"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 30...'All together'
Rigel was correct; they were all tied together. Snook's right arm was secured to Rigel's left; at the wrist and elbow by thin, cord-like bindings. Strong ones, too. They'd give and creak but wouldn't break. Snook peered to his left. Rhalpie was there; right right bound to Snook's left. Craning his head; Snook could see that the pole behind them had small holes bore in it and through them the tethers of their collars had been run. Rigel and Rhalpie's were tied together. These holes only being three feet off the decking and the tethers, as one, not even two feet long, made standing out of the question. So who was he tethered to? He tried to see and it spawned a curse in a feminine voice. Ah. Cindy.
"I'm sorry, Cindy." "Just sit still, will ya?" "Aye. What 'tis the view like from over there?" "Sunny. Too sunny." East; Snook thought. I'm facing east. "How long have I been out? 'Tis it still today?" "Sorta." Rhalpie paused. "You were out just long enough to get sold." "Sold?" "Sorta. I think the rest of us got thrown in as extras." The orange-eyed one could ask no more questions; he had to think a bit. Once more; he looked about; hoping vision would clear his mind.
He saw they were indeed on a galley; of a different order. He thought it was slightly smaller then the first or at least the middle section seemed so. To his front he could make out the forward sections; as the first galley's; as was the crow's nest not far away. It seemed to rise out of the gray decking as if jammed into dun mud by some immense creature. It rose from a recessed section; just in front of their own pole. Snook knew both by intuition and the slow, steady sound of laboring feet and long-worked backs; that was the turnstile pit. Or what passed for it here.
Rearward; a large, longer then wide; roughly triangular slave-cage filled most of his view. This one was as the first, 'cept it had a more regular network of covering cloth. Though the whole east side of those cloths were up; he could see no one therein.
He could just make out another galley; something he certainly wasn't expecting. It was behind them; close enough to make him think it was yet another section of this one. But it did not shimmy and sway as a trailer. It had to be a separate craft. The last one they had been on, maybe? He couldn't be sure; not being able to make out more. And dang if it still wasn't hot. He was thirsty.
"Sold, huh?" "Got rid of; more like." Rigel managed to sound almost authoritative on it. It seemed out of place. "You gettin' out and runnin' round was the last straw. We got to be too much trouble, man." "Well; I hope they got a good price." No one laughed. Snook decided jokes weren't in order just then. "What'd they use for money? And how'd they meet up with those other hulbania?" "Hulbania?" "Hulbania." Snook sounded disappointed. "Rhalp; have you updated these guys on anything?" The geologist snorted. "I've been busy." "Well," Snook went on; trying to be matter-of-factly; "Hulbania are the gray furs. The others are called gerbania. But remember; that 'tis the multiple. The singular wards are..." "You speak their slobber?" "A wee bit, Rigel. Now remember..." "We was traded in." Snook peeked at the other.
"Traded?" "For weapons, food and water and some weird-lookin' chest things..." "Chest things?" "Looked like loped off tree-trunks. Bitty things." The other nodded. "That'd be the knockout powder. Rhalpie tell you about that?" "More or less." "Seems some got thrown over the side."
Snook didn't elaborate; but thought he detceted just the slightest chuckle from Williamson.
"Where'd all this commerce take place?" "At a spot where all those trails and stuff met. There were two other of these rolling slave-farms; same ones as when we first got taken on. Seems they couldn't get rid of us fast enough. And that big brown thing that Rhalpie says is..." "Biin? He 'tis with us?" Snook had his spirits lift a little. "Why'd they trade him along with us?" Snook glanced at Rhalpie, wary. "Something happen while I 'twas out?" "Lots; but I thought I was explain'. If you ask me, they sent him along 'cause he so big." "Say what?" "Breedin' stock, muscles. Breedin' stock." "Oh." The lad sat with his thoughts a moment; trying to mentally picture all that had been described. "Rigel...." "Yeah?" "What happened to you and Cindy?" "We got sold...traded along with you two, man." "Nein; I mean back at the crash site. Uh,,,,I fell asleep. On guard duty?"
Young Starsharke wanted to hide his head. But Rigel's voice dismissed all need for guilt.
"Aw; just saved ya from gettin' caught with the rest of us." "So what happened?" "They snuck up on us. I got just enough time to open my eyes then they was bouncin' spears and fists off my head. Must have been two dozen of 'em. Never got a peep out." "I do naw feel so bad now." noted Snook. Cindy made a deporting grunt. "I'll sleep a lot better; knowing that. If anyone can sleep with the sun beating down..." "So what happened then, Rigel?" "Next thing I know; I'm tied up and being flopped up and down on a giant pelican."
