[Here’s the last half of the chapter as promised. Leave a comment if you like it. I’m having a blast. Check back at the end of next week for the next installment.]
The gunshots echo through the market. The handful of Uni City residents that actually have enough extra crap to sell to others start packing up; some of them pull out weapons of their own, just in case.
October looks back at Tum Tum and contorts her face into something between pitiful and desperate.
She grabs Tum Tum’s hand across the rusted shopping cart that held the goods he was willing to sell.
“Tum Tum. Come with me. I’m scared.”
Was she? She had gotten so good at making her face show the expressions she wanted that it was sometimes hard for her to tell if she was making them up or not.
Tum Tum lets go of her hand and gets to work arranging his stock to be mobile. October walks around his cart to pull at his arm.
She drenched her voice with need. Need to leave, need to fuck, need to feel again. Whatever it was, it made Tum Tum move that much faster.
They all but ran, with the cart in front of them, back to the library. Only when reinforced door slams behind them does October let herself smile. She embraces Tum Tum in the doorway, making an effort to push her breasts into him.
When she lets go several of Mr. Sunset’s girls surround them and eye the cart of food. October looks at Tum Tum. He hesitates for a moment, but then opens the makeshift lid of his cart for the girls. Tum Tum frowns at the swarm of hungry prostitutes grabbing the salted feather fish and clutches of otter eggs he had spent the better part of a week collecting.
October puts her hand on his arm again. “Don’t worry, I’m going to pay you, remember?” His frown melts into nervous excitement. He really should have known that October would cost him more than one barter.
October leads Tum Tum to her own room and starts lighting some old caramel colored candles and incense. Tum Tum rubs his nose as he sits down on her bed. More a pile of several soft objects covered with silk.
She turns around and flips off all her clothes in one motion as if a strong, yet smooth, breeze had blown them away.
Tum Tum stares at her and his mind goes blank.
He comes to after some grey, dizzy amount of time has passed. Maybe a few minutes, maybe a few years. He wonders if the sun is still up outside. Or if the sun will ever set again. Tum Tum realized that October is still laying next to him when she kisses him on his bulbous nose.
(Sex move. Hold 3.)
“Will you marry me?” he says.
October smiles and tosses her clothes back on. She doesn’t say no, but her face gently tells him how flattered she is by the gesture.
“You can sleep some if you’d like. Just make sure to blow out the flame before you leave. Thanks again, Tum Tum.”
As soon as she leaves she allows her smile to finally fade. A lesser person’s jaws would hurt from all the forces grinning, but if October was anything she wasn’t a lesser person.
October strolls out to the lobby. Missing, the girl-in-training is the only one there.
“Did Mr. Sunset ever come back, honey?”
Missing shakes her head. “Yeah, but he left again. We have Dice now. She’s a prisoner. Do you want some eggs?”
October bends down a bit to look Missing in the eyes and pluck a leathery egg that Missing offers her. “I’d love one, thank you.”
She casually walks back to Mr. Sunset’s office. A tall, muscular woman is in front of his door with a sawed off shotgun.
“Hi, Franky. Mind if I talk to the prisoner?”
“Don’t think Mr. S. would like that too much.”
“Come on, I’ll give you half of my share of the food I brought in.”
(Seduce of manipulate: 9+3=Great hit)
“Give it to Missing,” Franky says and moves aside.
October smiles her thanks and goes into the office. Dice sits on one of the old couches against the wall, reading one of Mr. Sunset’s old books. Dice looks up at October and frowns.
October sits down on the couch on the other side of the room. She crosses her legs and punctures the otter egg wit her nail. “What brings you here this sunny morning, Dice? You’re not looking for some service are you?”
“No. I put my crowbar through Fuse’s skull.”
October flinches despite herself picturing the violence. That’s why she hates Dice so much. She’s so course. Not the charming, sunbaked coarseness that everyone in Uni City falls prey to to some degree or another. A different, uglier coarseness that October didn’t understand, which made her want to tame it.
