Townsblik leads the way along the almost-invisible trail through the evergreen woods near Desperation Point, whistling. He has good reason to be cheerful: the latest shipment of dried beetles has been profitably, if clandestinely, exchanged for certain goods that are hard to come by in this remote, sparsely populated area.
Vlad had a few more beers than he ought to have had at the tavern an hour or so back, and is feeling ~~ no pain ~~ and ~~ quite cheerful ~~.
Behren is following his many beers with a flask of very strong brandy, sipping as he stumbles after his two colleagues.
Vlad is not walking as steadily as he might, and is softly singing snatches of song, although he can't remember most of the words, nor stick identifiably to the tune. Not that he can when he isn't drunk, of course.
Vlad: Oh don't turn Gen on me, little darling, don't turn Gen on me....
Behren: (off-key) There once was a Sime with her lats so long, mmm-hmmm...
Townsblik: I thought your girl was already Sime, Vlad?
Vlad: Uh. Yeah, she is. I'm just singing the song.
Townsblik: Is that what it's called? Better not hold off hoeing the garden while you wait for a summons to the Opry.
Behren waggles a limp dorsal.
Behren: Nothin' wrong with bein' Sime.
Vlad: If you turn Gen we can't mar-reeeee...
Townsblik is ~~ teasing ~~ Vlad, as he, too, is in a very good mood.
Behren realizes he's mumbling so badly the others are ignoring him.
Townsblik: Hey, stream's up ahead. Want to stop and have a drink?
Townsblik doesn't mean of water, of course.
Behren: Had one. Had lots. Have 'nuther.
Vlad: So don't turn Gen on meeeee.....
Behren: ...Once was a Sime with her lats so long, she wrapped them round her boyfriend's... (burp)
Townsblik: Hey, you two. Do you think that ribbon's gonna be enough to make Ilya sweet on me?
Vlad: Can't hurt.
Behren: (to the same tune) She'll wrap them round ol' Townsblik's prong...
Townsblik: Nah, hers aren't near long enough.
Townsblik struts a few paces to make sure the others know that the fault is not in his beloved's laterals.
Behren: Yeah, right.
Vlad pictures Townsblik's tool wrapped in pink and green ribbons. ~~ hilarious ~~
Townsblik: Hey, what can I say, girls gotta love what I've got to give them. The problem is convincing them of that. They seem to value stuff like pretty ribbons more, for some reason. Or at least, they want the baubles, too. Not like a man.
Vlad: Sure they do, and they're lots cheaper out-T, too.
Behren: Cheap girls. Want cheap girls.
Townsblik: A man, now... a man is more honest about these things. We want booze, we don't ask for trin tea.
Behren: Have s'm booze then.
Behren offers Townsblik his flask.
Townsblik: Don't mind if I do.
Townsblik takes the flask and takes a deep gulp. Then another. And another.
Behren: Hey, save some f'r us.
Vlad: I'll have a wee sip if you're offering
Behren starts another song.
Behren: Ninety-nine channels with tits in the hall...
Townsblik passes the flask over.
Vlad has a sip, chokes and coughs, then has another.
Townsblik: Ah, a channel with tits. That'd be an interesting change.
Behren: Ninety-nine channels with.... hey, save some for me!
Behren grabs at the flask and misses.
Vlad passes him the flask.
Behren gulps down a hefty swallow and coughs.
Townsblik: Ever wonder, boys, why the Tecton sent a male channel to our lovely neighborhood?
Townsblik is feeling expansive after the booze, and he's more concerned with the expansion of one part of him, than the rest.
Behren: D'scrimination, that'sh what it is. 'Scrimination.
Townsblik: Nah, they were just afraid that if they sent a pretty little thing to us, she'd run off with me.
Townsblik gestures extravagantly, knocking aside some of the brush at the side of the trail.
Behren: An' how 'bout that Donor? Old 'nuff to be your granny.
Townsblik: Yeah. What's the fun in that?
