A Siren’s Song Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

The next few days alternated between rough and recovering.  Lauranya’s stomach would rebel at water occasionally, but be fine after the initial vomiting.  Standing not always the wisest choice.  Dizzy spells were common, tapering off as the days went on.  Lauranya’s dreams no longer were of Tine (a relief) or Maison (heartbreaking) but she would dream of fur and four legs occasionally.  Those dreams made her smile for no particular reason.

Routine became re-established.  The early morning for the livestock and gardens, with the mid-morning and early afternoons for the lab.  Arie had frozen the fish body for Lauranya to study at her leisure.  Lauranya spent hours on slides and notes.  There were naps but they became fewer and fewer.  The days passed as Lauranya’s stomach settled down and her joints became less inflamed.

The fish yielded information Lauranya hadn’t realized she’d been searching for.  When she connected the dots, she sat back on her stool.  Arie sitting across from her, making sketches on the other side of the table.  She chewed her lower lip.  The information could make the patronage of safety she would need for her and Arie back on the ships or it could get them both shot out of hand.  Their lives depended on how well their work might be judged, worthy or dangerous.  Lauranya compromised with herself.  The notes on the fish and it’s unusual viral interaction, written in encrypted notes.  Only she would be able to open the notes.

The evenings both Lauranya and Arie would spend watching various vid tapes of famous singers.  Sometimes Lauranya would sing along.  Arie would attempt to join in but would fumble some of the higher or lower notes, causing them both to giggle.

Singing wasn’t the only new thing, Arie had discovered personal pleasure which needed the occasional discretionary comment.

“Arie, we do not play with our vulva while watching the projector.  If you want quiet time please go to your room until you are finished.”

Arie stopped masturbating, sitting up.  With a yawn and a stretch, she gave her mother a sleepy smile.  “Okay.”  Arie swung her feet off the couch, heading to her room.  Lauranya returned her attention back to the singer, singing along.

Part way through the door, Arie stopped.  “Mommy?”

Lauranya blinked a couple of times, only partially taking her eyes away from the screen.  “Yes, dear?”

“You and dad had sex to have kids, right?”

“Ah…you have been reading the reproduction section of your studies.”  Lauranya gave Arie her full attention, with a smile.

“Yes.”  Arie twisted a toe on the wood floor, looking down.

“Then the answer, as you know, is yes.”

“What happens when I want to have sex with someone?”  She looked up at her mom, through long blond tousled hair.

Lauranya stopped the projector, with a flick of the remote.  “I am sorry, love.  There is almost no way you will ever meet someone here, unless the ships come back.”  The question was years earlier than expected, but still deserving of a full answer.

“Which would be bad.” Arie said, with a firm nod.  The vid’s made ship life, with slaves and Gods, unappealing.

Lauranya didn’t answer for a moment.  “The ships, coming back to the world, would mean the reinstatement of rules that I have been lax in enforcing.”  She frowned at a new thought.  “Why do you ask?”

“You asked me to tell me when I heard voices again.”

“And you are hearing the dead now?”  Lauranya asked cautiously, swallowing a lump in her throat.  The bitter copper taste of fear.

“Yes, a woman from the water.  She knows she’s dead, but mourns her husbands.”  Arie’s mouth turned down, as she blinked her eyes from excess moisture.

“From the water?”

“Yes.  A shark killed her.”  Arie said, tilting her head a moment listening.  “A flat head shark.”

Lauranya hesitated but pushed ahead.  “Have you animated the body?’

“Animated?”

“Is the body moving under your direction?”

“It’s next to the lobby door.”

“How long?”

“Since lunch.”

“When I was throwing up.”

Arie nodded, her hands fluttering nervously.  “I forgot, just heard the voice and asked her to waituntil you were better.”  She looked at her mother anxiously.

“You are going to have to release her soul, my dear.”  Lauranya said, with a heavy sigh, cautiously moving to her feet.

“And lay the body to rest?”

“She should animate it and use it for a guard on the building.”  Jacks’ voice hung in the air for both to hear.

Lauranya rolled her eyes.  “Hanging around like the family banshee I see.”  She muttered.  The idea was solid and Arie could use the practice.

“How do I animate the body but let the soul go?”  Arie asked confused, walking back to her mother, her head moving from her mother to Jacks’ ghost.

“Can you feel the body now?  Sense it in the water?” Lauranya asked, flaring her nostrils releasing a pent up breath.

“Yeesss?”  Arie stuttered, concentrating with furrowed brow.

“Do you feel the soul as well?”

“Yes!”  Arie said emphatically.  As if summoned by the question, a form coalesced in front of them, a woman with long dark hair floating in a dark halo around her as if in deep but slow moving water.  The woman’s bottom half looked like a scaled fish, beautiful in coloration.  Lauranya walked slowly forward from the couch to look at the woman’s ghost closer, studying the scales on the woman’s tail.  The front, a dark red while the back scales were whorled in blues and green.  The scales ranged from one inch to a quarter inch in width.  There were dorsal fins and side fins.   Lauranya could not say if the fins were overly large or small on a mer.  The woman flared her fins for Lauranya’s observation.  The fins flowed lusciously like crimson silk in a hidden current, with streaks of deeper burgundy along the thick caudal fin veins.  Lauranya could feel her hands itching to touch the woman and study her.  The mer-woman was just as intense with her looks at both Lauranya and Arie.

The woman wore a necklace of smooth stones that shifted between pearl opalescens with flashes of blue/green/red.  Complimenting her natural fin coloration.

Lauranya didn’t have to ask. The ghost’s soul self-image saw herself as a warrior.  Her chest and arms were covered in thick leather armor, leather but not of a hide Lauranya knew or was familiar with.  Grey in color, probably the natural leather coloration as dyed leather did not last long in water.  The armor fitted to the mer’s body, yet in several horizontal pieces, the width of Lauranya’s hand, that would move with her, not made from one singular piece.   Lauranya caught glimpses of red and green ties tying the armor together, as the woman floated in front of them.

“How did you die?”  Lauranya asked, after a moment of surprised silence.

“The flat heads are thick in this area.  They may not always be as the water grows deeper.”  The woman’s voice oddly accented.  The ghost didn’t seem to mind talking to the two of them, more bemused than upset.

“They can’t get in through the doors.”  Lauranya said, off handily admiring the symmetry of the woman’s unusual body build.

“Not all the lower windows have survived.  At least one cephalopod can climb steep hills for a few feet in search of prey.”  The woman’s voice was laconic as she looked, not at them but at the foyer of the building.  “Gorgeous in here.”  She breathed, motioning with a slow wave of her hand.  The motion spoke of a lifetime moving in water.

Lauranya blanched, clutching Arie close at this unexpected news.   “That would answer our question about needing a guard.”

The mer-woman grimaced, changing her features from lovely to fierce.  “I can feel Death calling but something is keeping me here.”

“Do you have family that you need to say goodbye to?”  Lauranya asked, reaching a hand out solicitously than dropping it, the dead rarely needed comforting.

The mer-woman opened her mouth then closed it, with a shake of her head.  “My husbands.”  She tapped a sharp triangular fingernail against a bracer.  “They will find another wife or others that make them happy.”  A shrug.  Death robbing most heat from her anger or sorrow.

“Arie, we are going to release her spirit.”

“Will she hurt us like Tass did?”  Arie’s eyes grew huge, her chin started to quiver.

Lauranya hugged Arie tight.  “No, baby.  We are going to release her spirit back to Obatala so that she will find her way to her next life.”

Arie swiped back a tear, returning her mother’s tight hug.  “Okay.”  Her voice only quavered a little.

Lauranya turned to the mer-woman’s ghost.  The ghost’s head tilted with a sad smile.  “I had wanted a daughter.”

“You have only boys?”

“Not even that.  We aren’t prolific breeders, shifting from water to legs takes a toll on the reproduction.”

“I am sorry to hear that.”  Lauranya had no other words to offer.

The woman gave a slight shrug.  “Nothing you could do to help.”

Lauranya opened her mouth, then closed it.  She couldn’t help at this point, but she would definitely get tissue samples to study, now that there was a body close.  A thought occurred.

“Is this part of your usual area or were you exploring?”  Lauranya asked cautiously.

“Sister sent out an observer when the rains were coming.  She asked if we would keep an eye on the tower when our hunting took us in this area.”  The woman shrugged.  “I became curious about the interior and didn’t pay attention.”

“I am sorry for your loss.  Do you know if others will venture to the tower?”

“Maybe but not for a few months.  This isn’t a prime hunting spot yet.”  A slow shrug, moving the drifting hair in a slight swirl.

“Who is Sister?”  Lauranya asked, turning her head slightly questioningly.

“The Torch, who sees some of the future.”  The mer-woman said, continuing to gaze around the room.

Lauranya blanched at the mention of an unfettered Power, but there was nothing more she could do for them or the dead woman.

Lauranya took a deep breath.  “I need your name for us to send you on.”

“Sachiko.”

“Ready, Arie?” a quick hug to her daughter.

“Yes, mommy.”  Arie looked up to her mother with an eager smile.

“Okay, repeat after me.”  Lauranya took a deep breath.  “Sachiko, may you find peace in your next life.  Back to Obatala.  Leave this plane.”

Arie repeated the words verbatim, her voice growing in depth and timber as she spoke.   Lauranya felt the hair on her arms raise from the power Arie commanded, setting this one soul free.  A strong child would grow to be a strong necromancer.

Sachiko’s ghost glowed softly, haloed for a brief moment, before her ghost faded away.  Arie’s shoulders slumped as she leaned against her mother heavily.

“Is she gone?”  Arie asked softly, with a tilted head listening.

“I do believe so.”  Lauranya gave Arie another quick hug.

 

Brother stood at the newly formed beach, his feet squelching through the mud, the smell of rotting vegetation and ocean air distinctive, mildly revolting during low tide.  Crabs and shallow tidal creatures were in heaven, with the rich feeding grounds.  Decaying plants and the occasional bit of animal protein mixed in made for good tidal flats.  Sand would be carried onto the shores but for the next few years there would be only mud.

Brother walked out into the water, where he knew the old rock outcroppings had been.  The night sky holding the stars high above, brilliant pinpoints forming patterns in the heavens.  He stared upwards, as the water moved around his calves.

“Someone is a cat in water.”  A sultry voice caught him off guard as he star gazed.

“Good evening to you, Keyma.”  Brother flashed a tired but warm smile, recognizing the voice floating through the air..

Keyma frowned as she undulated closer through the high tide water.  She swam over dull rocks and mud.  Pulling herself out of the water, she sat on a flatish rock next to the standing Brother.

“I heard about Leah.  A rough time for her parents on their loss.”  Keyma said softly, looking to the sky, leaning back on her elbows, arching her back in a distracting manner.

Brother took a deep shaky breath.  “It hit us all hard.  No one thought Toithan would actually kill her, or anyone could harbor that much hate to kill a child.”  The words bitter still.  His fists clenched and released.

“His brother passed the mental review by Treasher.  Do you think he’ll still be able to honor that when or if another child is a shifter?”

Brother shrugged.  “I don’t know, but the likelihood of another land shifter is rather slim.”

“Leah happened, surely another couple’s child could be a shifter.”  Keyma said, perplexed at Brother’s comment.

Brother let out a bitter snort of laughter.  “Not Gods spacing likely.”

It was Keyma’s turn to frown.  “Why not? Genetics for us all…”

“Leah was my genetic daughter.  I’m the only one who can shift or has the genetics for it.”

Keyma’s eyes widened in shock as she stuttered.   “Oh.  I… I am very sorry.  I didn’t know.”

Brother gingerly sat down next to her.  The weight of Leah’s death still heavy on his mind.  “Almost no one did, until Toithan killed her.”

“How…”  Keyma shook her head.  “Never mind.  I do know how children are made.”

Brother kept his words short, the story still painful.  “Nori isn’t able to have kids.  A childhood accident left him sterile.  He and Yearra asked me.”

“Why you?”  Keyma asked, turning wide eyes to him, then slapped a hand over her mouth.  “Gods, I’m an idiot.  That’s not how I meant to ask.”  She tried to backtrack quickly.  “You’re handsome and of sound intelligence.”

“But not everyone is going to want a shifter in their bed.  Yes, I know what you meant.”  Rueful laughter, at her and himself.

“I am chewing on my fin, trying to find the right apology.”  She bumped his shoulder with her bare shoulder in apology.

Brother actually chuckled.  “No.  You’re fine, darlin’.”  He stared up at the stars for a few minutes before continuing.  “They wanted someone who wasn’t a part of the regular villagers’ genetic DNA floating around and the occasional bed hopping that goes with consenting adults.”

“No worries of a child trying to sleep with a half brother or sister.”

“Something like that.”  A flash of a smile.

“And you are discreet.”  Keyma flared her fingers, as if dismissing the others and the normal gossip of a small group.

Brother tilted his head in assent.  “And that too.  No one would have thought of me as the father, only that Leah looked much like her mother Yearra and not much of Nori.”

“So what brings you out to the new beachhead?”  Keyma tried for a change of subject.

Brother looked up into the night sky, with its distant stars. “The stars and the quiet.”  His voice almost wistful.

“Ah.  I will leave you in peace then.”  Keyma started to push off with her tail, when Brother rested his hand on her shoulder, stopping her.

“I like your company.  I didn’t mean for it to sound like you weren’t welcome.”

She quirked a smile at him with a tilt of her head.  “So you do want company.”

His eyes crinkling at the edges, in warmth and humor.  “Possibly.”  He smiled back at her with a lilt of his lips.  She leaned forward to kiss.  Her teeth catching his lower lip, tugging gently playfully.  Brother sucked in his breath, tasting her lips.  His arm reached around her waist, snagging her closer, kissing her hard with want.

“So what did bring you to the islands tonight?  Not that I would pass up on such a lovely time gazing at the…stars.”  Brother leaned on his elbow, running his free hand over her lovely rounding breast, catching a nipple between forefinger and thumb, eliciting a gasp.

“Keep doing that and I won’t tell you anytime soon!”  Keyma gave a shuddering laugh.

“My bad.”  Brother replaced his fingers with his mouth, flicking the nipple against his upper teeth with his tongue, his hand moved lower down her belly.

“Oh, nova!”

