Friday 29 September 2006

The Reaper's Coleslaw, Part Two

The Reaper's Coleslaw is a short story of three chapters, posted over three week days -- by me, your allied host, Cheeseburger Brown.

Portions of this text have been edited in the interests of national security.

And now, today's chapter:


A whole crowd was waiting for Sarah at home: not just Dad and Hunter, but Jordon and Tabby and Paramjit, too. "Hark! T'is a bachelor of science!" crooned Jordan, pointing dramatically.

Sarah bowed. They laughed. Dad buried her in a swinging hug, Hunter jabbed her in the ribs playfully and then touched her shoulder with a fleeting pat of tenderness. "Good to see ya, sis," he said.

"Guess what?" grinned Dad. "As soon as your mother gets home we're going for a picnic. Gran and Andy are meeting us at the park."

"Everybody?" asked Sarah.

"Damn right," said Tabby, her round face beaming. "We pooled our vouchers. It's going to be a pah-tay."

"Where's Mom?"

"At the post office," explained Dad. "The net's down again."

They wandered out to the end of the driveway to wait for her. Across the road the Sashar family appeared to be packing up for a trip, so Dad sauntered over to shoot the breeze with Mr. Sashar.

He returned looking a little glum. "Sashars' are off to a controlled zone, eh?"

Sarah was shocked. "What for?"

Dad shrugged, rubbed his neck absently and looked around. "Rashid says it's voluntary. He gets a big tax break. It's supposed to be just a few months, until they relax the threat level or whatnot."

"Jeez," said Jordan.

"Sucks to be brown," said Paramjit with an uneasy chuckle.

Everybody waved as the Sashars drove away.

When Mom pulled up in the two-seater it was all smiles, because Mom was easily worried by a long face. She always thought it meant somebody had died. "Sarah!" she beamed, hugging her daughter. "Did your father remember to bring out the extra cooler I called him about?"

Dad groaned and went back into the house.

"We'll meet you there, kids," said Mom.

And so even before she'd had a chance to throw her knapsack into her old room Sarah was squished into Jordan's beetle blue hybrid -- pinned between Tabby's ample thighs and Hunter's squirming bum. Paramjit twisted the volume up to full, assaulting their senses with a gay frenzy of bouncy pop. "Let the madness begin!" he shouted over the din.

"It's so good to be home," gushed Sarah a moment before she was thrown back into her seat by Jordan's aggressive acceleration. "You'll lose my parents!" she pointed out.

"They know the way," said Jordan.

Hunter screamed out the windows at the passersby as the nimble blue car hummed out to the main road and merged into the thin traffic. "Jesus," remarked Sarah; "does nobody drive anymore or what?"

"Commuters save their vouchers for the commute," said Tabby. "Everybody else is pretty much getting used to going without. The bike shop's been crazy."

"I'll bet."

"I'm in a car with teenagers playing loud music!" Hunter yelled at a knot of his friends hanging around outside Tim Horton's. He waved and they waved and then, inexplicably, they all gave one another the middle finger and laughed.

"Your friends are weird, Hunt," noted Sarah.

"And yours aren't," groaned Hunter, pointing to the back of Paramjit's head.

"Stop that now," said Paramjit.

"How did you know?"

"I'm going to be a doctor of neural computational architecture. I know everything."

"You got accepted at McGill?" asked Sarah.

"I did indeed," replied Paramjit proudly. "I have to get my passport shit done so I can get into Quebec without getting rendered -- and then, come autumn, I'll be working under Dr. Zoran himself."

"Wow," she whistled; "everything's coming up everybody!"

In the wake of the speeding hybrid pink apple blossoms fluttered free from the roadside trees and swung lazily to the ground. Birds chirped. The sky had never been more blue.


Teddy said...

Neural Computational Architecture? Dr. Zoran? These are the people that build the Executive Race! Wow...

By the way, given as how the current year given in SoS (during the trial, the lawyer asked him if he knew what the date on his diploma meant) was just shy of the year 20,000, and Jeremiah was about in the high 5000 years old (earth years, earth hours), that puts Zoran's work in the year about 14,000. Assuming that we're using BC/AD counting methods.

Which brings me around to one of my favorite refreshers to CBB's works, is that it's completely dependant on the characters. The science bit of the fiction is fairly minimal and as such the technical babble keeps down and the story stays where it's best, with the character development.

Keep it up! I can't wait to see where this one goes. Oh, and if this one is taking place well into the future, are we on Mars/Ares, and is this actually Mike the Ninja she got married to?

I think someday there will need to be a Martian Chronicles-esque compilation of the SoS universe stories.


Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Teddy,

As more stories are issued, Dr. Zoran's timeline will become more clear.

Sarah has indeed married Mike the Ninja we know. They will have further adventures not detailed in this particular narrow slice.

Dear Simon,

Truth be told I haven't had a goatee for a dog's age. These days I sport the full beard and shaved head, which is a system designed to minimize grooming (no shaving, no bed-head).

Also, I never wear baseball caps.

Cheeseburger Brown

Mark said...

I like the family portrait side of your writing.

I'm scared by "The sky had never been more blue."

I caught the Dr. Zoran reference too, but couldn't recall the origin.

Makes me want to ask how things are going on the Simon of Space publication front.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Mark,

I have received the final few chapters for revision on SOS, and, to be honest, the only reason I haven't dealt with them yet is because I've been trying desperately to keep up with this blog.

I'm sure a break will present itself soon.

About the blue sky: thank you for noticing. It is indeed, quite seriously, intended to cause unease.

Cheeseburger Brown

gl. said...

you are a master at mixing anticipation & fear. "The sky had never been more blue." if that's not a warning sign, i don't know what is. :)

actually, though, i got the first big sinking feeling when you talk about the sashars. (it's the same kind of feeling i get with the handmaid's tale: crap, this isn't so implausible.) and you do it so well & subtly. bravo.

Teddy said...

just had another thought...Mars/Ares...maybe that's the War that everybody's getting drafted for? Of course, Zoran was an Aresian, so that's who we're rooting for. His works were long before the destruction of the sun, so that's not what the blue sky hints at, but we all know the significance of sky and clouds in the SoS universe of course.

Can't wait for Monday!


Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Teddy,

This story takes place here on Earth, in rural Ontario, just north of Huntsville in the small town where Mike Zhang Cuthbertson grew up.

The year is 2013, which looks in print like a very science-fiction year but the truth of the matter is that it's pretty soon.

Cheeseburger Brown