What she could see was him hunched over a table talking to a huge man in what reminded her of degraded paramilitary garb. There was no way of telling what, if any progress was being made; the loud din and crowd prevented her from focusing on details of their conversation.
She turned back to Kyso, who was even more mouthfuls into finishing his bowl, shook her head. Two young, thin children ran past their table, bumping into and rattling their chairs, laughing and yelling at each other. She considered giving her food to them, but they were lost in the crowd before she could offer her bowl.
The empty moment that followed, brought back a pang of hunger of another sort – desire for connection, flood of oneness, feel of the codestream again – demanding her to act. The need pulled her attention back over to the negotiations going on across the room.
“What is Traejan doing over there?” She turned back to Kyso. He looked at her as if she was mouthing nonsense – pointed at his undulating cheek, emptying his third bowl – and Kyso was not eating quickly. She pointed out he was getting stew all over his beard. He rubbed the food away, smiled again.
“We’re wasting too much time in this place,” she explained, trying to keep her frustration at bay. “He’s been there for nearly two sevens. ”
Kyso swallowed, winced, coughed, coughed again.
“Althea…” he began, in what to her sounded like a patronizing tone. “Traejan comes here far more often than I do. Which, as far as I am concerned, is no longer a bad thing. Look around you, there’s nothing here for a man like me. Trae, well…
What about Traejan?
“He knows these people, he deals with them,” Kyso continued, trying to convince her. “He’ll be able to find the type you are looking for.”
She turned from him, back through the shifting crowd, back to the discussion Traejan was having with the gregga he’d called Goshram. She’d scrutinized the man’s face, seeing exaggeration of Makani features – the result of massive hormone treatments, geneering or freak chance of DNA recombination. The huge man had caught her gaze with his, dark eyes seemingly tiny beneath his prominent brow. He was appraising her as well. She’d been in enough places like this to know what kind of appraisal it was.
She turned back to Kyso, whose face was now hidden by the new mug of hot watery tea he was using to wash down the stew. It’d tasted like soap to her.
“You really believe that?” she called his bluff. “He’s been at that table for sevens, and it doesn’t look like a negotiation that I– we, want to be part of.”
But then… she’d noticed that most of the glances passed their way had been disapproving of one way or another. There were some curious looks at her, until they saw the man she was sitting with, then the people offered sour looks then turned away.
“You weren’t exaggerating the reputation you have here, were you?”
Kyso put down his mug. A sliver of its base broke off on impact. He grimaced at her comment.
“Not much, I’m sorry to say,” he told her unhappily. “We’ve been considered unlucky for anna, even unnatural, certainly unwelcome.”
“They don’t enjoy being reminded, do they, of what you came from, at least their leader’s don’t,” she guessed.
“That and other things,” he admitted. “But I think it mostly comes from what we’ve tried to do here.”
His voice grew bitter.
“Not very successful in improving their lives, at least in their eyes.”
“It couldn’t have come as much as a surprise,” she offered. “These people live on the edge of extinction, scrabbling for what little they have. Those with power here, they didn’t like sharing their status, did they?”
“Well… who would,” he replied with a heavy sigh. He then glanced up, past her, expression brightening. “Look, he’s finished, he’s coming back.”
Althea couldn’t contain her curiosity, her irritation – glared at Traejan as he wended his way slowly through the packed room back to them. A glance back to the men he’d been talking to didn’t lift her spirits.
“Traejan, what’s going on?” she demanded.
He looked away from her.
“It’ll take a bit of time to explain,” he told her, dodging her question, looked down at her untouched dinner.
“Ah, you haven’t even touched your g’nash,” he continued to evade. “Aren’t you going to–?”
“It’s all yours,” she told him, pushing the bowl across the table.