FHD Remix Chapter 36
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 35: Recon Zulu
Chapter 36: The Airlift
Jack, the nimble little raven, grips his foot on the trackball of his little computer in the Beaver Butch. "New Font" the screen displays at the top. Jack struggles to draw the hand-like glyphs of the Toganese language.
Another raven taps on a PDA it has managed to get working, a virtual keyboard on its touchscreen. Although it is hard for even raven eyes to make the distinction, this is Julie. At her prompting, he looks at what she's typed:
"Jack, what you are asking is very hard. We don't even know if the Toga have the seeds. What if they betray the secret of our sentience? We won't be able to spy on the enemy."
Jack jumps to the PDA and expertly pecks his reply: "Remember Lilith's maps?"
Julie shrugs, then types "I'll monitor Vcc."
Jack knows she's referring to the computer's power system. The rust-laden plasma transformer is unstable, and if it isn't well looked after, it has a tendency to sag off and cause the computer to crash.
Jack continues to work on his message for the Toga, now hiding in the hills to the north, unable to reach Glie because of the siege. He busily taps his message. < I can type faster now than when I was human,> he sighs inside himself as he continues to work his sore beak against the keys.
Finally finished, he reaches for the printer power switch.
Julie jumps up and starts squawking and flapping, hurriedly tapping on the PDA, "Icc can't take it. We need to shut it down so I can fix the cell."
She seems to use the terms, Vcc and Icc interchangeably to refer to the power circuit. Jack doesn't get it, but it would be too hard to get her to explain or use terms he can understand, so he simply trusts her. "I'm thirsty," he types, then flies out of the old battle tank for a break.
Jack refreshes himself at a water flower, then comes to a string. He lifts it to tug on a rag keeping the dust away from his stock of little containers. They once served their purpose as the casings for rifle ammunition, but now Jack presses them into service as containers for sentient ravens to carry things into Glie.
He remembers as he left Devon in the city last, unwilling to answer the question about her precursor's name. He's insecure about what she might think if she remembers their marriage. Helen called after him, "Find me something on farming, please!" Stealing thread from the hem of her coat is something he'd never do with Devon as a raven. There's a part of him that just can't quite seem to get over how close they were as featherwings, and how distant they are now.
A raven emerges from the tank and lands next to him. Jack is busy punching holes in the casings so that he can thread them. He's doing this by forcing the primer out of the bottom with a length of stiff wire, then biting a hole in the side near the head. Several of them have had the head come off when he's done this, rendering them useless. The new raven gets his attention by preening his tail.
Jack turns about. The new raven nods and beckons him to the tank.
"I'm Nancy Vaughan," she types into the PDA, "probably the oldest raven. I want to help with your seed lift. I did one a few years ago, sharing with Gibson."
"Short season," Jack types. "They need enough to winter. I can't see how. Helen in charge of that."
Nancy curls her head. It is ravenese for "404" or, "I don't get it, explain it to me."
Jack closes his eyes for a moment, then types, "Hb Shimoni," Hb shorthand for Haibane. "I should remember more easily. She died in a shaft on Mars." Shimoni is Japanese for downwards, they both know.
"Hb Menmo?" she types.
He shrugs, or whatever the ravenese equivalent is.
Nancy shudders for a moment an fluffs out her feathers as though uncomfortably cold, then types slowly, "Hb Kurai is Patricia of Bob and Vic. Patricia died three years ago from touch wall. Went cinder. I watched through window."
"The Saviour is funny, no?" Jack types.
Julie taps Jack on the wing. He turns to see his message for the Toga, written in their language, printing from the computer.
Nancy looks at it and blinks. She types, "Jack, was that you?"
Jack bows humbly.
Nancy types into the PDA, "Your Toga sucks."
Please help us. No Toga trade, Glie will starve. We need short season seed for Glie food this winter. Ravens will lift over walls in Butcher bullet case. Feather Downward will water them. Please seal the bullet case with wax. Include thread hole.
Jack can't see the Toga smile, but he tosses him a small piece of jerky before signing, "Your Toganese needs improvement. Still, I'm surprised you were able to produce this at all. Your method's a secret?" he asks.
Jack is puzzled at the question.
"Secret? Can't tell us how?" the Toga signs.
Jack nods, learning the Toganese word for secret.
A whole bunch of ravens, lead there by Nancy, gather around Jack, all of them carry empty Enforcer casings, Jack having not used the right Toganese word, and who's still rusty on the phonetic parts of the language.
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 37: Let Me Not Forget