Vlad: Then what happens when she comes into need, Blikkie? Think you can serve a channel?
Vlad is a few lines behind the others.
Townsblik: Wouldn't have to, her Donor'd be after me, too.
Townsblik winks broadly.
Behren: Blikkie, you're full of it.
Vlad: I don't think she could catch you, the rate you'd be running, old lady like that.
Townsblik: Hah! I do like 'em young and sweet, that's for sure.
Vlad thinks the thing over a bit.
Vlad: And then what happens when all the Simes in town need transfer, and you've run off with the channel?
Behren: Kill you both.
Behren waggles limp handling tentacles in emphasis.
Vlad: They'd all be after her too, and they can run faster than you can.
Townsblik: Hey, you know me. I'm the fancy free type. No girl's gonna pin me down by tagging along after me all day. So she'd be right there at home, taking care of folks, while I was off getting pretty ribbons.
Vlad shakes his head, ~~ confused ~~.
Behren: Pretty bibbons.
Vlad: You said she was gonna run off with you.
Behren is much too drunk to spot inconsistencies.
Behren: Britty pibbons.
Townsblik: Yeah, as far as my spread. But she could hardly come along on these little trips, could she?
Vlad: Behren did.
Behren: Why not? Three 'f us, one o' her.
Vlad thinks the Sime is a fool to go outside the Desperation Point area without retainers like that, but nobody shot him. This time.
Behren: You'd share, Blik, wouldn' you?
Townsblik: Well, it'd be all right with me, seein' as how you two are my buddies. As long as the girl was happy with it; you know how impossible womenfolk get when they're not happy about something.
Behren: Make her happy.
Behren waves his flask.
Behren: Make 'er real happy.
Vlad is glad he's more or less permanently settled down with a good Sime woman to keep him warm at night, even if he does have to do most of the cooking.
Townsblik: Hey, Vlad, what's the secret to keeping a woman happy?
Vlad: Make a deal with her. You don't do what she don't want and vice versa.
Behren thinks this sounds much too complicated.
Vlad has a backpack full of pins, needles and other manufactured goods that his Kadi will be selling to the whole area, as well as some gifts for her and some treats for both of them.
Townsblik: I tried that with my last girl, but it didn't work out. She wanted me to make my dog sleep outside, and how could I put up with that?
Behren: Ribbons. Give her bibbons.
Townsblik: Well, I've got some right pretty ones for Ilya. Think I can hold out for a kiss?
Vlad shakes his head.
Vlad: You don't go about this like you're buying that kiss, you'll offend her. Give her the shendi-fleckin ribbons, no strings, and let her decide to kiss you.
Vlad, being settled, considers himself an expert on successful courtship.
Townsblik tries to think this over, but the drink is interfering.
Behren: Gotta go.
Townsblik: I dunno. My sister thinks Ilya is sweet on one of those cow-chasing lorshes.
Behren stops, unbuttons, and begins watering a tree.
Vlad: Why'd she want to be sweet on a lorsh?
Townsblik: Guess he's got a little more money than I've had, lately.
Vlad: And when he goes back out-T with his cattle when the weather gets cold?
Behren finishes and buttons up.
Townsblik: She might just go with him. Don't know a good thing when she zlins it, my Ilya. Guess she got a bit impatient, when it took so long to get the last load together. But I told her, there aren't nearly as many bugs as there ought to be, with the cows eating everything in sight.
Behren: Dependable. That's what you are. Dependable. Soon's a load's ready, you go. Not your fault if there's no load.
Townsblik: Yeah. ~~ justified ~~
Vlad: You're better off without a woman who just wants your money.
Townsblik: Sez you. It gets lonely when you're by yourself at night, all the time.
Behren: Shen the cows. Drivin' off the bugs, drivin' off the women.
Vlad is glad to be settled with a woman who makes more money than he does.
Behren: Why all these cows now, anyway? Got by without cows just fine till now.
