About Space & Time
The Galaxy is a big place. No matter how well you prepare, you aren’t ready for it.
Jregli thought she was tricking someone into buying her; she got more than a new Master. Shdr’edno thought he was buying a machine, and he got a slave who outsmarts him at every turn. Frank Neim thought he was pursuing a military career, and he got an opportunity to fail. Their lives collide as they try to survive Space & Time.
Cousin Dsno’ee turned out to be a pleasant, plain-looking woman with a quiet voice and manner. She was so mild, in fact, that Jregli began taking mental notes on self-effacement to use on Shdr’edno. It really was amazing.
What was even more amazing was Dsno’ee’s singing. All the Dancers had incredible voices and could sing so beautifully that Jregli wanted to keen, but none of them were as good as Dsno’ee. Jregli couldn’t begin to describe it. The sound made her hearts want to break, it was so clear and rich and bright.
“Now then, Daughter Jregli, I know that you have difficulty producing melodies, so I do not want you to focus on that. That is not the purpose of our lessons together. What we will work on is pedagogy, the proper placement of sounds within the chambers and the proper flow of air. You will likely find that this will ease some of the discomfort you normally feel when speaking.
“We will also review the lyrics, interpretations, and history of the classic repertory. Not being able to perform music is no reason not to learn it.” With this gentle announcement, Dsno’ee began.
It did help, actually, to speak the way that the pleasant Cousin showed her. Placing the focus of the sound at the intersection of the tertiaries rather than at the base of the secondaries was much easier, once Jregli figured the knack of it. It took some getting used to, obviously, but Jregli was excited to have something to practice that made her hurt less and also took more of the gravel out of her voice.
The song literature was also interesting, but the lesson was bittersweet. Jregli couldn’t stop thinking that she would never be able to sing any of it. But she tamped that down and ignored it. By the end of the hour, Cousin Dsno’ee was very impressed and sent Jregli off to meet with Qsaw’lppi.
The venerable woman was as scathing as the day before, despite Jregli’s perfect recall of everything they’d gone over yesterday. When Jregli answered her questions correctly, Qsaw’lppi scolded her for not giving a complete answer. When Jregli added more detail, Qsaw’lppi scoffed at her verbosity. There was just no pleasing the woman!
Jregli was tired, in pain, and uncomfortable. Just as she should be. She endured the lecture meekly, mentally reviewing her notes regarding Dsno’ee’s manners and trying out a few of them. She couldn’t tell if she did them well, but at least she didn’t earn any more scorn for the attempt.
Jregli already knew nearly all Yerbran history; it had been one of the modules her former Master’s son had spent the most time studying since he never seemed to remember any of it. She also knew the basics of the origins of the Children of the Wind. But Qsaw’lppi began teaching Jregli things not found in the public ‘feed.
The reasons behind the founding of the Children were both political and societal; Pruy’thipms had strongly disagreed with the Forum of his day. Jregli was surprised to learn that he had been a prominent member of the Merchants’ Forum and had been an active proponent of the changes to slavery laws that were still in effect today. Qsaw’lppi glossed over many of the details regarding his break with the Forum, which intrigued Jregli.
The lesson ended with an enormous reading assignment and the charge to have an evaluation of the economic implications of the Spice Act of 39567 on the sub-enclaves of Dghnithlo’d ready to discuss tomorrow. Jregli didn’t complain; she just set to figuring out how she would fit it into the evening’s schedule.
As Yy’qundffe escorted her back to Pub, Jregli realized that it was Fourth day. Sands! She was going to be too busy to read! All the regular crowd would be there, and even with all the employees called in, Jregli would run her toe-claws to nubs trying to keep up with all the orders. It would probably be another long night, but at least she would get some sleep tomorrow after the therapy session.
She gave Yy’qundffe a quick tour, as well, before diving into her duties. If she could get enough done now, maybe she would be able to sneak in some reading between crowds. After rushing around for half and hour, she suddenly realized that there was nothing to do. The fabbers were stocked, the tables cleaned and set, Yurs-ond’s ‘tainment station was ready and awaiting him to run testing, the waste receptacles emptied, the order request log filled out, the mid-shift reports filed, the servingware cleaned … What was going on? Everywhere she checked, things were in order.
“You’re looking something askance, kiddo,” Ressnib said with a smug grin.
“Mmm, I’m not sure what’s going on, Ressnib,” Jregli replied, flicking her tail with worry. “Everything is … is …”
“Don’t worry so much, kiddo! It’s just us remembering that we work here, too. You’ve done more than your share since you got here, so we’re gonna do ours. ‘Sides, you’re busier now, what with apprenticing to the Dancers. We shouldn’t make you work so hard.” Ressnib didn’t give her a chance to respond. He picked up a laden tray and left Jregli standing at the main bar’s console, feeling dumbfounded.
Which lasted about five Seconds. Then Jregli had to suppress a squeal of glee. They were helping her! Her followers, her friends, were lifting her up and smoothing her climb! This was … this was … “Squee!”
“Well, well, little pet; and what makes you so happy today?” Shdr’edno asked, gliding up to the bar.
“Uncle! Mmm, I, ah, was thinking more about what I learned today about the origin of the Children of the Wind. Qsaw’lppi gave me more of their history and lore, but she left many things unsaid. It suddenly occurred to me that I can get around her secretiveness if I ask some of the other Dancers to get me a ‘pad. I would tell them that I want to do some additional studying, and they’d surely do it!” Jregli hastily cut herself off. Quick thinking was well and good, provided she didn’t start babbling and ruin it all.
