DAY LATE A COUPLE HUNDRED DOLLARS SHORT. Thanks to those of you who bought a copy of The High T Shebang during the Human Wave sale last weekend. Your custom is greatly appreciated. Thank you. Othewrise, shame be upon thee who did not. We experienced our favorite (so far) sharp upward spike in sales. But, then again, zero to one is a sharp upward spike, innit?
This week’s snippet is a bit confusing in that there are two discrete story elements being introduced. The convo between Dolly and Pete is the start of a longer set piece which exposits a good bit of Pete’s back story. The tale is a brief one, but affecting, so I’m told. The second bit is the wrapping up of the carried-over “previously on…” sequence that segues us from the [as yet unpublished] novel Genesis, which ended at dawn the morning on which this current novel opens. It should be clear from this that they will not remain so in the finished work, but are plopped down here in the narrative as a kind of a place-marker — several steps up from [insert name].
The Gabrielle Dolly
“Pete,” the dolly said. “Tell me about your father.”
When Pete had been silent for a longer time than felt comfortable, the dolly’s innate courtesy overcame her insatiable curiosity and she thought to ask:
“Is it OK? Are you allowed to tell me about him?”
“Yes,” Pete said. “It’s alright. I just… I have to think how to say things I… I had put aside. When we take up the sword, you see, we leave all that behind — family, friends, the society of our people in the Pa’a-um. The Guard becomes our Pa’a-um, and we’re supposed to forget about what went before.”
“What does that mean, Pa’a-um?”
Pete blinked. “Place of the Spirit,” she said, sounding surprised that it needed to be explained. “It also means home, village, safety, — no — sanctuary.”
“Oh,” the dolly said. “I wondered. I hear it so much.”
The Troll nodded. “It is our name for the Center… where the spirit of our People resides. There is a physical place we call Pa’a-um, where the frell may never come, because that which lives there is wholly and solely of the People. But it is also a spiritual place, the Pa’a-um is the place where your Pa’a resides.”
“Home is where the heart is,” the dolly murmured.
Pete chuckled. “Yes. Cliched and vastly oversimplified, but true nonetheless.”
A Word Ma’am?
Petra Alexandra Troll
When the dolly finally let her go — it was that kind of a hug and Pete looked into the emerald eyes for a long time during it — Pete turned to the Goddess.
“A word, Ma’am?” she asked diffidently.
Aphrodite visibly shifted her attention from… wherever it had been (Pete couldn’t have said where that was) to Pete. She lit her face up with a smile that was at once both totally focused on Pete and utterly disengaged — a sort of a royal We of smiles.
“Of course, Petra,” she said, rolling the r’s just so. Not a how may I help you? response, but more deigning to assist.
“I’ve been out of touch for the last twelve hours, getting… the other Gabrielle here and handing her off to… well, to you…” Pete waved a hand vaguely in the direction of the HQ building across the parade ground where she had put the dolly into Aphrodite’s hands barely a quarter-hour before. “How is Dr Drummond?”
Aphrodite nodded once and said, “Ah!” in a tone that implied, So that’s why you’re bothering me.
“I, too,” the Goddess said, “Have been out of touch for somewhat longer. I have however, seen that Mitchell has recovered from the blow you gave him…”
Pete winced at the memory. But he really had been asking for it.
“… and has been released from the Med Center on his own recognizance — against medical advice — and, as far as I have been able to determine, has returned home to Cincinnati to rest and recuperate.”
“Ah!” Pete replied, with a somewhat less arrogant connotation to it. “Thank you. Well, then, if that’s all…?”
Aphrodite nodded and made a wave of genial dismissal.
Pete turned and walked off toward the parked motorcycle. She didn’t exactly miss the dolly’s start toward her and manifest desire to speak with her, but felt unsure she had permission to speak with the girl, now that her part in things was done. She kept going. However, she waited a moment, sitting astride the bike, tugging at the gloves to get them all the way on, adjusting the helmet’s strap, but the girl didn’t join her, so, eventually, she started the bike up with the electric starter and drove out of the lot. She kept the engine at a low idle, waddling along part of the way balanced on the big hog between her widespread legs, threading her way through the crowd as she followed the one-way semi-circular driveway away from the mess hall and toward the BOQ. As she passed, she saw no sign of the dolly, though she looked — rather pointedly, she thought.