 

“Well that was lovely.  Again!”  Keyma rested her head on Brother’s chest.

“So why did you come by again?”

“Hmm?  Oh, right.”  Keyma sat up with a sigh.  “Sachiko has gone missing and Chehreh wants to know if Sister could “See” if she is still alive.”

Brother rolled over, facing Keyma,with a frown.  “She’s an excellent hunter.  I’ve never seen better.  Why would Chehreh think she’s missing?”

“Besides being a controlling jealous dick?”  Keyma snapped, with a flip of her blond hair.  “Bastard likes to bite fins for fun and not in good fun.”

“To be fair they are married.  And he doesn’t like it when she flirts with others.”  Brother trailed his hand along the soft skin of her belly.

“Miok isn’t that worried.  Yet.  Willing to say she might be chasing an elusive opal kraken hunting the edges of our fishing grounds.”  Keyma shook her head, erasing Chehreh from her thoughts, damp hair clinging to warm skin in tangled locks.

“Valuable. And Miok isn’t prone to jealousy fits like Chehreh.” Brother said, distracted by the way Keyma’s stomach flutter under his touch than her actual words.

Keyma’s breath caught.  “Very.”  Her breathless reply. “Still don’t see how those three formed up.  Miok’s the better husband.”

“So why is Chehreh so concerned?” Brother asked, idly running nails along the side of her belly.

Keyma gave a shudder, gasping her answer.“He said he saw her ghost.”  her left hand flexing over Brother’s bare thigh.

“Chehreh?  Said he saw a ghost?”  Brother stopped, looking at her with his jaw open, his hands stilled.

“Yes. And not just any ghost.  Sachiko’s.  Said she kissed him on the cheek, told him her body was by the tower where the flathead shark that killed her left it, but not to retrieve it.  She was on her way with Death, but the body stood guarding the child and her mother.”  Keyma shook her head, rolling her eyes at the story.  Her tail slapped the water in derision.  “Seriously how unbelievable can you get to check on your wife might seeing another.”

Brother scrabbled to his feet, grabbing his clothes, spilling Keyma from his chest in his rush.

“Hey!  Where are you going?”  Keyma looked up startled, her hand half raised reaching for him.

“The deadhead scientists had a large building.  There were two survivors.  A woman and a child.”  Brother looked down grimly, as he hurriedly donned his pants, the shirt he slung over his shoulder.

It took a moment for this to sink in.  “Oh, void!”  Keyma whispered, her eyes growing huge.

Brother looked grim.  “If Chehreh said he saw Sachiko’s ghost…”

“Then one of them is a deadhead!”  Keyma whispered in fear.

“They are both deadheads, but one of them can raise the dead.” Brother said, lips pressed together in a thin line.

She swallowed hard.   “I need to wait for an answer.”  Keyma said, in a small voice.   She could imagine Chehreh’s reaction already.   Her hands started to shake ever so slightly.

“You’ll need to shift and come with me then, but I’m pretty sure Sachiko is dead.”   No more star gazing or relaxing company for this night.

Keyma nodded.  She scrunched up her face, concentrating on the shift.  The bones didn’t rearrange as painfully as when Brother shifted, but muscles flowed and bones in the tail did rearrange.  Painful enough to leave her gasping for minutes afterwards.

Brother picked her up, carefully walking along the rocks, heading back to the village.

“I can walk!”  She protested weakly, as she clung to his neck, the quivering in her legs belying the words.

“Yep, but we need to get moving now and these rocks are sharp.  The skin on the bottom of your feet is tender.  I’ll put you down once we hit sand.  Sooner you ask Sister, the sooner you can be back with the bad news to Chehreh.”

“Fuck.  I’d rather not be the one to tell him his wife is a zombie now.”   Keyma leaned against Brother’s solid warm chest.

“Better you than me.”  Brother said, kissing her forehead.  Comforting.

“He doesn’t hate you anymore.”  Keyma chuckled, her breath warm against his sweat soaked skin.  “He does have other worries now.”

“But he hasn’t forgiven me for beating him.”  Brother gave a laughing huff as he made it to the muck of the new beach.  His footsteps making slurping sounds with each step, as he trotted towards the village.

“Maybe.”

Advertisements

A Siren’s Song: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The fever set in later that night.  They had gotten the theater projector working that week and were  watching an aria. They settled on the leather couch, with colorful cushions scattered about them..  Arie sprawled next to Lauranya, her head in her mother’s lap, with hair still wet from their shower.  Both were listening raptly as the singer’s incredible voice hit note after note.

Arie listened to her mother sing along softly, hitting the notes better than the singer.  She felt a thrum from both her mother and the other singer, racing along her spine and in her head..  The aria made her chest bones vibrate but mommy’s song was in her head, making her want to sing along.  So she hummed, while Lauranya petted her hair, fingers teasing out small knots from the washing.

“Mommy, your skin is hot!”  Arie said, lifting her head from her mother’s bare leg, putting a cool hand where her head had just rested.

Lauranya looked down at her blond haired child, with a frown.  She placed a hand on her forehead then Arie’s, then back to her forehead.

“Oh.”  Lauranya got up swiftly, heading to medical.

“Mommy?”  Arie trailed behind, keeping up with her fast paced mother.

“I need to take my temperature.”  Lauranya stopped in the doorway.  “Arie.”  She shook her head before starting again.  “Arie, if something happens to me you’ll have to take over.”

“Like when you were injured from the whiskered cat.”  Arie’s eyes started to glisten with unshed tears, her voice rising a little higher.

Lauranya only hesitated a second, but confirmed Arie’s fear with a firm nod.  “Just like that.”  She found the drawer with the thermometer.  Her hands shaking, she placed the small circular pad behind her ear, then pulling the sensor pad’s connecting wire over her shoulder.  The fever spiking at 102.4.

“Mommy?”  Arie stood at the door, with hunched shoulders and her hands behind her back, like a toddler getting caught with a stolen cookie.

“It is ok, love.”  Lauranya took a deep breath, keeping her tone light.  “I am running a bit of a fever.  What would you prescribe?”  She pulled the sensor pad from her skin, clearing the monitor before putting both back in the drawer with a soft thump.

Arie looked to the ceiling, tilting her chin up before speaking.  “Hmm…cold water, rest and the red fever stuff?  Like the stuff you give me when I got fevers.”

“Very good.  I,” Lauranya motioned to herself “am going to go to bed.  I would like you to keep a close eye on me, but do not neglect your homework or the animals please.”

“What about the plants?”

“This should not be anything more than a ship day of fever, so the plants should” The “should” rattled through Lauranya’s brain, like a warning claxon of Babaluaye laughter.  “be ok.  If this does not run the projected course, then you will have to take over the plants on top of all else.”

“Do you think you will want anything to eat while sick?  I know I usually don’t like foods.”  Arie’s second favorite place, the kitchen.

Lauranya had to think on this for a moment.  “Noni would make an excellent rabbit soup.  Not a lot in it but broth and meat.  Just broth for someone too sick to chew.”  Lauranya didn’t finish the thought on what happened to those who couldn’t eat after a week on the ships.  Arie already had more nightmares than a child her age should.

“I can make a great rabbit soup!  Those sweet white roots and some of the peas.  Both…” Arie ready to start on a new adventure in the kitchen.

“Arie.  Arie.”  Lauranya leaned forward, while speaking.  The motion and the words intensity got the child’s attention.  “Whatever you make will be good.  Just remember I may not be able…” Lauranya’s voice caught for just a second.  So slight, that she didn’t think Arie had caught the hesitation.  “be able to eat.  I need you to keep it simple.”

“No white root?  You love those.”

“I do!  Go with the sweet roots, well chopped, and the peas.  Those both cook down soft enough that not much chewing will be necessary.”

“I’ll cut the meat up into very small pieces too!”

“A good idea.”  Lauranya felt a chill run down her spine, raising bumps along her arms and legs.  Her teeth started to chatter.  “I am going to take a hot shower and then crawl into bed.”

“Mommy?”  Arie’s eyes were bright with tears.  One trickled down her cheek, hastily wiped away with the back of a hand, run haphazardly over a young cheek.

Lauranya rushed forward kneeling, ignoring the dizziness for the moment.  “Oh, baby.  I am just having a small reaction to the fish’s spine venom.  Hopefully it is nothing major, just an inconvenience.  Do not worry.”  touching the wet smear on Arie’s cheek.  “I just need you to do a little extra please.”  She gave Arie her best reassuring smile “Your soup sounds delicious.  It will be just what I need.”

“You sure, mommy?”  Arie wasn’t talking about the soup.

“Positive.”  Lauranya nodded firmly, but staggered slightly getting to her feet as she began to shiver.  “Time for that hot shower though!”

“I’ll get it running for you!”  Arie gave her mother a quick hug, before running out of the lab office, bounding a flight of stairs to their rooms.

“Thank you, Yemoja, for a quick witted child.”  Lauranya breathed, standing up, to a wave of dizziness.  Lauranya contemplated the walk to the shower.  “One step then another.”  She muttered carefully matching footsteps to the words.  Her bed seemingly miles from where she stood.

 

The fever wracked her with chills, and then a burning so intense she threw off the blankets piled deep, soaking sweat into the bedding.  The dreams though, those were the worst.  Tine and the boys, laughing as they were floating through space, burning even in the vacuum, their skin flaking into dust with bright smiles and brighter eyes.  Maison caught the dust to fling at the faceless men and women who danced on the wires between the apartments of her family home.  Blood scattering on the floor and walls as the wires cut into the dancing bare feet.  Arie squatted on the bottom floor of the apartments, drenched in red, as water began to seep in.  Lauranya couldn’t reach Arie, as the water filled up over the child’s head.  Arie continued to calmly plant the seedlings in metal floor tiles.  The seedlings looked eerily like the dead scientist and their children.  Their small green bodies waving like seaweeds to and fro in an underwater garden.

Lauranya jerked awake when Arie’s seedlings grew to the size of toddlers and started to walk out of the ship apartments.  The sheets, drenched in sweat and her sleep shirt.  The shirt so salt encrusted and clinging, making her itchy.  “Stop it.” She whispered fiercely to herself.  “The dead are gone.”  Her throat burned and scratched, hurting with every attempt to swallow.

Lauranya tried to get out of bed.  Sitting up made her whimper as her joints caught on fire.  Any movement, no matter how small, hurt like a whipping wheal 15 seconds after the first lash hit.  A hiss and a roll to her side, she tried to get her legs over the side of the bed.

“No, love.  Stay in bed.  I’ll get Arie to come to you.”  Maison’s deep voice resounded through her head.  She felt his large hand on her fevered brow.

“You are dead, Maison.  You died on the world-ship.”  Lauranya said querulously.  “You are not here.”  Lauranya brushed a hand through empty air to move his hand.  The voice so resounding, she half expected to feel the resistance of flesh.

“True.  Yet here I am, and you, my little mouse, need to stay in bed.”  Maison laughed, flicking the tip of her nose as he had been wanted to do.  “Stay in bed, love, and I will get Arie.”

Lauranya could not budge from the weight of his ghostly hand.  She glared up at him.  More of a squint as light filtered through the curtains, causing more pain.

“Gods love Maison, move, please.  I cannot stay and dream.”  She whispered, looking into Maison’s dark eyes, shattered with the bright flecks.  Beautiful and full of love those eyes.

“I’ll stay with you so your dreams are better.”

“You are not here.”  This time Lauranya managed to sit up, throwing one leg over the edge of the bed.  She promptly fell on her face, when the floor rushed up to meet her.  The motion of the leg over the bed rolled her faster than she could compensate for.

“Oww!”  Lauranya felt her face gingerly, her right hand running over her face searching for pain or blood.  Pain yes, blood no.  She climbed slowly and painfully back into bed.

“Stubborn woman.”  Maison said fondly, as he helped her back up.  He pulled the covers over her, putting a cool cloth on her brow.

“Still not here.”  She whispered, but didn’t take her eyes off of him.

“Do you really want me to leave?”  That smile, a flash of white teeth through soft velvet black skin, warm to the touch, her treacherous memory whispered.  Her heart squeezed in heartache.

Lauranya pushed herself up to her knees.  Maison hunched in front of her, wearing his training loin cloth.  His skin looked sweat slicked, with the occasional patch of sand, from the training ground.  Grandfather had been so proud of being able to have an actual sand training ground, instead of hard metal flooring.  “Less injurious.” He said, framing the cost beneficially.

Lauranya’s hand shook, as she reached over to brush sand from his broad shoulder.  The sand flecked off with the touch of her hand.  His dark skin, warm under her touch, covered muscles that bunched and released like silk over steel.

“I do not want to marry your brother.”  Lauranya whispered, ignoring what reality had already dictated.  Believing in this moment, a need stronger than the pain.

“I’m sorry, love.  That’s history now.  I’m only here for a short while.”  Maison kissed her on the forehead.

“No.  Please.  Stay, do not leave me.”  Pleadingly, she leaned forward wrapping both arms around her lover’s chest, so broad that her hands could barely reach all the way around.

Maison rocked her back and forth, comfortingly.  Much the way she had rocked all four of her children, when they were sick or in need of comfort.  Lauranya melted into his arms, refusing to contemplate anything other than this moment.  Lauranya drifted back to sleep.

“Mommy.  Mommy.”  Arie’s hand on Lauranya’s brow roused her from dreams of her love.  Lauranya felt her child’s touch, as electric pulses to the skin.  Painful.  The pulses racing along her nerves.  Maison was a dream, she realized.  He died, never to return to her.  The pain of loss, from his second leaving, cut through her, almost as sharp as the first time she lost him.  Lauranya shook her head trying, and failing, to stop the flow of tears.

“I’m sorry, mommy!  I didn’t mean to hurt you!”  Arie’s face scrunched, at her mother’s obvious pain.

“No, baby.  I had bad dreams.”  Lauranya croaked.  “Dreams of loss and pain.  It is not you.”  She gently touched Arie’s cheek, giving the child a wan smile.

“I love you, mommy.”  Arie tried to give her mother a hug.  Lauranya accepted the hug weakly, loving her child but wishing for her dreams.  Lauranya looked away for a moment with that thought.  She knew not even Ori, the god of destiny, could have changed her life course after she had fallen in love with Maison.

