In Which Too Much Is Explained to Bell.
by Electric Keet
As Eekay passed by, zie brushed my face with the tip of zir tail. I swatted it away. “Save the flirting for your next conquest, eh?” Zie responded only with a gesture which I’m sure was rude to some culture I didn’t know personally. Lady got a good chuckle from it.
Yaz leaned against a wall and rubbed the top of his muzzle. “All right, I won’t keep you long, promise. This hotel room’s too small for a team meeting like this, but I wanted to cover it now because our seating’s split on the shuttle to Luna. So, first: let’s talk about Luna.” It’s not like I didn’t know enough about the place, but I listened for the sake of politeness. “What can I say about it? Despite the fact that it’s perfectly terraformable, the Lunarians stick to their domes, stark little things all over the place. They’re geometric and without a lick of embellishment, sort of the opposite of Mercury. The Terraward domes are even stranger looking because a little of the glow of the Wall glints off of them. Combine that with the Lunar surface and you have a fairly surreal place.”
Falda’s tail swept the cushion she sat on. “More surreal than the Accademia Giove?”
“Hard to say, but I think so,” the wolverine continued. “And it doesn’t get any less surreal inside. Everything is white and silver and colour-coded.”
I grinned. “Except for the mooncats. They’re blue….” I motioned outward toward the endless jungle just outside the hotel. “And like the rabbits here, they’re not afraid to show it.”
Eekay started with that impish tone of zirs. “Blue all the way through, too—”
“I appreciate the help from the feline contingent, but this isn’t a biology lecture,” Yaz snapped. “Now, culturally… how to put this… they’re aggressively accommodating. For all their fascination with big guns and Lunar defence, they’re the gentlest people you’ll ever meet.”
“S’truth. One o’ my best mates is a mooncat.” Eekay’s tail curled lasciviously. “She never fusses, she lets me do anythin’. Was this time we decided to give all o’ Tau Dome a show proper, an’ she wore this harness—”
Lady pounded zim repeatedly with a pillow in between shouting. “Do you… know… how… to shut up?”
“Oi!” Eekay blocked ineffectually. “Didn’t know you were into that, luv….”
Yaz pinched the bridge of his muzzle while the reindeer tried to suffocate the snow-leopard. “Please, please, please don’t kill each other yet. And for the love of Clarke, don’t act up on Luna. Save it for Mars. They love it there. Anyhow, let’s talk ribbon.”
To their credit, both of them stopped the horseplay at the mention of their favourite sport.
“Thought so. Now, the Lunar ribbon is basically a pure technical run. There’s not a single straightaway to be had, and precision and control are the focus. Tight curves, subtle curves, banked curves, and switchbacks. Goof around and Theta Silver will eat you for lunch – and no snide remarks from you, Eekay.” The wolverine pressed a finger beneath his left ear for a moment, then shook his head. “Sorry, just got a message. Something I’ve got to go do after this. Where was I?”
“Mooncat lunch,” Falda offered.
“Um… right. The ones I’m worried about are the Evmri twins. They’ve been screened for psi ability several times with negative results, but they act like they’re linked, way more than the Avawax twins ever did. Bell, Falda, I’ll want one of you to harry them if you can, keep them apart just like we did with Zeitmaschine. I have some recordings you can review to get an idea for what to expect from them.” Yaz held up a hand. “Wait a sec, revise. Ira, I want you on that.”
Zie nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
Falda quirked an ear. “Why Ira in particular?”
“Because they’re not expecting it from zim.”
As we sat outside the Venusian bistro and waited for our meals, Ira’s enthusiasm bubbled. “I was here two days ago. The food is authentic, and very flavourful. I know that you normally aren’t inclined toward vegetarian cuisine….”
I chuckled. “I’ve seen the local flora. Everything has razor-sharp spines or neurotoxins or other weirdness. The vegetables here are meaner than any meat I’ve ever had.” My eyes followed a pair of native rabbits as they walked by. “Ah, now, look at them,” I semi-whispered to my teammate. “Huzzah for worlds with no nudity taboo, eh?”
They caught my appreciative stare and seemed friendly enough, but once they got a look at Ira, their eyes widened. They didn’t bolt, though it looked for a moment like they would. Instead, they simply stepped up their pace somewhat and veered away. I shook my head and glared at Ira. “What the snot is it with you? It’s like you bring out the weird in everyone.”
All the raccoon did was shrug.
“No, I mean it,” I insisted. “That was just plain bizarre, right there, and I’ve seen it happen more than once on Io and way more than once here on Venus. Is there something maybe the rest of us should know, myself especially?”
Zir brow furrowed to create a dip in the white bars painted on zir forehead. “I simply assume that my appearance is… unusually noticeable.”
“That’s bug-bab and you know it. We roll with a former porn star, a crossdressing wolverine and a two-metre-tall cat-shaped ego with fur. You’re not the only noticeable one, and they don’t scare anyone off.”
Ira’s expression was even as a gambler’s.
“Look, do you know why I’m on this team?” Zir gaze remained steady. I kept going. “It’s not because I’m some psycho bodyracing savant. Its not because I’m the prettiest cat. It’s not because I have connections in the biz. It’s because I cannot be screwed with on the ribbon. I am unscrewwithable. I can tell when a manouevre is a feint, and I can spot the tells when people lie. Yaz lied about why he changed his mind. Why?”
Ira grimaced. “Those are two different questions.”
“Biological sentients avoid me because I naturally exude a chemical similar to certain pheromones. Most people don’t react to it, but in a few, it generates a sense of tension and worry. You know my background; you know that I am part plant as a result of my encounter here. Venusians are particularly susceptible precisely because their senses are specialised to pick up on such plant-related chemicals. Does that answer your first question?”
Natural curiosity begged me to ask more about the science of that, but I had zim on a truth streak I was loath to break just yet. “For now. And Yaz?”
Ira’s expression hardened. “I do not know.”
“The twitch in your tail says otherwise, eh?”
Our eyes remained locked while zie spoke. “I’ll explain, but afterwards, this discussion did not happen.”
“Very good.” Zie stared into zir drink. “Yaz fears that my talent and winning record are raising suspicions among the governing officials of the Thirteen Ribbons. Even though I don’t violate a single established rule, they may decide to enact a new one based on any number of factors if they think I’m causing a problem. We have theories about why that might be, but—”
I growled, “You’re telling me that we could lose big because you’re too good, and so Yaz is trying to keep you from getting too far ahead so we’ll only lose a little.”
Zie nodded. “Now you know why I hesitated to explain. I feared that there may be an issue of ego.”
“Ego? Pfft. That’s the other cat you’re thinking of. I knew you were better than the rest of us when Basil brought you in, and I got no problem with you. You know that. I’m only miffed because nobody would just tell me what was going on!”