Fumo the Free - Part 5
I'll take 'Cities That Burned' for 1000
After two days and nights of fistful interrogation, Fumo thought he’d learned more about himself than the Carpudlians had. And in two turns of being left in the dark by himself, he had learned even more.
He knew what Captain Tanya and First Mate Lucy wanted from him: turn to Carpool. They had a hot war going with a side called Transylvito, mostly on land. They needed warlords. Ensign Echobox had said all of this exactly, before anyone threw punch 1. Or punch 100.
At one point near the end of the first day (and at a couple dozen points on the second), Fumo had broken down and offered to turn. He just didn’t see any reason to be stubborn. If serving Carpool was his Fate, so be it. He was a warlord. He needed a source of upkeep. Transylvito probably didn’t have ants, and if he was fighting on land, at least he wouldn’t cross paths with these two again.
The thing was, Carpool wasn’t asking. Not yet.
The kingdom was on a completely different land mass from her colony Tidepod, with a medium-sized sea in between. Based on Lucy/Tanya’s hints, this voyage was going to take something a tenturn or more. Prisoners were cheaper to keep than warlords. And that’s all it boiled down to for the King of Carpool. Having a non-seafarer warlord aboard for this journey wouldn’t add anything to Challenger’s move or defense that would be worth the cost to the treasury.
So the feral-popped warlord could just languish on the floor in the pitch-black space behind an iron hatch, being rocked to sleepless seasickness, needing a smoke always, and occasionally summoning up the stomach to eat the solitary fish-flake cake that popped as his daily ration.
And yet, the First Mate beat him. Even when he’d offered to serve, she kept on. Clearly, the Captain wanted something else.
Fumo learned things about himself in that span of time. Not all were things he cared to think about when they’d finally left him alone. He wasn’t witty. He wasn’t all that brave. He had a breaking point, a much lower one than he would have liked to think.
But he’d learned about his crest. And he learned that he might have a home.
It wasn’t Carpool. He didn’t know if it really existed. But near the end of the...more exciting part of his ordeal, he’d learned about it when Tanya had come right out and asked him.
“Are you from Atlanta?”
The name meant nothing to Fumo. And at that point in the course of questioning—when he was a pulpy, slouching heap incapable of coming up with anything like a lie or an act—she must have known it meant nothing.
“I don’t hfink so...” he murmured.
“Are you?” ...she was asking him anyway, because it meant something to her. “Is that what this crest is?!”
“I’m feral,” he’d said. “I’m four turns old.”
For that answer, he’d received a final helping of Lucy’s fist. But when they’d finally left him to rot in his cell, Captain Tanya had almost seemed embarrassed.
Fumo waited until they’d been gone a while, until almost no bootsteps could be heard over the creaking of the ship’s timbers. Then he whispered, “Echobox...”
From the other side of the hatch, his Tidepodean jailer whispered back, “Wutchu want, wildman?”
“What is ‘Atlanta?’”
“Oh. I don’t know where the Carpud’s got that neem. Lost continent. Maybe island. Ate’s probably not cold that. We always sayd, ‘Archezoa.’”
Fumo repeated the name. This time...well, it meant something other than nothing. “Archezoa.”
“Yees. Or ‘Noah’s Ark,’” Echobox lowered his whisper even more. “Or if you really feel like blass-faming, then just ‘Ark.’”