"Sorry, Mr. Starsharke. I'm afraid a permit is out of the question. Good cycle."
Snookeroo contained his desire to slap the taste out the count-of-the-game-office's mouth. He swifted the red and white plastic cooler now encasing his frozen grazelope by way of assuaging.
"Out of the question? I thought peril and pestilence permits..." "Can only be granted to the owner of the land in question." Pale and grim, with his dorky 'bowl' haircut had actually found the strength to raise his face away from the pile of papers still on his desk. Snook suspected the paper's rutting season had passed; they appeared to have multiplied. "You have indicated, Mr. Starsharke, you are not a property holder in the area. Therefore..." The man looked back to the land of forms, "I can't help you. Good cycle." "Then I'll purchase a hunting permit." "Costs have gone up." "I'll pay." "2000 cotrs, then."
Ok, thought Snook. I will naw pay. Seeing what he'd perhaps been hoping for in the other's face, the count.....Chesterfield, said the name tag, smirked. His thin lips made it appear a frog had bit into something tart. "You have to understand, Mr. Starsharke....times are changing. You studied the literature I gave you, yes?" "Aye." "What?" "I read it."
Snook hadn't read it, of course. It'd made good fire tinder, though...."So you'll see: the wildlife and natural resouce office has found it neccassary to return to the path of reason." "Really." "Let me just say this in parting, Mr. Starsharke. The era of using the gun to solve environmental challedges is on the way out. The old, earthside order is outdated and we're living on a new planet." "It's billions of seasons old." "What..." "Zeta is naw a new planet...." "But we are new residents." Chesterfield looked like he'd scored a touchdown, to his own thinking. "Good cycle."
Snook hefted the cooler to his chest, spun on a heel and went outside. What a fix this was becoming...
2000 cotrs.....he couldn't dig that up anytime soon and he had to be in the blind by nightfall: it was going to be close even if he got the permit right away. 2000 cotrs! What the heck was going on with the whole wildlife management routine? What had happened to make everything so expensive......He ran options thru his head and there weren't many. He considered calling Rigel and asking him to grant his permission for the purchase of a peril and pestilence permit; the snicker-inducing 'P.P.P'. But since Rigel hadn't wanted him hunting skuda by himself in the first place, it was hardly likely to work.
He'd have to go to his employer, Miss Caitlin Zmbisko: of the 'Gun Cafe' and ask for a advance on his pay. As he'd already taken liberties asking for two cycles off as it was....well. Beggars can naw be choosers....
"You sink any deeper in thought, boy, you gonna drown."
The voice came from a pick-up idling on the roadway not far away. The vehicle alluded to once having been red; mud on the fenders and dust on just about everywhere esle making it a task to be certain. A big fellow with mirrored sunglasses and cigarette in mouth was leaning out a rolled down window. Snook grinned.
"Mr. Buck! Just in time..." "Oh, lord help me. Now what?" "I need a ride." "Don't you just." "I'll pay for gas." "Now you talkin': git in." "I need ice. Gotta a grazelope to keep cold." "To the quicky-shop we go. Git in, I said."
A few minutes and a ice-stuffed cooler was in the back and a very pleased Snook in a seat upfront. The man driving hadn't lost a inch in height to age or a speck of swagger from his frame. The face had years and the voice confidence. Snook knew the man; 'Buck' Barrison. Heck, he was a friend of the family. Snook's uncle Gotham had persuaded this lawman of 20 plus years he was needed and he'd come along: wanting one last challenge. And if all this talk was true, as the colony's wildlife management director; Buck was likely finding it.
"Where we goin'?" "Gimli." "Oh, grits-on-a-stick, Snuck. That's a hour each way." So I'll owe you a pizza to go with the gas money." "owe, huh." "Life's been hard." "I hear ya. Buckle-up, Snuck..." "Snook."
The truck; a typical natural gas/electric hybrid, got turned about and headed away from the airport complex. A big C-130 was rolling into position for takeoff out there; it's noise kept at bay by closed windows and air conditioning on full. They rode in silence at first: dead east. In fact, they'd pass the Williamson's place as they went. Would Laddy; confined inside on guard duty, spot him as they sped by? A few minutes and they passed it without comment: a adobe-looking lump of sandbags here then behind. Not many houses out this way. One or two farmers holding on by fingernails and sheer stubborness.
