11th Sun: Chapter 23: Lunch

I doze off for around two hours. After the day I’ve had, and the sex I’ve had, I deserve it. I’ve literally been fucked comatose.

When I come to I manage to take stock of the room. I was paying attention to other things earlier.

The decor…

I would describe it as a cross between Persian paisley, and art deco. These concepts mesh poorly, both in my brain and in reality. The colors are a little garish. Okay, they’re a lot garish. The the subtle red of the lights brings my headache back, after the sex made it go away. There’s some wooden prefab furniture, in threes. Three chairs, a desk long enough for three, etc.

The biggest difference is the fire pit in the middle of the room.

Well it seems like a fire pit.

It’s sunk into the floor, and there’s a bench around the outside with chair backs you can move around. In the center is a facing TV.

Praxite is integral in facing holo-technology. I don’t know how it works, or even it anyone knows how it works. Facing holos always look the same, no matter what angle you view them at. It doesn’t matter how many people are watching, or where. From any side, and straight above and below, they always show the same image, to everyone.

We, as people, have built our societies around stories. They are a way to teach each other about what society finds important. Back in… some kind of years ago… they invented a nickelodeon, you looked into it, and cranked a handle and saw a shitty movie, usually about thirty seconds long. Some French guy watched people in America use it, and noticed that the first thing they all did was grab their friend and tell them that they needed to see the shitty movie too. So the French guy went to his sons and said, “If you can find a way to let everyone see a movie at the same time, it’s a license to print money. And the cinema was born.

But there’s a common element among the people of the galaxy, that they started telling their stories around a camp fire. So some Salc inventor put together a perfect solution. A television that you could watch, while looking at the people around you. You can talk to them face to face about what your watching. See their expression, and their body language. Really experience the story together.

They are phenomenally expensive. But the Chokhan have praxite to throw around out here, so this dirt bag hotel has a $40,000 television sitting in the middle of the floor.

Tinoct is watching, while Chinta does something on a tablet. Their genders have switched back in my mind. I’m not sure what feeling I feel about that. It isn’t regret or guilt, so I decide I don’t mind.

Chinta has a shirt on, and is a boxer-briefs kind of girl. The neck of the shirt is all stretched out and falling off her shoulders. If she wasn’t all red, with almost no hair, you’d swear she was just a human girl relaxing in frumpy wear.“I thought women couldn’t wear clothes.”

“Not if she is pregnant. This is sign that if you rape her you answer to owner’s. Otherwise she…”

Ah. “Congratulations?”

“I’m not carrying, 11. It is very useful fiction.”

“Thanks for letting me sleep. How are we arranging this drop?”

“We are waiting for phone call. There is lot of waiting. Life in resistance movement is exciting, when not boring to tears.”

Tinoct switches to the news and Chinta sits forward. My interpreter starts doing it’s job into my ear. The anchors are covering the attack downtown. Exhaustively. There hasn’t been any new information for hours. Things blew up. Number of people died. Police are there.

I just summed up in three sentences what took them five minutes to say. Then they say it again. And again. They bring in guests and make a panel. The panel speculates wildly against the tiny amount of information they have. They’re all wrong about everything, and they’ll be on TV tomorrow to explain how what they said was actually right in some way.

Now there are two pundits on. One makes extremely offensive comments, the other tries to stay calm.

The anchors tell us to keep watching because they might have something new to tell us at any moment. Really. Any moment now.

Turns out the news is the same in every language.

Tinoct switches the channel, and there’s a new pundit interviewing a woman, who was the calm on on the previous show. She’s in high demand. Chinta sits forward to watch.

Her name is Cloah, and she is telling the interviewer that the women need to be peaceful with their protests. That nothing can be solved with violence.

I remember the history of humans, and (against my better judgment) say that she has a point.

“I agree,” Chinta says.

“I seem to remember you being involved in a violent resistance cell. That’s why I’m here.”

“Cloah is part of resistance, 11.”

That doesn’t make any sense. I wait for her to explain.

“In a way,” she explains. “She was one of organizers at beginning. We communicate with her much as possible. Almost not at all.”

My confusion must show on my face, and with the facing TV she can see that. Great technology. She mutes the television, and looks at me. “There are many women who are uncomfortable with violence, but desperate for change. When they can they go out to march, and be peaceful. Our job to show men the alternative to peaceful protest.

“We don’t schedule any…” she trails off and looks to Tinoct.

“Militant,” he supplies for her.

They argue over the translation before Chinta concedes, “‘Militant’ actions around her protests. We keep women from being harmed.” She takes a cigarette from Tinoct, and lights it. “Men can listen to Cloah or they can listen to us. We would rather they listen to Cloah, and we try to make her voice the loudest.”

