Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 30
She pulled out her scruffy tablet and held it up. The Ebbo already had its stylus in hand. The transaction was quickly made and the Human left.
She returned a short while later. “It’s time for the delivery payment. The Human you’re looking for has a ship waiting for him at the spaceport. He’s already left the prison and is headed that way.”
Occo wouldn’t have been surprised if the heterochthonatrix had tried to cheat the Human of her delivery payment, but Rammadrecula paid immediately. Either she was honest or knew something about the likely retaliation that thwarted street urchins would undertake. Occo had no way to judge the capabilities of the orphans of an alien species. Perhaps they could be quite dangerous.
As soon as the Human left, Rammadrecula burst into an enthusiastic little dance. “The chase is on! It’s on! But we must hurry — or Shenoy will leave before we can reach my spacecraft and set out in pursuit.”
Occo pointed to the Ebbo. “Easier to just have Proceeds-With-Circumspection check the registered passage. They must have filed one or the Humans won’t let them pass through the portal.”
She didn’t add what she could have, which was: how did Rammadrecula think she could pursue an FTL Human spacecraft with the STL craft she would have at her own disposal as an Envacht Lu official?
She didn’t add it for the good and simple reason that she needed to make clear to the now-exposed-as-certifiably-unbalanced heterochthonatrix that there was no “we” involved in this project in the first place.
But before she could utter those peremptory phrases, she felt Bresk’s neural connectors probing behind her earflaps. The familiar wanted to link without bringing attention to the fact.
Bresk was often a nuisance but he was not stupid. If he wanted to link, there would be a reason for it. Occo exposed her neural sockets and a moment later they were linked.
<Don’t quarrel about it> Bresk said. <Her ship probably has better records than I do of whatever destination we’ll be headed for. Even with those records at our disposal, getting there via Warlock Variation Drive is going to be what Humans call “hairy.” Without them . . . >
He had a point. And now that she thought about it, Occo realized that Ju’ula could surely set out as easily from a spaceship as anywhere else. So why bother arguing with the Envacht Lu lunatic? They’d go aboard her ship, lift off the planet — and then go their separate way.
“We need to make a stop first,” she said. “I have some essential equipment I need to take with us. A deific works detector and a demonic de-energizer.”
As descriptions of the Warlock Variation Drive and the Skerkud Teleplaser, those were . . . creative. Thankfully, Rammadrecula didn’t seem inclined to pursue the matter. She satisfied herself with uttering the phrase make haste! make haste! at least thirty or forty times as they went to the chamber where Occo had left Ju’ula and the Teleplaser and thereafter made their way outside the human habitat to the place where the heterochthonatrix had left her vehicle.
Though no sentient being would ever confuse him with the operator of a sports racer, Proceeds-With-Circumspection proved to be a less stodgy driver than his fellow Ebbo, Circumvents-Jeopardies-and-Exposures. So, they arrived at the spaceport not more than a short time after the Humans reached their ship and took off.
By then, however, a search of the public records using the Ebbo’s tablet revealed the intended destination of their quarry. It was a planet occupied mostly by Paskapans which Human called “Cornwallis IV.”
Bresk found the name Cornwallis IV in his own records. “The appellation seems to refer either to an obscure military figure of Human history, a peninsular extension of one of their islands, or possibly a miniature avian which figures in their cuisine. Which, by the way, is loathsome. Would you believe Humans extract the bodily fluids of one of their domesticated animals — cows, they’re called, or sometimes goats — and then deliberately expose the already-nauseating substance to environmental degradation using a multitude of bacteria, microbes and enzymes, the purpose of which — brace yourself — ”
“Shut up. I don’t need to know any of this,” said Occo.
“Well, no, you don’t. But it’s actually rather interesting, in a sickening sort of way.”
Bresk was silent for a bit, and then resumed with more relevant information. “There are several terms for the planet in our own tongues, depending on which sect or denomination is involved. But the two used most often are Uingha Va Vra — after one of the three founding sages of the Lesser Obscurati, which doesn’t seem too useful for our purposes — and AztrakaÃ§etif.”
“That’s a peculiar name.”
“It’s not really a name,” Bresk explained. “It’s just a sequence of syllables based on the linguistic theories developed by the Jekh Submergence, which they believe makes their communications opaque to occult powers because — ”
“Skip all that,” said Occo impatiently. “The Jekh Submergence — whether the Covenant, the Pact, the Assembly or the Debentia — are a mob of cretins. What use is the name for our purposes?”