“I love you, too.”  Lauranya whispered, tasting salt.  “What have you brought me?”  She asked, sniffing the air as a fragrant smell cut through pain and dreaming fogginess.

“I brought you some soup.  Mostly broth but I also have some tea, sweetened with honey.”  Arie said, vibrating in place.  She pointed carefully to the soup and cup she had set on the stand, before waking her mother.

“They smell divine.”  Lauranya tried to sit up, but the pain of her joints had not been a dream.  The burning ripping pain felt all too real, causing her to whimper as she struggled upright.

“Don’t sit up, mommy!  Jacks said you were hurting a lot and I should try for a straw.”  Arie scolded gently, as she pulled the blankets back over her mother’s chilled body.

“There are straws?”  Lauranya panted, from the brief effort of sitting up.

“Reed straws…and plastic ones.   But I thought you would want to try out the reed ones first!”  Arie gave a conspiratorial whisper.  Real plant or animal items were still a novelty to them both.

Lauranya gave a delighted ghost of a laugh, at the idea of trying an item of a God.  Arie lifted the soup first, for her mother to taste.  The bowl was filled halfway, with a clear slightly green tinged soup.  next to Lauranya.  A large wooden reed, as thick as a man’s pinky with many joints along the length, within reach for easy sipping.  Lauranya took a cautious sip.  The soup tasted amazing, rich with flavor and fat slipping across her tongue.

Arie moved the soup after a few sips, to bring the mug within her mother’s reach.  A second straw for the tea.  Lauranya sipped slowly.  The tea tasted sweet, yet floral with spicy taste rolling from the tongue to the back of the throat.  The honey coating in a soothing wave, easing her swollen throat.  Her stomach did a slow roil with the first few sips, causing her to waive off any more.

“That’s not a lot, mommy.”  Arie gave her mother a stern frown.  The exact same one Lauranya had given her on those times Arie felt she didn’t have to try new foods or pick up her room.

“You will be cleaning up the contents of my stomach, off the bed and floor if I take any more.”  Lauranya said with a ghost of a laughter, at her strong willed child.

“Yuck!”  Arie had to think for a moment.  “Would you like some cold water?  Would that help more?”

Lauranya closed her eyes, letting out a tired breath.  “It might, baby, but later.  I just need more sleep.”  Her voice a whisper, as an uneasy sleep claimed her again.

Arie tiptoed out with the bowl and cup.  The door she left open in case her mother might call for her.

 

Lauranya dreamed the surreal again.  She watched herself move the covers aside, her hands flexing and lengthening.  Her nails extended into sharp crescent claws, shredding the bedding as she pulled herself into a more comfortable position.  Dark hair sprouted along her skin.  She rubbed her cheek along her bare shoulder.  The fur felt warm and soft against her skin.

The fur felt even better than the one and only spider silk dress she had owned when living on the ship.  The one she traded for higher favor, for consideration to be on this assignment with Tine, when she had still cared, her dream-self thought muzzily, enjoying the feeling of stretching muscles.  The next thought was that she should have kept the dress and left Tine to his own devices on this Gods cursed planet.

She watched as her feet lengthened, changing in ways only dreams could.  Good for dancing, she thought admiring the incredibly high arches.  Her toe nails emerged as she flexed her toes.  Crescent nails like her hands.  She felt herself smile, thinking how nice the nails would be for climbing trees with Arie.

There had been one world, where Lauranya had worked on for a short while, where indoor parks held huge blue skinned trees.  Thick trunks that split into multiple trunks at a low level, easy for children and adults to climb.  The leaves were a deep green with veins of blue the size of a woman’s hand.  The boys had been young enough to be tractable to their mother’s words, that letting them in the park to climb had been a joy.

Her dream saw her curled up in the trunk of a tree, her dark fur brilliant against the blue tree trunks with a tail flicking lazily in the warm evening air.  Arie’s laughter infections, as she jumped and skipped along the low branches, alight with soft incandescent lights.  Mother and daughter enjoying life.

 

The fever lingered as did the pain in her joints and muscles over the next week.  Lauranya got out of bed, but only for a few minutes at a time.  Her stomach took more time to settle, than the swelling in her joints.

Her dreams were far more mundane after the initial fever.  Dreaming of life in the old apartments.  Plain plastic and grey tiled walls with metal doors.  Sterile.  The brightest colors were where Arie had colored childish pictures on the walls and not been wiped off as of yet.

She went to knock on Tine’s bedroom door.  The dream providing vivid details she would rather have forgotten like the rhythmic grunting, telling her he was busy with Micha.  Lauranya’s dream self-noted she had not thanked Tine’s mother for the body slave.  Anything to keep him from her, a blessing from Oba, for marital bliss.  A thought wound its way that Tine could have used the training body slaves received to help with his singular lack of skills in bed with her, but he never bothered learning only receiving.  Selfish man.

Lauranya shrugged, cracked open the door so that her voice could be heard but she didn’t interrupt.  “Tine, we need to get to your lab for closing procedures, while Micha packs.”

“Be…done…moment…arily.”  The grunting reply.

Lauranya saw herself roll her eyes, as she moved on to the twin’s room.   The boys only a few inches shorter than their mother, yelling in their room with crashing sounds, creating havoc again.  She walked in as they were jumping on and over their beds, slamming into walls as they tried to tag one another.  Blankets and clothes strewn about the room, as if looters had torn through looking for anything precious but finding only dross.

“You two need to pack clothes.  Any items you want to take on the shuttle today.”  Lauranya said, ignoring the room’s mess as an unnecessary fight anymore.

“What Micha is for!”  One snapped, evading his brother’s tagging hand slap, only to slip on a pillow, falling between the twin sized beds with a thud.  Both boys giving shrieks of laughter, grating even in the dream.

“Micha is packing your father’s clothing  and mine.  If you want anything to go with you, you will need to bestir yourself and get it done.”  Lauranya snapped, eyes flashing as she put hands on her hips.  The boys had long since gone from precocious to stupidly dangerous in what they said.

“We’ll tell dad!”  They shouted in unison.

“Yeah, dad said we aren’t sand piss so don’t need to do anything you say!”  The closer one sneered at his mother, with the age old insult for a slave born pit fighter.

Lauranya moved with speed, catching the boys unaware.  She caught the closer son by surprise. her slap hit his cheek with an open palm, hitting hard enough to stagger him against his twin.  “You will pack and you will start now.  Anything you do not pack will not go with you nor will I bring it.  You can wear slave tunics for all I give to the void.”  Lauranya chewed out, through gritted teeth.  Her voice dropped a few degrees as she stood straight, looking down at her two unmanageable children.

Their eyes narrowed dangerously, like a pack of hunting dogs.  They saw their mother as prey outnumbered, one to two odds.  Lauranya saw that looked, meeting it with narrowed eyes of her own.  She may not have been trained to fight but she knew the basics, something Tine had forbidden his sons from learning.

Lauranya shifted her stance, altering her hands and arms slightly.  The boys looked at each other.  They had charged their mother once a few months back, thinking their father would protect them and their mother soft.  Lauranya had given them the physical punishment she saw fit.  Neither had been able to sit for a day.  The bruises stood out, even on their dark skin, for four days more.

The lesson had sunk in.  “Yes, mother.”  Their sullen reply.  The boys pouted, looking at the floor.  They would mutter more insults when she left; however Lauranya felt pretty sure they would have (badly) packed bags for the shuttle.  That was all Lauranya cared about, too tired to fight to keep them from trouble anymore.

She turned on her heels, heading back into the living room, where she bumped into her half-dressed and livid husband.

“Why are you yelling at the boys?”  His chin stuck out, as he pulled up his pants, tightening his belt.  His hands caressed the metal buckle.

Lauranya tilted her head, with narrowed eyes at the implied threat.  “Your sons seem to think themselves Gods.  They are now packing.” She continued towards the bedrooms, moving past him, flinching in distaste as skin touched skin.

Tine snagged her arm on the way past, with one hand still on his belt.  “Damn it, Lauranya!  We aren’t arena slaves.  The boys are only being…”

Dream-Lauranya did not let him finish.  “Dangerous.  They can and will be collared if they slack on their exams.  Oh wait, they already are!”  She faced him with clenched fists.  “When they realize how important those tests are it will be too late!  They are one outburst in class, from being reevaluated and downgraded.  You” She poked a finger in his thin bare chest. “have given them an inflated self of importance.  I wash my hands of them, on the next assignment.  Their training and behavior is now on you.”  She poked him in the chest again, her voice low and barely controlled.  “Just you!  You may explain to your family how you let the pride and joy of your loins become menial slaves.”  She turned her back on him, walking into the split bedrooms, gently closing the door.  No need to advertise to the other occupants on the same hallway level, another fight occurring.

Tine didn’t let the argument go.  He poked his head into her bedroom.  “Yes, I do spoil them but then again you spoil Arie.”  His voice went softer, mellower.  Conciliatory.

“Arie is just a baby!”  Lauranya snapped her head up from her own drawer of clothes, looking him in the face.

“And what did your vaunted and scary grandfathers doing at her size?”  Tine’s lips quirked, as his eyes bored into hers.  He walked into her space, taking up the small area with arms akimbo.

Lauranya said grudgingly, turning to face him with arms crossed.   “Studying katas and using small daggers for the children fights.”  She let out a sigh.  “I hate it when you bring up facts.

Tine chuckled.  “I will try to spoil the boys less if you try with Arie.”

Lauranya thought on this for only a moment.  The best deal of a bad situation, better than the whipping stocks for the boys.  “Deal.”  She said, tilting her head slightly in acknowledgement of his win.   Tine gave her a quick hug, trying for minimal goodwill.   Lauranya tried not to shudder.

She waited until hearing the shower head startup, before moving to Tine’s room, seeing how much still needed to be packed.

Micha had rolled out of the bed as Lauranya entered, struggling into her plain gray shift.  Her thin arms were trembling hard enough that finding the arm holes in the light shift were proving elusive.

“Stop.  Stop, Micha.”  Lauranya said, in a soothing voice, stepping next to the girl.  Micha turned huge eyes to her owner’s wife.  Lauranya remembered frowning at how thin the girl had gotten.  Cheek bones standing out starkly against pale skin.  The shaved head didn’t lessen the impact of skin covering bones.

The teeth marks on the slave’s skin made Lauranya hiss in sympathy.  The girl’s arms, neck and chest bore Tine’s ardor.  Some were only red, fading, while others were bruising.  Some were new bites on top of old bites. Tine had only bitten Lauranya once.  She regretted her family not being able to afford to get the marriage contract nullified at the time.  Tine’s mother stepped in with the body slave, to deal with his sexual proclivities and enjoyment, which his wife was unwilling to provide.  Gods hell she would not, her dreaming self-thought with a snort of annoyance.

Lauranya helped Micha get into the shift, saying only “At least his teeth didn’t break skin this time.”

Micha nodded, looking to the floor.  Lauranya stifled her sigh.  Neither of them could do much more, but Lauranya would do what she could to alleviate some of the pain.  Tine had never learned to treat his slaves like thinking tools who felt or as real people.  A short sight of his upbringing as a free man.

“Okay, girl.  When Tine has left with the boys, shower and clean up, put the bruise ointment on.  That should help ease some of the pain.  Then pack the basics into the travel bags for him.  When I have left with Arie for the day, there are leftovers from last night.  Eat all that you want and need.”

“The master has told me no food today.”  The girl’s voice was as soft as her skin, eyes on the floor.

“Are you planning on telling him?”  Lauranya asked, with a smile to take out the tartness of her rebuke.  Tine abused the girl enough.  No sense adding more.  Micha gave a shy shake of her head and a tiny smile.

“Shall I pack for the boys as well?”  Micha asked, looking nervously towards the shower.

“Those two are to pack themselves.  Do not let them tell you differently.  Hear me?”  Lauranya said, waspishly with a glare towards the boys’ room.  She shook her head, breathing through her nose to calm down.

“Yes, Lady.”  Micha went still.  Lauranya pinched the bridge of her nose, knowing she had startled the girl again.

The sound of the shower stopping woke Lauranya up, to her bedroom and the sound of rain pounding on the window.  Arie hummed happily in the bathroom.

“Home.  No more Tine.”  Lauranya whispered.  She snuggled into her covers enjoying the sounds of her happy child.

 

A Sirens Song: Ch 1

Chapter 1

 

The hilt of the sword landed with a thud and force, breaking at least one rib on the young woman.  The four armed Wolfen didn’t get the back cut to her leg as he side stepped into his opponent, but laid the sword flat on her back, splitting the skin in a long gash.  Blood dried and crystallized, sealing the wound as quickly as it was made.  Redeyes rolled with the blade slap on her back, a grunt of pain, stumbling two steps desperately getting her sword up to block the next blow.  The block worked but he managed to land a closed fist punch to her face with his lower right hand.  The sound of bone cracking accompanied the first punch.  He brought his sword up for an overhead blow that if it landed would have caved in her skull.

Redeyes dropped her blade to dive under his downward sword stroke, coming up under his arms and into his space.  She stood face to face with him, giving him no room to position for so close an in fight.  Once inside his personal space, she fastened both upper hands on his throat, snarling as her broken cheek bones grated, her hands squeezing tight, feeling his pulse between her fingers. Her lower hands were trying to claw out his heart, held only an inch away from breaking skin and ripping out their target by the Wolfen’s lower hands on her wrists.

“Hold!”  The General’s voice boomed across the vaulted metal room.

The Wolfen dropped his sword to grab the woman’s upper set of arms at the elbows with both set of his upper hands.

“Red if you kill him, you’re going to have to replace him.”  Collins called, panting from the sidelines, wiping his face down with a synthetic towel.  Iarris handed him a globe of water.  Her fur as wet and matted as Collin’s hair; both smelling of sweat.

“With fucking pleasure.” The young God snarled or tried to, the words garbling.  Her mouth sagged from the broken cheekbones and a half healed broken jaw bone from a previous pass that morning.  A gift from Iarris, re-broken sparring with Nero.  Redeyes caught a sideways glimpse of Cratt swinging a metal rod down towards her arms. She moved at the last second, throwing herself backwards, rolling, as the metal rod bounced off Nero’s chest.  The rod made a resounding thunk like hitting a hollow plastic water barrel.

