Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Part 19, Chapter 7 - Ker's Belated Backstory

So "Jonnie logged in as Stormalong," Angus and Ker load up in a flying car and drive to Denver, Ker behind the wheel "with the effortless skill of one with years and tens of thousands of hours on a console behind him." There's something wrong and not quite right about that sentence, but I can't put my finger on it...

Jonnie revels in being back in "his country," where it's not rainy or hot and the plains are open and free. Just ignore the fact that his village is up in the mountains. But they eventually reach the reclaimed city, and the humans further disguise themselves with gas masks to slip past Terl, who is anxious to move out of his cage and back indoors.

Ker wants to get to work in Terl's office, but Jonnie orders a detour to pick up a mineral-analysis device. When they have a moment of privacy they use the scanner on the Psychlo for over half an hour, but can find no foreign objects in Ker's skull. Jonnie asks about Ker's childhood.

Our favorite Psychlo was the sixth "pup" born to his mother's "litter," and since it's unusual for Psychlos to have more than four or five critter-kids at a time he turned out to be a runt. As such, he was literally thrown away, but rescued by a slave who took him underground in every sense. Some blue aliens called Balfans taught young Ker the basics of thievery, but secret agent Jayed of the Imperial Bureau of Investigations infiltrated and destroyed the resistance movement. Ker went to the streets, went to jail for theft, and used the fact that he was too small for the shackles to fit...

Really? A malevolent, enslaving culture like the Psychlos only makes manacles sized to fit their own people?  No adjustable cuffs to restraining the lesser races?

Anyway, Ker ferried messages for other criminals and was able to escape when a plague killed the prison guards (?!). He came up with false papers to join the mining company, and the same small size that let him sneak into places he shouldn't be in served him well in the tunnels. And that's his life story.

Jonnie asks if Ker enjoys cruelty, and the alien admits that he has to fake it in order to fit in. When he asks what the point of the questioning is, Jonnie just tells him that he has a different skull structure from other Psychlos, which he takes as a compliment.

And then, (dramatic music), the "telltale" scanner they placed on the door lights up, indicating that someone's outside!

Random fact for this chapter: Ker is forty-one, and Psychlos can live to be up to one hundred and ninety. Don't ask if those are Psychlo years or Earth years or what the conversion ratio between the two is.

Back to Chapter Six

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