How to Hunt Rabbit
Fifteen years agoPatience. Core worlds move fast. Speed of sound. Speed of light. Word and waves fly faster than both, ‘Verse folk say. Commerce, right behind. Person comes too late to opportunity ain’t gonna find nuthin’ but an empty hole, the old timer wasi’chu would say. The only thing that moves slow is bureaucracy, but slow don’t mean patient just as patient don’t always mean slow. Carrot dangles by a thin wire. Downwind, two figures lie in the dusty canyon floor. Wind nips at long hair black as the ravens that visit open wasi’chu dumpsters. Not one word. Not one muscle moving. Eyes look. Ears listen. Even the vibrations of the earth below them are known to the point where Tom and his cousin, James, have a good idea how many earthworms are processing the soil into something less synthetic than what passed through terraforming. Subtle motion. Ears. Fur the color of dirt and brush. Cautious nose. Black Eyes. The rabbit emerges and lifts itself up, sniffing the air, looking for danger and violence, ready to bolt if necessary. Instead, it senses nothing. It takes a few more hops towards the carrot. It tugs on the morsel, so much better than dry scrub. Snap. Tom and James get up, walk over. The rabbit struggles in the snares of synthrope. It is the first one caught today, so they kneel down beside it and speak words of gratitude to the Grandfather Wâpos Spirit in the same way they learned from their Grandfather George. James draws out a long hunting knife and makes a swift cut. Tom watches in awe at the skill of James’ sure hand. The rabbit dashes back down the game path and out of sight. James smiles at Tom. “Now that we’ve honored the Grandfather Rabbit, let’s set the next trap.” Tom smiles back and produces another bit of carrot. In a few minutes, they return to their dusty spot downwind and begin their patient waiting again. The suns climb high and then descend. By the time the one called Murphy dips below the horizon, the two boys have several conies between them. They can already taste Grandmother’s wāposo–mīcimāpoy – her famous rabbit stew.
One year ago“I see you, Little wāpos,” Tom Beartooth muttered. He could feel the hole where the cash and identification card from Tom’s previous mark used to be. The gang of street urchins had just rushed through the crowd a moment before, laughing and shouting in a way that broadcast innocent play. But that was just misdirection. Survival was their real game. Tom’s new mark, a rather young-looking doctor, was denied him. That part was forgivable. The unofficial Eavesdown street sport played by con artists and pickpockets allowed for it as naturally as the sport of football allowed for the ball to be intercepted by another player. But to take another player’s already hard-won prizes? Foul. Red card. He watched the scattering children carefully. Of course, they were splitting up already in case the black jacketed, silver helmeted officers patrolling the docks in twos ever came after them, making it impossible to get the whole gang. But it was the one girl with the sharp eyes and dirt-brown hair that caught his attention. She stopped at the entrance to a dark narrow alley. She stopped and turned. And then—that’s what got Tom—then, she looked right at him and smiled! “Oh, I see you, Little wāpos,” Tom Beartooth muttered again. “Time for a rabbit hunt.”
One hour agoTom ran as fast as his legs could carry him. He flung himself around the corner and down the alley that he and Jessa currently called home. He located the fourth garbage bin and knocked: OneTwoThree,Four. He waited the span of three heartbeats and banged again. Still, no answer. He threw open the bin’s lid and ducked just in time to avoid the barrage of sharp objects flying towards his face. “Bie Woo Long! Almost forgot about her booby traps. Now that was a recipe for unpleasantness.” He peered back over the edge and saw Jessa’s belongings in the growing morning light. That meant she hadn’t been back. He looked frantically up and down the alley, scanning the dumpsters and the shadows in between them. “Jessa…” Seeing nothing he ran down another block. “Jessa!!!” “Qián kǒu!” came one irritated shout. A few others high up in the makeshift apartments made of discarded cargo containers likewise sounded around him: “Whakaweto ake!” “Cállate, perro!” “Cén fáth nach bhfuil tú ag dul léim i loch?” A few dogs started barking, and the groans of weary parents followed the wail of a dozen screaming babies and children. An old cabbage struck the ground near Tom’s feet and exploded into stinky green shrapnel, but he hardly paid attention to it. He kept glancing around, and not finding her, he dashed down the alley, around a few corners, and towards a familiar building labeled Peshwar & Son. He raced around the back and hammered the rear entrance door. “Gobi! Gobi! Are you awake? This is an emergency!” A clamor of metal and ceramics striking the floor inside gave Tom his answer. The door swung angrily open. “Ki? Ki! What do you want?” he grumbled. The bald man blinked at the first annoying rays of sunlight. He was clad in little more than a greasy tank top and bright orange, half-peeled away overalls. “I was up all night working, Tom. This could not wait?” “Jessa!” he panted and leaned heavily with his hands on his knees. Gobi sobered up and rubbed the last sleep from his eye. “Come in,” he frowned.