Nero grunted, dropping to the mat, gasping for air like a fish.  Redeyes curled her lip as she stood up slowly, hissing in pain from the broken and cracked bones she’d received this session.  Nero’s mouth formed words he didn’t have the air to speak.

“Can’t hear you.”  Redeyes said sweetly, giving a lopsided smile that didn’t reach her eyes.  Collin’s cuff against her ear caught her by surprise, sending her stumbling to land on her ass, her arms swinging behind to catch her backward momentum with her elbows.

She looked up, tossing bangs out of her eyes, to Collins squatting in front of her.  “You’re getting better but you aren’t learning.  And you’re being an annoying bitch.”

“How the fuck am I not learning?  You assholes beat the hell out of me every damn day.” Slurring snarl.  “Broken bones tend to make me bitchy.” A flash of fang in a human mouth.

“You’re avoiding the blows but not learning how to fight.” Iarris said, crossing her arms over her impressive chest.  Her tail twitched in short sharp flicks while her lips pressed thin.

“Screw you.” Redeyes snapped, scrambling up.  Her head hunched low between her shoulders and her nails flexing, both set of hands loose at her side.  She glared at those standing around her.

“Stop.”  General Cratt barked out, reaching a hand down to help Nero up.  “You’re not concentrating on learning how to survive, only how to win.” Nero took the proffered hand, stumbling while standing up, a lower hand clutching at his sore ribs.

“And?”  Redeyes snapped, not taking her eyes off of Collins.  Collins gave a slow easy smile, standing up gracefully to saunter just out of arm’s reach.

“Fighting means you are looking to survive, not just kill the target in front of you.”  General Cratt said, with a tilt of his head and a look.  The look saying she should understand the difference.

Redeyes dragged her eyes from Collins to General Cratt, with a stomp of her foot “What?  Aren’t you supposed to…”  Collins stepped in to her off side, sweeping his leg behind her and pushing her backwards with his right hand.

She landed on her ass again, this time with a squawk.  “Bastard!”  She growled.  Redeyes struggled to sit up on her lower elbows, glaring while her upper right hand brushed the sweat out of her eyes.

“Yup.  Figured out why you landed on your ass?”  Collins asked, leaning down with a casual smile and a gleam in his eyes.

Redeyes snorted, reaching a hand up for him to help her stand.  “I took my eyes off you?”  She asked, with a tilt of her head and rolled eyes.

Collins reached a hand out to help her up.  “Nope, you let me get too close.”

“Ahh.”  She said, grabbing his proffered hand.  With a hard yank, she  pulled him forward, piston kicking him in the stomach for all she was worth.   Collins felt the yank and tried to counter by pulling back, but the kick caught him off guard.  He flew to the side as she let go of his hand when the kick landed.

“Hurts doesn’t it?”  Nero panted out, sagging against the General.

“You ship fucking…”  Collins gasped rolling to his knees, a hand on the metal floor, the other reaching for the disc gun that wasn’t there.

“And that is as far as we’re getting today, cubs.”  Iarris said, flicking an ear at the General.

Cratt took the hint from the Guardian.  “Iarris, set Redeyes’ bones.  We’re going to cover ship logistics and politics.”

Iarris walked between Collins and Redeyes, neither taking their eyes off the other.  Iarris thwacked Collins on the cheek with her tail as she walked by breaking his narrowed eye contact.

“Pfft…not how I wanted your tail.”  Collins spit fur out of his mouth, running a hand down his face to wipe off sweat slicked skin, now with traces of Katherian hair.

“Get it how you can, but back off.”  Iarris said coyly, looking over her shoulder, with a wink and arching whiskers.

“Hmmph!”  Collins did move back, his eyes on the Katherian’s trim ass, the workout pants clung to, emphasizing the muscular roundness.

Iarris crouched in front of Redeyes, reaching a hand to touch Redeyes’ check.  Redeyes flinched.  Iarris waited.  Redeyes took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.  She pushed herself up from the floor with both sets of hands, letting Iarris work the bones.

“Sorry.”  Redeyes muttered not looking the other in the eyes.

“I know this is still new to you.”  Iarris said softly, as if to a small child, her hand gently touching where the bones had broken.  Redeyes’ lips pressed tight, hunching her shoulders a little more.  “This does get much easier.” For everyone, was left unsaid by the Katherian fighter.

“Promise?  ‘Cause it’s been months and I’m still getting my head handed to me daily.”  Redeyes mumbled, through gritted teeth.

“You’re able to sucker punch Collins.  That’s pretty damn good.”  Iarris said, delicately moving Redeyes’ cheek bones back together, counting to 30 under her breath.

“I heard that!”  Collins grated, wheezing slightly still.

“At least you didn’t say I’m not fighting fair.”

“You can’t fight fair.  You have to fight to survive and win.”

“But Cratt said survive.”  Redeyes heard the whine in her voice.  She pressed her lips closed.  Her jaw flaxing in pain as Iarris pressed on the broken bones.

“You need to do both.”  Collins said, coming to the right side of Iarris, in front of Redeyes.  “Your life is expendable.”  Redeyes flinched slightly but not enough to move the bones in her right cheek.   Iarris held the ends together until the bones could hold their own shape.

If Redeyes moved, the bones would heal unevenly.  They would need to be re-broken.  A messier task than if she just held still the first time.  Her bones, unlike a normal human’s, knitted back stronger along the break line.  Redeyes was doing everything she could to not have to re-break just knitted bones.   They’d gone that route once already this month.  She’d passed out when Collins had to take a metal rod to her leg at an uneven healed break point.

“Our lives,” Collins said, motioning with an open hand, taking in more than the five of them in the room to all of those on the ship. “Are a onetime chance.  You fuck up and loose or don’t see an opening, in a fight, a battle or tactics and we pay that price.  You just jump bodies and timelines, the rest of us get a visit from Death.”

Redeyes hung her head, clenching her fist tight enough that her nails broke skin.  The sound of crystallized blood hitting the floor sounded loud in her ears, another weird difference between her and every other being on this ship.  The memories of her first few lives and the dead were still vivid.

“Fuck, I thought breaking free of the slavers was hard enough.”  She looked Cratt square in the face.

“You got us free Red, but now you need to learn more than just how to rip out a throat or throw a knife.  You gotta see the bigger picture.”  Cratt motioned with his square thick fleshed hands, encompassing the whole ship, alluding to more.

“How…”  She shook her head, dark blood red eyes boring into his human blue.  “What am I doing wrong then?”

“You’re getting the moves but we need you to see the openings and the timing.”  Nero answered before the General could, as he came from the side, nails clicking on the bare metal floor.  He handed her a towel and water.  She accepted both, nodding her thanks.  No hard feelings for either of them.

Nero patted her awkwardly on the back.  “Like Iarris said, it really will get easier for you.”  Iarris put her hands on Redeyes ribs feeling for bone movement.

“Holy fuck!”  Redeyes yelped, squeezing her globe of water so hard water splashed over the four of them as the globe burst.  Cratt, just out of range, stayed dry.

“Think you hit the right spot.”  Collins said, wiping water out of his eyes.  Amused he cocked his head to the side, watching Iarris move strong hands along Redeyes’ bruised skin. Blues and purples from today’s hit, some already fading to a deeper yellow and greens.

“I really hate you at this moment.”  Redeyes said, between clenched teeth, curling her lips.  She squinted her eyes close, scrunching her face from the pain.

“Don’t worry.  You get even with him by giving him all the shitty details when he meets you for the first time.”  General Cratt said cheerfully.

“Oh hells!”  Collins eyes widened and his mouth opened slightly as he connected the dots.  “She remembered this far back?”

“Why else would she make you dive into the shit collector to search for those bodies?”  Cratt said, tilting an eyebrow at him.  “There are other ways to check for corpses.”

“And I thought you were just being a disc eating ship rapist for the hell of it.”  Collins snorted, with a shake of his head, looking at the God sideways.  He spun on the General “Why the rotting core engines didn’t you say anything?”

“Cause I know Redeyes.  She had a reason we just didn’t know why she’s pissing in your playpen.”  General Cratt gave Collins a human smile, showing all of his teeth.  Predatory and amused.

“Good to know I have a sense of humor when I return to this time.”  Redeyes gasped out, as Iarris held the rib bones together for the initial knitting.

“It gets better Red.  Now that we’ve broken enough bones time to learn some tactics.”  Cratt said briskly with a clap of his hands.

“Ship or hand to hand.”  Redeyes asked wearily, touching her cheek. The bones still felt fragile and wiggled a little.

“Both.  Once you’ve taken a ship you’re going to have to fight your way through it to kill the Dead Gods.”

Redeyes clambered to her feet to walk to the tables, stopping for a moment frowning. “General Cratt, why don’t we practice with swords when we have guns?  Shouldn’t we be working on more than just hand to hand, sword work and the occasional use of guns?”

Cratt nodded.  “You, in this life don’t know this but we’ve tried that route.  Got a couple of ship worth of people killed too.  We can use guns, but only on small ship skirmishs.  As near as we can figure out, on the large world ships, where there are very strong necros or necros who are willing to work together can combine their powers summoning ghost to attack the power cells.”

Redeyes connected the dots.  “When one power cell goes, it’ll explode and if we’re packed to closely, the force of one explosion can take out other power cells, causing a chain reaction.”

“Aye.  We do their job for them, killing ourselves.  Which is why we do sword work and small guns.”

“Ugh.  Does this get any easier.”

“This is the easy part.”

“Shoot me now.”

“Soon enough someone will.”  Cratt said, metal serious.  Redeyes never lasted more than a few years in any body.  Redeyes showed teeth in a humorless smile.

 

 

 

“Mom!  Toilets are backing up.”  Arie called from across the school room.  Lauranya looked up from her computer with a sigh of mild annoyance.  Her research was at a delicate juncture.  The toilet issue unexpected but not unanticipated.  Jury rigging had its advantages but reliability wasn’t always one of them and  the timing, irritating.

Lauranya got up from her desk to view the extent of the toilet problem, in the nearest bathroom.  Flooding would be the major health issue.  She walked into the bathroom, surveying the damage.  The first thing she noticed was that the distinct smell.  Lauranya made a face, taking a half step back with the first whiff.  Instead of a slight scent of humanity, the room held a strong odor of sewage.  There was no flooding, but the water sat at the rim.

“Time to pee in buckets?”  Arie asked, behind Lauranya, hands on her hips jutting to the side by almost a foot, in an exaggerated manner.  Lauranya turned to stare at her daughter for a moment, before realizing why the stance was so pronounced.  Arie was mimicking her.  Lauranya swallowed a laugh, before answering.  The child had grown so much in these few years.

“Probably, but we need to set up a hose to go outside.”  Lauranya said, tapping her lips thoughtfully. She managed to keep a straight face, though her lips kept twitching as Arie pushed out her hips in the other direction with more mimicry.

“Why not the stairwell?”  Arie asked, making a broad waving motion towards the other side of their home.

“The one we get our drinking and bathing water from?”  Lauranya asked, encouraging Arie to think this decision to a logical conclusion.

“No!  Gross.”  Arie made her disgusted scrunched up face, aging her 80 years in the process, before she relaxed back into her child features.

Arie looked thoughtful before saying.  “How about the one by the growing area?”

“We still draw water from there for the plants.”

Arie looked up with a confused look and a shake of her head.

Lauranya had just started to use questions that would lead to the correct answers if Arie did not respond correctly the first time, so she gave the child a few more minutes before responding,  “Fecal bacteria.”  Lauranya answered the obvious when Arie wasn’t going to get the answer quickly..

Arie’s eyes widen as she made the connection.  “Raw sewage is bad.  Got it!”  Arie nodded her head emphatically, her blond hair flying around her face in her enthusiasm.  “To bad we can’t keep the solids for the compost.”

Lauranya turned back to the toilet, overflowing, with a frown.  Something niggling the back of her brain.  Something important.  “We…Let me look.  Low water…”  Lauranya muttered to herself, hurrying back to the room she used as her lab office.  Arie trailed behind, used to her mother’s mutters and tangent half sentences by this point.

Lauranya tabbed to a new page.  “Dry toilet.  Primitive site.  Two part.”  Muttering, she leaned over her desk typing, willing the computer to find what she needed by sheer force of will.

“Ah!  Here it is!”  She stood up with a wide smile, lighting up the room.

“What is it?”  Arie asked, looking on with a tilted head and curious eyes.

“For a primitive base, when supplies and growing mediums have been in short supply.  There are toilets made to collect urine in the front part and solids in the back, separating the two wastes.:

“We could just potty in a bucket and throw it out…”

“No.”  Lauranya said, giving her daughter a shake of her head.

“Why not?”  Arie tilted her head, puzzled.

“Do you want to be the one to clean up the drips or spills of old waste?”

Arie thought on this, before responding.  “No.  We already make a mess.”

“I assure you, our mess is much less than if we were going in a bucket.  However we do have the issue of where to go until I can fabricate the new system.”

“That means what?”

“We pee in a bucket for a short time.”

Arie made a face.  “Yuck!”  She had to think for only a moment before asking.  “So what do we do now?”

“Well first we empty the backed up toilets with a hose.”

Arie scrunched up her nose, waving her hands as if something nasty had gotten on them.

“Yes it is.  I should stop feeding you so you do not push out so much waste!”

“Mommy!”  Arie squealed.  Neither went hungry, but they talked about food all the time.  Growing, cooking or new tastes.

Lauranya laughed at such young outrage.   “Now I need to find a hose long enough to dump the waste over the side.  And you need to get back to your lessons.”

“Okay mommy.”  Arie gave her a mother a heavy sigh, but scampered back to the microscope with a smile.  A feather, donated from a chicken, clipped down for viewing.  Arie pulled the two sheets of paper next to her.  One for writing her observations, and the other to sketch what she saw at different angles.  The artwork and hypothesis were a little crude, but her work showed promise.

The hoses were found in the bottom storage rooms, with a generator for pumping.  Lauranya linked the hoses together with clamps then started to drag the appropriate end to the upper deck to hang off the railing.  The tail end of the exiting hose hung from the railing, swaying slightly in the breeze.

