Gentle Reminders Serialisation Chapter 13
Legacy Universe: Gentle Reminders (Book One in The Rosewell Sequence)
Gentle Reminders is being serialised right here on SFBook with a new chapter published each week.
Previously in Gentle Reminders:
The Jump Cannon crew met Mr. Luthais, a hotelier on the planet of Seetan, following their adventure on Pura. Contracted by Luthais they journeyed through the streets of Moderate Formai, the city the scene of a delivery mission. Seeon, a planet wracked with guilt over the sins of the past, does not seem like the most appropriate place for a cocky human like Mr. Luthais.
You can visit the Legacy Universe website for more information.
"I wouldn’t go that far. I have never saved your life,” said Charles, an uneasy quality in his voice thanks to the praise being heaped upon him by Beta Crew’s new companion. “I have merely helped you avoid conviction"
"This guy has evidently never spent a night in a seetan jail!" Marzy joked, pointing at Charles as he walked backwards in front of them, jostling away the people in the streets as the collided with him.
"Whatever you say bro, you want me to tell the story?" Marzy interrupted.
"Ah. Yeah. Go ahead," replied Charles, giving into this ball of energy’s relentless enthusiasm for his untold tale.
"Great bro, great."
"Well, obviously it all happened on Seeon. I've never left the place, you know what the Council is like about us getting much further than the planet’s orbit. Seem to think we’ll pick up bad habits and bring back you other species’ violent ways. Full of paranoia those dudes, honestly."
"So I happen to be drinking in this Earth-styled bar, not far from here, I hang there loads, shows loads of old broadcasts from before you guys had the Collapse. Anyway, I'm sitting in the corner. Minding my own business. Keeping myself to myself. 'Cept I'm waiting for a partner in crime to turn up and make a deal. It’s straight-forward stuff, nothing serious, just shifting some stuff that fell off the back of a freight ship. The guy is running late, I'm getting the shakes, something doesn’t feel right."
"Eventually the korakian dick that I’m supposed to be dealing with bursts into the bar, tanked to the eyeballs on some sort of ‘better, stronger, faster' narcotic. He and a few of his buddies crash through the joint, throwing people aside, kicking over tables, being generally pretty damn rude. I start to shit myself. Not literally though bro." He looked at Maur as if he had made an accusation. "These dudes aren’t known for their civility. Known to break bones, even seetan ones."
They were heading back towards Hypatia, the members of Beta Crew well aware of the path. Marzy just seemed to be going with them, unwilling to break away. Maur wasn't entirely sure he wanted this guy around, he seemed flaky and troublesome. The story wasn’t doing anything to reassure him.
"So, they get as far as me, and I'm telling them to calm down and asking what the problem is etcetera etcetera. Guy starts shouting about how I don’t have the narcotics, I mean stuff, at all, and how some other guy told him it was all a con. I try and tell him otherwise, and I swear to you I had the stuff, but this brother is inconsolable. Eventually, after he is done spitting his anger in my face - literally guys, I was soaked – this korakian fool rips my table out of the floor and lifts it well above his head, ready to bring those freshly snapped legs right down into my chest. Seetans are tough, it wouldn’t have killed me, but brother had lost it."
They were back in the heart of the entertainment district, free of the borderlands between the residential district that the Fututio stood on. Maur was listening, although to be honest he was more distracted by the fact that Kerra was chuckling away at Marzy's story. There was definite jealousy building in his chest, it surprised him.
"So I'm getting ready to face a bloody night in a medical bay and this big dude staggers out of the pisser," he said and then pointed toward Charles, still confidently back stepping, "and he spots the korakian and just goes completely off the wall."
"Hah, when was all this Charles?" Kerra questioned.
"Well before I joined the Jump Cannon. In my far less mature days." Charles replied.
"Whatever..." chimed Thom, engrossed in the story.
"Charles here took a run at the guy and his two cronies and checks them all into the ground, nutting the lead guy in the fucking nose," said Marzy, Kerra laughing even harder, "broke it in half man, I promise you, in half. Your buddy here is standing there, two korakians by the throat and the other’s blood spread across his face. Looked like he was planning a sacrifice! Dude stares me down and says,” Marzy paused for effect, "he says, I'm in a sim right?"
