at the enlivened workstation. “But I have to admit, the way you use his face makes a difference. I mean you don’t resemble Toby?”

My mind was in overdrive trying to figure out how the mind transfer thing worked. The EMBers who had their minds transferred to Lotor had worn bicycle gear. Joddy’s story was pretty sure on that. These bodies, in The Second Chance, wore bicycle gear. Did that mean that a bunch of whole body-minds went from here to Lotor? I couldn’t see it.

“Sorry,” Owen said. He introduced Pallas. “Pallas EMBer. Over there we have Jack Fetcher and Kosi Lionhair. The woman wanting to do a Joddy? Her name is Marti. I’m Owen EMBer.”

“Luke EMBer,” the stranger said not missing a beat. “Wanting-to-do-a-Joddy, what’s that?” 

Still in her buttering-up mode, Marti laughed delightedly. “Joddy came back youngering? That’s what I’m here for. I want that.”

“It’s a myth, a story put about by PP,” Owen said. “Keep our attention from what’s really happening.”

Luke stopped Owen saying anything more by stopping him with an arm across Owen’s chest. “I’d like to hear the woman’s thoughts on the matter?” He said it like he and Owen were friends.

“Three EMBers should be plenty,” Marti said. “We fly to Lotor and land planet-side. Though I’ll want to accompany you while you do your scientific experiments. I could even help. When we’re done, we return to Silo 23, then to Earth.”

“We fly to Lotor? From here?” Luke said.

He sounded incredulous.

“This is a powered silo ship, isn’t it?” Marti said. “Filled with Life Lottery winners?”

“By here, I meant from where in space this ship is currently wallowing?” Luke said.
It felt like he was laughing. Jack was starting to laugh with the guy. Pallas and Owen exchanged lightning glances when they worked out the joke. Owen went back to the enlivened workstation, to try and get some facts out of it?

I could see that everyone was going to accept Luke for what he seemed to be—a human with a patronising sense of humour. An EMBer. Someone called Luke.

Luke joined Owen. “Let me.”

He talked while he input data. “If you’re not here on a rescue mission—and this is not how I imagined how a rescue might unfold—what is your brief?”

He addressed Pallas and Owen of course. And as he had had about fifty years to practice it, his little spiel sounded quite natural.

“All due to Procyon Products gung ho,” Owen said about the brief. “Thinking they can do anything.”

“It is a rescue,” Pallas said. “But also a remediation. PP hit a snag cloning the boots. This mission is a sort of back-to-the-drawing-board attempt entailing the first part of the journey. Namely, can we transfer three people from a silo to The Second Chance and return with four people, possibly?”

“Easy,” Luke said.

Three people! “Don’t tell me you expected Bene to leave Lydia behind?” I said.

Pallas shook her head and glanced guiltily at Marti.

“And bring home an original data-waver,” Owen added.

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