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Zoe's Tale Part 13

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"You should not have been in the woods," Hickory said.

That stopped me. I turned around to face Hickory. "Excuse me?" I said.

"You should not have been in the woods," Hickory said. "Not without our protection."

"We had protection," I said, and some part of my brain didn't believe those words had actually come out of my mouth.

"Your protection was a handgun wielded by someone who did not know how to use it," Hickory said. "The bullet he fired went into the ground less than thirty centimeters from him. He almost shot himself in the foot. I disarmed him because he was a threat to himself, not to me."



"I'll be sure to tell him that," I said. "But it doesn't matter. I don't need your permission, permission, Hickory, to do what I please. You and d.i.c.kory aren't my parents. And your Hickory, to do what I please. You and d.i.c.kory aren't my parents. And your treaty treaty doesn't say you can tell me what to do." doesn't say you can tell me what to do."

"You are free to do as you will," Hickory said. "But you took an unnecessary risk to yourself, both by going into the forest and by not informing us of your intent."

"That didn't stop you from coming in after me," I said. It came out like an accusation, because I was in an accusatory mood.

"No," Hickory said.

"So you took it on yourself to follow me around when I didn't give you permission to do so," I said.

"Yes," Hickory said.

"Don't do that again," I said. "I know privacy is an alien alien concept to you, but sometimes I don't want you around. Can you understand that? You"-I pointed at d.i.c.kory-"nearly cut my boyfriend's throat tonight. I know you don't concept to you, but sometimes I don't want you around. Can you understand that? You"-I pointed at d.i.c.kory-"nearly cut my boyfriend's throat tonight. I know you don't like like him, but that's a little much." him, but that's a little much."

"d.i.c.kory would not have harmed Enzo," Hickory said.

"Enzo doesn't know that," I said, and turned back to d.i.c.kory. "And what if he had gotten in a good hit on you? You might have hurt him just to keep him down. I don't doesn't know that," I said, and turned back to d.i.c.kory. "And what if he had gotten in a good hit on you? You might have hurt him just to keep him down. I don't need need this kind of protection. And I don't want it." this kind of protection. And I don't want it."

Hickory and d.i.c.kory stood there silently, soaking up my anger. After a couple of seconds, I got bored with this. "Well?" I said.

"You were running out of the forest when you came by us," Hickory said.

"Yeah? So?" I said. "We thought we might be being chased by something. Something spooked the fanties we were watching and Enzo thought it might have been a predator or something. It was a false alarm. There was nothing behind us or else it would have caught up with us when you two leaped out of nowhere and scared the c.r.a.p out of all of us."

"No," Hickory said.

"No? You didn't didn't scare the c.r.a.p out of us?" I said. "I beg to differ." scare the c.r.a.p out of us?" I said. "I beg to differ."

"No," Hickory said. "You were being followed."

"What are you talking about?" I said. "There was nothing behind us."

"They were in the trees," Hickory said. "They were pacing you from above. Moving ahead of you. We heard them before we heard you."

I felt weak. "Them?" I said.

"It is why we took you as soon as we heard you coming," Hickory said. "To protect you."

"What were they?" I asked.

"We don't know," Hickory said. "We did not have the time to make any good observation. And we believe your friend's gunshot scared them off."

"So it wasn't necessarily something hunting us," I said. "It could have been anything."

"Perhaps," Hickory said, in that studiously neutral way it had when it didn't want to disagree with me. "Whatever they were, they were moving along with you and your group."

"Guys, I'm tired," I said, because I didn't want to think about any of this anymore, and if I did think about it anymore-about the idea that some pack of creatures was following us in the trees-I might have a collapse right there in the common area. "Can we have this conversation tomorrow?"

"As you wish, Zoe," Hickory said.

"Thank you," I said, and started shuffling off toward my cot. "And remember what I said about not telling my parents."

"We will not tell your parents," Hickory said.

"And remember what I said about not following me," I said. They said nothing to this. I waved at them tiredly and went off to sleep.

I found Enzo outside his family's tent the next morning, reading a book.

"Wow, a real book," I said. "Who did you kill to get that?"

"I borrowed it from one of the Mennonite kids," he said. He showed the spine to me. "Huckleberry Finn. You heard of it?" You heard of it?"