"Where's the dog?" "Oh, I'm house sitting Rigel's place." The remi's barrel stood up between his knees in the leg-space in front; got passed nonchalantly from hand to hand. "Laddy's standing guard." "Nothing like a good dog. My 'setter just had pups." "Well, praise the lord. I'm naw taking any, though." "Trade ya the pizza for one." "'Tis naw happening, mr. Buck." They laughed mildly a bit: Snook felt good here. Buck had a pump shotgun on a rack behind them; and a holstered revolver. Ever the lawman at heart, Snook concluded. "Rigel? That's the Williamsons, Right?" "Aye." "Well, there's someone who's earned a vacation. Where'd they go; if I may be so bold?" "Lake Obiwan. Two cycles of camping." "I got a belly full of jealousy now. Wish I was up to re-retiring."
Snook couldn't pass the opportunity up. He was simply too curious. And it wasn't so bad to have someone to talk to, once in a while. If they were decent folk.
"Mr. Buck: what 'tis going on with wildlife management? I just got a quote on a skuda permit that about made me fall over. What 'tis costing so much now? And who hired this Chesterfield bozo? He 'tis as much fun as a flat tire. I canna make any sense of it." Buck grunted; as if having inhaled a few bits of gravel. He rolled his window down a few inches, letting in a jet of hot dry air and he spat out his cig and rolled the window back up. He stared ahead a few minutes. "That Chesterfield fella?" "Aye?" "He might end up with my job."
Had Barrison offered to eat live eels; Snook couldn't have been more surprised.
"Oh, you're joking." "I wish." "Why would they replace you with that dead-fish? He called a grazelope a grassalope just the other segment. I think if I drove a stake into one of those paperstacks of his; he'd grab his chest and drop dead."
Buck grinned a bit at that. Glancing over to him, though, Snook could see the man was a long way from happy about the subject. "Did you say something you should naw have, to someone who should naw have been hearing it, Mr. Buck?" "I did that from the start." Barrison watched the road in front of him a moment or two. "Things are changing, I guess. They always do." "A wee consistency would be nice, methinx. Where 'tis all this money going to, anyway? Permit prices doubling? That 'tis ridiculous!" Buck nodded but only looked out at the road. The chance had passed: clearly Barrison didn't want to say more. They sat back and rode on in quiet.
10 minutes and theRange road came up; running from Kovoko's chief town, Jetsam city to the north; down to the Gimli mining site. Snook lived there: if a pair of closet-sized rooms over the local bar counted as living.
They cruised along, Hadian's range to the left; all sorts of lumps in brown and black. Up a ways, pointy Contour-trees marched in their singlefile pattern north to south. Lower down scalepine, with their iridescent leaf-fins overlapping to make a wall, held their ground. Bellus shone down; asking no quarter and giving none. To the right was savanna: grasses and a few far off loft.
A bit more and they'd come upon Gimli: snow-white steam mist drifted up beyond, where the ore processing was undertaken. They went up the gentle incline to the plateau the settlement was laid upon. Stone-walling; twice the height of a man surrounded the place and 5 wooden towers were affixed at measured spaces along it. Figures of folk, people on watch-duty, could be seen on those towers: Gimli took it's defense serious. The gates would be closed and locked at nightfall and if you weren't a resident, you weren't getting in. The villiage of 200 itself was the road lined on either side by homes of earthwork or log construction. There was little beside homes but they did try to make them amiable. Earth-shrubs and flower-boxes were about and just about everyone had some manner of veggie-garden. Buck and Snook rolled down to near the far-end of the lane and there to the left was a low building of illregular but big rocks: all mismatched in color, shape, size and seemingly, placement. There was the sign over the door: big sign, spray-painted in gloss orange and featuring a pair of toy AK-47's, barrels crossed, as if for luck.
The Gun Cafe. Snook's worked there.
They stopped, Snook grabbed the cooler and used his pass-key to avoid the necessity of being buzzed in. They got themselves in the door: Buck following with his shotgun and Snook's remi in tow.