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ST: HMB, Episode 5: Lone Star, Part 12

I’m posting this on my last day at the sub shop. Being a cashier is an interesting experience, and Firehouse was a good place for it. 95% of the customers are very nice, even when I pushed a wrong button or couldn not understand thier name. I think if I were to give advice to anyone, it’s when talking to a cashier, ENUNCIATE! Especially that first sound. You’ve no idea how hard it is to tell “Ryan” from “Brian” when people mumble, Louis sounds like “wis.” And just becasue you go to the same place and make the same order, don’t get snippy if they don’t remember what it is. We see thousands of people a week, maybe 200 of which are regulars – and we don’t assume you want the exact same thing. Some people actually like to mix it up.

I’ll let you know next week how my first week at Newscycle went. In the meantime, let’s get cracking. Some fun stuff is going to happen!

Enigo ended up carrying the scanner, after all. He’d decided his own chivalry wouldn’t let Loreli carry it, and the doctor had insisted that since Enigo was so qualified at waving the blue glowy wand, he could do that while the doctor conducted more mundane physical examinations.

“Besides,” the Dr. Pasteur added, “once we explained what we were doing at the battlefield, the natives were more peaceful and cooperative than the humans. I don’t think we’re in any danger.” Chi Nikki Chawa had agreed.

Enigo shifted under the straps and held back a sigh. He didn’t usually regret the bar fight that led to his punishment detail working with the sensor wand, but days like today, he wished he’d behaved better at the Academy.

Loreli nudged him with her elbow and grinned at him in amusement and sympathy. He grinned back. Over the past couple of adventures, their friendship had grown. He didn’t need anyone to get him, but it was nice to think someone did. Not to mention, he loved the way her hair reacted to the sun.

They’d materialized and met the doctor in a small clearing not far from the village, then walked the rest of the way. Chi Nikki Chawa had not wanted to frighten any of his people with the teleporter.

They walked along a trail between two cultivated fields just starting to sprout some kind of gourd. Before them was the village, a neat array of mud huts with thatched roofs, their wood doors open for the breeze but the entries covered with beautiful, colorful blankets to afford privacy. To the left, a large clearing served as a workplace. Food was cooking over fires or roasting in coals, watched over by maidens instructed by older women. The elderly shucked vegetables and called out warnings to the children rushing about in a game of tag. In all, it was the idealized kind of primitive town that would show up on an internet meme with a caption saying such people have no need of roads, money, schools or hospitals…and thus are the natural prey for an Evil Civilization ™ like the Lone Star represented.

When they got within sight, however, all activity paused while the villagers took in their strange new visitors.

Then a child exclaimed, “Ti Chini Tawsi!” and all the little ones ran to Loreli squealing and demanding to touch her.

Chi Nikki Chawa held Enigo back with a friendly arm. “I should have thought of this. Loreli, with her green skin and plant-like hair, looks like a character from one of our favorite children’s tales. Ti Chini Tawsi is a ground spirit who teaches respect for the land and all creatures in it.”

One of the children toddled to her, carrying a gourd almost as big as he was and filled with water which spilled from the rim with each step. When he got to her, he upended the entire thing at her feet.

“No!” Chi Nikki Chawa shouted too late.

Loreli gasped as the cool water hit her, soaking her from knees to toes.

Enigo burst out laughing.

“Enigo!” Loreli protested, though she was grinning at the child, who with confusion looked from Chi Nikki Chawa’s stern frown to the alien stranger half bent in laughter.

“Lieutenant!” the doctor chided. “Why didn’t you stop him?”

“Oh, sorry, Doc. All this equipment on my back, made me hesitate. I didn’t want to get it wet. Besides, I think this means Loreli, at least, has been accepted.”

The doctor’s glare said he didn’t buy that excuse, but of course, he said nothing. Being mild and unobtrusive was Guy Pasteur’s fallback position for most things. It made him easy to work with, but not a standout character, which is why… Sorry – Spoilers. (spoiler meme her)

In fact, their reaction did seem to satisfy the more hesitant watchers-on, and soon the whole village was gathering around them. Even as his graffaws mellowed to snickers, however, Enigo kept a wary eye on the growing crowd. Chi Nikki Chawa explained the three and their mission.

As he did, Loreli said to Enigo. “Perhaps I should ask them to water you?” She squatted and held her hands out to the boy. He placed the jug in them. Rather than flinging the remaining water at the chief of security, she turned it around in her hands, admiring the carvings. “This is beautiful.”

Chi Nikki Chawa said, “My people – or rather, those that were my people – do not have the technological advancement nor the desire for many luxuries, but beauty has always been important to us. We try to make every creation, no matter how practical, a work of art.”

“Speaking of art…” Enigo’s mirth had completely faded and he focused a frankly admiring stare at a young, wild-eyed woman who was sidling between people toward them.

“Enigo! What has gotten into you?” Loreli protested. She, too, looked up at the woman who was beautiful and nubile and covered in some simple strips of fabric over skin-tight clothing of intricate designs.

“No, I mean her skin. It’s wikadas.”

Loreli looked again, and saw that what she’d mistaken for a bodysuit was actually the woman’s skin, fully covered in tattoos.

Chi Nikki Chawa explained, “That’s Ta Pala Chawa, my cousin. She carries our generation’s history in the art upon her body.”

“Wikadas!”

The woman seemed equally fascinated by Enigo. She pushed through the last of the adults barring her way and hurried to him. She took hold of the hand he’d been using to point at her, and traced the letters tattooed on his knuckles.

“Like those?” he asked. “I got them when I was twelve, preparing for fight for the Grand Auditorium. We’d agreed fists only, so I wanted to be prepared to bring the pain and fear. See?  Pain –“ He mocked a punch with his left. “- and Fear.” He described an upper cut with his right.

The universal translator did its job, and she nodded appreciatively. “A warrior. More?”

“Spuestokay! Lemme show you my phoenix. That was a revenge fight. Got stabbed four times, so it covers the scars. See?” He started to pull up his shirt.

“Enigo!” Loreli cut in. “We have limited time to conduct our studies and report back to the captain.”

The doctor totally missed the uncharacteristically frantic tone in Loreli’s voice, but did decide this was a good time to take charge. “Quite right, Loreli. Chi Nikki Chawa, is there somewhere more private where we can conduct the scans? Away from the crowds, at least?”

Ta Pala Chawa had hold of Enigo’s “fear” hand, and was pulling him into the village.

Chi Nikki Chawa shrugged. “It seems Ta Pala Chawa will show you a hut you may use. In the meantime, Doctor, with your permission, I will escort Loreli to our elders’ meeting place. We can then explain the situation where she can see it for herself.”

The doctor clapped his hands together once. “Excellent. Divide and conquer. We’ll get more done that way. Loreli, please report at regular intervals.”

And with that, the Botanical xenobiologist was led away by their Evolved Paleo guide and surrounded by Paleo children while Enigo skipped off hand-in-hand with the beautiful stranger, the doctor following in his wake like rogue branch that need pruning.

Loreli shook herself mentally. Whatever this strange envy she was feeling meant, she needed to set it aside and concentrate on her job.

I met a lot of people with tattoos at Firehouse. Most were well done. Sometimes, though, there were simply too many. It was like and episode of Hoarders: The Body Art Episode.I hope Ta Pata Chawa doesn’t inspire Enigo to turn his whole body into a work of art. It should be noted, however, that Ta Pawa Chawa has an overall theme and organization to her tatts – but that’s for another blog. Be sure to sign up for reminders!

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