One year agoThe narrow dark alley was barely more than a gap between buildings. Tom raced down it in pursuit of the little thief who’d manage to escape with his carrot. Because of its narrowness and the flanking building heights, it was quite dark, shielded from the crowded dance of suns in the Persephone sky. It opened to a little grotto of trash bins, a common area where the surrounding owners threw out all manner of refuse for the automated trash drones to fly in from above and take. Tom stopped short when he emerged into the dim grotto, startling a number of ravens and crows who had a more natural and less sanctioned idea and function as the drones. They took off in a cacophony of caws and cries, leaving a few feathers as a hint of their presence. He heaved a few breaths and surveyed the bins. They were dumpsters rather than the contained systems one might find among the rich wasi’chu floating condos. Tom took two steps, and then stopped. Patience…right. He hadn’t forgotten everything from his childhood. He frowned when the image of his cousin James came into his mind, and he pushed it out with a wave of his hand. He proceeded to stoop down, watching and looking, listening, even feeling the ground under his boots. He sniffed the air and rubbed his chin. There was a dumpster. It had marks on it. And a thread caught on the corner. A thread belonging to a little rabbit. But Tom didn’t get up. Patience. Wasi’chu were always running off, too quick to think straight. He looked harder. Why was this dumpster the only one not covered with feathers and raven droppings? Tom smiled. Because the ravens knew something else about it. “Stop! Halt! You, there! You are bound by law to stand down!” Tom jumped straight up and was met with a concussive pulse rifle blast. He struggled to keep his footing, but landed in a pile of cardboard boxes. The security officer was on him before he could recover, and he soon found his arms pinned behind his back. He heard the grating “zip” of plastic security straps binding his wrists. “Good job, Tim,” came another voice. “Captain’s gonna give you ‘nuther gorram medal, prob’ly.” Tom managed to follow the words into the darkness of the alley to its owner, not sure if they were meant to be as sarcastic as they sounded or merely was stupid cop banter. A senior officer ambled into the light. Tom recognized him. Officer Something Kroger or some such. Not much contact before now and Tom couldn’t recall any other mental notes around him other than “would rather be somewhere else”. Officer Tim brought Tom to his feet. “Alright, you have the right to remain silen—“ “Hey, I know why you guys are here,” panted Tom. “I’m after the same kids who took my…uh…stuff.” “Tell it to the judge, Injun,” said Kroger. “The victim did describe the perpetrators as a ‘gang of children’, sir,” said Officer Tim. Kroger rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes. Bái mù… You know, rookie, you been with me—what—a year now? You realize what you’ve cost me? What with yer manner for doing things the way you do? Probably on account of you bein’ one a’ them decorated soldiers an’ all. Straight an’ narrow can’t be broke well.” Tim looked a little confused. “Gosh, sir, you never brought this up at review. Maybe we should continue this discussion after with the chief.” He gave a kind of “not now” nod indicating Tom. The senior officer chuckled in a way that made Tom’s neck tickle in that way he didn’t like. So, he decided it was best to just stop talking right now… “See, I’ve been working Eavesdown for a decade now and seen it change. Big post-war influx. Tongs comin’ in. Know how things work. If the kids went in here like the ‘victim’ says, they’re probably in that dumpster over there. The clean one.” Tom froze. His eyes went wide. “You shouldn’t—” Tom felt his teeth light up and his knees buckle as a Taser gun discharged into his side. “Shut it, you,” snarled Kroger. “Officer Tim?” He gestured at the dumpster. “Uh, Kroger, that was a little harsh, don’t you think?” “Not if he’s their ring leader.” Tim frowned over his shoulder, but seeing his superior’s disapproving stare, he quieted and approached the bin. He saw the snarl of fabric and nodded at Kroger. “Alright, kids. It’s over. We’re taking you i—”. Tom sealed his eyes tight when the spring gave a twang and the squishy impact sent warm drops of crimson flying. He flinched again as the sound of the former Officer Tim hit the pavement. “Oh. Shoulda warned ya, Timmy,” snarled Kroger. “Gotta stand a bit off to the left. They do that around here.” Tom opened his eyes wide and got back up to his knees. Kroger ambled over to the dumpster