Bloomsday, 08 Torp

Earned 26 / Spent 13

Savings 17,310

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It’s not good business to argue with a customer, but sometimes they’re asking for it.

Today I took the jungle route to Beckon with the PMU’s negotiation package.  The path had been worn by the constant rain to a slimy brown trail between the stumps of trees.  I passed Kernel’s two rotormen, who were busy keeping the rainforest at bay: mechanised exoskeletons buzzed and licked at the thick branches.  Metal teeth burred through wood, sending showers of green leaves and droplets of sap over me as I ran beneath.

Every day we attack the edges of the unrelenting jungle; every night it regrows, pressing in on Kernel and the surrounding districts that grow beside us like secondary infections.  If those rotormen bought it I don’t know what we’d do.

Deeper into the root of the verdent archipelago I went, trying not to smell like vegesaur food.  Once or twice I thought I heard the bass clucking of cauliraptor chit-chat, and pumped my muscles all the harder to break out the other side and back to civilization.

Beckon is a wide expanse of low valley-and-hill, where rainwater from the jungle trickles into great lakes that have collected in the bowls of these rambling dales.  Where three lakes point towards the north-east, there is a country home built by pre-Displacement natives – a house, a small kirk, some stables. 

They were peculiar people, the natives: intelligent and at home in the wilds of Terrene, they evolved to Victorian-era tech long before Kernel was conceived of.  Much of the estate is steam-powered, and I heard it before I found my way out from the trees – belching steam and the clunk of turbines and wood-powered motors.

The natives were also deeply suspicious, and protective of what they had.  Escape tunnels run beneath the hills, wide enough for horse and carriage; a zepellin pad is hidden in plain sight, painted (I’m told) to look exactly like another pond.  One of the lakes is now a reservoir for Beckon and Kernel, and rumour has it that a brass microchosm sits on its bottom, complete with lounge and kitchen and bedrooms, and coral gardens on three sides.  They fear thieves and they fear invadors, though no-one from Kernal has ever shown them the slightest discourtesy.

The estate owners have been good clients of the PMU for years, but now they want another courier service.  ‘Haven’t we done our best?’ we ask, but those people at Beckon who know the answer are stricken with the moss, and are no longer involved in the running of the country house and its grounds.  They may not be long for this world.  Their replacements are harder, more akin to the ancient natives, disguised by their huge mustaches and coats of coarse gitten hair.

They speak better Context than I do native, but I had to strain my ear to understand them.  Still tired from the run from Kernel, I had to hide my panting as I offered them our negotiation package.

‘You cost too many seeds,’ said one. ‘Last year we gave you oyster pearl.’

A pearl to these people is worth a lot, equivalent to a handful of walnuts in Kernel.  They have more in common with the weird crab people of the Jade Reefs that the Kernelites, with their water-based interests and seal-skin shoes.   

Another said, from behind his walrus ‘tache, ‘We have other courier units at us.  They talk about…’

Some whispering between them as they searched for the right word in Context.

‘…Transparency.’

‘Transparency?’ I said.

‘Want to know what the fee is for.  How it … breaks down.’

The first of many little issues, niggling matters introduced by the sneaky salespeople of the other couriers.  It’s hard to look like you’re considering a matter seriously whilst running on the spot, but they’re used to couriers being like this.  And the moist air helped my root infestation, calming down the thrashing tendrils.  The greeting room was filled with steam; the brass panelling and windows dripped with condensed vapour.

After three hours I was glad to leave.  They have the package from the PMU, they have our arguments.  If they’re going to move units then we can’t stop them, only cross our fingers.

On the busy days, I forget about the Disc.  But when the sun sets and I catch a breath, I find the air heavy and warm, and I am stifled.

 

— RSR

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