Author: Anonymouser PM
Asha Feral embarks on a journey to find her lost mate, beyond the safety and security of the Citadel. But Herris, if he is even alive, seems not to want to be found. And her own people do not seem inclined to find him. As it happens, only the savage aliens of the wasteland show interest in discovering his fate...for reasons she may soon regret.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Romance - Chapters: 22 - Words: 49,087 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 12-12-12 - Published: 12-09-12 - id: 3081470
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Boomtown, Constable Headquarters
Second Season, 26th; 2143
Asha followed the men out of the constable station. Out and into the open street, where she'd previously arrived in restraints.
They immediately turned left down the street, making their way back the very same way she'd come before. The short man, Bingo, moved ahead almost immediately. And he kept moving ahead until he was nearly out of sight before he finally slowed and began glancing back at them now and then.
Making sure he didn't leave them entirely behind, she had to assume.
She continued following Brick and Adam down the street. Dodging a bit more comfortably through the crowd than she had earlier that day. Having since gained more of a feel for how Humans moved in crowds.
Until she finally had to question all of this.
"Where are we going?"
"Heavenly." Adam said. "Figured we'd talk to that favored one of yours first."
"Favored by Herris." She corrected. "And that is nearly…an hour's walk, if I estimate correctly."
"That's about right."
"You do not have…trucks and cars?"
"Vehicles, you mean."
"Yes, that is the word."
"A few. But you don't ride around town in 'em."
"Too hard to keep up. And you gotta brew the fuel. They're just for hauling trade with the farmers outside of town."
They continued walking. And it was at least easier and more comfortable without restraints.
"This will take too much time."
"Don't you people walk everywhere in the Citadel?"
"Yes, but everywhere you are likely to go is within walking distance. And there are…I don't know the word…vehicles that travel through…tunnels to reach more distant places."
"I am unsure. That may be somewhat accurate. But they are not long, with multiple compartments."
"Well we don't have trains. We walk. Or ride, but I don't think you'd be interested in that."
"You have said you do not ride vehicles."
"Ride horses." He explained.
"You have horses?"
"Well…yeah, of course. But you wouldn't…"
"You ride them here?"
"Yeah, what else are you gonna do with a horse? Besides eat 'em, I mean."
"We should ride horses."
He actually stopped to look back at her then. For a moment. Before continuing on.
"Yeah, I don't think we're gonna put you on a horse, lady."
"It's a big animal. Maybe that sounds like a good idea, but you haven't seen one…"
"I have seen horses."
"Well…Martians tend to freak out when horses start actually stomping around them…"
"I will not freak out."
He stopped again. And chewed his cheek thoughtfully as he looked at her. As he did earlier, in the whorehouse.
Then he grinned. Somewhat maliciously, she suspected.
The horse was named Star, which was very appropriate. It had a clearly star-shaped patch of white directly on its forehead. Asha wondered if the creature had been born in the Citadel, in fact. The star certainly seemed almost too perfect to be natural and could easily have been the result of some genetic engineer tinkering in the process of breeding it.
Adam rode a horse named Longshot. And Brick rode another named Temperance.
Not right away, of course. They waited first to see her freak out when confronted with a horse.
Bingo didn't get a horse to ride. But he seemed comfortable with that, complaining they were impossible to get along with. Adam suggested that his manner made horses nervous and so they were often uncooperative with him, apparently even throwing him off on occasion.
At first the stable supervisor at the constable headquarters refused to issue them horses at all. It would seem they were a valued commodity and had recently been restricted only to certain patrols or for crowd control.
Adam challenged that, referring the worker to his supervisor. He returned soon, more than eager then to issue them horses. And so Asha learned that this group of men now apparently enjoyed some measure of influence that they had not before, as a result of their being assigned to her.
The horses were brought out quickly enough, already outfitted and prepared for them. She watched as Adam and Brick checked the tack, ensuring the saddles were not placed too far forward or that the cinch wasn't too loose. Checking that the horse's mouths were relaxed, eyes were soft and neck muscles weren't tense. All signs that they were comfortable with their tack.