and lifted the door on the other side. He peered in and chuckled. “Finally! Retirement.” The officer turned to Tom, the grin still plastered on his face. “You know how long I been waiting for this opportunity? Took a lot a patience, I tell ya, but it paid off. An’ now, I got it before I came up with an empty hole, as the old timers would say.” Kroger lifted a few sacks of bills, coins, cards, small jewelry, and all kinds of horded booty. “What with this overly forthright piece of shit, he cost me untold amounts in kickbacks and bribes. Bosses an’ tongs wouldn’t go near us. But now, just look. I got me my pension fund. I got me my freedom. An’ best of all, I got me you, Injun street trash. How dare you kill an officer!” “Y—you’re framing me?” Tom sputtered. Oh, this was bad. Bad, bad. Crooked cops like this knew crooked judges not too keen on seeing their wasi’chu money going to the likes of Redbird Reservation. That kind of law didn’t look too kindly on Injuns, especially Browncoat Injuns, and especially Browncoat Injuns with a criminal record, even if that record was only a few minor thefts and—. “Patience. Look about. What do you see, Tom? What do you hear? Feel? Smell?” Grandfather’s words to him and James. Tom swallowed. He took in everything and looked. What else? Need to completely looking at everything. Dumpsters and ravens. And…a flash of wire. Kroger was busy pulling out more treasure when Tom lurched up and bolted for a small dark corridor opposite the alley they had all come down. As he approached the corridor, Kroger shouted and started to pursue him, trying to pull out his weapon again. Tom measured his steps and, at the precisely calculated time, he jumped. Then, arms still bound behind him, he barreled down the crevice that was even tighter than the other alley. He counted down in his mind, and then dove under a pile of some stinking refuse, covering himself as much as possible. “Stop, you Red son of a b—.” The explosion wasn’t big or loud, but it was enough to send the hidden pressure cooker containers full of rusty nails, glass, and other debris tearing through the man who hadn’t taken the time to see a little golden thread tripwire. Tom lifted himself up. He turned around and immediately wished he hadn’t. He puked. Once his stomach stopped heaving, that is when he heard her. She was crying. Now that Tom’s eyes had adjusted to the darker shadows, he saw her, too. Subtle motion. Ears. Hair colored by dirt. Cautious nose. Black eyes. “Just…just take the money. Let me go. I can’t go back there to the Home. I just can’t, mister. So…just take it and pretend you never saw me, okay?” Tom saw that the corridor they were in continued to narrow the further it went until it was little more than a crack at the far end. The girl who had taken the cash and cards he rightfully stole was trapped. The chuckle that escaped from his lips surprised him as much as it did her. He could see her eyes widen in deeper fear. “You… you, Little wāpos, are the first rabbit I have caught today… I thank you, Grandfather Rabbit, for providing for my family, and I honor your spirit.” The little girl remained frightened. “Oh, gǒu shǐ, you are crazy too!” Tom’s laughter grew and he stumbled upright. He showed her his bound hands. “No, Little wāpos, I am not. Just… I need your help. We have to get out of here before their backup comes looking for them. I could detain you. Your mark—that doctor—he saw you kids, not me, so I could talk my way out of it now that Officer Not-So-Friendly isn’t going to be able to tell them his lie. I got no prints on anything, but I’ll bet you a shiny new hat that yours are all over. However…” He crept towards the newer, messier splatter of crimson and located Kroger’s belt. He stood over it, lowered himself, and took out a safety blade. He walked over to the girl and tossed it behind him at her. “…I want to make a deal with you. I let you go, we forget about the IdentCard you lifted off of me, and we go our separate ways. I just need you to put this fèiwù restraint in the notch of that tool and it will cut me free. Trust me?” “No.” Tom chuckled again. “Yeah, I get that a lot. Look, I’m stepping out to the dumpsters. These guys carry Tasers and sonic riffles. If it makes you feel better, you can pick up one of those before you cut me loose.” Before he could take the next breath, Tom felt his hands suddenly release. The little girl scurried from behind him and towards the alley. “Hey! Wait! Can I at least know your name, Little wāpos?” The girl paused. A considering look flashed over her face. “Jessa. You?” “Tom Beartooth.” Her nose twitched once. And then she was gone.
