THE BAREST HINT OF TRUTH:
In Which Three Racers Muse on Events Current and Long Past.
by Electric Keet
The shuttle felt full, even on the level we’d been seated. That’s why, when I finally got the urge to wander and dragged Eekay to the observation deck, it surprised me that it was practically empty. The only other person there was one young arctic fox who was rather sharply dressed. He’d practically draped himself on the rail and was staring out into space. It was only when Eekay and I shuffled in next to him that I finally recognised him as one of the racers in Zeno’s End. “Hey,” I said. “Diamond Tea, innit?”
He turned and grinned. “That’s me. Lady Aesc, right? And Eekay, I’ve already met.” He glanced back and forth to each of us. “I didn’t know you were on this flight.”
The cat chuckled a bit. “Haven’t made ourselves known. Too busy sleepin’ off our days o’ deplorable excess on Venus.”
“And licking our wounds,” I added, which elicited a frown from Eekay. “That was a rough race back there. You did pretty good on the ribbon, though, kid.”
“Thanks! That means a lot coming from you.” Same as I’d seen countless times with Falda, his tail swung widely to broadcast genuine happiness. “You guys – Six Below, I mean – you’re great. Half of what I know, I learned from watching your races.” He looked around as though to make sure nobody could overhear. “I’ve wanted to say that for a while, but it would drive Ms. Mahatapa crazy if she heard me.”
I sniffed at his use of honorifics. “Bit controlling, is she? That’s the impression I got from her.” Half of that impression was just from watching her walk, and the other half was from what Yaz said about his first interaction with her as a fellow team manager.
Diamond shrugged a little. “Well, I don’t know about controlling, but she’s got a pretty fierce head of mean about you all. Sort of the classic Khamisi Mosi routine, all about how we must crush our opponents and such. Figuratively. I think she’s a little crazy, but you know, whatever. I’m just in it for the race, right?”
“Prolly a manager thing,” Eekay grumbled. “I mean, Yaz was peak ’til he got to be in charge.”
I shook my head. “Give me a break, cat. You’ll have to forgive zim, kid. Poor ol’ Eekay’s gone a little weedy in the penser, spot?”
“Right, right, it’s all in the cat’s head.” Zie leaned on the rail and looked out into the dark. “So, Diamond, what had yer eyes out here?”
The fox-boy pointed. “Over there. Terra’s coming up fast. You can actually just see the outline of the planet through the Wall.”
I focused on the cyan ball of energy in the distance. Maybe he could see something inside it, but all I saw was a solid glow with a silvery dot to one side. “An’ there’s Luna creeping out from behind it,” I noted.
His tail started going again. “Some people think the Wall’s kind of creepy, but I think it’s actually pretty neat when you see it in person. I read that Terra itself used to look a lot like Callisto does now.”
I shrugged. “Maybe some of it, a long time ago, but… not a chance, not nowadays. My guess is that it looks like Io given a while to fall apart. Nothing but gaudy lights and rusting architecture.” I sighed heavily. “Bell says it’s probably a dead planet by now… but he also says that the Wall was some sort of Lunar conspiracy. Seriously, who needs a plot when you’ve got the spiders and squid? I’d be tempted to seal myself in a bubble too.”
“The official story is that they were threatened with a takeover from Mars,” Diamond said. “My patrons back home say that’s all a bunch of noise and that Terrans just didn’t want anyone from outside telling them what to do, especially the mooncats. I guess it makes sense that humans would be a little sensitive about it. Still, whatever happened, I kind of wish I could see Terra for real, not just pictures….” He motioned toward the blue-green sphere. “And not just a big energy shield. Technically, it’s where we’re all from, after all.”
I snorted. “That’s like saying we’re all related to amoebas. Distantly, but it’s meaningless to look that far back.” I relaxed to gaze at the planet and moon… and that was when I realised that Eekay had been uncharacteristically quiet. Zie was still leaning against the rail and staring out toward Terra, but zir tail was quivering slightly. “Ah… cat, you solid?”
“Hunh?” Zie turned, and I thought for a moment zir eyes looked wet, but zie immediately looked back out toward Terra and spoke softly. “Yeah, top solid. Just lettin’ m’ mind wander. I sorta wonder m’self how it looks nowadays.” Zie sighed heavily. “O, goblet full to brim with bloom and faun, what grants her holder never more a sip.”
Diamond’s eyes went wide. “You’re a poet?”
The snow-leopard squinted zir eyes shut. “Joaquin Faldo de Padilla, Shattered Albedo. Never read it in school?”
Not everyone’s as worldly or cultured as you, I wanted to tease, but something more important occurred to me right then. “Eekay, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you sentimental like this. Quoting poetry, all misty-eyed…. What’s the deal?”
Zie didn’t respond, however. In fact, zie said practically nothing for the rest of the flight to Luna, which left Diamond and I to admire the view as we swung past the mystery that was Terra.