I was late to the lunch for Earth Sciences First Year students which was jointly sponsored by the Provincial Mining Industry Association and the Society of Registered Surveyors. Not so late that the first pass of diners past the buffet tables was done, but almost too late to thank the dignitaries for their organisations’ kind hospitality. The stout woman with hennaed hair and wearing dark reds instead of blacks, who was third and the last remaining in the reception line looked me up and down then said, “Who are you? I think that you and I are the only people in the room wearing silk.”( Read more...Collapse )
Merrill was at the front door when his father caught him. Looking at Merrill’s ex-military clothing with disfavour he asked, “Where are you going dressed like that?”
“There’s a concert-dance about ten miles away,” Merrill replied. “I expect I’ll be back by half midnight.”
His father asked, “Where is it, exactly? And how will you get there?”
“I don’t know exactly where it is, yet,” admitted Merrill, “but I’ve the map coordinates, and I’m taking my bike.”
“Oh, yes, this famous bike,” his father sneered. “You’re going to ride ten miles and back on a tinny little motorbike are you? With time to dance in between? You’re joking!.”
“I’m not,” replied Merrill calmly.
His father snorted. “You’d better get this nonsense out of your system before the Makepeaces get here. He wants Lord Merrill Dempstead as a son-in-law, not some ill-dressed bit of war detritus and you don’t have any better prospects than a rich pleb’s daughter.”
“So you say, sir,” Merrill bowed, “And now I’m going out.”
Ten minutes later, a solid motorcycle helmet added to his fusillers’ great coat Merrill pulled up outside Chapman’s door. The mechanic came out wearing his tank corps coat and boots. “I’ve marked the map for you,” he said. “After checking it twice.” He swapped the helmet for it.
“Good,” said Merrill. “You can court Mindy, and I can forget who I’m supposed to be for a while. Let’s go.”
Andreas Xenakis was hiding in a barn somewhere in southern in Sachsen. The Terrencians and their allies might think that the Hellenic Great War, launched to give the Hellenes their fair share of Europe after centuries under the yoke of the satrapies, was over but here he was in one of the Terrencian central provinces ready to continue hostilities. Just as soon as he could meet up with his unit and find out what their orders were for after they infiltrated the province. The Myrmidon Division, of which he was a lowly ypodekaneas, had refused to surrender and was now infiltrating enemy territory in order to continue the war. Ypodekaneas Xenakis was on his way to a rendezvous and had chosen a hiding place off the road when last night had proved to be rather fuller of official activity than he’d liked. Now he was stuck in a barn with a door that opened in full view of the farmhouse and an impromptu back entrance that was now guarded by the parents of a newly hatched clutch of goslings.
A pair of grey-barred wild geese that had created an uproar when he’d tried to sneak out into the early morning mist to be on his way. He’d ducked back into cover when he’d realised that he couldn’t get past them without warning the farmers that it wasn’t an animal predator that was upsetting the birds, and on consideration his best chance of getting out again was waiting until after dark.
Frankly, the barn was some of the most comfortable shelter he’d had for months even if he dare not light a fire for hot drink and food.
Despite his best efforts, he was dozing lightly when the barn door opened around mid-morning. The footsteps that followed were quick and efficient, and Xenakis could visualise the movements of the person who was quartering the barn. Hiding wasn’t going to help anymore, so he moved to intercept the farmer. He’d assumed a man about his own age, but instead it was a blonde, raw-boned woman in calf length skirts and farm boots and he froze. Which was how he wound up with a shortened shotgun aimed at his midriff at close range but not close enough to tussle for it, not if he didn’t want to risk being shot by something that could actually kill him outright despite his physical enhancements.
Andreas raised his hands.
“You’re afraid of the geese and you’re afraid of me.” The blonde was a big boned girl who should have been plumper. “Good, you’re a smart one then. Can you understand me?” Given that she was speaking Terrencian this was a sensible question.
Andreas nodded. He may have only had the physical enhancements and not the intellectual ones as well, but he was good with languages and she didn’t have to know how good.
“You’ll come into the house and listen to the radio news because there are things you need to hear,” she told him. “Not that the war is over because you know that already, but things that happened near here last night. Then we’ll decide, my father and me, what we’ll do with you next.”
“Do with me?” He had visions of some of the nastier stories that had circulated about what had happened to Hellenic soldiers who’d fallen into the hands of Terrencian peasantry.
She smiled. “If you’re agreeable, we might find something better for you than a military prison. Now, into the house with you, and you might like to remember that my name is Elke.”
Andreas complied, because something about her eyes told him that she dealt with chickens for the baking dish, and probably pigs for sausages, herself. He didn’t want to find out what else she could deal with doing herself if she had to.