One hour agoGobi finished off the last of whatever smelly hot beverage steamed in his ceramic cup. “That is, as my mother used to say, quite a parī kāhinī… hard to believe. But a tale of woe for certain.” He shook his head and tried to take another sip. Instead, he frowned and tipped the dry cup upside down, shaking it a few times to liberate a single brown drop. He got up and poured himself another smelly cup. “Hard to imagine Jessa capable of killing Wilhelm. So you have been looking for her ever since?” Tom’s hands shook. A hot cup of the same stuff sat neglected within his reach, steaming in vain at him. His eyes betrayed his exhaustion, but the rest of him remained tense as if about to bolt out the door towards some other forgotten hideout. “The cops are looking for her. They say they just want her story, but that’s gǒu shǐ and you know it too. Maybe they won’t get her for murder, but manslaughter at least. And as a minor? They’ll ship her back to that workhouse she told me she came from…some wasi’chu Russian place.” Gobi nodded and folded his muscular arms with one finger holding his cup. “Have you tried Chen’s? Or maybe she is hid in Mata Hari Park somewhere.” Tom shook his head. “Those are my next stops. I just wanted to see if she squirreled herself in here before I went across the length and breadth of Westgate District and beyond.” He put his head in his hand. His hair drew curtains around his face, hiding what the shuttered breath told plainly. “Hey, brother. There, now. I have seen Jessa take quite good care of herself. She takes care of you more than the other way around.” Tom raised his eyes and talked through his fingers which made it look like his mouth was behind bars. “I… I just don’t want to lose her…she’s been the family on this rock I ain’t got. We were just getting a routine going, you know? And…if I ever find her—” “You mean when you find her,” Gobi interrupted with a raised eyebrow. Tom sighed and nodded gratefully. “…when I find her…we will have to probably head to the Northgate District or…something else… I don’t know. But the cops have her on radar for a good while, now. We’ll have to live in the shadows.” Gobi frowned and put his cup down. “Just one thing at a time, my friend. Let us find her first, and then we shall figure something out about your future, okay?” Tom nodded quietly. “Thank you.” He finally took the cup and sipped from it. Immediately his face contorted into a new kind of agony and he spit out the rest of his mouth’s contents back into the cup. Gobi simply gave an amused cock of his eyebrow accompanied by a wry grin. The close approximation of spiced chai tea wasn’t something Tom particularly enjoyed. He rubbed at his lips and stood. “You know, your father thinks we are the same age.” Gobi rolled his eyes as he took Tom’s cup from in front of him and put both drinking vessels in a grubby sink. “My father thinks that anyone who is five years younger than him must be my age. I am a good ten years your elder, which makes me as good as big brother to you. So you had better do as I say.” He gave another smirk and reached into a locker. He took out an old olive surplus kit bag, which he handed to Tom along with a couple of aluminum water bottles. “Find Jessa. Come back here. Between the three of us, we should have some kind of plan.” Tom accepted the pack and slung it onto his shoulders. “That doesn’t sound terribly reassuring.” He threw his hat back on and tucked his hair up into it. He gave a terse nod with his brave face and took a deep breath. “Thanks for not shooting me in the War.” Gobi returned a wry smile, but his eyes remained soft. He patted Tom on the shoulder. “Be glad that I still do not.”