At this, Kerra and Thom burst into fits of laughter, even Maur couldn’t help but let a gust of air escape his lungs. There were tears in the corner of Kerra’s eyes. She wiped them away noticing his glances toward her. She let out a puffy sigh before running her finger across her face and turning back to Marzy. He felt awkward for her noticing his attention.
"All I can muster up is a quiet little no, I'm still totally terrified. When he shakes off whatever head-fuck he has going on at the time Charles is about ready to lay an even bigger brick than I was. He drops the two korakians, grabs me by the arm and we hightail it out of there. Never been able to go back since. Still, brother here was smart enough to find us somewhere to hide. Avoided the disorder fines with the greatest of ease didn’t you dude?"
Charles merely nodded his head, although there was a look of warmth on his face. Despite his frigidity and old-fashioned sensibilities, he was obviously still proud of this adventure.
"We found a merchant, got ourselves some drink and waited out the korakians," Charles said, electing himself to finish the story. "Definitely a memorable evening."
They were in sight of the alleyway that Hypatia was hidden down, although it was far less dark now with the opposing buildings flickering out more vibrant messages from their walls. Marzy had stepped in line and cooed when he saw the craft. He had calmed down now, jumping around far less and taking on a more leisurely swagger beside Charles, resting a hand on his shoulder.
"That’s a nice ride you got there guys. This what the private money gets you these days huh Charles?" Marzy said, starting to get on Maur’s nerves.
With that, in only a fraction of time, he collapsed to the ground as if dead. His hard, encased body clinked onto the floor with a slight groan. Excluding Charles, each member of Beta Crew turned round to face the twisted lump on the floor. He had been laughing and grinning, but now his lips were more contorted, as were his limbs. They looked at each other, mouths agape, before the unsurprised Charles offered explanation.
"He does that sometimes. I’ll explain inside. Bring him in."
Thom and Kerra each grabbed a leg, Maur taking the weight at the top end, hooking his hands underneath slightly damp armpits. He was pleased with how easily he lifted the seetan, their covering making them notoriously heavy, and even despite the assistance of his friends Maur took this as a sign of personal improvement. He was definitely stronger, managing to stop Marzy from scratching along the ground.
They got him to the back door of Hypatia, silence still golden, and Charles bumped it open. Maur caught a look at Kerra, catching her confused face and replying with a shrug. Their team-mate remained unconcerned, heading up to the front of the ship and taking his pilot’s seat.
Once they had Marzy inside, the door creaked up behind them, and he was dumped in the middle of the floor. Stretching their backs and vocalising their relief the more perturbed members of Beta Crew waited patiently for an answer to their unasked question.
"There’s something you should know about Marzy," Charles said, meeting expectations, if a little too late for the listeners liking. “He isn’t always Marzy."
Needless to say, this did not appease the querying minds of Kerra, Maur and Thom. They looked to each other, cycling between running their fingers through their hair, tapping their feet and shaking their heads from left to right. There was unity in their confusion, and each wanted a definitive response.
"Essentially, you have two seetans in one," Charles threw in, bargaining with his friends patience. "While there is no set pattern, at least that I have ever seen, he alternates between Marzy and Yazram, passing out in transition."
"It’s Yazram you have to blame for the affair back at the hotel, and it’s Yazram who pissed off those korakians he was talking about. He never did have any narcotics to sell, that became quite apparent the first time I met him."
"So he is schizophrenic?" Thom asked, directing it at those behind Charles with a flick of his hand, looking at them directly.
"No. That’s a human condition and rarely involves split personalities," Charles replied sharply, shutting Thom up and causing him to jut his neck back softly as if being put out of his place. "The two seetans you are going to meet are very distinct, but their memories interweave. Yazram thinks he suffers from feinting, so does Marzy. Each chooses to see the actions of the other as suits their personal view on the world. It’s quite fascinating."
Maur didn’t agree, he couldn't. If Marzy had seemed flaky at first, then he had certainly been given ample information over the last five minutes to make that his final assessment. He had a dislike for the mentally unstable, and a completely fractured individual certainly fit into that category. He moved uneasily, stepping lightly from foot to foot, rubbing the stubble on his chin. He opened his mouth a couple of times, sometimes ready to ask Kerra or Thom a question, sometimes Charles, but it never came.
