Everyone picked up on the Captain’s lead and played dumb, even though all of them were quite familiar with Fergie meat and how it looked – not to mention tasted. To be honest, Barducci quite liked it. As far as shark meat went, it was heavier and fattier and usually tastier than most. You just had to chew with caution. The flesh was rubbery, and you never knew when your teeth were going to encounter metal. Fergunak were riddled with nodes, diodes, optic enhancements and other devilry.
It wasn’t such a big deal once you’d taken that first bite. Eating any animal required you to first get past the idea that it had some sort of mind, and after that it was only a matter of degree. The Fergunak themselves had no social or cultural taboos with eating their own kind, and famously didn’t care if anyone else ate them either. They, after all, had absolutely no compunctions about doing it to other sentient species when the opportunity arose, even when they were repeatedly asked not to.
It was, at least the first time he’d done it, something of a restoration of balance for Barducci. Revenge eating, old Feathers called it.
Skelliglyph had been sitting across the table from him that time, too. It occurred to Drago that a great many of the worst things he’d done, at least gastronomically speaking, he’d done with Çrom Skelliglyph sitting nearby, grinning around a mouthful of the same shit. Come to think of it, most of the worst things he’d done in general had been done with this scruffy-haired son of a whore somewhere in the background.
He wondered if this was maybe something he should be more concerned about.
“Mmm,” Skell exclaimed, chewing slowly with his eyes closed. “That is delicious. Is it Marganite greatfish? And what’s that seasoning? Don’t tell me, it’s some sort of lemon-pepper. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such a perfect combination. Delicate, yet piquant.”
“I prefer it with ham, myself,” Drago muttered, giving Skell a meaningful look.
“Everyone’s a critic. Please excuse my Chief Tactical Officer, Captain Dool,” Çrom went on. “He probably ate a skuntrigold before starting his shift. He has no appreciation for the finer things in life.”
“Flying with you, it’s probably just a matter of the finer things in life being unfamiliar and scary to me,” Barducci grunted, and gave the grinning Dool a nod. “This is good. It’s not greatfish though – some sort of gator, isn’t it?”
“I don’t bother my quartermaster and he doesn’t bother me,” Dool said expansively, seeming to be entirely at ease and smirking at their apparent ignorance as they enjoyed their meal. He even let Barducci rummage in his pockets and belt, murmuring about needing a little spice, without tensing up at all. Unforgivable laxness. Drago hit his person-to-person whisper beacon en route, and pressed the firing stud on the thresh-blaster in his belt for good measure. It would have scored a nasty little gash in the floor, but as he had suspected their weapons were dead. Presumably some sort of localised security field shutting off their command protocols, or else a kill-panel at the dock had fried the firing pads. Those were a damn pain to fix, so he hoped it was the former. Of course, that would leave Dool’s crew essentially disarmed as well.
So, probably the kill-panel.
Should’ve brought some chemical shooters, he grumbled to himself.
“What did I tell you?” Skell said as Barducci finally produced the little metal canister and gave it a shake. “He’s always got hoco-nut with him. Never a meal so bad he can’t ruin with that taste-bud-melting crap.”
“What is skuntrigold?” Dool wanted to know.
“Oh,” Skell said around another mouthful of Fergunakil, “your skuntrigold is like a horse – you know horse? Uh, claddatak? Claddadatak?”
“Ah,” the Noro grinned, and gave a passable impression of a horse’s whinny. “Chaddachak.”
“Exactly. Well, your skuntrigold is like a long horse with six legs instead of four, and a head like a block of concrete with two eyes on each side,” he poked forked fingers at one side of his head, then the other, to illustrate. “They export them from Radagast, all throughout the Hubris systems. They taste like boiled arse.”
“Put enough hoco on them,” Drago said mildly, unscrewing the canister and sprinkling a little of the mustard-coloured powder on the side of his plate.
“Oh yeah,” Skell blathered. “Put enough hoco-nut on it and anything becomes edible,” he leaned over and nudged the Bonshoon sitting too-nonchalantly beside him. “You know,” he said, “I reckon he could eat a-”
Skelliglyph stabbed the Bonshoon in the eye with his fork.