(One hour later)Jessa froze when the ship’s door burst open with light and sound. A man’s boots clomped heavily along the floor, rattling the myriad piles of components and other junk along the floor. She heard what sounded like the activation of a rifle. “I know you are in here. There is no use hiding, Jessa.” The steps moved quickly across the floor, not even hesitating in between. They came right to wear she was hiding. At the last moment, she looked up to see the small camera installed in the corner of the room and gasped before her sight was obscured by the large shadow of the bald man. “There you are!” The shadow folded its arms. She couldn’t see his face, but she could tell he was frowning. “There’s someone who is going to be very happy that I found you.” “Wuo Duh Tian Ah! Gobi! You scared the gǒu shǐ out of me!” She reached down with her hand, found an empty Blue Sun Light! can and threw it at him. The aluminum shell bounced harmlessly off his chest. Gobi looked down at the can and then at Jessa with an amused expression. “I figured you would turn up sooner or later. I’ve been monitoring the cameras all morning. You’re just lucky my father didn’t see you first. He would call the cops.” He put down a piece of ship equipment on one of the benches that, despite sounding like an activating riffle, was less harmless than a toaster. “Where’s Tom? We gotta git outta here, fast!” Jessa jumped out of her hiding spot and started to organize her pack. “I’m real sorry I had to leave him an’ all, but there was no way I was going to be able to lug him outta there. I had to bolt. Did they arrest him?” “No,” Gobi sniffed. “They fixed him up some and then let him go. He is out looking for you.” Jessa ducked her head. One hand grabbed the elbow of the other arm, which hung stiffly at her side. “Was he mad?” “Worried…really… I have never see him worked up, but he sure was when he was here looking for you.” Jessa continued to rub at her elbow and look away, down the length of the ship. “I wish we could just go somewhere else.” Gobi reached up to the camera and disconnected the wire. The little red LED faded to black. “Well, if you don’t mind the mess, you could hang out in the Ganesh for a few days until it all blows over. I will just have to keep my father from coming in here.” Jessa shook her head. “Why can’t we just take your ship? Tom tells me about his grandpa all the time. He says he lives on another planet called Hera. I would bet that if there’s a safe place in this whole ‘Verse, it’s on his grandpa’s ranch out there.” Gobi frowned. “I knew a guy who told me once, ‘If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to.’,” he muttered. “Your ship can make it, right? It does look kinda rusty.” “Rusty?” Jolted back to the present, Gobi blinked at her in disbelief. “I’ll have you know that this ship’s got more heart and guts than most of the sorry fèiwù I tow out of orbit. Tough as nails. Solid as a water buffalo!” He winked at her and slapped the ship’s interior wall hard. Jessa giggled. “Really, why can’t we just fly to Tom’s home for a while?” Gobi shrugged. “I’d never be able to justify the fuel cost to father.” She smiled and skipped over to the large Bengali man. She took his hand and looked up at him in the dim light. “Leave that to me. Have we got a deal, Gobi?” He chuckled. “Why look at you looking at me. Alright, Miss Jessa. You are a most convincing businesswoman. If you can take care of gas—above the board—” He wagged his finger at her. “Nothing that’s going to have cops coming and making a scene, now. If you can find a way to cover the expense, I’ll consider it.” Jessa shook her head. “I do it clean and you gotta say ‘yes.’” Gobi rolled his eyes, amused. He rubbed his chin a moment, then thrust out his hand. “Deal.”