“This morning’s militancy was pretty loud.”

She doesn’t get my joke. Must not translate right. Tinoct laughs at him, and when Chinta looks at him he gives her a never mind gesture. He takes over, “You see 11, once you ask the question ‘why do the women not protest peacefully?’ You have already conceded that they have cause to protest. What reason do you have then to deny them their rights? Right now we have several pro-suffrage members in the legislature, and a party that is considering making it a part of their platform.”

Right. Chinochkan politics. I skipped over most of it, because civics is boring as hell.

“We are fighting for equal rights under the law. After that will be the right to vote.”

“In my lifetime,” Chinta says, “I may see Cloah run for office.”

Cloah’s interview is over, so Chinta switches to cartoons. She finds Project A-ko on the feed and settles down to watch. What the hell, we’ve got some time.

Project A-ko is about a cute little girl, A-ko, and her friend B-ko. C-ko is there too, and C-ko wants to be friends with A-ko because she’s so cute. B-ko is an obstacle, so she does the only logical thing. She builds a giant mech with laser guided rockets, and tries to blow up B-ko.

Then the aliens show up, it’s a classic story.

But the aliens are a weird mix of male and female, and coupled with the Chokhan ideal of beauty, it’s easy to see why a two movie series from the 19th century is so popular. Maybe it’s the 20th century. Whenever Anime was invented anyway.

Those two movies have been translated into every language on Chinochkan. The merchandise makes billions of dollars a year, and it’s reference everywhere from TV commercials or official government documents. There have been three spin off series based on the movies, a prequel, two sequels and a live-action movie.

In the live-action they all wear human face. I think I’m supposed to find that offensive, but I don’t really care. From what I understand, their impression of human society is weirder than the high standard of weird, set by the Japanese. It doesn’t really translate back into human very well.

Chinta watches enthralled, and occasionally moves her lips to the lines. “We see all this on television,” She says. “All things that human woman have, and our women wonder, ‘why cannot we have this here?’”

I don’t have any real response to that, so I just watch men, in bikinis, fight a war, with their robots, in space.

#

Tinoct makes a couple of phone calls on a burner phone, switching out the drive chip after every call. He puts the chips in the microwave when he’s done with them. They make pretty sparks, and he has to open the window to get rid of the burning plastic smell.

I’m getting hungry. I had a coffee, and a cookie, and that’s been it since I got off the ship. “Can we order a pizza or something?”

As I ask a bell rings from outside, deep and kind of cheerful. It’s loud enough to carry across the whole city.

“It is now time to eat,” Chinta says. She gestures to my clothes. I was looking forward to naked pizza, so I slink back into my underwear with a little disgust.

Wait. I have to take the boots off first. How the hell did I manage to get all this stuff off?

Tinoct is dressed and looking at his phone, “My place is across the street, if you need me.” And he’s out the door.

“Are we going somewhere I need to wear shoes?” Underwear and shorts on, my feet need a break from the leather.

“No, you and I are going down to lobby.”

“Not across the street with Tinoct?”

“The unmarried eat together, by gender.” She stands and I stand, and she grabs a lunch box or something as she heads out the door.

There’s a little hall off the lobby, with a big fancy door. “Why didn’t Tinoct eat here?”

“He has friends in area.”

So you eat with friends. Okay.

“We will be watched. It’s okay for you and I to come and go, but don’t talk to anyone naked unless they talk to you first.”

“Gotcha.”

Chinta nods to the amale on the other side of the door. I decide to think of him as the warden, instead of the maître d’.

There are fire pits inside, with benches, just like the TV in the room. Only with actual fire in them. Gas fire, sure, but fire. There are little hoses suspended from the ceiling, and big read valves on them, and their function is pretty easy to figure out. It seems like a modern approach to a deeply ingrained tradition.

The males sit, sequestered, between the door and the rear of the hall. There are several steps down, and then we can get to the part where the women eat. The other two genders have two pits apiece. The women have one. It’s not cramped, but it seems cramped.

Chinta steps down into the pit, and introduces me in Enoctic. I step down after her and am grateful I’m barefoot, because that’s no a maneuverer I want to make in heels. Notes for next time.

The women smile and nod at me, and Chinta adds that I have an interpreter, < So she can hear everything you say about her. > She says it with a laugh, but there’s a hint of danger in her voice. “Don’t make fun of my human, assholes.”

I go to the fire and find a big cauldron full of… duckweed stew?

“It’s yuca,” Chinta says, as she hands me a trencher. I try not to read into the name too much. Same name, but not the yuca I’m familiar with.

She spoons a big laddleful for me and then hands some kind of eating implement. It’s a spoon, or like a flat shovel, but with a hook like a seam ripper running parallel to the front edge. It looks like I’m going to stab my cheek open with it.

