Uruk at Play
ON THE EVE of the equinox, the Partner gave Hob a pair of loose trousers and a shirt of fine white cloth and a pair of soft NanoHide loafers and told him to have fun and be careful and remember that his chip knew the way home and when Hob had left he addressed himself to the properties of the stone.
Hob went out onto the street as the day was fading from the dome in a lurid mockery of the sunset outside. The lights came on among the trees and cybertabs appeared about the square and flashed their messages of endorsement for NektaPop and Grownston Flooring and Ghandi Cottons. The squares were crowded with youths and girls and older persons also and some were dressed extravagantly in the costumes of times and peoples past and many were masked. Hob sat on a bench on the pavement and he watched the people throng about and in half an hour he counted four who were dressed in imitation of himself as he had appeared on the tab. The people spoke and laughed and drank at the tables outside the eating places and it was not long before Hob was noticed for the very normality of his garb.
Dude, you look so like that bushman guy.
The youth who spoke was accompanied by two girls. He had a dark and chiselled face and he wore the costume of a pirate on the Spanish Main in days of old. He sported a thin and expressive moustache upon his upper lip and it served to emphasize the wryness of his smile.
That bushman guy on the tab. That like, wasted those outsiders. Harvesters. What's your name? Have some of this.
What is it?
Hash. It's like, organic.
Hob stared at the thin silver cylinder which was offered. A tendril of steam drifted from it. It carried a sweet peppery fragrance to the perceptive nostril.
We'll call him San, said the girl with dark hair. She had a round face and the nails at the end of her plump fingers were painted red.
Professor Dzugashvili will be totes impressed.
She turned to her companion.
He's super cute. Don't you think?
The blonde girl nodded and smiled at Hob. A lithe figure with a wide mouth and eyes like a cat.
Where's your girlfriend, she said. You must have a girlfriend somewhere.
Her shirt hung open a little and Hob glimpsed her breast and he saw that her nipple was pierced with a silver stud.
Don't stare San, said the dark girl. You'll get warts.
Sorry, said Hob. He lifted the silver cylinder to his lips as he had seen the youth do and he inhaled.
Do you know, said the blonde girl, that it actually means thief? San? It's actually a Khoi word for thief or vagabond.
They study anthropology, said the pirate. With Professor Dzugashvili. It's incredibly boring.
Which are you San, said the blonde girl. Thief, or vagabond?
Vagabond, said Hob.
Are you really, said the dark girl.
She looked at her friend.
I bet he's an accountant. You are, aren't you, San. A pretty accountant. You work in logistics. In the fresh produce segment.
Someone, said the pirate, has to bring in the asparagus. Or what are we to eat with our Pinot Gris?
What do you do really, San, said the blonde girl. Do you sit around all day, doing data capture in a virtual office?
I work for COOL, said Hob. Why is the ground so far away?
That would be the hash, said the pirate. Okay, he said. Drink. Who's got units ?
There came a silence. A little hiatus in the throng and the dark girl sighed.
I have, said Hob.
The pirate assumed a careful yet hopeful demeanour.
I think… fifteen thousand, said Hob. I'm very thirsty.
The pirate stared at him.
I think so. Something like that.
Dude, said the pirate. You're like, the mother lode.
We like you, San, said the dark girl. We like you a lot.
The youth led them to a square and they found a table and sat and a waiter came to them and put menus down.
Who's paying, he said.
He is, said the dark haired girl. And she pointed at Hob. He works for COOL.
We like him, said the blond girl. She smiled at the waiter. I want a double vodka. Stols. Do you have Stols?
Yes, said the waiter.
With cranberry NektaPop
Two of those, said the dark girl.
And we'll have beer, said the pirate. Ur Ale.
He smiled at the dark girl.
Because Sumerians did it first.
The waiter took a tablet from his pocket and held it out to Hob.
Chip, he said.
Hob put his thump on the flashing square and the tablet beeped and the waiter looked at it and nodded and went away to get the drinks and the silver cylinder passed once more about the circle.
You have to admit, said the pirate, that this is some good shit.
My name's Cass, said the blonde girl. It's short for Cassandra.
She leant forward and she smiled and she touched Hob upon his cheek with the backs of her fingers.
You're hot, she said. What's your real name?
Who needs names, said the pirate. On a night like this.
He looked at Hob.
You going to the conception?
Shindig, said the youth.
You have to come with us, San, said Cassandra. It's going to be epic. Come cut a caper.
I've never been outside, said the dark girl.
Neither have I, said blonde Cassandra. It's my first time.