Chipping away at this, I think (as I mentioned on Friday) I’m finally getting an idea of where it’s heading. Here, for those of you keeping track, is a little bit of story featuring “Circa and Babs”.
Babellum was sitting back in a deep, comfortable armchair, enjoying a glass of fruit wine and working on her latest sartorial creation when her sister swept into the chamber.
Circa frequently swept into places. She could go from a standstill to sweeping in less than two seconds, without even seeming to gather a head of indignant steam. Places that really didn’t warrant it, places one could simply walk into, she would sweep into them regardless. Still, it did a place good to get swept into occasionally. And their accommodations on the Omnirex were just grand and fancy enough to make sweeping an appropriate mode of entry.
And after all, wasn’t that what they were doing in this silly system anyway? Sweeping?
“There you are,” Babellum said without looking up. “Did you get lost again?”
“I didn’t get lost the first time,” Circa declared. “The corridor went to the wrong place.”
“Did you meet with your people?”
“Oh, I sat in the background while they talked and talked,” Circa said with a little sigh. “Young people do like talking. And every second word out of their mouths is some kind of slang, it makes them sound so silly,” she swept across to the little table between Babellum’s armchair and her own, and poured herself a glass of wine before looking at the bottle. “The Captain’s been very generous,” she grudgingly admitted.
“You’re very well regarded,” Babellum pointed out. “I’m just happy to be riding on your goodwill.”
“Such nonsense it all is,” Circa commiserated, and sat down with a sigh of relief. “What is that?” she looked for the first time at the garment taking shape under Babellum’s hands.
“It’s Pan-Stygian threehand counterstitch,” she replied placidly. “You can only successfully do it with three hands, you know. I saw a human doing it once, but he used a mechanical arm. Still, I have to applaud the lateral thinking. I don’t know how the funny little things get anything done at all with just two hands. That’s probably why they’re so angry all the time.”
“That’s not what I – anyway, you’re using all four hands,” Circa accused.
“Well pardon me if I’m just not very good at it, Circa,” Babellum said patiently. “I can still manage some passes with three,” she demonstrated by picking up her own glass and taking a sip. “You see?”
“What I was actually asking was what’s that?” Circa pointed at the assemblage of materials in Babellum’s lap.
“Microtanned skuntrigold hide, mostly,” Babellum held up the work in progress. “Some carbodyne silk and these edges are going to have a razor lace trim, but I’m certainly not going to attempt threehand with razor lace cutting me to ribbons at every turn. It’s going to be a coat.”
“It’s nice,” Circa said admiringly.
“It’s tough,” Babellum replied. “Pushing the shuttles through the leather is hard work, even if you get it at just the right angle.”
For a time the sisters sat in companionable silence, working and taking in the view through the towering arched window-screen respectively. Both sipped reflectively at their drinks and murmured in satisfaction. The planet, and the layers of low-orbit traffic and habitats between planet and Omnirex, rolled by in majestic silence.
“I really don’t understand why they call all of these ships flagships,” Circa said eventually. “Shouldn’t there only be one flagship, or at most one flagship for each unit? Isn’t that sort of what it means?”
“That’s Imperial psychology in a nutshell, dear,” Babellum replied. “If they’re all flagships, they’re all special, don’t you see? Poor things, they do so like to be special.”
“If they’re all special, it means none of them are.”
“Oh, let them have their moment of happiness,” Babellum chided. “They live such a short time.”
“What about your people?” Circa asked. “Did you contact them?”
“Contact them? Oh dear me no, we don’t operate that way,” Babellum said. “You know us skulduggerous criminal underworld types. I sent a message to someone, who got in touch with someone else, who set up a meeting between two other people, who exchanged matching briefcases while stopping together at a restaurant but made it look like an accident, and then one of the briefcases had instructions for another person who dropped a coloured token into another person’s drink … it’s all frightfully exciting and at the end of it nobody’s quite sure if any information has changed hands whatsoever,” she smiled. “Contact them, indeed.”
“Enormously. But we did get our part of it underway,” Babellum said. “From what I gather, we will be ready to overthrow the Halfmoon throne in a few short weeks. From there … well, that’s where your side rather takes over, Circa. It could get messy.”
“Well the crazies do keep saying the world is going to end on the Feast of Galamaine but it keeps not happening,” Circa remarked. “Perhaps next year.”
“The Feast of Galamaine? Is that what they say?”
“I think it was the Feast of Galamaine, yes. A month after year’s turn.”
Babellum looked up and gave a flick of her ears. “That is a very arbitrary date to pick.”
“Well, they are crazies, Babs. It seems unfair to expect too much of them.”
“Yes,” Babellum turned her attention back to her shuttlework. “I suppose you’re right.”
I’m trying to capture a few things here. One, of course, is the powerful essence of my sister-in-law and my friend Mrs. BRKN when they are up to no good together. I want to show a heightened version of that, while simultaneously presenting the characters as sufficiently character-y that I won’t get in trouble for suggesting that they’re too direct a copy. Any resemblance to real people living or dead, et cetera.
The second thing is the dear nice old muderous ladies from Arsenic and Old Lace. Circa and Babs are ancient, and deadly, and loveable.
The third, closely linked to the second and rather crucial to the plot, is the characters of Orwen, Orddu and Orgoch from the Chronicles of Prydain. These ancient (but sometimes young) enchantresses were more powerful and dangerous than any of the other protagonists or antagonists, all of whom they viewed as dear little children.
Anyway, there it is. Comments, questions, speculation and style notes welcome.