Vlad: It's them politicians let them in.
Behren: Shen the pol'ticians.
Vlad: Made some kind of deal to let them use our rangeland since we're not using it, they say.
Behren: Fine lot they know.
Vlad: Gens out there all eating cows, cows, cows. Wasteful is what it is.
Townsblik: I wonder how many of those fancy politicians like fancy spices? Biting the hand that flavors their dinners, that's what they're doing.
Vlad: Milk, cheese, yeah, but eat the cows that give them to you? It's stupid. Disgusting, too.
Townsblik: It's a tradition. Everybody's got something silly they do, just because they've always done it.
Behren: An' their booze. Flavors their booze.
Behren waves his flask in emphasis.
Vlad: Shidoni. Wouldn't get me to eat them bugs. Even with booze to chase it.
Behren: They say down south... float a big bug in ev'ry bottle of booze, so's you c'n see it. Not our kinda bugs, though.
Vlad: Y'know, boys, them out-T Gens are uncivilized, and I say it myself, Gen though I am.
Behren: Eatin' our bugs.
Vlad: Disgusting. Profitable, but still disgusting.
Townsblik: Hey, if they wanna pay good money for 'em, it's fine with me.
Behren: Don't care s' long as it pays. They c'n eat all the bugs they like. Bugs is better th'n cows.
Vlad: Now the way Kadi can fry up a slab of tofu, that's real cooking.
Townsblik: After all, it's not like they're gonna invite us to dinner, is it?
Vlad is getting hungry for some home cooking, especially if he can get Kadi to do it. She'll be post by the time he gets home.
Behren: Bugs 's too small t' zlin dyin' when y' off 'em. Cows isn't.
Townsblik: They don't even use the milk. Most of 'em are males. Now tell me, what kind of person would carefully pick out the animals that don't give milk?
Behren: Idiots. Shennin' idiots.
Vlad: The big herds they run them in, they'd need an army to milk them, if they were cows not steers.
Behren takes another swig from his flask.
Vlad: I guess if you're gonna eat them, might as well raise 'em up to some size, instead of just knocking the bull calves on the head and feeding them to the dogs.
Townsblik: Those political types should have asked us if we wanted a bunch of cows running through our rangeland, before they sent them in.
Behren: Shen 'em all, I say.
Townsblik: What we gonna do, if the cows ruin the bugs?
Vlad: I didn't vote for them lorshes, did you, Blikkie?
Townsblik: Course not. You know election day's a good one to make a run. All the law types are busy supervising the election, and the booze is half price.
Behren: Nothin' to run with, if there's no bugs.
Behren drains the last of his flask.
Behren: Good booze.
Vlad: We better get moving, boys, it's getting late.
Behren drops the flask from a limp ventral.
Townsblik looks at Behren, ~~ concerned ~~.
Behren bends to pick up the flask, and falls flat on his face.
Townsblik inspects Behren.
Behren: 'm okay.
Townsblik looks up at Vlad.
Townsblik: We'd better find a place where he can sleep it off.
Behren begins snoring loudly.
Townsblik: Unless you want to carry him home?
Vlad: I wanted to get home tonight. Kadi's expecting me.
Vlad prods Behren with his boot.
Vlad: Shenned if I'm carrying him. Fool can't hold his liquor.
Townsblik: He never could. Help me get him as far as the border -- it's not far.
Behren stops snoring for a moment, then resumes.
Vlad: Should just leave him here. Teach him a lesson.
Vlad, nonetheless, stoops to help lift the man.
Townsblik: There's bears around, and cougars. ~~ practical ~~ Not that it wouldn't serve him right.
Vlad: At least he's a Sime, not as much to carry.
Townsblik settles his half of the load more comfortably, then sets out.
Townsblik: Look at it this way: he's got a backup flask in his pack. And he'll never remember that he didn't drink it himself.
Vlad: There's that.
Behren snores on, clutching loosely at the empty flask in his hand.