“That is exciting, little pet. Come, tell me more of the Dancers and Brothers; I am simply fascinated by these hints you have dropped.”
Gurts came in that night to apologize. Jregli almost missed seeing him because of his quiet humility. She was so accustomed to his loud, cheerful entrances with his crowd of co-workers and friends that she didn’t see him until after they’d already swarmed the bar and moved to the dance floor .
“‘M awful sorry, Zreggo,” he began without preamble, meaty hands clasped awkwardly in front of him. “I swear I never meant ta hurt ya.”
“Oh, don’t worry yourself, Gurts. I already had the injury; you didn’t cause it! Besides, thanks to you, I got to go to the Med Center and have it professionally treated! I never thought about going there, you see; I’ve always tended my scrapes and scratches myself. So, really; you did me a favor!” Jregli had decided several days ago to take a placating route with Gurts, so she laid it on thickly. He was too good a customer to lose, and she really didn’t want him fawning over her with guilt she’d read up on Tingorts some more.
Plus, clearing up the misunderstanding and forgiving him would in turn make him grateful, and that might be useful later on. How, she had no idea as of yet, but she was sure it would come to her at the appropriate time.
And she rather liked Gurts. He was a nice sentient.
Gurts eyed her skeptically. “Ya sure? Yer hands looked awful ‘fected …” Jregli quickly flashed her hands.
“See? They’re nearly healed! And they haven’t hurt at all since the Doctor treated them; he did a wonderful job! I’ve been changing the bandages every day and putting on fresh medicine, so everything turned out for the better!” A few fibs in there, but largely true. The medicinals that the doctor had given the Twins was still with them, so she’d never gotten to use it. The Dancers, however, had been treating her palms along with everything else.
“Guess so,” Gurts allowed after leaning forward to examine her hands critically. “Ya sure–”
“Yes,” Jregli said firmly. “Now, here’s your drink; I made it extra bitter for you. Relax, now! It’s pay day!” She injected good humor and warmth into her tone to compensate for her lack of facial expressions. Those lessons were coming in handy!
“Yer th’ best, Zreggo! Th’ best!” Gurts toasted her and downed the beverage in one gulp, something that continued to intrigue Jregli. She required at least three swallows to get that much liquid down at once. Exhaling loudly, Gurts shuddered slightly and grinned. “Hoo! Tha’ burnt, gurl! Gimme ‘nother!”
Having the second drink already prepared, Jregli slid it over. “Oh, and see what your mother sent me?”
Gurts choked in mid-gulp, nearly spewing all over Jregli. He held it back somehow, swallowed, and began coughing. In between gasps, he croaked, “What? M’Ma?”
Jregli grabbed a rag and began wiping. She’d read that as long as a sentient was still coughing, one shouldn’t interfere by pounding the back. “Yes, your Ma. Ketis. She sent me this lovely apron! Isn’t it pretty? I’ve been taking good care of it, and I’ve been wearing it every day since I got it! She sent a lovely message with it, too.”
“She wha’? Wha’d she say?” Gurts was close to panicking.
“Just that you’d told her about me and that we were good friends, and she appreciated me being your friend.” Jregli decided some teasing would create good rapport. “She also said that her first thought when you mentioned me was that we might make a match,” Gurts’ eyes bugged out amusingly, “but that you’d cleared that with her. So, this was just a thank you to the friend of her son.” Pausing between tasks, Jregli stepped back and stretched up on tip-claw so that Gurts could see the apron.
“Wh– she– I–” was all Gurts managed as his skin changed to that curious brown again. Jregli handed him a fresh drink.
“Go mingle with your friends, Gurts, and take ease. I’m fine, and it all came out well.” Gurts took the drink slowly, and looked hesitantly towards the Arcade.
Taking a small sip, he mumbled, “Guess I’d best go ‘pologize ta th’ Twins now.”
“Oh, they’re not working tonight.”
“They’re not? Thought they allus worked Fourth Night?”
Mmm, how to put this? “They’re taking a short break, just for this week. They’ll be back next week.” She hoped. It was a bit of a surprise, really, to realize that she did miss having them around. They were smotherly sentients, but she knew they meant well and could probably be trained out of the more annoying habits.
“Ah, well then!” Gurts looked hugely relieved. “I’ll be seein’ ya when m’ drink runs dry, Zreggo m’gurl!” He grinned and headed for the Dance floor.
As it turned out, Jregli did have time for reading Qsaw’lppi’s assignment that night. She’d done most of it that afternoon, since the employees had finished all the basic tasks for her. And once Mahl caught her flipping through her ‘pad, skimming the material, she’d had even more time. Most of the employees seemed to think that sitting and reading was perfectly acceptable work for a child.
Shdr’edno, of course, had not been pleased at her “inactivity” and had come up with several things to run her around with. She hadn’t bothered to tell him that she’d reconditioned the ‘fabbers in the Arcade two weeks ago, so she snuck in more reading while pretending to do that. Eddes helped cover for her. By the time closing rolled around, she had only two sections of reading left and the evaluation.
Shdr’edno was nearly frothing; he’d figured out that she was sneaking around him and that the employees were helping her. He couldn’t tell them to stop, since they were, technically, just doing their jobs. There were only so many tasks he could invent for her without being too obvious. And she was doing everything that he told her to do. He looked about to spit, damage to the decking or not.
Jregli even managed to get a whole three hours of sleep that night. Not a bad day at all.