Methven - Day One - Part Two
"Do the Samsonite people know about this?"
"Is that another joke?"
"Explain it to me."
"Samsonite is a famous brand of luggage. On Earth, I mean."
"What's funny is that they don't have anything like..that."
I gestured at his "suitcase".
"It is advanced technology."
"You have a real talent for understatement, Bruno."
. . .
As it turns out, Bruno also has a talent for cooking. In under an hour, he whipped up a reasonable facsimile of a feast, including everything from soup to nuts.
The soup was a kind of gazpacho and the nuts were out of this world. Literally. According to Bruno, they came from the fourth planet of a double star system in his home galaxy.
"How many light years away from the Milky Way would that be?"
Bruno shook his head.
"Your question is meaningless, Mr. Wilson. It is located in a different universe."
"Different from ours or from the one we're in?"
"It is a third universe, different from both, Mr. Wilde."
"Dude! Like, how many universes are there?"
"That is also a meaningless question."
"How many you know 'bout?"
"I, personally, have visited 34 and studied 112 others, Mr. Pith."
"Are you a robot?"
That stopped the conversation dead.
"No, Mr. Wilde."
"Please define the term."
"A mechanically-or electronically-augmented human. Especially one who possesses technologically-enhanced senses."
"Thank you, Mr. Wilson."
He turned back to me.
"Yes, Mr. Wilde. I am a cyborg."
"Yo! Bruno the Terminator!"
"Dude! That's, like, funny or something, huh, Tong?"
Blandy turned a critical eye on an impassive Bruno.
"You're, like, kinda short for a Schwarzenegger, actually. Y'know?"
"My line was engineered to colonize heavy planets."
"How about Læ?"
He shook his head.
"She is a Centran normal."
"Mr. Parkins is an Earth-normal human."
"Yes, Mr. Pith. 'Parkins' is Carleton's surname."
"Thought I rec'a'nized him. Third string f'r th' Browns in th' '71-'72 season?"
"That is correct."
"Small Totality," Carleton corrected him.
None of us had heard him approach.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Sleepyhead!"
He frowned at me.
"Did your mother have any children that lived?"
He turned to Bruno.
"She's awake now."
Bruno got up without another word, ladled out some of the soup and a cup of water and headed for the smaller tent.
Meanwhile, Pith ambled over to Carleton, who was busy dishing out his own meal.
"Nice t'meet ya, Scarface."
Carleton looked down at him for a moment, sizing him up.
Pith stuck out his hand.
"Lucky 13, right? Got th' scar at Heidelberg."
Carleton nodded, carefully.
"That was a long time ago."
"Still a pleasure."
Carleton took Pith's proffered hand and they shook.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Pith."
"Jus' 'Pith' is all."
"Pith. Sorry about the eye. And the lip."
"Jus' part a' th' dance."
"Remind me to stay away from wherever it is you learned to dance, Pith."
Pith grinned back.
"924 Gilman Street, all th' way."
"I now pronounce you fan and wife. Pith, you may kiss the quarterback."
Carleton turned toward me, his eyes dangerous.
"Mr. Wilde, is it?"
"I don't like you, Mr. Wilde."
"Let me explain why I don't like you."
"Help yourself, big guy."
"I don't like you, because you wasted so much of Læ's time back on Earth that we came dangerously close to missing our window for crossing the Portal here to Methven. I don't like you, because you forced her to rush through the spell that brought us here, endangering her life. Ours, too, although she's the really important one in this crowd."
"To you, maybe."
"To me, to this universe, to your universe and to her own, as well as to countless others, Mr. Wilde. And I don't like you, because you're a smartass who thinks he's a real wit. And you're only half right."
His voice dropped to a whisper, pitched for my ears alone.
"I don't like you, because you're a danger to our mission and our lives, Mr. Wilde. And, if you fuck us up again, I'll kill you with my own hands."
His voice returned to a more normal, conversational pitch.
"Do we understand one another?"
"No..I don't think we do."
I saw his hands begin to clench into fists, then watched him make a conscious effort to relax.
"What don't you understand?"
"A lot of things, I'm sure. But what concerns me is what you don't seem to understand."
"Such as, you seem to want to give me a hard time about delaying our little pleasure cruise through..what was it you called that awful thing?"
"The Portal. But you ignore the fact that I had no way of knowing it was dangerous to delay the trip. All I heard was that we might miss our 'train'."
I could see I wasn't getting through to him, but the others were listening hard and I wanted desparately to get through to them.
"So, don't give me this crap about me 'endangering the mission', because you withheld information from me. If I'd known it was dangerous, instead of merely inconvenient, I might well have acted differently."
My attention was on Carleton, although I heard an approving murmur from those around us.
"Look. It's clear that you worship the ground Læ walks on. I envy you. But, you can't blame me for endangering her, this 'mission', or anything else when, let's face it, I had no way of knowing there was any danger involved. Do you understand the basic unfairness of that?"
He looked around at the others. I kept my eyes focussed on him.
"I guess you have a point," he said. Reluctantly.
"Good. We're making progress. Now, follow me on this: if you want me to make intelligent choices, if you want us to make intelligent choices, we have to have enough information."
The peanut gallery made appreciative noises.
"You say that Læ is important to everything in..what was it you called it?"
"Totality. But, you haven't told us why we should think so. Are we just supposed to take your word for it?"
"Sing it, brother."
"He makes a cogent point."
"Mr. Drew is saying a trueness."
If Mantami saw the logic of my position, I knew I had Carleton where I needed him.
"If you want us convinced that Læ is so all-fired important, then tell us why we should think so. If you want to stop us from doing dangerous things out of ignorance, then warn us about the dangers ahead of time. And, if you want me to stop uttering half-witticisms..I guess you're out of luck."
He grinned at that.
"I guess you can't win them all. All right, Drew..it is 'Drew', isn't it?"
"I'll take back what I said about you endangering us. We should have told you more about the danger of delaying Transition."
"All right. We have some time, now, since Læ won't be ready to travel any sooner than tomorrow."
"Well, then..suppose you start by telling us where we're really going?"
He got down on one knee, picked up a rock and began to sketch a map in the dirt.
(Copyright© 1997 by Thom Stark--all rights reserved)