“Jurt, I need to talk to you,” I said.
Jurt put down the gun that he was cleaning, wiped his fingers on a paper towel, and stood up and followed me to my office. It was the same size as Sam’s, and it looked as crowded. I stood with my back to the desk. Jurt, after surveying the room, leaned against the wall to the side of the door. He left his arms in a neutral posture, loose at his sides.
Damn, he was tall.
“I need you to know something,” I said. “You need to understand.” I’d rehearsed it in my head, of course, but as long as we hit all the correct high notes–“I’m grateful to you. I will never forget what you did for me.” Now and without hesitating: “I want to not harm you. Not ever. If it’s within my power. I can’t guarantee that if you if you stay here.”
Jurt waited a minute before he said: “You wouldn’t be able to guarantee that if I left.”
“I don’t know how to protect you. I don’t know that I can. I just want you to be forewarned.”
He was staring intently at me, goddamn it. I was having enough difficulty looking him in the face already and the long goddamned pauses were not helping. He chose his tone very, very carefully. “What are you going to do?”
This time when we locked eyes it was him who flinched and flicked his own gaze aside. His hands remained loose and easy, but he had thought–there, for an instant–about raising them.
I said: “Don’t get in our way.”
“Oooo how big?”
“Not that big.”
“So I have a thing on my blog, Movies With My Mother, where it’s us watching a movie and me explaining it as we go along–”
“I am going to find your blog and I am going to read that, because it sounds like the funniest thing ever.”
“Ah, uh.” [Riders changes the subject]
“Oh, you know T?”
“Yeah, he used to come around [redacted] all the time with his dogs. I loved his dogs.”
“Yeah, they’re awesome! He’s okay. He’s not as smart as he thinks he is–”
“No he is not.”
“…so yeah, M is not in good health, and her son–”
“Yeah, he’s also–”
“It’s not rocket surgery.”
“If you ladies can just give me a minute, I need to figure out what to do with these guns.”
Good news, I may not have to work on Friday.
Bad news is I haven’t actually, y’know, accomplished anything this week.
[re: free yardsticks] “Looks like a good whackin’ stick.”
[waggles stick] “They don’t make ’em like they used to!”
“It was a good wedding! There was sippin’ whiskey. I did not sip it.”
“S, what is that?”
“It’s my fake tattoo! It says ‘sip sip hooray,’ but it’s upside down.”
“Did the USDA just get run out of town?”
“Okay guys, bye. I’m gonna go home and adult now.”
“Hey, ‘woohoo!, right?”
“Hah, no, ‘oh no!'”
[someone tried to hand Riders a baby.] “Oh my God look at that face!”
“I’m just gonna sit in this room eating cookies for the rest of the day. That’s what I’m gonna do.”
It had been difficult, at first, to take the patrician lords of Nodens seriously: to see fish boiled alive for their changing colors or birds roasted in flight, caught by swooping serve-droids, to be prepared and eaten while still hot from the targeting lasers.
She had even laughed, one day, when Rufin Taurias sent out a troop of slave children dressed as gladiators to fight with a gaggle of rotund, white-furred beasts for his guests’ dinner entertainment. Eight years had not dulled that lingering shame, but she had not realized, she had not known–
Kharamaneh still remembered the screams, the stares of laughing contempt, and the splashing gray flood from a fighting-beast’s heart when its own master struck it down mid-lunge. She remembered Taurias bellowing in alarm; the shriek and cringe of the other beasts, shying from the whips yet scrabbling with pathetic thirst for the blood of their own kind on the floor. She remembered the frail heat of a boy’s thin body in her arms, and the fear, and the hate, and the feral wonder in his eyes.
It seemed that he, too, remembered.
“Good afternoon, what have I done now?”
“……………I don’t know, what have you done?”
“….I don’t know, uh, what can I do?”
“I told her we’re going to see T. She said, ‘Oh, T. That sugarhead.'”
The group seemed to confer with resigned exasperation (they really were remarkably sophisticated for sparring robots.) One, human-sized and human-shaped, veiled with clothlike folds that folded across its faceplate and revealed only the glittering optics, advanced to take position on the practice floor. It was unarmed, but Khara was prompted to ask, “What are your limitations for sparring with a civilian?”
“Bruising. Bleeding. No breaking. No gushing.”
She chose a long stick before stepping onto the practice mat.
I had seen Ajax rearing up on his hindmost legs to pluck a sprig from the top quadrant of my cherry tree, and I heard his dragging step as he rounded the house. So I was prepared when he summitted the front step, holding a spray of blossoms in his mouth and using his remaining frontmost limb for balance.
As was polite, I waited for him to get all five legs on solid ground. He straightened himself out and limped toward me, pausing just a few feet away to drop his gift on the deck at my feet. He raised his head and eyed me carefully.
“Why sir,” I said. “You are an alien and a gentleman. I would be flattered to accept your gift.”
For anyone noticing the lack of The Shadow content recently, I have a couple of reviews to write–Masters of Death and The Silent Seven–and until I finish writing those I haven’t been reading any more. I’d also like to review Seven Swords and even possibly Terror on the Prairie as well.
That being said, I had to take about ten hours of sick leave this weekend and spent eight of them asleep.
Some work-related excitement will be coming up, probably in a month or so. I’ve already been informed that I will be operating the clipboard.
“On the bright side, you may get to see two shitshows in one day.”
“Just so you know, N and I are going out to see M on Wednesday….so if you see a mushroom cloud coming from Dodge County way…”
“Wow, he’s an ass.”
“Yeah…..that whole family…E used to date him y’know.”
“E needs better taste in men!”
“Hey, if you’re coming down from the office can you bring me some notebooks and a couple reams of printer paper? And also some pens?”
“Hang on, I’m writing this down. ‘Notebooks….one thousand pages printer paper…'”
“And a big ‘ol handful of pens.”
“…’big handful of pens.'”
“Well hey, the rest of the day may go swimmingly!”
“….one certainly hopes so, Riders.”