Thursday, July 14, 2016
September 22, early (Part 2)
We arrived in a square. Its central feature appeared to be a miniature mountain, the peak of which reached for the ‘sky’ hanging over our heads. A couple of Kalquorian men were climbing the thing. It kind of looked like fun.
Candy and I walked around it, impressed by the idea that one could climb a mountain under the ground. We were delighted to see the waterfall on the side opposite where the climbers scaled. It splashed into a basin that proved to be the home of small swimming animals with pelts of colorful fur. I thought they must be someone’s pets having a lark, but Candy pointed out their webbed feet and gills. Cool.
We noted that there were men doing various things around the mountain/waterfall. One played a haunting tune on the spookiest sounding instrument I’d ever heard. Candy said the wavering high-pitched sound reminded her of something called a theremin. It put goosebumps on my skin, and Anrel made a face that expressed her uncertainty about the strange noise. We moved away from it before she could get upset.
Another man was fashioning furniture out of branches of trees. He amazed us with his carving skills. He’d cut the lengths of wood to make legs for tables, but he hadn’t stopped there. While we watched, he etched figures and scenes into the gleaming wood that naturally shined as if lacquered. The carvings were as stunning as any sculpture I’d ever seen. It made me wish I had a home to furnish with his work.
Another man was reciting a story. My Kalquorian had improved to the point where I could pick up that it was either some legend or a tale from the old Nobek’s personal past. His face was scarred enough to make me believe he had been in the war party that was the feature of his story, a group of Nobeks facing impossible odds during a fight against the Bi’isils and their enslaved Tragooms. His deep voice rang with passion, making me wish I could understand better. Other younger Nobeks, some in military garb, sat at his feet, their gazes intent on the battered gray-haired warrior, their expressions admiring despite his old, bent frame.
The smell of food cooking was thick in the air, making me wish I hadn’t already eaten breakfast. Once we tore ourselves away from the sights around the mountain feature, we realized the buildings surrounding us were mostly restaurants.
“Looks like we’re set for lunch,” Candy said happily. “Let’s see what’s next.”
The orientation video I’d watched had given me some idea of what to expect. In the former mine, the market squares lay one after another, like a string of pearls. They all had performers who promoted their crafts and performing abilities for the entertainment of shoppers. Each square featured a particular type of shopping. The first had been restaurants. The second was clothing and gifts and personal services, the third grocery items, and the fourth offered home furnishings.
I told Candy all this as we walked on to the second square. “Well, we don’t need groceries and furniture is definitely not on the list,” she said. “So I guess this is the place we want to be.”
It certainly was. I saw holographic displays before the shops, showing passersby what each place featured. “Let’s do a loop around and then figure out where we want to go first,” Candy suggested as she peered at her handheld. She’d brought up her account information and frowned over the amount. “I want to get an idea of prices and what I want most before I start throwing my money around.”
“Smart,” I agreed as I dug my handheld out of Anrel’s diaper bag. “Let me see what I’ve got to work with.”
My eyes went wide to see the number my account claimed I had. “What in the world?” I said out loud. “There shouldn’t be this much money. Someone at the bank, or whatever Kalquorians use, made a mistake.”
“Doesn’t Anrel get an allowance too as a Kalquorian citizen?” Candy asked.
“Yes, but at four months old, this is still too much. Show me transactions,” I ordered the handheld.
The display had me groaning. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Those generous fools.”
“My dads. Clan Bitev.” I gave Anrel a rueful smile. “They said they were going to contribute to our welfare, but I didn’t expect this. It’s too much.”
“I bet they wish they were doing more,” Candy grinned. “They’re such sweethearts.”
“Too sweet,” I sighed. “Well, Anrel is growing like crazy. I have clothes she’s just now starting to fit, but she’ll be out of them in an instant. The extra money will be nice.”
Candy rolled her eyes. “I was betting you’d spend all your money on her. Now that you have a little more, you should get yourself something nice too.”
I shrugged. “I could use new weight-training gloves. I tore up my old ones during the Tragoom attack.”
She shook her head at me. “Wow, what a splurge.”
We set off on our spree. We soon found that Earther women were still new enough that there wasn’t a ton of options to choose from as far as clothing was concerned. There was even less for babies. Only three shops had ready-made clothes for Candy and me, and one for Anrel. The items were nice however, and the proprietors – one of whom was Earther herself, about the age of Katrina – promised us they got shipments of new items in once a month. I picked out a few items for Anrel and after Candy kept bugging me, I bought myself a new blouse.
There was a custom shop too that would fit us with any of its thousands of designs, all guaranteed to be delivered within an hour. It was a bit pricey, which led Candy and I to decide we’d come there for special occasion wear only.
I spent a decent amount on little specialty snack items, especially chocolate. That was pricey as could be since cocoa is getting hard to come by. The owner of the gourmet foods store said there were plans for a cocoa bean farm on one of the Kalquorian colonies soon. I was glad to hear that, along with the news of plans to cultivate coffee beans as well.
I really didn’t spend much, certainly not all of my personal allowance. I didn’t touch any of what I thought of as Anrel’s money or what my fathers had contributed. Still, I’m ashamed to admit the greater part of what I did spend was on alcoholic beverages. Not that I planned to become a big drunk or anything. I just wanted to have refreshments on hand when Oses and Betra came over. I also thought I shouldn’t depend on Clan Seot or any other dates to supply all my party booze. When I invited someone over, I wanted to be a halfway decent hostess.
The fees for having the shops deliver our goodies were reasonable, and we gladly paid rather than having to lug everything back to the complex. I was particularly delighted since I carried Anrel. Even with her in the carrier pouch that kept her close to my chest, it would have been awkward work to deal with all that.
It was no surprise that we and the other Earther women roaming the marketplace received a ton of attention from the men. Bows, smiles, and compliments were the order of the day as we were flirted with. I had to stop often so people could exclaim over Anrel and tell her what a lovely mother she had. Candy, looking like a ray of sunshine with her gold curls, got her fair share of attention too. I was amused at the diffident attitude she adopted, as if the compliments were only a vaguely polite exchange of pleasantries. Ms. Bubbly was playing hard-to-get today.
We were left the liquor store and readied to return to the first square to decide on our lunch choice. “Let’s make it cheap,” Candy sighed. “I went through most of what I had.”
“I can cover your lunch,” I said. My stomach was talking and I wanted something good.
Before she could respond, my name rang out from two different directions.
I turned first to the more familiar voice and saw Betra and Oses coming from the direction Candy and I were planning to head towards. Yay! The guys were here!
Then I looked in the other direction to see who else wanted my attention. The beaming trio of Seot, Cifa, and Larten were heading my way.
Well. This was looking awkward.