Chapter 1 - Carpios IV (Wide Parking Orbit)
In which our heroine arrives back home with a tale to tell..
Scam swagged the drapies to one side and stepped out of the corridor into the flickering darkness of Town. High above, the Lights were now dark, but the crickling flames of a brazzie threw shadows across the many packies and jakvines that hung from Town’s walls. A few more days and the frukties would be ripe enough to pick, dry and turn into bisks.
Scam nodded at the bored looking Gardies standing around the brazzie, warming their hands - four girlies and an oldun. They looked back at her, and one of the girlies grinned.
“Scam! You been gone longs! What you get?”
“Hi-yokey, Pob. Not much. Bins were pretty un-cosh.”
Pob ran a hand through her shookly mop of black hair and frowned.
“Uh. You gotsa watch the Bins, Scammie. Slokie’ll getcha.”
Scam shugged her tuckbag off her back, opened the top and waved it under Pob’s nose.
“Scam’ll getcha slokies!” she grinned.
“Attention...” whickered a voice from her wrist.
The Gardies leaned over to look at the brown and grizzled chunks of tentacle. “Mmm!” said the oldun, licking long-gone teeth. “You gonta share, right?”
“Mights. Might not.” Scam winked. “But I reckon when you hears what I seen…”
“Watcha seen? Huh? Huh? Telluz!” came a voice from above.
“Glom! Shuddup!” Scam slapped the small disk on her wrist and looked up to where the walls met the gridmesh of Town’s roof. Fix hung upside down there, swinging from a DEC-steel crom-bar and grinning through the packie leaves.
“Saluto Scammie!” The young Puller slid down the tagline he’d looped over the bar and landed with a crump in front of the Gardies. The oldun narrowed his eyes. Slokie shared wus slokie halved.
But Scam liked Fix. Many hundred days younger than her, and always laughing, ’speshully when he wus supposed to be quiet. Probably end up head-first down a grobbler’s throat. Always good for a scrumble though, when she wus in the mood. Scrumbling with Fix wus fun, and he always made sure she finished too. Not like some.
“You wanna hear?”
“Yes!” giggled the girlies in unison.
Scam’s grin got wider.
“You wanna HEAR??”
“YEAH! TELLUZ!” the girlies and Fix yelled, and even the oldun nodded.
“Well then I’ll…tellyuz!”
Pob javvied up the brazzie with a thin metal pokker, sending sparks up into the darkness, while the others excitedly squatted down in a rough circle. More faces began to appear from behind walls as word got around that there wus gonta be a Tellin’. Scam opened her mouth to speak…
“Glom! Parroff!” Scam slapped the shiny disk and the lights vanished with a sad whicker. Reaching into the tuckbag again, she pulled out the loops of slokie and tossed them to Pob who neatly dropped them into the brazzie where they began to sizzle.
Word of a Tellin’ wus quickly spreading and more of the Klano were joining the circle; some had even woked younguns up. Slokie wouldn’t go far, but Scam figged it wus worth it just for bein’ a Teller. ‘Specially when you had somethin’ new to Tell that wusn’t just “my best Pull” and how you nearly got etten by grobblers.
“Okies. Well me an’ my Glom wus in the Bins. And it wus gettin’ dark!”
A low “oooooo…” came from her quickly building audience. Scam continued, pausing to reach out as Pob handed her the first of the slokie-sticks – a belly-sizzled twist of meat twirled round a thin length of dried jakvine.
“So a slokie tries to grab me, and I bangs him, but I can’t get back across the slosh before Downtime…so I asks Glom where to go...”
“Where didya go? Telluz!” Fix grinned from the front row from where he sat cross-legged, his slokie-stick paused on the way to his mouth. “Didya find a big Ladder?”
Scam gnawed a thin string of meat off her own stick and began munching. “Not a Ladder! Glom takes me into a…Elly-vay-tor!”
There were a few gasps (everyone gasps when a Teller’s Tellin’) but many frowns at the new word.
“What’s a ellafaiter?” asked a squeaky voice from a youngun perched on the shoulders of a grampy standing at the back.
“Ellyvators is small rooms…and they move! Anywise, Glom shows me and in I goes...”
The last scrops of slokie-skin were popping in the brazzie, and towards the end someone had brought out a large bottle of huch. The Tellin’ had gone well. The younguns had hid their eyes at the scaredy bits, like the ellyvator moving, and the Big Glom speaking; while the olduns had whoopie-whooped at the thought of all that DEC and ’spex and cabling. All that Pull!
The younguns had been taken back to sleep after the excitement of a Good Tellin’, the rest of the olduns had drifted away, and now only Fix and Pob remained. Pob stirred the warm glowing brazzie while Fix lay, head in Scam’s lap, cradling the almost empty bottle.
“Is gonna be a Great Pull, Scammie.” He yawned. “When you wanna go pick it up?”
Scam shrugged, idly twiggling her fingers in Fix’s curly black hair. “Coupla Downs later, maybes. If I can find the ways back.”
Fix purred, closing his eyes. “Your Glom’ll do it. Your Glom’s max.”
Scam wrinkled her nose. “He’s okie most times, but he don’t remember much,” she glanced down at the blank face on her wrist. “Like I asked him once how long when I first found ya? You know what he said?”
“Indie-termin-eight! I asks him what’s that mean, and he says he dint know.”
Fix’s eyes opened slowly and looked up at her.
“Whut? He dint know what he meant when he said it?”
Scam shrugged. “I dunno what he meant.” She slowly ran a finger over the disk’s surface. Fix snorted.
“He’s chuzzed is wut he meant! He’s gettin’ old.”
“You leave him!” Scam twikked Fix’s nose, a touch more roughly than she meant to (or maybes just enough, she thought).
“Oww...” Fix rubbed his nose in mock pain, and then winked up at her. “So how long wus it?”
“When you found Glom, dillypek!”
Scam glared down at him. “You reck Glom’s pretty chuzz? You’s pretty chuzz! You wus there, when I came back with him and showed him off. I remembers it. It wus my first time in the Bins...”