“No nothing could go wrong with a loose hose and human waste.”  Lauranya said, talking to herself with a roll of her eyes.  “I will tie that down before pumping.  Not good to teach the child lazy workarounds.”  Lauranya didn’t head back in immediately though.  She stretched in the afternoon sun, soaking up the warmth, watching the brilliant white clouds float by on deep blue skies.  She let loose a pent up breath.  The air smelled warm and damp, so fresh.  Even after so much time, fresh air and fresh water were novelties after growing up on the world-ships or under mining domes.

Shivers ran up her spine, along arms and legs as she looked on the vastness of her new world.  Lauranya felt sharp cuts of cold along her spine in fear of the open water.  She ran hands over cold arms, her mouth suddenly dry.

The rains had become intermittent, making the nice days outnumber the rainy ones.   The waters below were still climbing.  Lauranya looked over the stone hip height balusters .  Small waves lapped against the building.  Her eyes caught on a different set of waves.  Small ripples, almost like when rain spattered on the top of water, than a large ripple with a smooth curve of glossy grey blue scaled skin breaking the water.  The water smoothed out once more.

Distance played havoc with measurement, but Lauranya did her best to calculate a possible size.  The sizes estimated were not reassuring.

“The new water habitats filled quickly.”  She whispered shuddering before turning to hurry back into the perceived safety of the building.

Another round, with a different set of hose, singularly this time, to draw water from the stairwell into water barrels went faster than the waste hose issue.  Twenty minutes at a time filled up the four empty barrels that could last a week for showers and water needs of the people, plants and animals.

“Mom!  The fresh water hose is stuck.”  Arie yelled, from the foyer.  Her words to vibrating, as they echoed through the rooms.

“Stuck?  Fresh water and not sewage hose?  Where?”  Lauranya called back, projecting her voice to match the depth and timber of Arie’s.  She stood, walking to the balcony from outside her lab looking down into the main room.

“Fresh water.  Oops. Not stuck.”  Arie said, looking down and prodding the hose, coming in from the stairwell, with her toe.

“Okay.”  Lauranya smiled and started to turn, when Arie’s next words stopped her.

“It’s clogged.”

“Clogged…  Hmm.”  Lauranya walked down the stairs and past the planted flats of seedlings, just starting to push green tips through the recently made composted dirt.

“It’s yes.  And we need to inspect the hose for the clog.”  Lauranya chewed her lip.  “Do not borrow what is not yours, including trouble.” She said, looking at the dribble of water going from the hose to the barrel.  “Okay.  Turn off the pump and find a few extra towels.  We’ll need to clear out the hose.”

They walked from the hose to the stairwell inspecting the hose every few inches.  Arie carrying the towels while Lauranya crawl-walked, squeezing every few inches.  Close to the stairwell she found a lump…that wiggled.  She let go with a startled yelp, landing on her rump.

Lauranya licked sweat dewing her upper lip, frowning slightly.  “If it’s not moving on, it might…probably has barbs stuck along the inner wall.  Well we can try to save the fish first, but that probably is not likely.  Maybe fish for dinner?”

“Fish for dinner?  Sounds yummy!”  Arie stood on the tips of her toes, bouncing.

“I’m sure it does, but first let me see what I can manage here.”  Lauranya gently squeezed the hose to find the end of the fish or what was not pointing towards the barrel, roughly 8 inches.  The squeezing caused the fish to thrash, jerking the hose from side to side.  She tried to push it along gently, but the fish didn’t budge with Lauranya’s prodding.

“Hmmph.”  A little irritably.

“Going to have to splint it mommy?”

“Splice and unfortunately, I think so.”  Lauranya glowered at the hose with narrowed eyes and pursed lips.  She put her hands on her hips to contemplate her choices.  None of the choices were less than messy.

“I’ll get the gripping tape!”  Arie yelled, spinning on her heels, running excitedly for the bag of fix-it materials.

“And I will get the clamps and cutters.”  Lauranya rose to her feet from bent knees with shoulders straight and arms at her side, graceful in her slowness.

They returned with their supplies, Arie having added a bucket to put the fish in.  Arie had added enough water to cover the fish once they’d freed it from the hose.

“What kind of fish do you think it is mommy?”  Arie stared at the hose intensely.

“I don’t know dear.  Do you remember from our studies which types might be this small and this lively?”  Lauranya clamped behind the fish, an equal amount to its length, stopping the flow of water from even the trickle that had been flowing.

“I might.  But won’t it depend on if this is full grown or a juvenile? “

“Very good!”  Lauranya delicately cut the hose, behind and in front of the lively fish, depositing the squirming hose occupant into the bucket.  Next she pieced the edges of the hoses together with fast setting glue.  Clamps and tape holding the hose together until the glue could form a waterproof seal.  A small trickle of water flowed out, which Arie promptly mopped up with a towel, underneath without being asked.

“We will need to let this cure for a couple of days.”  Lauranya sat back to admire her handy work.  The edges were slightly uneven but only if one knew where to look.

Arie’s attention was on the water splashing as the fish thrashed in the hose even worse than when just stuck in the hose.

“Mommy, doesn’t it know we are trying to help?”

“Thinks we are going to eat him.”

“Oh.  We are aren’t we?”  Arie said matter factly, a child’s mercurial thought from potential pet to food.

“Maybe.  Some fish are too toxic to eat.  We will not know, until we cut it out of the hose.”  Lauranya stood up, stretching her arms above her head, standing on her toes. Joints popped in release.

“You’re really tall mommy!”

“Thank you, love, but you should have seen your grandfathers.  Anyone of them would make me seem very small.”  Lauranya said distractedly, observing the small wiggling bit of hose.

“As tall as the shuttle building?”  Arie asked, looking up with wide green eyes.

Lauranya laughed out loud.  “Almost, dear.  Almost.”  She picked up her supplies to put them back in the supply room.  “Arie, take the bucket with the fish into the lab.  We’ll do a dissection in a moment.”

“Okay!”  Arie grabbed the bucket, managing to not splash on the gleaming wooden floors, by the gods own luck, as she lugged it up the stairs to the second floor lab.

Lauranya arrived at the lab a few moments after.  Walking through the door, she noticed Arie crouched over the bucket staring intently down.

“Something interesting?”

“It’s not moving.”

“The hose, the water or the fish?”

“The fish in the hose.  It’s not moving at all now.”  Arie peered closer, reaching to touch the hosing.  Lauranya intercepted the hand, with a shake of her head.

“Probably dead.  The water is no longer flowing over the gills, not to mention the water in the bucket is stale not fresh.” Lauranya said, sparing a glance into the bucket as she set up the counter for extraction and eventual dissection.

“Are we going to dissect it now?”  Arie asked excitedly, looking up at her mother, her voice rising as she bounced slightly in anticipation.

Lauranya smiled fondly at her daughter.  “Yes.  We are going to dissect it now.”  Lauranya motioned Arie to bring the bucket over to the sink, by the window.  Lauranya pulled a cutting board, various scalpels and blank slides from drawers and lower cabinets.

“Can I look at it microsoopic?”

“Microscope and yes you can look through the microscope once I get the slides prepared.  You will need to figure which portions are worth micro scrutiny and which for general analysis.”

Arie ignored that comment in favor of a more artistic endeavor.  “Are we going to sketch?”

“If you like.  We need to add to our native plants and animal book. ”

“Yay!”  Arie dragged a tall stool over to the counter, watching as her mother took the hose from the water, with bare hands.

“Arie if you would…”  Arie had a towel ready, handing it over as soon as Lauranya placed the hose down and turned towards her. “Ahh…thank you, my dear.”  Lauranya placed the hose on the dissection tray, wiped over her hands, opening a drawer for her goggles.  Arie followed suit, taking a few extra minutes trying to remember where she had last placed them.  They were found in the bathroom.  Arie had worn them while swimming and churning the dirty laundry in the tub.  Soap bubbles still fascinated her.  Lauranya merely smiled, hiding her giggle at Arie’s unusual method for inspecting washing clothes.

Once they were both set, Lauranya slipped the industrial scissors along the edge of the hose, wishing for the 100th time for good gloves.  She took care not to cut the fish inside.  The hosing took longer to cut from the thick water tight weave but from the thin flexible coating of plastic liner, and the fish wasn’t quite as dead as originally presumed.

Lauranya cleared enough hose away to see the tail end of the fish; however the hosing wasn’t falling away from the fish as expected.  Frowning, she tried to pull the casing away with her fingers on one side and the scissors holding the other side down.  The fish’s skin pulled taught almost ripping.  Lauranya stopped, to chew on her lip.

“Yemoja!”  Lauranya swore softly.

“What’s wrong mommy?”

“I think…think the fish has barbs in its skin that are stuck in the hose.”

“That’s going to make getting it out harder.”  Arie said succinctly.

“Yes, dear.  It will.”  Lauranya tried for bland but a little sarcasm leaked through.  Arie grinned at her mother not chastised in the least.

“I would like to keep the skin intact though that may…”  Lauranya huffed in frustration gingerly poking the stuck fish with a finger.  “Not be possible.”

She grabbed tweezers and long pins.  She pinned one side of the hose then used the tweezers to open the other side up, tugging gently.  As the hose opened she tweezed each spine from the hosing as gently as possible onto the dissection board.  The fish, who did not agree with her ministrations, began thrashing violently.  Luckily the spines were only on the back portion along the dorsal fin to either side; however the entire process took close to 30 minutes to extract.  The fish stopped flailing closer to the start than the end.      “Done.”  Lauranya breathed, putting down her instruments to look at her work with satisfaction at the cutting board.  There were a few tears in the skin, yet the fins and the body were extracted with minimal damage.  The vivid blues and gold shimmered even as the eyes turned dull in death.

“It looks pretty!”  Arie said in awe reaching a hand to touch the fish.

Lauranya caught the hand mid-way, with a gentle squeeze.  “It does look beautiful.   I wonder.”  She muttered, bending down for a closer look.

Arie leaned over to look closer as well, her hand landing on a metal tray, knocking it over.

“Arie!”  Lauranya grabbed for the spilled tools.  Her hand reached for two of the spilling items but her bracing hand landed in a puddle of water made from the entrapped fish and sodden hose.  Her hand slipped out from underneath, unbalancing her.  Lauranya made a desperate grab for stability, grabbing the hose instead.  Pins, spines and tines pierced her hand as she landed on her butt, knocking Arie over as she fell.  The cutting board clattered to the floor.

“Ouch!  Damn it.”  Lauranya swore.  “Arie are you ok?”  She stood slowly, careful of things in her hand.

“I’m ok mommy.”  Arie said with her hurt voice, rubbing her butt as she stood back up.  “Are you ok?”

“Oww.  Think so.”  Lauranya pulled pens and the sliced hose from her skin, dropping the waste onto the counter.  She looked down at her hand, pursing her lips.  There were small pricks in the skin with red aerials surrounding a few.  “Hmmm.”  She made another face concentrating on the skin rash.  Memories of her skin contacting with the poisoned wine from the shuttle flowed through her thoughts like molasses.

“Mommy?” A quaver to Arie’s voice that didn’t registering with Lauranya at first.

“What?”  Lauranya snapped concentrating on how her hand felt, while gently running a finger over the redness.  No spines could be felt.  Maybe only a slight allergic reaction?

“You’re bleeding…want me to grab the clean rags and alcohol?”  Arie looked into her mother’s face with huge eyes, the child’s face pale.

Lauranya looked down.  The fish had hooked into the scar tissue on Lauranya’s calf.  The spines were deep enough to cause small trickles of blood, painting her skin reddish pink, pooling around her heel.

Lauranya sucked in a breath.  “I cannot feel the spines.”  She whispered her eyes as wide as her daughter’s.

“Mommy?”

“Shhhh.  I will need to pull the fish’s spine from my skin.”  She gave Arie a comfortingly wide smile, but did not reach her eyes.  A lying smile.  “It will be fine, baby.  Now go and get me those clean rags.”

“Alcohol as well?”

“The cheap drinking alcohol not the medical grade.”

“Are you going to drink it?”

“I might have a sip, but mostly the alcohol will be poured over the skin.  It will be almost as sterilizing as the medical stuff.”

“Then why not the medical grade?”

“Because we might need the medical grade for another major surgery and not something as minor as this.”  Lauranya’s voice held steady, calm and even.  She looked down with her hands hovering just out of touching distance from the fish, twitching.

“Oh.  Okay mommy!”  Arie spun on her bare feet and ran to the medical room’s cupboard with the alcohol.

“Well lied.”  A voice whispered in her ear.

“How bad is it Jacks?”  Lauranya whispered, with a breath that would not have been heard past her lips.

“I don’t know.  We never got to study the viral and bacterial, let alone the poison applications, of the fish.”  Jacks took a moment before continuing.  “I think you may have as much to worry about the poison in the spines causing the numbness as anything living inside you now.”  Both not speaking of the viral from the whiskered cat.

“Comforting.”  Lauranya wiped her cheek quickly, shaking her head.

“Comfort isn’t why you asked.”  Jacks’ voice faded as small running footsteps could be heard on the wood covered hallway floor.

“Here you go, mommy!”  Arie bounced back into the room, holding a dark brown bottle with no labeling and a handful of clean rags.  All but one rag wrapped around Lauranya’s ankle, to catch the poured alcohol instead of letting it pool on the floor.  The other rag Lauranya wrapped around her hand for protection.

Lauranya took a deep breath and releasing it slowly.  “Okay.  I want you to pour that over the skin.  My skin not the fish skin. And I will start pulling the fish from me.”

Arie bent down, getting her face close to the wound and the fish but not close enough that Lauranya wanted to flinch back to keep Arie safe.  Carefully the child tipped the bottle next to Lauranya’s scar, the chartreuse colored liquid came in a trickle at first then a large spill at Arie poured more confidently.

Lauranya let out a hiss as the alcohol struck the skin where the barbs had sunk in.  “Okay sweetie, stop pouring.”

Arie stopped with a questioning look up.

“I need to pull the spines out then we can disinfect a bit more.”

“Okay!” Arie chirped, as she put the bottle on the floor next to her mother’s foot, before bouncing to grab the tweezers just out of Lauranya’s reach.