"You're asking a girl from a planet named Huckleberry if she's heard of Huckleberry Finn, Huckleberry Finn," I said. I hoped the incredulous tone of my voice would convey amus.e.m.e.nt.

Apparently not. "Sorry," he said. "I didn't make the connection." He flipped the book open to where he had been reading.

"Listen," I said. "I wanted to thank you. For what you did last night."

Enzo looked up over his book. "I didn't do anything last night."

"You stayed behind Gretchen and me," I said. "You put yourself between us and whatever was following us. I just wanted you to know I appreciated it."

Enzo shrugged. "Not that there was anything following us after all," he said. I thought about telling him about what Hickory told me, but kept it in. "And when something did come out at you, it was ahead of me. So I wasn't much help, actually."

"Yeah, about that," I said. "I wanted to apologize for that. For the thing with d.i.c.kory." I didn't really know how to put that. I figured saying Sorry for when my alien bodyguard very nearly took your head off with a knife Sorry for when my alien bodyguard very nearly took your head off with a knife wouldn't really go over well. wouldn't really go over well.

"Don't worry about it," Enzo said.

"I do worry about it," I said.

"Don't," Enzo said. "Your bodyguard did its job." For a second it seemed like Enzo would say something more, but then he c.o.c.ked his head and looked at me like he was waiting for me to wrap up whatever it was I was doing, so he could get back to his very important book.

It suddenly occurred to me that Enzo hadn't written me any poetry since we landed on Roanoke.

"Well, okay then," I said, lamely. "I guess I'll see you a little later, then."

"Sounds good," Enzo said, and then gave me a friendly wave and put his nose into Huck Finn's business. I walked back to my tent and found Babar inside and went over to him and gave him a hug.

"Congratulate me, Babar," I said. "I think I just had my first fight with my boyfriend."

Babar licked my face. That made it a little better. But not much.

FOURTEEN.

"No, you're still too low," I said to Gretchen. "It's making you flat. You need to be a note higher or something. Like this." I sang the part I wanted her to sing.

"I am am singing that," Gretchen said. singing that," Gretchen said.

"No, you're singing lower than that," I said.

"Then you're you're singing the wrong note," Gretchen said. "Because I'm singing the note you're singing. Go ahead, sing it." singing the wrong note," Gretchen said. "Because I'm singing the note you're singing. Go ahead, sing it."

I cleared my throat, and sang the note I wanted her to sing. She matched it perfectly. I stopped singing and listened to Gretchen. She was flat.

"Well, nuts," I said.

"I told you," Gretchen said.

"If I could pull up the song for you, you could hear the note and sing it," I said.

"If you could pull up the song, we wouldn't be trying to sing it at all," Gretchen said. "We'd just listen to it, like civilized human beings."

"Good point," I said.

"There's nothing good about it," Gretchen said. "I swear to you, Zoe. I knew coming to a colony world was going to be hard. I was ready for that. But if I knew they were going to take my PDA, I might have just stayed back on Erie. Go ahead, call me shallow."

"Shallow," I said.

"Now tell me I'm wrong, wrong," Gretchen said. "I dare you."

I didn't tell her she was wrong. I knew how she felt. Yes, it was was shallow to admit that you missed your PDA. But when you'd spent your whole life able to call up everything you wanted to amuse you on a PDA-music, shows, books and friends-when you had to part with it, it made you miserable. Really miserable. Like "trapped on a desert island with nothing but coconuts to bang together" miserable. Because there was nothing to replace it with. Yes, the Colonial Mennonites had brought their own small library of printed books, but most of that consisted of Bibles and agricultural manuals and a few "cla.s.sics," of which shallow to admit that you missed your PDA. But when you'd spent your whole life able to call up everything you wanted to amuse you on a PDA-music, shows, books and friends-when you had to part with it, it made you miserable. Really miserable. Like "trapped on a desert island with nothing but coconuts to bang together" miserable. Because there was nothing to replace it with. Yes, the Colonial Mennonites had brought their own small library of printed books, but most of that consisted of Bibles and agricultural manuals and a few "cla.s.sics," of which Huckleberry Finn Huckleberry Finn was one of the more recent volumes. As for popular music and entertainments, well, they didn't much truck with that. was one of the more recent volumes. As for popular music and entertainments, well, they didn't much truck with that.

