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19 October 2017 @ 12:10 am
_The Boy_ part 1  
 

13 Ramadan 1408

Maldonado, Uruguay Division, One World

Ebsa felt the faint touch and snapped a hand back to grab the wrist of the pickpocket . . .

A zing of power, just as the thinness of the wrist registered.

The boy panicked, dropping the minicomp and trying to twist free of Ebsa's grip.

"Ow, ow, ow!" The boy drew a breath for what would probably be a full blown scream and accusations of abuse, pedophilia . . .

"Oh good grief. By that zing you must be a relative of some sort."

The boy paused, eyes narrowed. A street brat, checking for potential profit.

Ebsa looked him over. No surprise, my dad was hardly a paragon of virtue. Then a sinking feeling. "What are you? About ten?" Old enough to be mine.

"I'll be ten next week." Chin up, defiant.

Ebsa let him go. Nine and a half months after the street orgy.

The boy jumped back. "Yeah. What about it."

Did he just pick my brains?

Scowl. "I'm better at that than pockets."

"Kid . . . " Ebsa scooped up his minicomp and looked up and down the street. A couple of restaurants among the bars, tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons . . . it was Ramadan, but this was a very Catholic area. They'd be open, but with the blinds down. "Would you like some lunch?"

"Why?" The kid's eyes checked that he had plenty of room to run, and he relaxed slightly.

"Because you're a relative, possibly a brother, possibly a son. Because you are magically powerful and acting criminally."

The boy backpedaled. "You can't be my dad! No way would I just run into him on the street. That only happens in vids. Stupid vids. I thought you were just a Halfer, you barely glow . . . except you're much brighter now."

"Yeah, I tend to shield harder than most." Ebsa looked around again. "So, what's your preference. Asian or Italian?"

Narrowed eyes. Thinking again.

"There's a parilla around the corner."

"Barbeque is always good." Ebsa followed as the boy retreated. Bet he knows someone there.

"Mi madre works there. And Jorge, he's her husband. At the moment. He owns the building."

Very common name. Because otherwise things could get unpleasant.

The brat grinned. Ebsa drew up all his shields, as hard as possible, and hustled to avoid getting run over as the kid crossed the street without so much as a glance, so far as Ebsa could see.

The parilla was fragrant . . . mostly with cooking odors, a few that were definitely burned. Whatever the waitress was wiping the tables with had a strong artificial floral scent, unfortunately reminiscent of restroom cleansers. Tobacco smoke, possibly marijuana.

The waitress . . . A Halfer by the unshielded middling strong glow, brown hair, pale skin. Middle-aged, or perhaps just a hard lived thirty. Unfamiliar.

The boy led the way to the cafeteria style serving line.

"Pay first." The old woman scowled from the boy up to him. "What are you up to now, Abbe?"

"Ax be." The boy scowled at the old woman.

Ebsa handed over a cash card as he scanned the menu board. He grabbed a tray. "Smells good. Giganto plate, fruit salad and torta frita."

The boy ordered the big chicken plate, and led the way to a table. Sat where he had an easy exit, and Ebsa had to slide in against the wall.

"Aren't we just the perfect paranoid pair. You have space to escape, I have a solid wall against my back and can't be snuck up on." Ebsa eyed the approaching waitress. Stomach sank. Add eleven years to the scrawny druggie girl . . . yeah I think that's her.

He resisted an urge to order a beer. Better stay sharp.

Well, he'd been fifteen. No doubt he'd changed even more.

"Cervesa, Senior?" She was frowning down at the boy.

"Madre." The boy sounded cautious.                               

"What are you doing here?"

"They don't want me, and I don't want them. Why should I stay there?" The boy, Axbe? Crossed his arms and scowled.

"Because it's the law, and I can't afford a better school." His mother sounded tired and defeated.

"Ah." Ebsa nodded. "Those stupid residency rules. So you're in a boarding school?"

"Purgatory."

