This is written to the image prompt here for “Sixteen Minute Saturday,” something I adapted for alliteration from Ty Barbary’s 15-minute Fiction.
I’d love if more people played along!
“It’s data tagging.”
“Like facial recognition?”
“Exactly like facial recognition. They pass by this camera… see? And then we know which one they are.”
“Doesn’t work for the females, though.”
“No, we’re still working on that. But the antlers are very close to unique.”
“Very close to…”
“Well, all right. It’s not an exact science by any means.”
“Aren’t you in the exact science department?”
“No, I’m in the tracking animals department. Exact sciences is down one floor and over three rooms.”
“Right, right. So. It doesn’t track the females and it’s not one hundred percent accurate at tracking the males. So what does it do?”
“Well, it projects the patterns on to them, too, in a hard-light display that is really pretty nifty.”
“Yep. Really nifty. And, what’s more, mating interest is up one hundred percent for females looking at the males with the nifty displays.”
“…One hundred percent.”
“That’s what I said.”
“So, are you the growing-antlers department, by any chance?”
“No. That’s up one floor and over two rooms. And it hurts like hell. But let me tell you… totally worth it.”
“One hundred percent?”
“In clinical trials – me – more like one thousand percent.”
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The …ninja… writhed in Mystral’s grip, mentally and physically. He fought her, struggling against the invasive Working with everything he had. Zen.
Zen. A place of quiet. A place of water.
The storm rushed through, ripping the water out of the pond, revealing his thoughts below. The camp. The quiet trade in those who would grow up to be such very good slaves. The wooden chains.
Calm. The ninja breathed. He could not kill himself, as he should, as he had been ordered to. But he could dream of the fire. Fire. Fire, and the way it touched the sky. The way his home had burned. The way the bridges behind him had burned.
The storm rushed in and blew out the fire, showing the camp, again, the fortress with its little cabins, so tidy, all in a row, with its silence. With the silence of death, although many people lived.
Snow, and the way the children sometimes did die, in the winter, hauling wood, doing chores.
The coffles being led to sale across the continent.
Fire? The ninja was running out of energy. He felt as if his mind might burn out.
And that would be okay. He would never survive the failure of this mission, anyway.
Fire. He remembered the fire.
Luke knew he was out of control, or, at the least, balancing on a knife-edge of control and rage.
Bring it on he’d shouted at the wind, and then, angrier, “Come to me, or, goddamnit, I will find you.”
No-one came. He couldn’t actually leave. He wouldn’t leave the children. But he needed to hurt someone. He needed to hear them break beneath his hands.
He muttered Working after Working, searching the surrounding area. There, there, there. There. The dead ones, the incapacitated ones. They were all as he had left them. There. And there, one, walking towards him, trying to sneak up on him.
“You will die,” he informed the air, intentionally mis-aiming his call. “For invading my home and attacking my family. You will die.”
“But you will die, too.” The voice was female, level, cool, and evil. Luke spun as if surprised to look the direction the voice came from – not where the woman was coming from. He readied his attack. Let her think him blustering and foolish. “And your children will go to the Unit. No matter what you do, foolish man.”
“What Unit?” He strode forward, just a step. Not far enough to leave the children un-protected, but far enough to make it look that way.
“My Unit.” She really thought he was a moron. “The Unit.” Now her voice was coming from yet another direction, and she was sneaking up on the kids. Luke did not smile, but inside, the fighting glee rose in him. “Your kids will do well. Then again, mutt children always do.”
Mutt. For a moment, he saw red. Control it, old son, control it… The voice inside his head was Mike’s. He’d worry about that another time. Right now, he had a bitch to capture.
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Children! They are required for continuation of the species!
Like all people, the Cālenyena have children, and they have words for them, of course
Pabap is a baby, a “carry-on,” or tes-tyētyē (self-carried), testyē.
Lerū is a child, generally one tall enough to walk but not tall enough to carry a spear or throw weapons.
This is the equivalent to their goat terms:
Pebyab is a tiny goat, not large enough to do much but bleat.
Lelū is a young goat kid, old enough to walk but not to be ridden.
The similarities in terms is not accidental. Especially when a herding culture, the Cālenyena tended to gather all their young together and raise them, so that babies and goat kids would grow up under the watchful eye of the pregnant mothers and the too-old to ride. Similar still happens today in remote villages and small towns.
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