“I was just getting to that,” Bresk responded. “What this particular string of syllables does is encapsulate a description of the planet itself. Translating — a bit loosely, that’s inherent when you’re dealing with Jekh twaddle — it means ‘looks sort of like a gwendgee, but with extra pustules.’ Talk about loathsome cuisine!”
Loathsome, indeed. A gwendgee was a small amphibian which originated on Hairrab, the cloister planet of the Jekh Assembly, but had since been spread to all planets occupied by the Submergence that had suitable ecosystems. The noxious creature was prized by the Submergence because of the poisons it secreted and retained in epidermal pustules. Steamed or parboiled and then usually mixed in a salad, the creatures were eaten and produced mystic visions. Such, at least, was the claim made by the Submergence. No other sect had ever corroborated their claims because eating gwendgees also resulted in a fatality rate exceeding seventy-five percent. Occo was by no means the only Nac Zhe Anglan who considered them a mob of cretins.
Still, they finally had a physical description to go by, which seemed to be the critical ingredient for successful travel using the Warlock Variation Drive.
They reached Rammadrecula’s spaceship. Not surprisingly, given the Heterochthonatrix’s lineage, it was an expensive luxury craft rather than a more utilitarian official vessel. She’d probably bought it herself rather than drawing on Envacht Lu funds.
Once aboard, Rammadrecula and Proceeds-With-Circumspection set about launching the ship, while Occo and Bresk set themselves up in the chamber they’d been provided.
“Wake up, Ju’ula,” Occo commanded. “We need you to get us out of here.”
The Warlock Variation Drive’s eyes opened and spent a few moments examining the chamber.
“Why would we want to get out of here, Mama?” she asked. “This is plush. Way better than where most of my Mamas put me — including you, I’m sad to say, at least up until now.”
“Plush or not, it’s a sublight vessel. We need you to get us where we’re going more quickly.”
“So? The two are not counterpoised. And where do you need to go?”
“It’s a planet called AztrakaÃ§etif.”
Ju’ula closed her eyes. “Oh, Mama, that’s just a string of nonsense sounds. I need an image.”
They felt and heard a slight rumble. Rammadrecula’s yacht was lifting from the planet.
“Better wait a bit,” Bresk cautioned.
That was probably good advice. Occo turned on the viewscreen and waited until they were well clear of the atmosphere. Then she closed her eyes and tried to visualize a planet that looked sort of like a gwendgee, but with more pustules.
The result, unfortunately, was something that looked a lot more like a particularly large and grotesque gwendgee than a planet of any kind.
“You want to visit Yuyu the Unfortunate? Well, okay. But I got to tell you, Mama –”
The planet in the viewscreen disappeared. An instant later, the viewscreen itself disappeared — and an instant after that, the entire chamber. Occo and Bresk found themselves on what seemed to be a large platter with a slightly raised lip. Rammadrecula and Proceeds-With-Circumspection were perched on the very edge, looking both surprised and alarmed.
The couch that Occo herself rested upon, on the other hand, was extraordinarily luxurious.
“Most people don’t want to have anything to do with the God of Misfortune of the now-extinct Misundai,” Ju’ula continued, sounding very dubious. “Who used to be the Chaik’s God of Catastrophe before they went extinct, and was the Race of Supremacy’s God of Affliction before they went extinct, and before that was –”
Rammadrecula started to shriek. Proceeds-With-Circumspection began scrittering frantically on its tablet, exclaiming: “This is most irregular! Most irregular!”
Ahead of them, squatting on what seemed to be a vast and illimitable field covered with fungi, was a being which . . .
Looked quite like a gigantic and particularly misshapen and discolored gwendgee covered with pustules. Seeing them come, the monster’s maw opened and an enormous tongue emerged. Coiled, as if ready to strike.
The pustules opened also. They did not secrete poisons, however. Instead, they produced huge insects that bore a close resemblance to the sort of winged predators that fed on . . .
Pretty much anything that moved. Such as themselves, literally served up on a platter.
The swarm of insects headed their way.
“Those look like stingers on their abdomens,” said Bresk. “Either that or ovipositors. I’m not sure which is worse.”