"Umm, and how many other precocious ten year olds are there?"

"None. There's one twelve year old girl."

The woman threw up her hands. "If you keep this up you'll be in care, and you'll like that even less." Her eyes darted to Ebsa.

"Cola, please."

The boy snorted. "Chocolate milk shake."

The woman frowned, then glanced at Ebsa. Her eyes widened . . . "Are you . . . I mean, were you at the High Low Club the night . . . You're that boy, the teenager . . . "

No point in lying. "Yeah."

She boggled a bit. "Well, well, you sure grew up." She retreated, throwing a single worried glance backward.

Ebsa looked back at the boy, who was studying him.

"I heard all about it, you know."

"Aren't you a little bit young for that?"

"Heh. All I ever get is 'Why couldn't you be Bruno's kid? Then we'd be rich.' As if I had any choice in the matter." Axbe looked him up and down. "Are you rich? You don't look rich."

"No, not rich. But I do have a job." Ebsa picked up his fork. Time to fill his mouth so he had time to think before he said much more. I'm dressed very casually, need a hair cut. Still going to get my ass sued.

The boy nodded. "Mi madre's probly figuring out how much to sue you for right about now."

Ebsa eyed the woman coming up behind the boy.

"No I ain't. What I want is for you to find him a good school and pay for it. Pay for what the Oner allowance won't cover."

"Umm." Ebsa paused, again to think. "That actually sounds reasonable . . . there must be schools for the precocious kids."

"So . . . go find one."

"Umm . . . I'm sorry, but I don't remember your name."

A bark of laughter. "Don't know yours either. That damned party! Call me Chacha, everyone else does."

"Umm . . . Ebsa Clostuone Castellanos Montevideo."

"Ooo! Fancy." She rolled her eyes and walked away.

"Well, at least I've managed to shed my nickname." Ebsa stuffed a bite of tender smoked beef into his mouth and pulled out his minicomp.

The boy glared. Ebsa enlarged the holoscreen and turned it so the kid could see it too. The boy turned his head away.

Three schools in the enclave admitted to boarding children as young as ten. Ebsa opened the grid site of the first on the list.

"That's the one I'm in now. I hate it." The boy squinted and looked away again.

Ebsa sent queries to the other two, keeping it brief.

"I have a ten year old boy, magically precocious, who needs to board. Tell me about your program."

Then he checked the schools' academic records, at their grid sites.

One was good. One was incredible. They both posted their tuition rates. One expensive, one outrageous.

"Guess which one's the snob school." The boy grinned snarkily and attacked his lunch.

"So . . . what's you full name, anyway?"

"Axbe Clostuone Aparicio Montevideo." He took a bite out of his half-chicken, and mumbled around it. "I don't care if I'm a Closey Upcomer Bastard."

"Good. Because that's what I am too." Ebsa chewed while reading a reply from the Azalea Academy. "How are your grades? These guys . . . that bad, eh?"

Hunched shoulders. "I hate school."

The Donatello School . . . sounded more like a remedial, meets-the-basic-requirements sort of school.

Ebsa eyed the kid. "We'll go talk to these people tomorrow."

"What do you mean, we?"

"You don't want to check them out?"

"No. I'm not going to school. I'm already a pretty good pickpocket. I don't need school." He turned and squinted across the room. "Madre slaps me when I say that."

Ebsa eyed the kid, then pulled his comp closer, and started a new search. Not something he'd ever needed himself, but he was beginning to think . . .

"Right. If you're finished, I made an appointment with an optician."

"A what?"

"You are going to get your eyes checked, as a starting point. Then . . . perhaps some clothes, for the school interview tomorrow."

"Eyes . . . No. I won't wear glasses. I won't be one of those people. The deformed. The Multitude. The deficient. I won't."

"Fine. Contacts. No big deal. And maybe you don't need them. No matter how often I see you squint."

But he was talking to the boy's back as he bolted out the door.