"So, Yazram..." Kerra started, overcoming the same mystification that Maur and Thom were struggling with. "I mean, is he a good guy?"
"He is useful," came Charles' abrupt reply.
"Oh come on, what the hell does that mean Charles?" bellowed Maur, the very last drip of passiveness dried up. “Some guy who sets up narcotics deals is useful?"
Charles spun his seat around, abandoning his panel. He moved his hands over the front of his legs leaning forward just enough to assert his commanding presence. There was anxiety within the assertion too, aware that Yazram was a difficult sell even to a warm crowd. A bead of sweat ran down his forehead, making his worry even more apparent, but he flicked it away before it reached his eye sockets. Thoughts of full disclosure filled his mind, and his conscience agreed with him. It was something that he learned to listen to in recent years.
"He is useful," he sighed, "because Yazram is telepathic."
"They are all telepathic Charles," Kerra said.
"No. Seetans as a whole are only slightly more attuned to the thoughts of others than humans, korakians, purans and any other species. Slightly more is enough for a few of them to make a living at it, but Yazram is gifted. If he wishes to, he can not only read thoughts, but force them. Unfortunately he has chosen to use this for illegal purposes. I have heard rumours of him walking away from that though. People have said that he wants to leave Seeon."
"He wants to leave Seeon? Seetans never leave Seeon." Maur said, exasperated.
"Incorrect, again. Every year over two thousand seetans leave, it’s just not the most straight-forward process." Charles said, starting to sound as if he was bargaining.
"Right, so if Maur is wrong, and you are right, why the hell do we have a potential fugitive, and I assume he is wanted for at least one crime, in our scout?" Kerra questioned.
"I want to take him with us," answered Charles.
"No fucking way man! No way I’m taking some unknown entity onto Annie, Champion will go fucking mental..." Maur shouted, losing it completely.
"Champion won’t ‘go fucking mental’ at all." said the Captain.
He had appeared while Maur spoke, his projection appearing to stand through the snoozing heap on the floor. Aboard the Jump Cannon he was standing on the command deck, and had been listening in to their conversation shortly after Charles entered Hypatia and sent him a message regarding their new companion. Champion stood with his hands behind his back, chest puffed out and staring toward his crew members. Champion circled around the seetan, able to see the physical irregularity that his position created, and came up close to Maur.
"You may have noticed recently that a dear and trusted friend turned his back on us and sent the majority of your comrades to early deaths. The incident with Josia 24 proves that for as long as we operate in the mercenary business, for as long as we are a ship-for-hire, that we can not afford to take anybody’s word as truth. Yazram can be an asset. I’m pleased you have run across him. If we can convince the Moderate Council to grant him an exit pass then he will make our lives significantly easier. Specifically yours, as he will be joining my favourite team to ensure that you are not double-crossed or otherwise compromised by the actions of others."
Maur struggled to deal with the idea of another person coming in to join the team that he had grown so attached to. That this person was to be Yazram aggravated the matter, and his growing dislike caused his frustration regarding the matter to expand too. Kerra felt this way too, but knew better than to take personnel changes within operational squads personally.
"So..." she said quietly, slightly exasperated, "what do we call him?"
"Well, whatever you want," Charles said, standing up and moving into the circle hanging around the seetan. "I’ve made the mistake of calling either personality by the other’s name and they don’t notice. I’ve just assumed it’s part of their reality. In their heads they just change it to the name that fits. Yazram and Marzy – they are two parts of the same body. That body seems to recognise that and makes appropriate adjustment."
Maur had questions to ask too, completely unhappy with the situation and visibly so. It was too late however, as Yazram was beginning to stir, hands twitching and his legs shifting noticeably. A groan escaped his mouth, and Thom jumped in response. In many ways it was like watching a man rise from the dead. The body had been cold when they moved it, normal for a seetan, but the dead weight combined to conjure the familiar traits of a corpse. The corpse had now turned itself onto its back, and was rubbing his eyes and face to encourage his resurrection.
"He’s not going to freak out is he?" Thom said.
"No, 'he' is not, 'he' does this all the time, regrettably," came the first words from Yazram. His lips moved before his torso did, but now he was sat on the floor still cradling his forehead.
"How long was I out for?" Yazram asked, the familiarity directed at Charles.