One year ago, eveningTom stumbled into the brick-lined alley in the Northgate District and counted the dumpsters. He stopped between the fourth one—labeled “Plastics Only” in English and Mandarin—and the fifth—labeled for the exclusive use of ceramics. He opened the fifth dumpster and rummaged around. Finding a broken basin, he pulled it out and positioned it under a dripping pipe. When it had a little puddle of bitterly cold water on it, he began to scrub his hands vigorously, all the while murmuring prayers of thanks to the spirit of Old Man Coyote for his escape from that hellish slaughterhouse disguised as a dark alleyway off Eavesdown Docks. Tom scrubbed himself raw with a few slivers of workman’s soap, and washed his hair four times in case any blood or DNA happened to cling their pointy little accusations on his skin. He returned to the fourth dumpster and fished out a new set of clothes. He hesitated for a moment over a brown longcoat, its green and yellow rectangular patch with a blue star hovered on its sleeve. He clenched it as if to bring it out, but then shook his head. No, better to lay low for a few days. Brown colored coats were still turning heads what with the Independent Surrender barely a couple years ago. He got looks a-plenty just being Injun. With the shadows as long and dark as they were going to get on a Persephone evening, Tom stripped naked and bundled his clothes into one tight ball. The fresh clothes actually felt pretty good, but these would have to last. It wasn’t every day he could fish a piece of lost luggage from the Brutus or the Dartmouth or the Astro-Plymouth transport ships. Tom secured the fourth dumpster and reset the sensor that kept the drones from taking its contents away while he was gone. He gingerly picked up the bundle and clothes and headed towards an incinerator he’d been able to use on occasion whose owner wasn’t very cautious about keeping it locked up. Along the way, the neon sign of a tavern blinked to him. “Hey, now. Been six months sober. Don’t be talking to me right now,” he muttered at it. “It’s been a very weird day. Nothing to show for it. We can help you forget in here…” the sign seemed to say. Tom frowned. He noticed he was still looking at the sign too long. He marched on toward the incinerator and deposited his clothes. But he soon found himself returned, standing within striking distance of those neon-generated photons. He stood across the street. Then on the same sidewalk. Then, at the door. He frowned and thrust his hand into his pocket in search of a few credits. Instead he found a card. He pulled it out and looked at it. A smile crept over his face. It was an Alliance IdentCard. “Welcome to Persephone, Mr. Bradshaw,” he chuckled. Seems the Grandfather Rabbit spirit had looked favorably on him after all. And her. Jessa. Tom pivoted on his old boots and headed home.
NowThe warehouses of Sloan & Sons Wholesale were huge. Spacers from all over came here to restock before heading out towards the Rim. Everything from protein packs to irrigation parts, from frilly party dresses to aluminum sheeting. One section was nothing but transistors, nav-computers and wiring while another was a grocery-deli-pharmacy. It was like someone had taken a skyplex and deliberately crash-landed it smack dab in the middle of the Northgate District. Tom and Jessa visited Sloan & Sons regularly. Tom was never sure which one was Sloan Sr. and which Sloan Jr. and which ones were also relations. All of those pasty yellow-hairs all looked alike to him. And it didn’t help that they all dressed in those cheesy suits neither. One of the great things about a wholesale is that there is so much gorram stuff vacuum packed into every huge box that nobody seems to notice a few missing units here and there. The trouble was the security systems. They were supposed to keep shoplifting to a minimum, and they did a pretty good job of it. But the difference, Tom noted with pride, was that most shoplifters didn’t know the first thing about fancy electronic security systems like he did. And nobody was as clever as Jessa. So whenever they went on any of their “shopping trips” to Sloan & Sons, Tom's tech savvy combined with Jessa's guile allowed them to go about as unnoticed as the occasional instances of mice. And since they weren’t greedy about it, they stayed unnoticed. However, Tom wasn’t there on a shopping trip this time. He hurried up and down the aisles, avoiding lifters and jacks and carts. He wove around crowds of hope-ridden pioneers who had already purchased the Alliance lies telling of a new life on out the Frontier planets and were just now looking for accessories. But he wasn’t seeing the familiar face he had desperately hoped to see—a wāpos, scared and alone, will go deep into her den where there is warmth and security. Tom made his way to the back of the food section. There, a little passageway with a hand-painted sign read:
Translation Logbái mù (Chinese)
“厕所 — Cèsuǒ — WC — shauchaalay — inodoro — トイレ — туалет”