Lauranya grabbed the fish gently then whispered a quick prayer to Babaluaye while pulling out the spines.  The spines held her skin with less ferocity than the tubing but they did not pull out smoothly either.  Lauranya’s lips were bruised as she pressed her teeth together using the flesh as extra padding and pain stimulation for endorphins.  She was drenched in sweat as the last spine pulled free.

This time she put the fish on the cutting board, moving the board to the back of the counter away from the front edge.

“Okay love, now you may pour more of the alcohol.”  Lauranya grabbed the counter in anticipation.  She hadn’t been wrong in the strength of the alcohol’s burn.  Each spine prick lit up like an electric current.  The pain from her hand was nothing in comparison.

“Yemoja!”  Lauranya gasped a prayer to the mother of mankind.

“Mommy?”  Arie stopped looking up with quivering lips and tears in her eyes, her mother’s pain almost palpable.

“You are fine dear.”  Lauranya sucked in another breath.  “I think we are good on the alcohol though.  If you could put it back?”

“Sure!”  Arie screwed the top on quickly.  “Mommy are we still going to look at it through the microscope?”

“Yes.  We both are.  I am going to take samples and many pictures.  I have a vested interest in this species now.  I need to know all the quirks that this fish has in life and death.”

“Because it’s new?”

“New to us but no.  I do not want you to get hurt if this gets pulled into the hosing again.”  Lauranya’s voice bland. leaving out the numbness of her skin from the spines.

“Should we put something over the end of the hose?”

Lauranya opened her mouth then snapped her teeth closed, pinching the bridge of her nose.  “Yes, should have thought of this earlier.  I will find a loose woven piece of material we can attach to the ending after I take pictures.”

Coyote Laughing Ch:2

Chapter Two

And a Strawberry Milkshake

We made it about five miles. The bullets that had gone through the radio and into the engine finally did their work killing Little Blue.

“Fuck, fuck. Fuck!” Carrie could only repeat that over and over as she steered LB over to the side of the road. She was almost in tears.

“Not now, dear, I have a headache.” I retorted, staring at the industrial barren landscape of old buildings and dry ground.

“Blue! They killed Blue!” Her hands were starting to shake on the steering wheel. The adrenaline was starting to wear off.

“We witnessed a shooting, were attacked, shot at and, yes, your poor Little Blue has died. Long live LB in our memory! I’m betting hippie dude didn’t make it out.” I snapped off the seat belt, and reached under the seat for my small black purse. It was big enough to hold my driver’s license, two packs of cigarettes and, if I was lucky, a wad of cash that could choke a cat on a good night. Last night had not been that night for cash; but, there was still one pack of unopened cigarettes in there and, man, did I really, really need a drag right now!

“Fuck!” Carrie turned the key in the ignition. “Come on baby! Come on for momma.” Little Blue wasn’t even making a rumble or a burp. Definitely no purrs coming from her.

My arm was under the seat to the elbow. “God damn it!” The windows had been down and I was stupid. “Fuck!” I hadn’t expected murdering assholes to search the car. I had gotten lazy and, at this rate, soon to be dead. “Carrie, please tell me you still have your purse?”

Carrie patted her pockets. The cheap silver and gold rings she wore flashed in the dying light. “Yes cell, no purse. Slow and fat guy got it.”

“The one who got your knuckle sandwich?”

She started to laugh at that. “I hope I broke his nose and he chokes to death on the blood!”

“I told you the self-defense classes would come in handy.” I quirked an eyebrow at her, which made her laugh harder. “’Cause you know not every guy is going to stop and let you give him a blow job every time you need to distract ‘em.”

“Bitch!” Now she was really laughing. I started to giggle at her as we both were picturing what might have happened if she had offered the blond a bj instead. Yeah right.

“Call Mark.” I said finally, when I could breathe from all the giggling and laughing. I opened the door to get out.

“Why? You hate Mark. And where are you going?”

“Not me, us. Where are we going? Those guys who shot us…” I hesitated for a heartbeat. Carrie sometimes needed help connecting dots on the seamy side of life. “Have a working car. Our car is now dead on the side of the road. We kinda need to not be here.” I nodded to the buildings about 50 yards further down the highway. The sparse desert had given way to an industrial center then to a small dinner, fast food joints, and some crappy hotels. “We’re going to not be here, but somewhere over there. Mark, the fucker, is going to come and pick us up.”

“You hate Mark, though.” She repeated.

“Yeah, but he likes you, and your open door blow job policy. And we really need a dependable ride at the moment.”

It was her turn to be outraged, but not much came out through her giggles. Carrie was smart, but she was a bit flaky in some areas and a real slut in others.

When she finally caught her breath, she asked me “All your other friends got broken legs?”

“Other friends?” My lips twitched as I tilted my head with a sideways grin in her direction. “Nah, they are either too flaky or trying to score drugs. Like us. Neither of which translates into a ride outta here.”

Carrie reluctantly got out of Little Blue. She pulled out her pink cell phone and started to flip through her contacts. I had to tug on her elbow to get her to start walking in the direction we needed. Away from the shot up car. The damn thing stuck out like a sore thumb. We did not want to be advertising ourselves next to it. Our shoes made crunching noises on the gravel. The only good thing we had going for us was that it was still summer, not freezing. That and there weren’t any clouds, so no rain either.

Ten yards from the car and Carrie was still searching through her phone. “My god woman, how many Marks do you know?”

“Well there is Mark Stasnny, good in bed but bad breath. Or Mark Jacob, niiiice dick but doesn’t know how to use it for anything but peeing and sticking into something wet.”

“I can see how he’s a good friend of yours then.” I snarked with a sidewise glance.

She punched me on the shoulder, but still had her eyes on the phone so the punch was slow and not more than a tap.

“There’s Mark Jeremy, little dick but really good in tutoring for calculus in exchange for…”

“Stop!” I rolled my eyes. “I really do not want to know the Mark litany. Wait.” I stopped in my tracks to look at her.” If you have so many Marks, how did you know the one I was talking about?”

It was Carrie’s turn to laugh at me. She kept going, not waiting for me to catch up this time. “You’re not what they call a people person. You don’t know that many Marks just lots of marks. There is only one Mark you would call for help.” Carrie shot me a sly grin looking up from her screen.

It sucked worse as she giggled at me while I spluttered. “Yeah, he’s a whiny, spineless bitch, but, seriously, I only wanted him for casual sex.”

“True. If he hadn’t slept with Tiffany, you’d have kept him around longer.”

“Yeah, I didn’t mind him getting the occasional blow job or fuck from you, but still, I should have stolen his truck.” I said glumly, sticking my hands deeper in the hoodie. Cheaters sucked ass. Mark had been fun, but I didn’t like cheaters. They ran in the same circles as liars and thieves. I really shouldn’t have taken a stupid man as a casual lover.

“You think he’ll come out all this way for us?” Carrie sounded worried for the first time at my back up plan.

“Not us, you… and maybe me.” I said chewing on a thumbnail thoughtfully. God I wanted a cigarette. The thought of Mark just made me horny and cranky.

“Nah. You wouldn’t do well behind bars for grand theft auto. Let’s see there is Mark Credesco who…” Carrie started again.

“Lalalalala.” I sang stuffing my fingers in my ears. “Don’t want to hear about you fucking all the Marks! Besides, I wouldn’t have crossed state lines! Would only have been theft.” Mmmm… that was a warm thought. Bastard loved that ride almost more than his own dick. His truck was definitely the better of the two things.

“If you had been caught,” Carrie muttered snarkily. I rolled my eyes.

“Pfft. Thirty seconds with a screwdriver, a pair of wire cutters and I’d have been gone. No one the wiser. Javier has a great chop shop.” I had a big smile at that thought. Casual lover, but still a bitter taste on the tongue.

“Mmmm… Javier.” Carrie was reminiscing, or would be shortly.

“Mark. Call!”

“Woof!” Carrie went back to searching through her cell phone.

“Oh, and have him bring enough money to cover our dinners at the diner.” I gave a satisfied grin. I knew Carrie would be seeing him afterwards for a blowjob reward so I didn’t feel too bad about making him pay, again.

Coyote Laughing Ch. 1.

Coyote Laughing

By

Sosha Ruark-Cavett

Chapter one

Cactus to the rescue

The smaller man licked his lips and nervously straightened his tie.  He had already changed from his play clothes into his work suit and tie.  He’d already changed from his play clothes into work shirt and tie, dumping the dirty outfit in a garbage bag to be disposed of later. The gun in his shoulder holster gleamed gold along the little bit of grip sticking out.  His suit jacket was still in the clothes bag hanging over a chair, to keep mostly wrinkle free.

He really did like the invitations to these little one on two rape parties.  It showed a real trust and respect, to be included.  The only thing Renniks didn’t like was his partner’s disposal methods.  Eaten by crawly things and fish was a little to grisly for his taste, not to mention not always foolproof like fire.  Renniks would never be able to eat fried catfish or enjoy crawfish tails again after watching the fish in the water pond swarm hungrily over a body.  Really the body should be buried, burned preferably…he winced as the girl gave another scream that collapsed into a weak moan as the other man broke another finger.

The shorter man purposefully did not look at the girl’s feet.  All ten toes and both ankles had been smashed with a hammer.  The other man had become incensed with the girl’s attempt to escape.  “It’s to teach the bitch.  She’ll never leave me!”  He yelled with the first swing of the 3-pound sledgehammer to her toes.

With her feet and ankles broken and her hands tied over her head to a metal girder, both of the men had gotten their rape on.  Even with the broken bones, the girl had been pretty lively, her dark hair tossing as she tried to bite or scream. Her attempts to bite just led to more screaming and thrashing, adding to the fun.

They hadn’t worried about anyone hearing the girl’s noise due to the remote warehouse location.  The warehouse was a warren of rooms and greenhouses.  Renniks had wanted to take a sample of some of the pot grown inside at the start, but that was going to be an extra treat for when they left.

The taller man finished with cutting off her left thumb.  The girl gave another weak scream before fainting.  The smile was very sharp and cruel on the taller man.  He really got off on the pain.

“Hey man, we ready?  I have to go and keep someone else busy.”  The shorter guy said with only a trace of unease in his voice.  “And you know how he is when you’re late.”

“Yeah.  Let me just tie her up and throw her in the pond.”  The other man’s smile was self-satisfied.  “I would love to watch the finale myself but duty calls.” His voice held regret.  His eyes were hungry for more pain.

Renniks swallowed hard.  He knew his partner was a sick fuck, not that he minded too much, but there was sick and then there was wacko crazy sick.  One could be worked with, the other was like playing with a bonfire and pouring on gasoline.

Renniks helped tie the girl’s ankles together, without having to be asked, a short rough piece of rope while the partner got the cinder block.  His partner dragged the girl and the cinder block, to the edge of the pool, then squatted down beside her, scooping water in his hand to dribble on her face until she woke up moaning.  She saw his face and started to whimper again.

“Ok darling.  We’re done with you.  Time to let you go.”  The girl had a moment to sob in pure joy and relief, before the tall man rolled the cinder block into the deep end of the murky indoor water pond.  There was the merest second of confusion before her comprehension as she scrambled with injured hands to grab onto the side of the pool.  Even with both thumbs gone and three broken fingers, she held on.  The girl was a real fighter.  The tall man smiled as he stepped on those clinging fingers.  There was the wet sound of breaking bones.

“Nooooo!” She wailed before the pain was so great she lost her grip on the edge of the pond and she went into the water thrashing.   He stood and watched for a moment while the water agitated before pulling out a phone to report for work.  He was going to have to hurry and clean up before making it to his own job.

 

“Hey cousin.  Just saw the extra water lily in my pond today.”

“Yep.  The fish needed some extra feeding.”

“Think there has been enough feeding.  You’ve left a few other plants out that need to be cleaned.  They’ve started to turn into compost.”

“I’ll get to those in the next day or two.”

“Sooner would be better.  Hard to run a business without you leaving your broken toys in my garden.”

“As long as my bank is supplying payment for your business I think you can tolerate a toy or two out.”

Silence for a moment.

“A day.  The heat here makes the…plastic melt.”

“A day it is.”

The lines clicked dead.  A long finger tapped the top of a cell phone.  Yep, cleaning up was a bitch and sometimes toys just shouldn’t be allowed at all.  Time to do some house cleaning.

 

It wasn’t the vaults themselves that were the issue; it was the first attempt at maneuvering them though the warehouse floor that ended up pulling a muscle in the man’s back.  Each vault weighed 2474 lbs and stood at 62″.  The floor palate jack he had rented couldn’t handle the load, causing him to tear a muscle while trying to un-stick the palate jack from underneath the T30.

He didn’t swear or kick the vault, but settled for glaring at the damn thing for a full 5 minutes while his back spasmed.  He had to go back to the rental store for a pallet jack truck not just a damn floor palate jack, putting him behind schedule. Three hours later he was back on schedule with a rental truck and a rented palate jack.

He joked with the sales guy that his wife’s new garden stone fish pound was more then he and the boys could carry.

“Yeah those women.  Always wanting the biggest and heaviest they can get.,” the counter guy said with sympathy.  “Tell the slave driver she better be putting out some good laying for the work you’re doing.”

“That down payment was paid this morning!” the man said with a self-satisfied grin.

They both laughed while the pallet jack truck was loaded into the rental van.

“Have it back by 5.” the counter guy said “And I hope your second “payment” is as good as the first!” the sales guy called out laughingly.

“It will be, it will be!” He waved out the window, heading towards the highway.  The naproxen was wearing off and he would need to find something stronger. He had 6 safes to arrange, then wire up with explosives.  Some things needed to be wired right to counter the people wired wrong.

 

The man felt the dream forming from the fog of heavy sleep.  He saw unbroken prairie before him with stars brighter than any he had ever seen in the city, he heard the wind through the unending grass as a gentle rustle.  There were rocks behind him that looked like the knocked over blocks of a giant child…blocks that could be built into towering heights or knocked down again into tumbling ruins.  The fire in front of him was small yet his skin could feel the heat.  He looked down with a frown.  He remembered going to bed in boxers, but was now wearing a leather breach cloth, leggings and fringed moccasins with geometric patterns done in dyed porcupine quills.  He ran a hand down the side of his leg.  The leather was soft to the touch.  Not like modern leather pants but softer almost cloth-like.  He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  The smell of smoke, grass and air, without a hint of gas or asphalt, filled his lungs.

