Monday, May 29, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 20: Meeting With Maven

If I said I was anything other than nervous about meeting Maven you call paint me purple and call me a plum.  I think plums are purple.  I've only seen them in pictures.  They didn't survive well on Jefferson.  For whatever reason, they seem to die off faster than other fruit trees.  Even when they were kept in pressurized domes and greenhouses like Dad has.

Too bad.  I would have liked to have tasted a plum.

There were purple fruits here on Jefferson.  A couple could be eaten if carefully prepared.  Most could not because, well, incompatible biochemistries.  You REALLY ought to know that by now if you've been readying this up to this point!  Sheesh!  Every first grader knows that here.  Earthers, I swear.

I steeled myself for the coming meeting.  I prepared my every snarkastic come back I could think of.  I also tried to make sure I was relaxed enough I would not merely launch myself at her with nasty comments.  In other words, I was a complete wreck and had no idea what to do other than be nervous and twitch in uncontrollable ways.  Well, may be not QUITE that bad!

Come on, I'm a middle schooler!  Make some allowances for snark and insecurity.

Jackie and Tom had come back and stated the meeting was on and it would be at the park on the far side of town.  It was a bitty park, enclosed and primarily used by the dog owners to let their doggos run around in.  While dog owners are often funny about it, Maven thought they would be too wound up by the situation to want to take their furry kids out to the park.

Because of the taxitos and the fact dogs love to lick and try things, little yappie dogs were the norm rather than the exception.  That meant the park was smaller than I'd read about Earther America has, but then small is a relative thing.  Here we were, Jeffersonian Americans, with less than a hundred thousand people on an entire planet.  that means there is lots of space on the planet.

We entered through the airlock into the park.  All five of us were together.  None of us wanted to be alone with Maven.  Since we'd had our melt down, we were worried what she and her Derplicates might do.  We found her over in the play area sitting on a small stone wall and throwing a squeakie toy out for a small pack of...identical terriers.  They really looked exactly the same.  They ought to have been cute.  They were creepy.  Especially when all four Derplicates were standing around in different spots trying to look casual.  For of them.  It would have been five if she'd gotten her teeth into Tom.

Five dogs.

Five derplicates.


She looked up with a look that would have made a greek god feel inadequate.  The amount of disdain was enormous.  She could have, would have curdled milk with that look.  If ever we would have had a flop sweat, it was then.  She oggled Tom and then let out a small contemptuous sigh when her eyes fell upon me.

"I agreed to this meeting because I could not possibly imagine what it was you could want from me.  The thought amused me.  It also seemed like it would be fun to make you squirm all the way up to the moment I say 'no' to whatever it is you want.  So, let's hear it.  Let's hear what you children want so dearly from me."

She had to have practiced that line a few times.  And gotten it from somewhere.  She was only 14 now and it was way, way too good or rather evil for someone in Middle School!

But then...what we were would probably shock most people in the past.  When you can connect to anything, it does...things to you.  I think.

Veena started to speak but her mouth was too dry.  Rosa opened her mouth.  Jackie tried to spit it out, but...fine!  I'll just do it.

"We want your help.  We need some materials from the chemical closet - we have a list! - for our next project and with everyone watching us now, there's no way we can get them.  We think you and your guy friends can do it because you're not noted for...pranks.  Or have everyone watching you.  Your guy friends could even do a good shell game if things did get bad..."

I cleared my throat.  Veena, Jackie and Rosa looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  I hoped Maven took it as meaning I was telling too much.  The nervousness made it seem that way.  I hoped.  I hoped!  Rosa started to squawk but I kept going: too late to stop now!

"...And! we could pay you or do something for you to make it even.  But you need to name it now.  No open ended favors.  We don't want to owe you."

Maven had arched an eyebrow at that and then smirked.  She looked over at Tom.  Tom, quiet Tom, who had been trying not to be noticed, who seemed to be acting like a fluffy funny realizes its been seen by cockatrice on its first flight from water: don't move and it won't see you.  Fine mouse and owl for you Earthers.

I moved between Maven and Tom.  I didn't know it was possible to pout, smirk and sneer all at once.  The expression was horrifying.  The look given seemed to say, "Be afraid, my darlings, for your are crunchy and good with ketchup."

She turned away and threw the squeekie toy again.  I swear at the moment, if she had told her Derplicates to chase it, they would have.  I could almost feel their excited anticipation when she threw the dumb thing.  How did she control them?!  Why did they put up with it???

It was quiet for longer than we felt comfortable with.  My snarky side was thinking she was trying to come up with something very devious sounding well beyond her years.  heh.  Two can play that game.  or she was trying to make us squirm.

Forget that.

"Fine, we'll be going."

I actually physically started turning Tom, who was sweating profusely, and the others started to shift when Maven clared her throat.

"Did I say 'no?'" she looked bemused.  And then she looked directly at me.  Her eyes took an entirely too predatory look for me to feel even remotely comfortable.  "The hack you used on the Awknerds' boosters.  I want it.  I want the exploit.  Send it to me and I'll collect whatever you want and leave it wherever you want it."

In that moment, I was afraid.  Very afraid.  Maven with the ability to get into people's boosters?!  That was a terrifying thought.  However, we wanted her to do what we wanted.  It was an evil price.  yet...hmmm.

The gang was about to yell no.  You could see them all inhale to yell at once.  Except Tom.  I swear we'd freaked him out to the point where he was going to pee his pants.  Maven with the ability to hack his booster?!  He quivered so bad I think if I'd put a finger on him a note would have sounded like on a violin string.

I blurted out: "Deal!"

Maven looked like she had triumphed.  The Merry Pranksters looked at me like I was as mad as a hatter.

"I'll leave the data in your locker.  Along with the list.  Tomorrow.  We want everything after school.  We'll meet here."

Maven had that gloat, evil and foul and tasting victory, "Agreed.  I will see you here tomorrow.  And I especially look forward to seeing you again...Tom."

With that, I grabbed Tom before he did pee his pants and zipped out of the park.  The girls trailed after, shocked at what I had just done.

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