She shows me how to use it. Yuca is brittle, but sticky. You pick up a bunch with the spoon, and then snap it all off with a twist of the seam ripper.

I find out I’m very bad at it.

We go to sit, and some women scoot aside for us. One woman does not scoot at all. We end up with a space to one side of her, and space too the other. The girl gives us a look like she’s going to sit next to me, one way or the other. Chinta looks to me, but I shrug and sit down next to someone who really wants to talk to me.

< I am Sacti, > she tells me. She’s young, and has a lot of hair.

I point to my chest in the universal for “my name is:” “11.”

She nods, < How do you like it here? >

“The sun is giving me a bit of a headache, but the people are nice,” any time you have to talk trash about a culture/city/planet/tradition, always follow up with, “but the people are nice.”

Chinta translates this from her other side, and Sacti seems very pleased. < Are you here on business? >

“No it’s a personal trip. I made some friends here online, and wanted to check it out.”

< Oh! How did you meet them? >

“Guildmates at first. Then we started to cyber a lot.”

At this Chinta leans over to me, “What is ‘cyber?’”

“Cyber sex. Like sexting, but with adapters.”

Chinta gives me a look that says, “One way or another, you’ll pay for this.” Then she starts trying to explain human long-range sex with gizmos.

Sacti looks… I guess I’d go with “enthralled” hearing about human sexual deviancy. I take some time to try to eat with this stupid spoon. I end up with a huge helping, don’t know how to get rid of it, and just jam it in my mouth. It tastes like chicken noodle soup, with peas. That spoonful that has a pea in it, and you bite it and it explodes and you taste it along with the chicken. It’s like that all over.

Sacti notices my faux pas and giggles, < How do you like yuca? >

“It’s pretty good. Tastes like chicken,” I listen to Chinta say ‘chicken’ a couple of times, as she explains what that is.

< It’s made from Haac throats. They have very long necks. >

I smile like this is useful information.

She gabs on, asking questions, and getting polite answers until, < Is it true you eat babies? >

“Very true. I could use some baby right now.”

Chinta edits this down to one word, < No, > while she stares daggers at me.

I stick my tongue out at her, and then give her a wink. I don’t know what winking means here, but she must know what it means to me, because she flips me off.

Sacti continues to gush, the first time she’s ever talked to a real human, and she has to ask me everything she’s always wanted to. Chinta keeps editing me, I think, but there’s probably a lot that doesn’t translate right.

Some people start leaving, and a few more show up, and then Sacti gets kind of personal.

< Do you have two holes? >

Hmmmmmmmmm. Well, why not?

“Yes, but one of them is not really for sex.”

< But you can still… fuck, > here she uses the English word, < into it?. >

“Yes. A few women actually prefer it.”

Sacti leans back, and exaggerates panting. I think if she was human, she’d mime fanning herself. < So you can have sex with two women? >

“Well… not two human women.”

< Oh? Oh! Right! > She’s about 30% to noon from the conversation. < So, both your males have a penis? >

The interpreter in my ear actually has some difficulty with this, and I think it’s because she’s used a pronoun for two other, different, pronouns. I get the point though.

< They only have the one kind of male, > Chinta says to her. The interpreter doesn’t have any problem with Chinta’s words, so I guess it a context thing.

Sacti is a little confused, < Then how do the have sex? >

< Just two people. They way you and an amale do. >

Sacti kind of sorts this out in her head, < Do they ever have sex like normal? With three? >

I interject, “Oh yes. Some of us make a point to.”

< So you can have sex with two amales? In your two holes? >

“Yes.”

Chubby is at 50% now and she’s getting a little blue flush. < Have you? >

“Not personally.”

< Would you want to? >

“I think we should just stay friends.”

This seems to have a Chokhan equivalent, because Chinta translates it very quickly. Sacti laughs, the way you do when you’ve been casually rebuffed. Genuinely, with just a little bit of hurt.

By this time I’ve managed to eat only half my trencher, and I start shoveling food in and giving Sacti one word answers. Then someone calls from outside. She jumps and I see a tinge of fear in her eyes.

She stands, < I must go. >

“Good bye Sacti.” I wait a moment, and lean in to her as I say, < Persevere. > I’m glad I’ve been practicing my throat whistle.

She looks a little shocked, but she nods and turns to go. Then she turns back and gives me a quick, but deep hug. And then she’s gone, and I get to finish my food.

Things are getting weird in my head, and I start to think that my nap wasn’t nearly long enough. I check my phone and find that, minus nap, I’ve been up for around 26 hours. I tell Chinta as much.

“Can you find your way back to the room? I have some things to do here.” She pats the lunch box.

