Winning a great military triumph (I was integral you know) brings gross future people out of the woodwork to kiss your ass. No, woodwork implies that there are houses made of wood, better to say that they’ve been coming skittering out from under rocks like centipedes. Gross people from tiny villages. Gross wanderers from nowhere. Gross people from the mountains. And gross people representing the leading communities in the area – Scrapbridge, Pigsty, Gunmetal City, Crow. Gross people that want to know my plans. Gross people who want to know what I’m up to. Gross people that want to know who I am and what I’m about.
I’ve been playing it cool in terms of plans, which has been easy because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m making this up as I go along. Who knew that an off-hand vow of revenge could transform a region like this so thoroughly? I have a feeling that things are being altered in important and long-term ways even though I’ve barely been here long enough to know what they’re like.
I do have a few plans. Item number one, go back to Applied Cryogenics West. Now that it’s not just me and Martialla there has to be something we can do with a geothermal power source that has lasted a hundred years. Maybe there’s some other stiffs we can defrost. Two, go back to the doctor and Hilary Muff’s underground complex. Now that it’s not just Martialla and I we’ll drag then out from under the ground like Punxsutawney Phil if we have to. Well we won’t but someone will. Point is we’ll see what’s up with that.
Item three is a little trickier, figure out where Paul came from and check that out. He came from some kind of frozen person shack, could be a power source there too, or more human popsicles. Martialla has been working on that. Trying to coax him into remembering. She’s as ill-suited for a coaxing job as a porcupine is being a nurse in the newborn ward but there’s nothing for it. She’s the only one that he trusts even a little. Who knew that Martialla had feminine wiles? It’s mind-boggling.
I was pondering this because Lucien was discussing something boring and logistical and military. As he was doing so yet another supplicant came to pay their respects. He was tallish, I mean for a futureman he was maybe five nine, and lean as a skeleton, or Calista Flockhart. He wasn’t too ugly by future standards but he was wearing a jacket/cape/poncho thing that was made out of a spotted fur and it made me think of a crabby old matron wandering around Rodeo Drive shouting abuse at a butler that died years ago.
I said he was there to pay his respect but that’s just a figure of speech, instead he just drifted in and leaned there like a leather jacket-clad “rebel” from an old black and white movie and waited for us to notice him. Lucien, even though he’s only been unfrozen a little while has developed a pidgin of sorts that seems to work with these future people, I won’t print that here because I don’t like the sound of it. Anyway, he asked the man in the spotted fur which community he was from and Spots answered in perfectly understandable modern day (past) English.
“Nowhere in particular.” He gave me a frank look, the kind that would get you a sexual harassment lawsuit back in the day “You’re tall, they were right about that, but you don’t look so dangerous to me. Is it true that you killed seven people at the Battle of Butcher Bluff?”
I shook my head and wondered how his joker got by the goons outside “I don’t know what that means. Are you here to assassinate me or can we help you with something?”
He smiled at the word assassinate, revealing a half-empty row of teeth on the left side “I’m here to help you. I don’t know what you think you did by destroying that force from Wyo but I’m here to tell you what you did accomplish. Now Duke knows you’re serious. That was test. You failed. Or passed. Depends how you want to look at it.”
Lucien leaned over his maps and ledgers protectively “You’re saying that the Duke risked throwing away hundreds of combat vehicles and a thousand men just to see what we were going to do?’
Spotty smiled again, broadly “Yes, that is what I’m saying. No reason getting ready for war if your enemy is just barking at the moon. Now he knows you’re ready to fight.”
I gestured vaguely outside “He was invading the valley, wasn’t he ready for war already?”
He held up a fist and grinned some more “There’s war and then there’s war, ponimayete? The Invincible, there are a lot of them. A lot. I don’t think you realize who you’re dealing with. There’s no way you could know. Is it true that you’re from the past? What was it like?”
“The weather was better and the people were prettier, except on the east coast, there it was just like this. So you’re here to fill us in on the Invincible and their great big scary threat huh? Why do you know their business?”
He started walking around and examining a few things like people do when they want to appear nonchalant “I’m a trader, I get around, meet a lot of people, hear a lot of things. I’ve done a lot of business with the Invincible. I’ve even met Duke himself twice. He’s almost as pretty as you, no wonder he’s so vain huh?” He stopped pacing and looked back at me “Don’t you want to know why I’m giving you this knowledge?”
He grinned once again “I like that.” He pointed at me “I see why people follow you, the fearsome warrior woman from the past. You don’t care but going to tell you anyway. I thought the world was one way. The Invincible were going to eat up everything and everyone. But now . . .” he clapped his hands together “. . . everything is different. Now the world is another way.”
“And you want to be on the winning side?”
He laughed a weird wheezing laugh “I just want to watch the show.”
Lucien crossed his arms and regarded him with pursed lips “So that’s your big information? That there are more of the Invincible than we think? That’s not helpful.”
He shook his head slowly with a sly smile “No, my information is what your Gunmetal buddies have been sending people to their deaths to find out for years. I know where they get their guns from, and you can see it for yourself. If you want.”