"About half and hour. Not too long Yazram," answered Charles, eyeing his friends and Captain.
"Sorry. I’d have left me there, too much of a nuisance," replied Yazram, his voice was so different from Marzy’s. It had little joy in it, and even less enthusiasm. Each word seemed to tackle a grievance, an abruptness replacing the over-familiar junkie that they had first met in the hotel foyer.
"Not at all, welcome aboard," said Champion, a boom of acceptance filling his voice and a grin spreading across his face. He seemed sincere.
"Thanks for keeping an eye while I made a fool of myself, I’ll get out of your hair. There’ll be consequences for the hotel," he said, standing up and brushing himself down with a few heavy pats. Not only was his voice different, but his posture was too. He held himself with confidence and threatening poise, no limb left lagging, and gave the impression that crossing him might lead to fatal consequences.
"We’d rather you didn’t leave Yazram, we’ve heard that you want off Seeon," Champion said. Charles was knowledgeable in his silence, the others oblique and still confused about the events unfolding.
"You have had you?" Yazram replied rhetorically. "And what does that mean to you?"
"Who fucking knows..." Thom mumbled.
"It means we’re interested in helping," Champion interjected.
"Helping?" Yazram, or Marzy if you liked, asked. His head jutted forward, as well as his jaw. Disbelief and ragged anger levied the potential for an aggression that hummed behind his eyes. "The only way you’re going to do that is by taking me aboard the Annie. What use is a dealer to you?"
"A dealer makes deals Yazram. Your unique skill-set make you the best at it. We want you on the crew," Charles pitched, following the course of action that he knew Champion favoured.
Throughout this, Kerra, Maur and Thom kept mostly stationary. They felt very much like extras in a stand-off scene. Charles and the Captain were bargaining, although much of the exchange was conducted using meaningful glances and masculine gesturing. Maur disliked the disjoint brought on by assumed secret history between the two negotiators and this man. The training that he and Charles were conducting had brought them closer, but obviously hadn’t warranted him enlightening Maur about whatever past he, Champion and Yazram shared.
"You know I prefer to keep that quiet Charles. I would never have told you if I thought you’d divulge it freely," Yazram looked directly in Maur’s direction, there was no hint of a yearning for friendship.
"I haven't. It’s need to know information, and your new crewmates need to know," Charles replied.
"My new crewmates? Being a little assumptive aren't you?"
"No," said Captain Champion. "We know we are your best option. Your only option, if we’re being blunt about it."
Yazram put his hands on his hips, relaxing a little in light of the facts. He flicked his head, shaking some sense into himself and sending his ponytail over his shoulder to rest at his front.
"Fine. But you still need to convince the Moderate Council to let me off the planet, that’ll be no easy task," he said.
"I'm sure they value their one-and-only split personality narcotics merchant," mumbled Maur, not loud enough for Yazram to hear but loud enough for him to notice the derogatory tone.
"Of course, if I’m not welcome..."
"You are. Maur is just tired I'm sure," Champion promised, belittling Maur in response for his childish grumble.
"Charles, I assume you know where we are going?" Champion said, closing the deal through action.
"Yes sir. We’ll be there soon, provided the human traffic isn’t too great."
"Good. Yazram, please make yourself comfortable. I will arrange the hearing with the Moderate Council, I’m sure they will accommodate me," Champion said.
He watched from the command deck as his crew members and the new hopeful settled themselves for the journey. Marc 14 stood nearby, although off the sim platform. Champion stepped off too, the few other staff members on deck turning away from the exchange and back to their stations. No doubt there would be scuttlebutt about it all. The crew were welcome to it. The decision to bring Yazram aboard wasn’t an easy one, and having the inhabitants of Annie be wary of him seemed prudent. However, if people wanted to question his choice then he would stand by it.. The reality of being shattered by the traitorous actions of others, as Josia 24 had taught him, was far worse that the potential harm that a single mad man could cause on a ship equipped with soldiers. Soldiers that he believed to be the best.
"You sure about this Earnest?" Marc 14 asked.
"Not entirely. But I’m sure he’ll have an impact either way," Champion replied.
* * * * *
Come back next week for Chapter Fourteen of Gentle Reminders (Book One in The Rosewell Sequence)