“Today is the start of the rest of your life.”

Jason opened his eyes, making out the outline of a medium sized yellow dog with a very fluffy tail.  The dog sat just outside of the light cast by the crackling fire.  Jason raised an eyebrow at the creature, refusing to flinch in the dream.

“Coyote.” Jason was not naming a type of canine but one of his gods, the god of mischief.

A playfully chaotic god in children stories but a seriously scary bad ass of chaotic mayhem.  The scary tales were told by the People after the children had been put to bed.  Children would grow up soon enough.  Coyote was not a god to mess with.  Things…tended to happen to those who tried and Jason was not a stupid man.  His great grandfather was a shaman and talked to Coyote on a semi regular basis, but Coyote had never deigned to visit Jason.

“Until tonight there was no reason to talk to you.”  The deity said.  Coyote moved closer to sit by the fire wrapping his tail around his front paws cat like, across from Jason.  Coyote acknowledge the man with a flick of his ear and a large open mouthed canine smile, wider then a normal dog’s toothy grin.   The fire light made his teeth seem white, wet and very sharp looking.  A scary smile.

Jason waited. His father had taught him patience while hunting. Information, he had found was just another type of hunt and Jason was very good at getting information.

Coyote grinned again.  “You’ll need that patience young one.”

“I am not young.”  Jason was not going to be baited even if his mouth was dry.

“You are not a wise old man nor starting the decade of learning by the People’s reckoning either.”  The tone was amused but slightly condescending.

Jason waited.  Young was not an insult; however, the implied insult of stupid did make him grit his teeth, bunching the muscles in his jaw.  He blanked his mind from thinking rude things.  Gods weren’t known for their tolerance with impudent “children”.

“Today is the start for the rest of your life.”  Coyote looked at him intensely.

“Every day is the start.”

“For a new day.  Today your life changes.”

“I die.” He said flatly.  The wind blew cold up his spine.

Coyote yipped in laughter. “If you were going to die, I would not be here.  No need to tell a dead man to pay attention.”  A sly look, through narrowed yellowed eyes.

“Thank you for your words of wisdom, Coyote.”  Jason tried for calm response.

“It’s not you that wisdom is needed.”

“It’s not?” Now that piqued Jason’s curiosity.

Coyote seemed to smirk.  “The one with the sharp teeth.”  was all he said with a gleam of white teeth.

Jason winced.  He hated being bitten.  Never knew where some one’s mouth had been.

“You’ll do child of stone.”  Coyote grinned; he rose to his feet and stretched.  His paws almost touched the fire as he yawned with his ears back flashing a long jaw of canines at Jason again. The open mouth yawn was wide enough to have unhinged the head of a true coyote.  With that Coyote turned, his tail wagging slowly as he took a step away, stopping to look coyly over his shoulder at Jason.  “One more thing, take tweezers with you today.”

With that, the dream splintered and Jason was tossed awake, like leaf in a strong wind, tumbling back into the real world.  Jason sat up in the motel bed smelling of stale smoke and spilled beer, with a taste of smoke from a cedar fire in his mouth and nose.

Tweezers?  Jason got up to check his medical kit.

 

“Carrie, are we almost there?” I asked, flicking out the cigarette butt from the open window, not quite yelling to be heard.  Carrie’s car was a small blue thing without AC and rattled like an orangutan in a cage, hopped up on speed.  The CD player had been stolen 3 months ago so there wasn’t even music to relieve the tedium of a boring drive in a bad car.  The ripped vinyl seats were not the most comfortable but Carrie loved her car more then any of the many boyfriends and one-night stands she’s had since getting it.  She even nicknamed the pos, Little Blue.

“Almost! If your directions are right we should be hitting the greenhouse in another minute or two.” Carrie’s hair was blowing all over her face and shoulders. The sunset was turning her hair more strawberry then blond.

The road shimmered in the heat of the desert sun, making the car hotter and stickier then usual.  The sun was to our backs, yet nothing had cooled down.   The open windows made talking in anything other then an almost shout pretty hard, but the blowing wind didn’t cool us down much either. God, I hated her car but anything flashier was sure to attract unwanted attention, so small and crappy, but running, is what we used.

“Those directions are accurate, slut.” I gave an off-handed wave breezily dismissing her need for minute directions.

“Look bitch, just ‘cause…” She started trying to laugh, talk and spit out hair at the same time. I grinned back, reaching for another clove cigarette in my deep pockets.  The lighter I pulled from my sleeve like a magician with a handkerchief.  I loved doing that trick, made me feel like Houdini.  The trick was useful in picking up and hiding things as well.

My hoodie was black long sleeved and deep front pockets.  Comfortable and concealing, enough so that I ignored being hot and sticky in favor of those pockets and the arm coverings.  Black was just a plus.   Besides, it matched my nail polish.  I was styling hard as I sucked in a mouth full of the sweet flavored smoke.

“Greenhouse!” I shouted as what looked like an abandoned warehouse complex came into view.  I waived my cigarette to the left side of the road, triumphant in being right.

“That?”

“Yep.” I shouted smugly.  The building looked vaguely promising from far away. The back part of the warehouse was huge being close to 4 stories tall and about 3 blocks wide.  The front had a sloped roof made of the green panels used in green houses and only about 20 feet tall, short compared to the back end.  Parts of the larger back structure had areas of green panels as well.  A very large greenhouse looked abandoned.  Yep…we were in the right place.

Now if the guy would sell to us, we should be set for at least a month and would be able to pay next semester off in one big chunk instead of pieces from small. That meant more time for studying and not trying to hustle the next descent sale.  I liked my 3.4 GPA, but it was a bitch to maintain while having a regular job, a side job and still going to school full time.  I was almost salivating at the thought of just being able to study most nights and not hit the clubbing/frat party scene.

The gravel was loud under her not-quite-balding tires.  There was only one battered truck to the left of the front building, almost hidden behind the towers of leaning pallets and the fading light. It was hard to tell the color from the road but I was betting black, maybe dark blue.

“See any cameras?”  She shouted.

“Do I look like I can see 100 yards into the distance bitch? And no!”

“Yay!”  Carrie pulled in, declining to drive up to the front door.  Instead, we parked next to the mountain of pallets, 4 feet from the dark blue battered truck.  Neither of us wanted to park in front.  The side door was probably the loading door we would be using, possibly even the back door.  That and Carrie really didn’t want her car photographed in the front of anything that might have surveillance on the front door.  Didn’t matter about the side door might have surveillance though we didn’t see any camera’s in either spot…just no front door for her.  Her car, her idiosyncrasies.  I just didn’t like parking in front as it advertised a bit too much of who was where.

I pushed my hair back with a hand trying to get it looking not as fly away as Carrie’s.  Being jaw length, while traveling in her car, had its advantage.

“Nice dye job by the way.” Carrie said, pocketing her keys while slinging her cutsie little purse over her shoulders.  Leather I like but baby blue leather with flowers, I rolled my eyes at that thing.  Could she get any cutesier.

“Thanks.”

“I thought the dark blue was better but the brown works well.  Makes your hips look smaller.”  She giggled.

I glared at her as I got out of her car.  “Its auburn, bitch, and the blue was waaay too distinctive, to memorable.”  I made a face; I had liked the blue better too.  I had gotten better tips for looking like so many other blond sorority bimbos waiting tables, the blue had definitely been great for tips.  “And when you can get into anything other then a 2x mom jean, come talk to me about my size 10 hips!”

Carrie giggled again.  Some days I won the bitch game, some days she did.  So far, she was three up on me today, but the night was young.  I grinned back at her.  Game on!

We walked around to the front of the building and went up the warped wooden steps.  Carrie’s flowered flip-flops made minimal noise clopping around, my dark keds, less so.  There was an old fashion bell over the door that made a huge clanging sound as we came in.

“Oh my God! We’ve stepped back into the 1960s!” Carrie was in awe.  Her head swinging back and forth to cover the old west style minimalist decor.  The room was obviously old with faded to grey wood walls and floor. The floor was made of wood slats, which were tongue and groove, if I could judge anything, and not cheap fake wood floor paneling.  Lots of wear and tear, from the scuff marks and ingrained dirt but in good repair still.  The four foot high wood front desk, held an old metal register, the type with huge brass keys and took 3 men to carry.  The one jarring out place item was the coke machine next to another door to the left of the front door.  The hum was slight but noticeable in the quite.  The smell of fertilizer was a bit over powering, blocking the other scents as to faint to smell.

“Where are the deer antlers?  Can’t have retro cowboy without deer antlers!” Carry said mockingly.

“I don’t believe in killing for clothing or decoration. Can I help you?” Came a voice to our left as we were marveling over the antique decor. We both jumped, though Carrie was the only one to squeal in surprise.  The overall impression was long hair, mud splattered wife beater and blue jeans.  The old hippy was wiping his hands on a rag, peering through small oval glasses.  We both blinked.  This was not quite what either of us had expected.

“Umm…Sorrrrry.” Carry stuttered.

Carrie stood on her tiptoes a couple of times nervously.  Her impressive cleavage would have given her black eyes if not well restrained.  “Make the floor bounce why don’tcha?” I said sideways to Carrie.

“Ohhh bitch!” She punched my shoulder with a girly hit, nervousness causing her to be sillier then usual.  Buying from new dealers was not Carrie’s strong suit.  After she knew them a bit they were the best of friends, in soooo many ways.

“Ladies?”  The man pulled out a slightly cleaner cloth to rub over his glasses.  Without his glasses, I had to downgrade his age by about 15 years.

Carrie bumped my shoulder again.  “Err…we here to buy some plants for our dorm room.” I said crossing my arms over my less impressive chest.  “Something good.”  I was using the phrase Tony had given to me.

“What type of plants are you looking for?  Low water maintenance or easy to grow?  Something that’ll survive beer being thrown over it regularly?”  There was a hint of a grin.  He put the eye cleaning rag in his pocket, holding the glasses out at arms length to view the lenses.

“Something good…that goes with beer.”  I said.

“And nachos, or cereal.” Carrie added.  I glared at her.  “Munchies.” she amended.  Again going by the code phrase, if out of order and by more than one person.  A ball gag was something I really wish I had now for her mouth though.

“Plants don’t usually eat nachos or cereal though we have a good selection of garden plants that are edible.  Better for nachos, not so much for cereal.  The strawberry plants might be what you’re looking for though.” There was a more pronounced grin as he put his glasses back on.  He was having fun at our expense and enjoying making us squirm. The man’s shoulders were starting to be more relaxed as he kept talking.

Carrie and I exchanged glances.  We’re we really in the right place?

We looked back to the hippy again.  He was frowning as he looked out the window. “Why don’t you girls go into the greenhouse and start looking for some plants you might like.  I’ll be with you in a moment to help you with your selection for beer and smoking.”

I blinked.  That was what Tony said was the right counter phrase.  All very cloak and dagger.  I had laughed at the time, not so much now though.  “Umm…ok.  We’ll look for something sturdy then.”

“Try the cactus’.”  He motioned us to the door behind him and moved to behind the counter.  I thought I heard a slight click as the door was closing behind us.

Giggling like the collegiate girls we were, all cloak and dagger tough, we walked into a green house the size of a football field.  Ok, maybe not that long but damn did it make me feel small!  The room was in a deep green twilight from the roof panels and the dying sunlight outside.  The sound of the cowbell over the front door banging made us both jump.

“More customers for beer and smokes!”  Carrie whispered.  After a nervous laugh at our own jumpiness, we kept going forward exploring. I glanced upwards to see huge light fixtures hanging in the rafted roof between the glass panes that were over the sprinklers, still dripped.  Again, Carrie and I exchanged looks.  There was a bunch of regular garden plants here.  Not a cannabis plant anywhere.

“You sure this is…”

“Yes! Right place. Right phrase!”

“Then where is the crop?”

“In his back pocket?” I gave her a roll of the eyes.  “Do I look like I know where he’d be keeping a cash crop in this freaking warehouse in the first 10 minutes of walking in?”

The almost silence was pervasive.  No music, no dogs, nothing I would associate with a pot growing operation.  Our voices were getting quieter and quieter to match the surroundings even though there weren’t any other people here.

“What keeps this guy from getting robbed regularly?!” she stage whispered.

“Maybe he has a room full of slutty bimbo’s like you to distract any one who comes to do bad things?” I asked sweetly.

“Bitch!” she giggled though as if the thought of clones like her being a security force were one she liked.

If he had any plants or crop to sell us, it was very well hidden so far.  The plants, he did have were garden variety or landscaping, laid out in rows of 100 feet long on low wooden tables.  The wooden planks between the tables were less muddy then under the tables but the smell was still fertilizer, wet dirt and green plants.  I took a deep breath.  “I want to be a pot grower when I grow up!”

“So you can be Ms. Old Hippy chick?” Carrie asked.

“If I got to smoke everything as a tester, hell yeah!” We both giggled at that.

We started moving down the rows towards a large upright cactus thingy.  Several types of prickly plants and plants that weren’t spiky but had thick fleshy leaves and fleshy flowers had no scent laid out on the low tables next to the huge cactus thing.  I reached out to one plant that looked weirdly phallic.

“Think we found the cactus.”  I hissed in pain, hastily pulling back a stabbed finger after trying to pet one of the plants.

“Ya think?” Came Carrie’s retort while I sucked on my bleeding finger.

“City girl here, cum guzzling farm bitch!” I snapped at her from around my finger.

“Ooh!  Getting creative there.  Almost eloquent in your pain.  Hey look!” Carrie whispered to me holding up a short round of cactus with lots of thick long spines in a small square of black plastic. “The most prick you’ve had in a week!”

“Bitch!” I hissed back grinning as Carrie giggled.  “You’re the only slut I know who’d go for something that small.”

“Ouch!” She giggled. “How about this one?” Another small cactus with a main trunk and two arms branching up wards, like a man being held up at gun point.  Not so heavily spined but enough so to be painful if touched by bare skin. “One for both holes and your clit.”  She started giggling even more.

“Ehh to straight.” I said with a shrug and a sly look. “I want one with a little more curve in the arms.  Something to fill your mouth and both ears!”

