Tori was turned around in her seat, watching the people eating in airship dining lounge. People-watching was one of the things she really enjoyed, once she learned to actually do so. Enjoy, that is. Making knives was her other great passion and came from the same need, to control an uncertain world. Now she was good at both, and enjoyed both, very, very much.
“You know, I can’t help but feel a little ignored and taken for granted, Victoria,” Heibai teased with mock-seriousness. The two Clinkenbeard sisters giggled and the older one, Hannah, leaned across to take and squeeze his hand. Heibai turned his almond-shaped eyes her way. Tori noted that, and maybe smiled a little, all while turning back to them and nibbling on her toast. Such luxury she’d never know in the habitats, or even remembered from before that second day of dragons. Real bread, sliced, toasted… buttered. Tori shivered deliciously, tasting the butter on her tongue. It sure as hell beat a hundred gram bar of kibble!
“You sure like your toast,” the little sister piped up. Melody, that was her name. The little bird, or mouse; Jules called her ma petit and spoke French with her. Tori smiled back at her, thinking of all of the little ones she’d watched over under Mother’s hand, provided for with questionable skills and deeds.
“I do. Do you, uh, eat like this all the time, back on Tienshan?” That was the Heavenly Mountain, in the Chinese, their home-world and birth-world. It was strange to think that they were aliens, born and bred, whereas she and Jules Le Croix were the only Earthlings present at the table and the only Americans, at that, although she considered herself a Vee-burg Gal, now, a grudgingly accepted citizen of the Republic of Venus, et al.
“More or less. Live meat animals, veggies, and complex carbs from native grains, though, and not vat protein or spirulina, the byproduct of some ship or habitats’ life-system.”
Tori smiled innocently. “We have rat whenever we can get it…”
The people at the next table turned and stared at her and Jules nodded pleasantly at them. They turned back to their conversation and attempted to ignore the outlanders as best they could.
“Sticking it to The Man? Please be a little more discrete, Ms. Vegas, for me?”
Tori’s smile faded just a little. “Yes sir, Jules-“
Jules laughed. “Don’t ‘Sir’ me; I work for a living!”
Confused, Tori shrugged. “Teacher and boss-man, what else should I…?”
“Not an officer, period! Okay, pop-quiz,” he said briskly changing the subject. “What can you tell me about the threats, in this room?”
“You, Heibai and I are the most dangerous-“
“Hey!” Hanah interrupted.
“Hannah is not carrying. Otherwise I’d say it was a tie for first or second place.” She leaned back and nodded slightly, unobtrusively indicating that other table of offended diners. “She’s his bodyguard, but from the signals I’m getting, she doesn’t much care for him. Discrete black-market small caliber pistol I’d say, and bare-hands. He’s useless; twenty kilos over and out of condition…”
“The sports team?”
“Linear soccer and probably a wild-card. But they will react as a unit and back each other up. The singleton with the reader is the one that interests me.”
“Professor of 20th Century Literature. He was telling his waiter all about Chandler and Sayers; also mentioned Poe.”
“Very good work, Probie.”
Tori smiled. When Jules Le Croix was impressed, you done good, indeed.