I don’t know what she means, but she seems to think I know what she means. “Yeah, I just don’t remember the number.”

Chinta says, in Enoctic, < 217. >

“Oh. I don’t know how to read your numbers.”

She laughs and takes my phone, and draws the numbers I need with her fingers. As I stand to go she starts talking with the other woman. She opens the lunch box and pulls out a syringe. I’m crashing so hard right now I’m not even sure if I’m dreaming it.

I don’t think I’ll have a memory of the time I spend in a haze trying to find the room, and when I do I pull my bra off under my shirt, and then literally crawl into the bed and pass right out.

#
I sleep for a cool 13 hours. I hear Chinta and Tinoct come and go, and this is a little unprofessional, but I need my sleep right now. It’s not like anything is happening here right now.

I wake at 10:70 PM the next day, can’t figure out the shift from 12 hour to metric in my head, and figure the sun has been up for over half the day so far.

Chinta is working at the desk on a laptop when I wake up, “Dinner rings in thirty minutes,” she tells me.

I still can’t convert it. “Is that a long time, or a short time?”

“It’s just enough time for you to get dressed,” and she points to the new clothes she bought me.

It’s some kind of mixture between a sarong and a loincloth. It ties on one side underneath the ribs. On a Chokan, they have a bone it hangs off of, and I don’t. Chinta laughs as we try and work it out. I dig in my purse and find a clear role of tape. Apparently I’m the kind of girl that keeps duct tape in her purse. I don’t mind that, much.

The top covers both breasts, somewhat, but there’s no bra, and no support underneath. Chinta hangs it off my nipples and adjusts it, and sends me to look in the mirror.

I look like an Indian Princess. Then she has me put on the traditional shoes, and I look like an Indian princess in geta.

Chinta gushes and gives me a kiss, while the bell rings and we go down for… some meal. Let’s call it lunch.

Lunch is some kind of bread, filled with some kind of protean rich vegetable, served with ketchup. The plants here have hemopyll, a cross between blood and sap. I’m going to give up trying to describe it.

The other women are talking about knitting. They have knitting almost everywhere there is fiber. Pull string through loop with stick. Pretty easy to invent.

I resolve that, woman or no, knitting bores me to tears and I will not be doing any of it.

As we leave two women come up to Chinta to ask her something. She shoos me away. Special revolution business, I guess.

Tinoct is already back, and has a map on the table. He looks pleased, “Our people have gotten inside the civilian satellite network.” He shows me the view of what must be the women’s continent. All over the land there is a watermark that says… I don’t know what it says, I don’t have my glasses on.

“It says “Come join us,’” He tells me. “Until the shut us out again.”

“Then what?”

He shrugs, “We hack it again.”

Chinta comes in then and is excited about the map, and they tell me their plans. Obviously we can’t unload 500 crates without cover from the satellites. They want to bring Bertha down in the rain forest that covers the north of the continent. The biggest area they can clear is only 300 feet across. I’d probably crush a couple of trees landing her.

That isn’t the problem. “There isn’t a lot of level ground in a rain forest,” I explain. “Where there is it’s usually loosely packed mud. Big Bertha weighs 200 tons empty. She’ll sink in to the ground like a rock in a pond.”

They look disappointed. Meticulous planners they may be, but they haven’t done much smuggling.

There are no shady space ports in that area, and the jungle is to poorly developed to have a parking lot my ship won’t turn into gravel. I’m relived. I’ve made a drop in the jungle, when I was selling to the Contras on Hyal. It’s was home to 7 gazillion species of biting insects. The couldn’t derive any sustenance from my blood, but that didn’t strop them from trying!

Tinoct picks up a phone and starts arguing into it, as I pull out my laptop, and start running searches. “What is ‘Wikket’?” I ask, as it comes up on the top of every page.

“Festival in southern desert,” Chinta says. “It’s been going on for couple hundred years. People come from all over to hang out, share artwork, and get high in desert.”

“So there will be a lot of ships there?”

“Also lot of people,” She points out. “People who will get curious about what we are doing.”

“But no government? I know how these things work. Festivals don’t get held in a place the police like to show up.”

“No,” She leans back in her chair and stretches a bit.

“Our other option,” Tinoct says, “is to land in the mountains. Some of the shadows are deep enough to interfere with satellite.”

“How long will it take to unload?” Chinta asks me.

“With cranes and heavy equipment? About twelve hours.”

“What about without… one of those… crane.”

“Around two days, as long at there are trucks standing by right there.”

“Not something we could do in one night?”

“No.”

“If we go to the mountains,” Tinoct says. “We’ll have to get the trucks through the passes. That’s not going to be slow.”

“Alright,” Chinta sighs and tugs at her shirt a bit. “We will go to Wikket.”



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