GOMI

Part XXIII


It was quiet during the night, if that's what this was. It wasn't darker or lighter or warmer or colder or even more rank -- but it was different. Quieter. Not that there was noise, but there was... something.

So Tam dubbed it night. The quiet time. When morning came, her little friend would come back and tell her strange things about the places about her. Strange things like flying beasts that smelled of the marsh and had great flames coming from them. Maybe it would tell her of the creature that moved by walking, but with two legs, unlike most walking creatures, that lay beside her and couldn't make wetness. Maybe.

It came to her, in a way, just to ask her what she was. It was the first thing she ever maybe saw in this Wonderland. It looked like it was flittering about, not sure where it was or what it was doing. Since it flittered it must have had wings, so she looked for them and it did, an eye with wings and little hands on slender arms. It landed for a moment next to her, reflecting darken blue in the lens raft, walking on it's hands. It seemed to grow weary of that and flittered about some more.

They talked for a while, mostly it asking questions she didn't understand and her giving answers it didn't understand. At first she thought it might be just stupid, but realized it just didn't have a concept for a jet plane or the like. She found herself talking in rhyme, which amused it to no end. It told her of things it sees, which she learned meant had seen as it didn't have a sense of time passing. It just knew that there are some very large creatures with pointy teeth and smelly breath who are really good at hiding.


These people were strange to him. Perhaps more years had passed during his time in that shielded place than he thought. They had placed him in this new cell, too uncertain and too spent to do anything. If not for the woman-who-travels, he might be sitting about a fire with his ancestors. It seemed the spirits have plans that include him.

Closing his eyes, he slowed his breathing to a steady, even pace. The rhythm of his heart became a drum to him. His body became very quiet as he became absent.


Painter walk-sleeped through icy sand dunes, antique white against a blackened sky. Somewhere nearby was the interpreter that had been hired to talk to the local muscle they had to deal with. Of course, He'd insisted they all learn the local language, but no one had to know that.

"Rule one of dealing -- know the language. Rule two -- they don't have to know that." The voice was crisp out of the blackness.

'How many scrapes did that get us out of, Sir,' he wondered as the interpreter resceded back into the past. 'All but that last one.'

'So this is a walking dream,' he noted to no one in particular. 'Funny how you can walk forever and never go anywhere.' Yet he kept on walking.

"The most important thing is breathing," an ancient, mechanical voice lectured. "Breathing maintains calm, focus, clarity. In this state you may come into harmony. In harmony you will be the still of the pond, able to detect the slightest ripple."

'You missed the final ripple, sensei, but who could detect a ripple on those high seas. Perhaps it is as you said, a'

"A man is summoned to the place of his death."

Painter stepped through a terrain of loose stone and rock, idly noting the shift. 'So that was not my summons of release from this world. Perhaps itstill is. We've managed to win the hand, but the game isn't done.'

"Words echoed back to him in the best imitation scottish accent, "Just remember, lad, in the end The House always wins."


"Harold, if you try to pull another rabbit out of that hat, I'm gonna find that teradactyl and feed you to him." Harold looked mortified, but Whitehot didn't care. After the rhino, the rabid squirel, that cute purring thing Harold called a "tribble," and the other creatures that just were not rabbits, Whitehot was rather tired of that hat trick. Nat that Whitehot would really feed Harold to anything -- Harold was his best friend and the greatest sleezer he'd ever seen. How he managed to slide by the blackest of  ICE was beyond his comprehention.

Whitehot yawned, vaguely aware of rest sometime in the last year. He unwrapped a yellow cake stuffer. Biting into it, he was pretty sure it was the nastiest cream filled cake he'd ever tasted. Washing the taste away with a bit of grog that seemed to always be about the Captain and Mr. R, Whitehot figured this was a good time to go into sleep mode.


Tiny eyed the bit of plunder that Mr. R had given him. The white cake seemed a bit squishy and he could see where they'ed injected some cream filling-like substance and Tiny was dead certain that this would be perfect railgun ammo. "Death by twinkie," Tiny muttered.

Captain Blood, in the midst of removing the outer layers of the sanitation worker outfit, looked over, "What did you say, you scoundril."

"Nodda thi'g."

Captain shruged and continued fumbling with the coveralls. "Damnit, Mr. R, did you have to use the industrial velcro! We were never able to rip them off to reveal ourselves to the world."

Mr. R, still in the coveralls, looked over with a skeptical look. "Arrrrrg!"

Blood stumbled a little bit. "That is soooo not what I meant!" Finished fumbling about, he smoothed his crimson dublet and pantalones then checked the ivory frills poking out from his shirt. Picking up the matching crimson hat and adjusting the enormous purple plume, he sat down and lazilly tossed the hat onto a hook on the wall. "How is your patient, Mr. R?"

"Arrrrrrrrrg!" Mr. R didn't look up from Tiny's wounds.

"Wha'z 'e shayin'?"

Captain Blood leaned over a moment while twirling his curled mustache. "He says, good sir, that you and your companions are quite lucky indead."

Tiny snorted and leaned back to check for pinholes in his eyelids.


Jessie watched through blood-veined eyes the decryption sequence click away on her computer, watching algorythm after algorythm dance about the data she'd picked up from the control room tap. Tammy wasn't one of Them, that was certain. Perhaps she'd been wrong about Painter and Tiny, but this Whitehot person still bore watching. Who knows who, or what, "Harold" was. This man that Tammy lead them to -- he had to be one of their secrets. Oh, to find out what he knows! Now is not the time, of course, he's too well guarded and she's too weak yet, not to mention there is Tam to consider and there is no way Painter will let her out of his sights. On top of it all there are these two clowns in strait out of an old Erol Flynn movie. She'd wrapped a wet towel around her head just incase someone, perhaps the Flynn-a-bees, had an Erillactian brain scanner. She was pretty sure she caught sight of one in their flight out of the complex, so there was no sense in taking any chances. Stifling a yawn, Jessie blinked for a long moment.


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