Carrie started to snicker so badly, she dropped the plant half an inch from her toes, cracking the plastic pot on the wooden boards and spilling out the dirt and the cactus.    She jumped back with a squeal of alarm.

“Carrie!” I hissed, getting on my knees trying to clean up the dirt and plant. “Help me before we’re thrown out!”  She started hoping from one foot to the other, shaking out the dirt in her flip-flops making the boards bounce and creek.  I glared up at her as the boards kept bouncing in time with her hoping making the cactus and pot bounce in separate directions away from me.

“I’ll get dirty!” she whined making a face, putting her manicured hands behind her back like a 3 year old hiding a cookie.

“Chica you’re already dirty.  This at least washes off!” I hissed up at her making a growly face.  Wrinkled nose and barred teeth, the works.  And it worked!

“Bitch!” She laughed but got down on her hands and knees, careful of her sorority style manicured nails, to help with the dirt and plant.

The boards were dry with caked on mud, feeling somewhat pebbly through the jeans on my knees.  The dirt was scattered all over mixing with what was already on the ground.  I didn’t want the hippy guy to run us off without at least letting us talk.  As I was trying to sweep the dirt from the pot into my hands, Carrie was sweeping it over the boards into the damp dirt underneath the tables.  For some reason this working not together, set us to giggling harder.

I carefully put the handful of dirt I had back in the broken cactus pot. The cactus was a bit more problematic.  The roots were shallow but the top of the damn thing was covered in spines, making the task of trying to get a hold of it almost impossible.  I pulled down the sleeve of my hoodie down over my hand, to get a very careful hold of the plant. The thorns were noticeable but not painfully so as it would have been if using my bare hand.  I didn’t want another throbbing finger or fingers as this plant was small, but it required more then one finger to hold.

I heard a soft pop then another.  The sound froze me in place.  Carrie was still giggling until she looked at my face.  “Oh my god, your face what?”  I slapped my free hand over her mouth; I could feel my eyes growing huge and goose bumps racing up my skin.  Friday nights were our crime story, popcorn and cheap wine nights.  Carrie knew gunfire this way.  I knew it from a few closer encounters that were far more real then TV.

Cocking my head toward the front office, I waited for the next sound.  We heard the bell over the door clanging.   The sound of gunfire was louder.  Not silenced this time.

I slowly removed my hand putting a finger to my lips.  Carrie’s eyes got huge and she stuffed her palm into her mouth biting down.  I could just hear a small whimper starting.  I wanted to stuff a hand in my mouth to do the same thing but was still holding the stupid cactus caught in my sleeve.  Fucking hate, those damn things!

I thrust my chin at her and to the left. She nodded.  She would take the left side and I would take the right.  We crawled under the plant tables hoping to hide behind the gallon jugs with plants under there.  We should be out of site to the casual observer looking down the rows.  The cactus would not come off my sleeve.  I tried to ignore it, getting under cover paramount.

I crawled and skooched my butt around the containers finding a spot that I could lay on my side so my head was lower than the bucket while nothing stuck into the rows.  Carrie had to move a couple of containers to the side.  The sound was a soft grinding whisper of plastic on dirt.  I prayed it was non-carrying.  If we got shot or killed due to her fat ass, I swear I was going to kill her.

The greenhouse door, from the front office, opened with a swoosh.  Some one wasn’t concerned with being heard, I thought irreverently.  The sounds of the front office being ransacked came through the open door.  There were several voices heard as drawers were opened and banged around.

“Boss!  We found 2 other cars.” A soft tenor.

“Nope.  Should be only one.  All the others left at 5pm.”  The voice was a low growly baritone.  I shivered.  “Looks like he may have had more company then we thought.”  The voice was moving from the front office to the green house.  “We’ll need to look around any way.”

“Fuck!  There was supposed to be only the one guy.  How the hell did we end up with twenty thousand?!”  This voice had a higher pitched edge then the first tenor, which grated on the ears.

“Stop the damn whining Renniks.  And don’t shoot unless you need to this time.  Might need to ask a few questions.”  The baritone snapped the sound running down my spine.  There was scuffing of shoes on the hardwood then soft shushing as they stepped into the greenhouse.

Three people at least, with guns.  Carrie’s eyes were huge.  Mine were getting larger as well.  I chewed my lower lip for a second, tasting blood as a dry spot cracked and split.  We were pretty well hidden from casual sight and it sounded like these guys were going to be moving further into the warehouse complex. I motioned for Carrie to wait for my signal.

Carefully I raise my head just over the lip of the plastic pots. Three men.  No telling whose voice matched with whose.  One man was short, I’m talking my height short.  Five foot five and that was generous with his platform shoes on.  Couldn’t tell what type of gun it was but the John Wayne wanna be actually had gold finish on it.   Looking to be a Mary Sue with a big gun, I thought disdainfully or a rat terrier in a suit.  Either way I bet he was compensating for a small dick.

The other guy had dirty dishwater blond hair, flying across his face.  Tall, not pudgy so the padding had to be muscle.  Carrie would blow him in a sec, floated across my mind, almost making me giggle.  Hell I’d do him in a heartbeat with the jeans hinting at a really nice tight ass.  This one carried a Gluck, looked to be a part of his hand as his fingers were.  I marked him as dangerous. I marked him as doable but dangerous.

The man that followed behind made the rat terrier and the long hair model look like pussies on a playground.  Tall like 10 feet, ok my mind was gibbering at this point but really tall, he had to duck through the doorway tall.  White hair.  Not silver but old man white on a young man’s face.  A face that had character, as Nonni use to say.  Enough character, I thought to shoot a man casually while drink a cold one.  Casual in the killing like Ramon.  High cheekbones and craggy lines.  His hooded eyes didn’t seem to miss sweeping back and forth over the greenhouse. I slumped back down slowly.  Fast movements attracted more attention, Rojo always said.

Footsteps came closer.  A soft whisper on the dirty floor boards, from one pair and a clicking of heels following closely. I froze in place counting.  Two heading towards the side door and one back into the front room.  They passed at the head of the plant row we were at and opened the side door.  When the two who had passed didn’t find any one else they would do a closer sweep.  Our options were getting worse. Now or never it was.

I looked to Carrie.  She could count as well.  With a quirk of a brow and a finger motion, we were in sync to run.  Carrie eased her car keys from her purse and put them in her hands.  The engine key held in her fingers ready.  I loosened the cactus from my hoodie so I held the bastardo in hand with my fingernails and ignoring the pointy spines, the closest thing I had to a weapon.  Looks like I was running interference so she could get the car started.  She motioned to the back of the green house we were in.  I shook my head and mimed a lock motion.  She made a face at me.  We didn’t know if the door by the car was locked or not, but the odds of it not being locked and not alarmed were not in our favor.  Out the front it was.

I held up 3 fingers.  1…2…3!  We scrambled out from under the plant tables and were dashing to the front.  I made it to the door leading to the front office first and yanked it open.

I don’t know who was more surprised; me or the scary dude with white hair.  He yanked back in surprise, taking a half step back. I threw the cactus in my hand as hard as I could at his face.  I didn’t see the blur of his fist slamming into the side of my head, he was that fast.  The cactus however connected to his face.  There was a snarl of pain as his hands went to his face trying to pull the hooking spines from his face.

My vision was swimming and I was on the ground, one knee screaming at having taken the brunt of that fall.

Another guy came from around the front desk trying to grab Carrie who was right on my heels till I hit the wall of scary dude.  He only managed to grab her purse as she freaked out and threw a fist in his face with her shoulder and hip behind it.  The strap snapped at the chain connection, sending Carrie rebounding into the door frame and blondie into tall scary and now bleeding like a stuck pig.

Carrie didn’t waste a second.  Her hand was on my arm as she pulled me up, by sheer fear, aiming for the door to the outside.

“Run!! Run! Run!!!”  Carrie was screaming loud enough in a high-pitched panicking voice as she pulled me with her.

“Fuck fuck fuck!!!!”  Was about all I could say under the circumstances, getting my feet under me and trying to run. Everything else was ringing in my ears as white noise.

I was running, staggering fast to be honest, to the car.  Carrie shoved me towards the passenger side as she sprinted to the driver’s side.  I yanked the door open and dropped into the vinyl seat trying to fumble for the seat belt before she started to drive.  Carrie got her pos started.   I never got the seat belt to lock as I could barely register anything as my eyes were swimming in tears from the fist to the head punch. Carrie floored the car in reverse sending me into the dashboard.  I saw stars again before the car’s motion threw me into the door then into the seat as she spun and took off down the freeway we had come up on not that long ago.

I heard gunshots and twisted in the seat in a knee jerk reaction to the sound.  The sawed of John Wayne was flying out of the front office, his coat and tie flying in the wind.  He tried to shoot from the hip, but the sun setting into his squinting eyes kept him from making a connection with the car.

“That’s right you bastards! You can shoot us but we still got away from you first!” I screamed at him. I think he heard it or me might have been me working both hands up and down, flipping him a double bird.  He looked shocked, then really pissed off behind his knock off ray bands.  His hands were shaking, sending his shots even wilder.

The tall white haired guy came out.  With blood on his face looking as if he were crying blood, he raised a fucking hand cannon with one hand steadying with the other hand and took careful aim.

My eyes got HUGE.  “Carrie DUCK!” I screamed throwing myself into the front seat well.  My ass hit the floor hard but not a hard as my head hitting the dashboard, making me bite through my tongue.  I really hate the taste of blood.

Carrie threw herself sideways into the seat were my ass had just been, while her hands staid on the steering wheel.  The shots were hitting as an almost continuous line.  The window shattered into millions of tiny cutting shards.  Poor Little Blue started to buck and thump from all the shots taken.  Carrie was screaming while driving by braille on the road. I was just clenching the bottom of the seat with my knees under my chin and Carrie’s head on my shins and feet.  Nothing I could do to help Carrie or myself now.

Then silence.  I pulled myself up cautiously to look out the nonexistent back window.  Carrie hunched in her seat to not present too much of a blond headed target.  The men were barely dots in the background.  Either we out distanced their guns range or he ran out of bullets.  Either way we were safe for the moment.  Fucker, I thought thinking of the white haired craggy faced man, rubbing my bruised backside, hope those damn cactus spines take out your eyes!

 

The bleeding man watched the escaping VW in annoyance.  He reached for the quick load magazine on the right side of his holster.

“Fucking dick sucking bastards!” the small man screamed over and over again, dry firing the oversized gun in his hand.

“Renniks.”   Comanche said calmly. The short man continued to scream and swear jumping up and down.  Comanche moved into his personal space. “Renniks.” Comanche’s voice boomed into Renniks ear.

“What?!” Screamed Renniks startled, turning towards the much taller man.

“Shut up.”  The deep voice rumbled through the air in a menacing tone that needed no profanity to make Renniks swallow hard.

“Yes boss.” Renniks looked down meekly, but his lips still pulled back in a primal snarl of rage at the two girls who got away.

Comanche looked down at him for a moment before turning towards the other two.  Renniks waited until Comanche had turned away before redirecting his anger towards the group’s leader.  He glared surreptitiously and shot the finger while fumbling to re-holster his gun.  He only thought the words he wanted to say, having learned the hard way and a couple of black eyes how good Comanche’s hearing really was.

“Nick, take Renniks and pick up the two girls.” Comanche started, talking to the long haired blond.

“Girls?!”  Renniks squeaked in outrage. “You got jumped by girls?” He didn’t’ hide the derision in his voice for shit.

Comanche looked over his shoulder with bleeding eyes growling. “Girls who out smarted you, gave Cubby a black eye and shoved a cactus in my face.”

“Alive or dead boss?” the blonde-haired guy asked, looking Comanche in the eyes, re-holstering his gun smoothly.  Unlike Renniks, he had no need to see where the holster was.  He could re-holster by touch alone.  The gun, an extension of his body not just a tool.

“Alive.  We need to know how much of the warehouse they’ve seen or if they have any information.”

“I have their purses.  If that helps?”  The heavyset dirty blonde-haired person spoke up from the warehouse doorway, hesitantly.

“Drivers license?”  Comanche asked, diverting his gaze to the weakest link of his team.

“I…” Cubby fumbled with a small blue leather purse, unzipping the top flap to search the interior cautiously.

“Girls don’t store used tampons in their purse.” Renniks said derisively to Cubby with lips pulled back into a sneer.

Cubby flipped him a left-handed bird while pulling out the requested identification.  “Got it!”

“Good.  Find out what you can and the likely spots they might go to ground to.” Comanche nodded his approval.

Comanche headed toward the truck, Nick following him.

“Hoss.”

Comanche merely looked over his shoulder, as he pulled open the back door of the quad cab, waiting for Nick to finish.

“Their car was really fucking shot up.  They aren’t making it far.”

“And?”  Comanche pulled out a large leather rucksack, reaching inside for the square plastic medical kit.

“Renniks will beat the crap out of either or both of them.  Possibly killing ‘em if he gets anywhere close.”

“What are you saying, Nick?”

“He’s got the temper of Mike Tyson on speed.  We’re not going to get shit if he kills them.”

Comanche gave an amused grin then winced as the smile crinkled his face pushing the cactus quills a little deeper.  Nick could see the muscles bunch in Comanche’s jaw as the man bit back any verbal acknowledgement of the pain.

Comanche reached for the tweezers and some Neosporin, flipping the passenger side mirror down.  He raised the tweezers to pull the first quills.  “I suggest you let Renniks know off hand how much we need the girls alive and…cooperative.”  He gave Nick a heavy look.

Nick swallowed heavily.  “How much latitude?”

“I want them alive.  Both of them.”  Comanche held Nick’s gaze for a moment more before going back to pulling out quills.  Only the flare of nostrils gave away how much pain and irritation he was feeling.

“Will do Hoss.”  Nick turned away to speak with Renniks.  He pulled out a pair of finger less gloves.  Words didn’t always sink in with Renniks.  Some times a little incentive helped when applied with the proper persuasive fist.

 

Back in the saddle

Some days the bug bites and some days you ignore the itch when you can.

Today, I had epiphany after epiphany on what I wanted to do with description and narrative.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen the wall it was more of ignoring until the scene solidified into more than a sketch.  Something…you could smell, taste and touch when reading.  Drawing the imagination in.

Letting the brain work the magic while meditate and cook.