October peels the thick shell of the egg in a corkscrew and talks without looking up. “I guess Mr. Millions wasn’t too happy about that.”
“You could say that.”
October uses her nail to cut a round slit into the top of the egg’s membrane. She wraps her lips around the slit and squeezes the brown, thick protein out of the egg. She closes her eyes and savors it for a few seconds.
(Hypnotize: 10+3=Great hit.)
October opens her eyes and looks at Dice. She finds the unmistakable gaze of lust. October stands up and leaves the remnants of the shell on the end table next to Dice. She looks over her shoulder has she leaves.
“Be seeing you, Dice. Stay out of trouble.”
October leaves, knowing or imagining that as soon as she leaves Dice will find herself unable to do anything but lick the trash October left. Picturing this, she smiles genuinely for the first time that day.
Exit walks into Mr. Millions’s back office on the top story of Coulburn Hall. He looks at Peppering, still with her baseball bat. “You stay out here.” Then at Scrib, “Why don’t you follow us.” It wasn’t a question.
Mr. Millions walks to his desk and Scrib sat next to Exit on a bench. He noticeds that it had old stains in the wood that he hoped weren’t blood.
“So, Exit, is it? Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you?”
Exit swallows hard.
Mr. Millions glances at Scrib. “Shouldn’t you be writing this down?”
He should. And so he did.
“Well,” Exit says, “I want asylum. King Barbeque is going to get everyone in the Towers killed and I’d like to not be there when he does.”
Mr. Millions sits back and takes some pride in that. “You mean when we strike aback against them for stealing our weapons. I would be scared if I were you too.”
It looks like Exit will laugh for a second. Lucky for her she didn’t.
“No. That’s not what I’m scared of. I’ve only been her, what, an hour, and I can tell that the Towers could destroy you whenever they wanted.”
Mr. Millions stands up and looks like he might throw his desk at her. Exit continues without even blinking.
“No, Barbeque took those guns and such because he plans on attacking Lockheed.”
“They can’t attack Lockheed,” Mr. Millions says as he sits back down, “we’re in the middle of the Towers and Lockheed.”
“They’ve been cutting through the Green Fire Forest to attack us, I mean the Towers, for years.”
“That’s impossible, that would break the treaty we have with Lockheed.”
“Yeah, good luck with that. We had a treaty with Lockheed too.”
“They wouldn’t break our arrangement.”
Now Exit does laugh. Mr. Millions looks at her with scorn. Then considers for a moment. A long moment. Maybe two. Then he looks at Scrib, who has been scratching in his notebook the whole time.
“Scrib, I chose Fuse to be my second in command because he nothing escaped his notice.”
Scrib looked up from his notebook and pushed his glasses up. His stomach did a little flip. He didn’t like where this was going.
“You’ve made it your purpose to document our city’s history. When I met you, I didn’t trust you, but you’ve earned my good side. Hell, you’ve taught most of us how to read, including me.”
“That means a lot to me, Mr. Millions. I’m just—“
“Don’t interrupt me.” Scrib sees a wave of rage wash over Mr. Millions’s face. It’s gone before he starts talking again. “You’re going to take Fuse’s place at my side.”
That was a job Scrib did not at all want. He hated responsibility. It was bad enough he was a slave to the words, now he’d be some fat pretend king’s toady? But Mr. Millions was too dangerous to refuse.
If Mr. Millions expected a response he didn’t wait for one. “I grant the asylum Exit wants, but now she’s your responsibility, Scrib. If she makes a mess, you clean it up.”
“I’m also going to need you to tell Flavor that her husband is dead.”
“I, uh. I’m sure that it would be more appropriate coming from her father?”
“No, I have a lot to think about. And I only like to give my daughter good news.”
“Ok. Um, sir.”
(Read a person: 7+2=hit)
(What does Mr. Millions wish Scrib would do?
Marry his daughter.)
Scrib felt like he might throw up.