You could tell a few of the Colonial Mennonite teens thought it was funny to watch the rest of us go through entertainment withdrawal. Didn't seem very Christian of them, I have to say. On the other hand, they weren't the ones whose lives had been drastically altered by landing on Roanoke. If I were in their shoes and watching a whole bunch of other people whining and moaning about how horrible it was that their toys were taken away, I might feel a little smug, too.

We did what people do in situations where they go without: We adjusted. I hadn't read a book since we landed on Roanoke, but was on the waiting list for a bound copy of The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz. There were no recorded shows or entertainments but Shakespeare never fails; there was a reader's theater performance of There were no recorded shows or entertainments but Shakespeare never fails; there was a reader's theater performance of Twelfth Night Twelfth Night planned for a week from Sunday. It promised to be fairly gruesome-I'd heard some of the read-throughs-but Enzo was reading the part of Sebastian, and he was doing well enough, and truth be told it would be the first time I would have ever experienced a Shakespeare play-or any play other than a school pageant-live. And it's not like there would be anything else to do anyway. planned for a week from Sunday. It promised to be fairly gruesome-I'd heard some of the read-throughs-but Enzo was reading the part of Sebastian, and he was doing well enough, and truth be told it would be the first time I would have ever experienced a Shakespeare play-or any play other than a school pageant-live. And it's not like there would be anything else to do anyway.

And as for music, well, this is what happened: Within a couple days of landing a few of the colonists hauled out guitars and accordions and hand drums and other such instruments and started trying to play together. Which went horribly, because n.o.body knew anyone else's music. It was like what happened on the Magellan. Magellan. So they started teaching each other their songs, and then people showed up to sing them, and then people showed up to listen. And thus it was, at the very tail end of s.p.a.ce, when no one was looking, the colony of Roanoke reinvented the "hootenanny." Which is what Dad called it. I told him it was a stupid name for it, and he said he agreed, but said that the other word for it-"wingding"-was worse. I couldn't argue with that. So they started teaching each other their songs, and then people showed up to sing them, and then people showed up to listen. And thus it was, at the very tail end of s.p.a.ce, when no one was looking, the colony of Roanoke reinvented the "hootenanny." Which is what Dad called it. I told him it was a stupid name for it, and he said he agreed, but said that the other word for it-"wingding"-was worse. I couldn't argue with that.

The Roanoke Hootenanners (as they were now calling themselves) took requests-but only if the person requesting sang the song. And if the musicians didn't know the song, you'd have to sing it at least a couple of times until they could figure out how to fake it. This led to an interesting development: singers started doing a cappella versions of their favorite songs, first by themselves and increasingly in groups, which might or might not be accompanied by the Hootenanners. It was becoming a point of pride for people to show up with their favorite songs already arranged, so everyone else in the audience didn't have to suffer through a set of dry runs before it was all listenable.

It was safe to say that some of these arrangements were more arranged arranged than others, to put it politely, and some folks sang with the same vocal control as a cat in a shower. But now, a couple of months after the hootenannies had begun, people were beginning to get the hang of it. And people had begun coming to the hoots with new songs, arranged a cappella. One of the most popular songs at the recent hoots was "Let Me Drive the Tractor"-the tale of a colonist being taught to drive a manual tractor by a Mennonite, who, because they were the only ones who knew how to operate noncomputerized farm machinery, had been put in charge of planting crops and teaching the rest of us how to use their equipment. The song ends with the tractor going into a ditch. It was based on a true story. The Mennonites thought the song was pretty funny, even though it came at the cost of a wrecked tractor. than others, to put it politely, and some folks sang with the same vocal control as a cat in a shower. But now, a couple of months after the hootenannies had begun, people were beginning to get the hang of it. And people had begun coming to the hoots with new songs, arranged a cappella. One of the most popular songs at the recent hoots was "Let Me Drive the Tractor"-the tale of a colonist being taught to drive a manual tractor by a Mennonite, who, because they were the only ones who knew how to operate noncomputerized farm machinery, had been put in charge of planting crops and teaching the rest of us how to use their equipment. The song ends with the tractor going into a ditch. It was based on a true story. The Mennonites thought the song was pretty funny, even though it came at the cost of a wrecked tractor.

