Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day Five-Fifty-Nine: Shaken and stirred

This tension? It is thick. I could slice it up and serve it for dinner. With a side of fear. You know, for taste.

When this trip began, everybody was enthusiastic. After the Non attack on Pubton, getting away from the town, beloved though it may be, probably seemed like a gods-send to most of the crew. No more danger! On the move! Enemy in the east? Move to the west! Aaaaaall the way west! Surely, this was the best idea.

But then we came across Vacia. I nearly died. Cannonbottom shot the Dauphine up nice and good. And then, after two weeks of relative peace and maintenance, the whole village was gobbled up by yet more Non. Anyone who thinks this is a safe trip is off their rocker, clearly, and I guess the crew's beginning to discover as much.

There's always the west, of course. The safe, sane west. But first we need to get there… and we're not doing that by sitting around and waiting.

The folks 'round here are doing their best to keep busy. Libby's employing everyone on overtime work, reinforcing the Dauphine's outer hull with more metal sheets which should provide better protection. Our musicians are filling their days with song and stories for the amusement of others. The few hunters we have are combing the plains, looking for game, but never moving too far from the Dauphine. Even Daena's keeping busy, reading a few books on navigation. They're about nautical navigation, mind, but they're better 'n nothing.

Everybody's got an eye on the west. Everybody's waiting for Grylock to come tromping across the grass towards us, signalling that it's time to move. We've been waiting all day for that, and, well… yeah. No dice. For all we know, he got bored and went home to Goblinoster.

Only been a day. Just over a day. We shouldn't be so tense. But we are. We can't help it. Because just as we don't know Grylock's status, we don't know what the Non are up to. The Non which seem quite capable of appearing wherever they like, whenever they like. Silent, deadly killers, eating and decimating everything in their path. Creators of ghost towns.

I was kinda lost on things to do besides keep watch, and most of my watch time was spent alongside Plato. He's as nervous as anyone, maybe moreso, and he's so clumsy that Libby doesn't trust him with a hammer anymore. We spent much of the evening atop the Dauphine, he watching the east, I to the west, his rat… anywhere it fancied, really. (Still don't get that relationship.)

If nothing else, I learned a few things about the Non from Plato. He's still pretty tight-lipped regarding his race, but he eventually warmed to telling me how they move around so fast. Turns out they have little devices called 'fast tracks' which can zip 'em from one place to another in an instant. They have to have visited their destination before, granted, but that's still a really helpful little gadget, you gotta admit.

The problem? You can only use a fast track once. Plato tells me they're the brainchild of some Non genius from umpteen-hundred years ago, and they're in limited supply. Only a couple Non know how to make 'em, and they take a long, long time to churn out.  Plato told me that he had one - s'what he used to get us from Pubtwon to Pubton in an instant, during the siege - and he'd intended on usin' it to take me to Iko. So much for that, eh?

We gabbed back and forth for several hours, he gradually opening to conversation as I told him stories of childhood, as well as my days as a guard. Told him all 'bout my, uh, 'friends' from back home: Barrel, Cedric, the Roberts, Driscol, Evangelina, Prince Logan -

"Huh? You know somebody called Logan?"
He nodded. "?"

"Nah, he was a kid. Not much bigger 'n you. Head like a volleyball. Had a kangaroo that bit off a thinger once… wait, I think you beat her up, didn't you…?"

Plato shook his head. There must be lotsa Logans in the world. We moved on to other topics.

In time, and not at great length, Plato told me a very, very little bit about his early life. Apparently he, Kierkegaard, and all of the guys in the Omega Corps went to a private Non academy. Taught 'im all about developing his 'powers' for the good of the Non, whatever those might be. (Delivering chocolate babies?) 

"Oh yeah? So, lemme guess, Iko was onea your teachers?"


"And…" A faint memory. "Any chance The Baron was onea your teachers?"

Another nod. Though back then he was just called 'The Teacher'. Guess the bastard never had a proper name.

"Gotcha." I tapped the railing. "That explains why y'all weren't, y'know, in that door. Under the castle. Wherever the hell THAT went. So, um… how… did… how did the Non…?"

I stopped. I'd turned to look at Plato full on, hoping that an exchange of glances might impress upon him the importance of my next question. I couldn't bring myself to say it, though, because when I looked at him… he was shuddering. From the tip of his tail to the top of his bandana, every inch of the poor bastard was wriggling in fright as he stared at the horizon.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I clamped my arms on his shoulders. "What's the matter, eh, buddy? What's up?"

Plato tried to check himself, I could tell, but it didn't work. The shivering continued. Soon rolls of tears were flooding down his face. I asked him what was wrong, but he couldn't manage to squeak out a reply I understood. 

Eventually, after five minutes of stressful breakdown, I sent him to his cabin to relax. Haven't seen him since, though judging by the sounds from his room, he's asleep. Quite a loud quacker, that one.

I remained on watch. Wasn't much else I could do - Libby had already gone to bed with Fynn, after a long day of work, and everyone else I knew was winding down. I wasn't sleepy myself, though, and I couldn't help but wonder what had hit Plato so badly.

I received my answer a few minutes later, just as I was pulling out this diary for my daily session. Before I could scratch anything into the parchment, lines began to appear of their own accord.

"They're coming."

I started, nearly tipping over in the chair I'd grabbed from the Neo Beefiary. My head flew around, looking for the source of the writing -

"They're coming, and he knows it."

There it was. Plato's rat, small and chubby, crouched on the railing. It looked a bit strained, and I imagined that it had sweat rolling down its snout beneath its fur. When I moved the diary in close it seemed to relax, as though it didn't need to exert as much effort.

"Okay…" I steadied myself, rubbing the fresh lump on my posterior. "I guess I know who you mean by 'they'. How's Plato know?"

The rat shook his head. "I am uncertain. He seems able to sense others of his kind. Though that is not his only power."

"Ah." I wanted to ask what else Plato could do, but I figured I'd respect the guy's privacy. "Uh. Well, if, like… if he's a Non… and the Non are comin'… why's he freaking out so much? Figure he might be happy to see more of 'em."

Another shake of the head. "That is not the point. If the Non come, he will have to fight them. He has dedicated himself to your cause, but he does not want to fight them. They are his people. If he has to kill another Non, it will scar him. He fears that."

"Ahhhh." I clamped my jaw shut, musing. "Mmmm. Yeah, he seems like a pretty gentle guy to me. Guess he's not big on battles."


I set the diary down beside the rat and leaned back in my chair, watching the west. What I saw was a line of darkness where the land meets the sky, despite the sun, but I bet that was just my imagination at work.

"This Iko," I said at last, "you've met him, I guess?"

The rat nodded.

"What's he like?"

The rat answered without hesitation. "He is a bastard. But so are we all."

"Ain't that the truth, pal. Ain't that the truth."


Dragomir the Wanderer

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't they build a secret bridge over the canyon, far away from any military posts? I mean, they have the worlds best carpenter at their side...they could strip the Dauphine of essential materials, build a worthwhile bridge, cross it, then have some ingenious way to retrieve the materials to put back on the Dauphine, and roll away scott free!