Sunday, July 28, 2013

Beyond the Leaning City Part 5


Friday? Sunday? It is all the same to me, motherfuckers.



The Second Meeting


Reluctant to enter the gloomy interior of any dead ship, Kal spent the night in a cubbyhole above a deckhouse. He was out of the wind, his clothes had dried, and he was able to keep a little blaze going all night, but he didn't get much sleep.

In the morning, his second away from Sursha and Thront, he set out again, continuing to travel northward.

He found himself thinking about the stone table in the front room of their bungalow: the way it smelled in the evening when the sunlight slanted across the room to lay against it. An image of Sursha seated at the table, her skin streaked and glowing with the day's last light, entered his mind. He became distracted and wandered slightly off course.

When Kal noticed the shift in his direction of travel, rather than make a correction, he allowed himself to drift further. He climbed some stairs, crossed a bridge of ice and came down onto a long, flat metal deck.

There was a large black stain at the center of the deck, Kal stepped around it, and almost tripped. He stooped to examine what he had tripped over; it was a backpack: his backpack.

He opened it up, and pulled out a bundle of clothes; there was also a wide, flat bladed battle knife with a spiked guard, but there was no food, or water, and he was sorely in need of both.

He pulled on the heavy overshirt and the quilted leggings; the gloves were the best part. His fingers warmed slowly, prickling with delicious pain.

How had these things come to be here?

There were footprints everywhere. Kal walked around the deck, examining the marks and tracks. By the looks of things, some sort of scuffle had taken place. He identified one definite example of Thront's footprint.

He suspected that the black stain was some sort of bodily fluid; he touched its surface. Frozen slick. If he was correct whatever had taken place here had happened some hours ago.

The abandoned backpack worried him. His sense of things was that Sursha was alive, but the eerie light and the fog made him doubt his instinct.

"Don't move."

Kal swiveled around. He was looking at the contact point of his own static caster. Wister and three companions: the two nort that had impersonated Beurophants and one meafle.

The meafle's coat was severely singed and he had a vivid scar on his yellow furred face. He was holding the static caster.

"Greetings, nact." Wister's tentacles writhed. Seated on a float, he hovered several hand spans over the deck.

"Careful," the meafle said. "More dangerous than he looks."

Kal scrutinized the meafle again, unable to place the incidence of their prior acquaintance.

Wister made a grating, sliding noise. The nort jerked their brow tufts.

"Don't laugh," The meafle said. "Its true."

"If you cannot be silent, Phenton, then I will have Thane or Barin remove your speaking appendage." Wister's tentacles fluxed on the fleshy vocal node at the apex of his form. "Now, nact, give us your weapons."

"What do you want?"

"We want your ship, blue hair-" Phenton stepped forward brandishing the 'caster. One of the norts lashed out with his arm knocking the meafle to the snow where he lay without motion. The static caster lay on the ground beside him.

Kal hesitated; he wondered if he waited a moment longer if they would do him any more favors, like give him food, or offer him a foot massage. Or kill each other.

"Now drop your weapons-" Wister floated over the intervening distance. Kal did a handspring, soared over Wister, and came down beside the fallen meafle. He grabbed the static caster; pointed it at Wister and flipped the toggle.

Electricity lanced through the air; it stuck to Wister's chair; for a hot, and flickering instant it snapped up and down in the air between the float and the contact, cooking the fog.

The float exploded; burning, glowing shards of metal whistled through the air; a plate-shaped, black cloud of smoke swept outward from the nexus of the explosion. The two nort tumbled across the deck screaming; Wister flew high into the air and splashed down into a trough of water intervening between two hulks.

Kal got a nasty burn on his hand, but by the time the smoke cleared he was eight ships away; with the static caster under one arm and the meafle's food bag under another.

Wister survived. He had no bones to break, his mind was a semi- soft construct of mold complexes spread throughout his body and connected by durable ganglia: almost impossible to damage with a single trauma, and the severity of his burns was stunted by the almost immediate immersion into ice cold salt water.

Thane and Barin pulled him out of the sea and sat him down on deck.

"Go after that little blister, both of you." Wister jerked and twitched; two of his tentacles had been scorched into tight rings of cooked flesh, and burn blisters rose up on his speech fold. "I want him alive. Remember we need their boat; he can tell us where it is."

"Thane, give me your gun. I'll wait here." Wister scrunched his way across the deck.

"Will you be safe?" Barin leaned down over Wister.

"Yes. Yes. Now go."

The pair of norts departed.

Wister sat and looked out into the fog with his two remaining eyes. He was in a great deal of pain; his speech fold was the most sensitive region of his body and it had been fairly well scorched in the explosion.

He was busy consoling himself with revenge fantasies when he saw the first of the approaching shapes.


  1. This may be my favorite installment, yet. The intro of these malefactors is nicely done!