Ebsa sighed and sat back. Finished his lunch, left a solid tip.

The kid was down the street, hard stare directed down the street, shoulders stiff.

"It's just a couple of blocks from here." Ebsa walked past him and kept going. Crossed the street safely, around a corner, and there it was. He looked over his shoulder and opened the door for the kid. He knows his eyesight's bad.

It was all automated, with the human attendant there to monitor the process, and no doubt try to sell the more expensive and stylish spectacles. Ebsa handed over a cash card, and Axbe was shut into the testing module.

I really hope he doesn't have claustrophobia.

He strolled over to the racks of frames. Some empty, some with plain glass in them. So, what would a ten year old who is in a panic over being taken for Multitude wear, anyway? And what if his eyesight is perfect? Then I'll have to deal with a kid who doesn't want to learn.

Ebsa pondered his own past. At least I was fifteen when I turned so bloody stupid. At ten? He's probably already getting shaky on the absolute basics.

The testing module opened. Axbe climbed out and turned . . .

Ebsa grabbed his collar and pulled him back so his kick missed.

"I won't wear glasses."

"Uh huh. Well. My recommendations is to try them, see what you think. If the improvement is sufficient, we'll looking to lens shaping. I happen to know some really good medgicians."

"It said . . . it said I needed bifocals."

 
 
 
muirecan: Withersmuirecan on October 19th, 2017 06:46 am (UTC)
Polishing this one up. Eh?
matapampamuphoff on October 19th, 2017 01:00 pm (UTC)
Someone requested it, and I'm still floundering around on _Last Merge and not ready to snippet that, so most of you get a repeat.
(Anonymous) on October 19th, 2017 04:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm liking it very much
(Anonymous) on October 19th, 2017 03:42 pm (UTC)
Warrior side effects
So the side effects of being a warrior are almost as bad as the side effects of being a god. (also known as "I can't take you anywhere without weird, improbable and usually dangerous stuff happening can I?"). A very useful attribute for the author though.
matapampamuphoff on October 19th, 2017 04:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Warrior side effects
Oh yeah. And having the Priest gene _solo_ is even worse. See Lucky Dave. The first people he interacts with . . . are the people who can get him what he needs.
James ResoldierJames Resoldier on October 19th, 2017 10:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Warrior side effects
SOOOOOO what we wanted to see!!!
ekuah on October 19th, 2017 11:11 pm (UTC)
Bifocals?
For a ten year old???
matapampamuphoff on October 20th, 2017 12:35 am (UTC)
Re: Bifocals?
Yup.
ekuah on October 20th, 2017 07:56 am (UTC)
Re: Bifocals?
You know why you would need bifocals?

Excerpts from Wikipedia:
Bifocals:
are eyeglasses with two distinct optical powers. Bifocals are commonly prescribed to people with presbyopia

Presbyopia:
is a condition associated with aging of the eye that results in progressively worsening ability to focus clearly on close objects
...
Presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process. It is due to hardening of the lens of the eye.
...
People over 35 are at risk for developing presbyopia and all people become affected to some degree.
(Anonymous) on October 20th, 2017 12:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Bifocals?
pediatric bifocal prescriptions are generally given to help correct any one of a variety of -phorias, -tropias, strabismus or other accommodative or convergence difficulties.
ekuah on October 20th, 2017 03:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Bifocals?
Never heard of juvenile presbyopia.
In that case Pam has to adjust the treatment of the Boy.
A simple lens reshaping wouldn't help when he can't focus his eyes.
Also squinting wouldn't help with a hardened lens.
'The boy squinted and looked away again.'
'He turned and squinted across the room.'
"Fine. Contacts. No big deal. And maybe you don't need them. No matter how often I see you squint."
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on October 20th, 2017 09:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Bifocals?
This trope has been used elsewhere. see Lois McMaster Bujold's recent novella Penric's Fox (age fourteen) and indeed a long-ago novel by D E Stevenson.