Asha followed suit, checking all the things that they did even as they glanced over to see her do so. Checking as well that the breast collar tip rested above Star's point of shoulder, not too tight and certainly not too loose.
The animal was anxious at first, as it was apparently quite aware that she was not Human. Being accustomed to Human riders only, she presented something literally alien to him. And being a prey animal, that caused him significant anxiety.
But she calmed him easily enough. Speaking softly when she first approached and touching him gently. Blowing her breath into his nostrils before reaching to find the chestnut on his inner leg, to rub her hand lightly across it. Offering her hand for him to smell, so that he could experience both their scents already intermingled.
He calmed with only that. And moved away without resistance when she pushed against him, to gauge whether he was accepting of her in a dominant position.
Then she mounted, once it was obvious the two Humans waited to see if she would. Clearly expecting that she would not.
Or that she would be extremely nervous when she did. So that the horse would be nervous. And then the humorous events they waited for would occur when she attempted to maneuver the creature.
She waited, seating comfortably in the saddle with reins in hand. Looking down at them patiently.
Which was a novel experience while it lasted. Being elevated above these tall Humans for a change.
"Right." Adam said at last. "They've got horses in the Citadel."
"Yes, of course." She said.
"And you've rode before. I thought you people just experimented on them though."
"Genetic reconditioning." She corrected. "But there are horses available for recreational use as well, to those afforded that privilege. Herris and I learned this together."
The man grunted at that, turning to mount his own horse. And he seemed…disappointed at the missed opportunity to mock her inexperience.
The other man, Brick, actually smiled slightly though. Which she found odd, as he hadn't so far seemed one to express himself at all.
But before they departed the station's stable area, Asha recalled what the stable attendant had implied. And she found that curious.
"I have gathered the impression that horses were more readily available to you previously."
"Yeah." Adam said, already turning his horse, preparing to depart.
And of course that wasn't very informative.
"Why are they not more readily available now?"
"Had a hard winter last year."
Asha nodded. "I see. The environment in the outside is unregulated. Why were you not able to construct shelters that would protect the horses from…?"
"No, I mean we didn't have enough to eat."
He was staring at her then, seated on his horse now so that he could do so nearly eye to eye. And his stare was…almost angry.
Asha stared back. Confused.
"You ate them?"
"Yeah. We ate them."
"Why? There are complimentary ration bars and foodstuff packets made available at the Citadel gate every morning."
"Some of us would rather eat our horses that suck off the Martian tit."
Asha considered that. To be sure she'd translated it correctly.
"That is a metaphor?" She guessed.
"I understand. Why would you rather eat your horse than make use of the complimentary rations? Is the taste that offensive?"
"Can't say, never had 'em myself. But I'm told they're pretty good. Better than horse meat, anyway."
"Then I don't understand."
The constable considered her for a moment. Critically, in fact. And disapprovingly.
"Well, I guess that don't surprise me."
He nudged his horse forward and made for the gate then, with Brick following behind soon after. Bingo having long since left the area, rather than wait patiently for the rest of them.
Asha considered the exchange they'd just shared for a moment. Not quite sure what all had been implied but guessing accurately enough that it had been intended to communicate some manner of bitterness the constable held toward her people.
She couldn't quite discern the source of that bitterness, despite his implication that it had been communicated clearly enough. And that she'd failed in some way by not discerning it.
But she realized then, as she moved to catch up with the Humans, why the Citadel animal breeding center had focused more on horses over the last two years. Obviously whoever's job it was to monitor such things had noted the sudden scarcity of horses in the trade town recently, despite the obviously utility of the animals. And so they must have passed on that information through the proper channels, so that the Outreach and Overture programs would be able to make use of it.
More than likely one or both the programs would have genetically reconditioned horses to offer the Humans next year. And so her people would afford themselves of another opportunity to demonstrate their generosity and benevolent intentions to the Humans.
That was good, Asha reasoned. The Humans were savage and often paranoid. Certainly very difficult to develop any sort of trusting relationship with. But if her people continued in this manner then they would eventually win them over. Then they could finally help these savages regain some measure of civilization and social stability.
And then, perhaps, there would be some hope of sharing the planet with them not only peacefully but productively.