The teen had to repeat the last in his head once or twice.
"Pelican?" "He means rappers." budded in Farlano. Rigel wasn't amused. "I mean pelican." "They don't look nothin' like pelicans. Pelicans fly." "Go back to playin' with your rocks." "They still don't look like no pelicans!" "Snook," The lone lass thereabouts was a quiet countpoint to the other's rising voices. Snook thought she sounded awful tired. "They ride these funny-looking, two-footed things. Furry." "With no feathers." "Rhalpie, can it, will ya? Please? They ride these big, ugly suckers, Snook. Me and Rigel got a real merry ride on 'em." "I see." Snook wished he could get a better look Cindy; just a reassure himself she was capable of taking what Zeta had dealt out so far. Tough girl, he thought to himself. "Hope I get a gander at these creatures. All I've seen of 'em 'tis some big three-toe tracks." "Like a giant pelican's, right?"
Snook knew better then to comment on that aspect. But there seemd plently of others to touch on. Despite all; his sense of wanting to find out all useful things of Zeta had reoccurred. "Where'd they take you on those weird thingys?" "To another kind of intersection place." Cindy had taken over the narrative. "There were three of these desert-ships and a ton of..." "Galleys." "Huh?" "Me and Rhalpie been calling 'em galleys. Like slave galleys." "How nice. So there they were and all these big gray jerks with tails staring at us and poking us with their spears..." "Javelins." "Huh?" "They're javelins. They can be thrown or..." "Look: how long does this explanation manual run?" "Sorry." Snook was. Cindy could really scold when she wanted to. "Go on, please."
"So they finally made us strip to our undies." Cindy made a unhappy noise at the memory. "Let me tell you; I really love these guys now." "Do naw we all." Snook agreed. "Rhalp; you tell 'em about what they did to that old-timer?" "Old-timer?" questioned Rigel. Rhalpie sild in eagerly. "These sum-bits tossed a sick old gerban overboard. Got all ate up." "Ate up?" "You'll meet the diners at a later date, I'm certain. So; Cindy: I 'twas wondering..." The lad sounded more like he was worrying. "Did they take all the gear? My binos and the..."
There came a sharp crack. It came from above; Snook thought and looking; spotteda head-honcho shack over and just beyond the slave cage. All the humans exchanged glances.
"Weapons." finished Snook. "Yeah; they got our guns." "That was naw a glock. I do naw think, anyway." "Isn't. Cindy lost that glock sometime while we was being bagged." "Did she." "I did, too!" "I did naw mean anything." Snook wasn't the least convincing. "That was naw my rifle and certainly naw the shotgun. So..." "Mine." "You had another gun?" Rigel nodded. "Yeah. What can I say? You gotta love desert-eagles." "The present, then." "Yeah." "That 'tis in .357, aye?" "Would have wanted the .44, but.....you know. A present is a present." "I'm surprised. But I do naw know why."
Hulbania were raising their voices in questions and in moments; a pair of husky gray furs came scrambling up from the turnstile pit. Apparently; there were ramps. Javelins in their arms; they hustled past the humans to the bottom of the shack-pole and began making loud queries upward. In a few seconds; a answering voice came from upstairs. Starsharke looked up and saw a short (By hulbania standards) thin shouldered gray fur had come to the railing girting the honch-shack; leaving a door-hatch rolled open behind him. He leaned over the railing; shouting down to the others. Snapped; more like. He was angry.
"What's he sayin'?" questioned Williamson. "What's going on?" demanded Farlano. "I can't see..." "And who cut the cheese, anyway?"
All the males made the effort to look at the female. To those who could see her; she sent back a tenuous smile. "Just trying to lighten things up, guys." "Yeah, right." Rigel avoided a opinion on the concept. He addressed Snook again. "Now what's all that gabber about?" "Maybe someone shot their mouth off." "Shut up, Rhalpie. What's the deal, muscles? The lad listened patiently; trying to absorb as much as he could. After a few moments; he attempted a ongoing analysis.
"Seems the guy up top there wants the others to mind their own...nein, wait. Nein; someone..." They could all hear shouting coming from inside the shack. "Someone..." The guards had all turned and cast eyes humanward. Everything seemed to stop.
"I can't even see what's happening," Rhalp announced, "And I know it's bad."