Songs about tractors were a long way from what any of us had been listening to before, but then, we were a long way from where any of us were before, in any sense, so maybe that fit. And to get all sociological about it, maybe what it meant was that twenty or fifty standard years down the line, whenever the Colonial Union decided to let us get in contact with the rest of the human race, Roanoke would have its own distinct musical form. Maybe they'll call it Roanokapella. Or Hootenoke. Or something. something.

But at this particular moment, all I was trying to do was to get the right note for Gretchen to sing so she and I could go to the next hoot with a halfway decent version of "Delhi Morning" for the Hootenanners to pick up on. And I was failing miserably. This is what it feels like when you realize that, despite a song being your favorite of maybe all time, you don't actually know every little nook and cranny of it. And since my copy of the song was on my PDA, which I could no longer use or even had anymore, there was no way to correct this problem.

Unless. "I have an idea," I said to Gretchen.

"Does it involve you learning to sing on key?" Gretchen asked.

"Even better," I said.

Ten minutes later we were on the other side of Croatoan, standing in front of the village's information center-the one place on the entire planet that you'd still find a functioning piece of electronics, because the inside was designed to completely block any radio or other signals of any sort. The technology to do this, sadly, was rare enough that we only had enough of it for a converted cargo container. The good news was, they were making more. The bad news was, they were only making enough for a medical bay. Sometimes life stinks. Gretchen and I walked into the receiving area, which was pitch black because of the signal-cloaking material; you had to close the outer door to the information center before you could open the inner door. So for about a second and a half it was like being swallowed by grim, black, featureless death. Not something I'd recommend.

And then we opened the inner door and found a geek inside. He looked at the both of us, a little surprised, and then got that no no look. look.

"The answer is no," he said, confirming the look.

"Aw, Mr. Bennett," I said. "You don't even know what we're going to ask."

"Well, let's see," said Jerry Bennett. "Two teenage girls-daughters of the colony leaders, incidentally-just happen happen to walk into the only place in the colony where one could play with a PDA. Hmmm. Are they here to beg to play with a PDA? Or are they here because they enjoy the company of a chunky, middle-aged man? This is not a hard question, Miss Perry." to walk into the only place in the colony where one could play with a PDA. Hmmm. Are they here to beg to play with a PDA? Or are they here because they enjoy the company of a chunky, middle-aged man? This is not a hard question, Miss Perry."

"We just want to listen to one song," I said. "We'll be out of your hair in just a minute."

Bennett sighed. "You know, at least a couple times a day someone just like you gets the bright idea to come in here and ask if I could just let them borrow a PDA to watch a movie, or listen to some music or read a book. And, oh, it'll just take a minute. I won't even notice they're there. And if I say yes, then other people will come in asking for the same time. Eventually I'll spend so much time helping people with their PDAs that I won't have time to do the work your parents, Miss Perry, have a.s.signed me to do. So you tell me: What should I do?"

"Get a lock?" said Gretchen.

Bennett glanced over to Gretchen, sourly. "Very amusing," he said.

"What are you doing for my parents?" I asked.

"Your parents are having me slowly and painstakingly locate and print every single Colonial Union administration memo and file, so they can refer to them without having to come in here and bother me," Bennett said. "In one sense I appreciate that, but in a more immediate sense I've been doing it for the last three days and I'm likely to be doing it for another four. And since the printer I have to work with jams on a regular basis, it does actually require someone to pay attention to it. And that's me. So there you have it, Miss Perry: Four years of technical education and twenty years of professional work have allowed me to become a printer monkey at the very a.s.s end of s.p.a.ce. Truly, my life's goal has been achieved."

I shrugged. "So let us do it," I said.

"I beg your pardon," Bennett said.

"If all you're doing is making sure the printer doesn't jam, that's something we could do for you," I said. "We'll work for you for a couple of hours, and in exchange you let us use a couple of PDAs while we're here. And then you can do whatever else you need to do."

"Or just go have lunch," Gretchen said. "Surprise your wife."

Bennett was silent for a minute, considering. "Offering to actually help help me," he said. "No one's tried that tactic before. Very sneaky." me," he said. "No one's tried that tactic before. Very sneaky."

"We try," I said.

"And it is lunchtime," Bennett said. "And it is just printing."

"It is," I agreed.

"I suppose if you mess things up horribly it won't be too bad for me," Bennett said. "Your parents won't punish me for your incompetence."

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Zoe's Tale Part 13 summary

You're reading Zoe's Tale. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): John Scalzi. Already has 174 views.

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