Not every moment makes it into the novels. For instance, here are a few conversations that didn't fit into Outrageous Fortune, that Kelley McKinnon and I used to create a side story about that time the Errant crew were grounded in Stolichnaya. No spoilers, here, just some downtime with John, Jagati, Rory, and Eitan as they get to know each other. To read part one, click HERE.
Day 5 at Anchor
John entered the galley and found his crew once again huddled around the table, on which a number of candles had been set, not for light, but for heat.
As had been the case since they’d anchored, Jagati was bundled head to toe, her eyes barely visible between the watch cap pulled down to her brows and the scarf pulled over her nose.
Rory was nursing a mug of tea John would bet hard starbucks had been livened with a splash of Campbell’s Best.
Eitan, however, appeared to be at ease, with a mug of tea to his right, reading a book held flat under his left arm.
“The snow’s finally stopped,” John announced to all and sundry, heading for the kettle which, in their current circumstances, remained filled and on the burner most of the day.
“Sweet honey in the comb,” Rory cheered, setting the mug down.
“But the winds are still close to forty knots, and both our radar and Hygge Flight show a line of storms moving in from the Amazons that would take us down almost as soon as we lifted off.”
“Can we go down in flames?” Jagati asked, her voice muffled by the scarf. “At least then I’d be warm for a few seconds.”
“Ha,” John said.
“I know how to warm you all up,” Eitan said, closing the book and picking up his tea.
The other three turned to stare at the newest member of the crew.
“I’m not—” John began.
“Tis a generous offer,” Rory said at the same time
“Dude.” Even muffled, Jagati sounded surprised.
“And, really, even you would have to get tired, eventually. Wouldn’t you?” John posited.
Eitan’s tight smile made a brief appearance. “What I meant was, we should all go out,” he explained, gesturing towards the bulkhead. “I would venture none of you have set foot outside this airfield since we anchored.”
“Out?” Jagati challenged. “ Are you insane? I’m already freezing inside.”
“Precisely.” Eitan tossed back the rest of his tea and gave Jagati’s arm a friendly punch. “Inside, barely able to move for all this fabric. A little venture into Hygge will get the blood moving. Come.” He thumped Jagati’s arm again and rose.
Rory grimaced, but he tossed back his tea with a hiss and rose with him.
“I don’t wanna,” Jagati grumbled.
“It’s something to do,” Rory said. “Plus, Hygge Flight mentioned an ice sculpture garden.”
“There you have it,” Eitan said with a smile John knew could disable the brain cells of an entire pub.
He’d seen it happen.
A hrumph came from Jagati. John suspected, she wanted to cross her arms across her chest, but there was too much fabric in the way.
But there was no mistaking the determined scrunching into her chair.
Eitan looked at Rory, who shrugged.
“Your loss,” Rory said.
“You know what’s interesting abut the winters here?” John said as he, Rory and Eitan started towards the starboard arch. “Spiders can’t survive in this cold.”
The pile that was Jagati slowly straightened. “Are they dead? Or do they just, you know, hibernate?”
“Even if they did hibernate, I’d think they’d freeze when they came out.” He looked at Eitan.
“They would,” the Fujian agreed solemnly. “Most assuredly.”
“Freeze and fall apart,” Rory tossed in. “Like those biscuits you made last week. Just—” His hands made a little crumbly move.
All three men waited.
Then Jagati hissed and lurched to her feet. “I hate you all,” she declared as she waddled across the room, shedding blankets and pillow shams as she went, so by the time she reached the arch, she almost looked like a human.
“Yes!” Rory punched the air. “Field trip!”
“I thought you didn’t go to a regular school,” Eitan observed as they followed her out the galley.
“Oh I didn’t. But there was a time me old da took me to the Doctor Who Traveling Circus and Museum for an entire day. Got the grand tour and watched the matinee,” he recalled. “And that night we broke into the prop room to steal the Tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.”
“What is a sonic screwdriver?” Jagati asked.
“A prop,” Eitan told her. “Like Gandalf’s staff in the Lord of the Rings Cycle.”
“Very educational,” John observed as he followed his crew out of the door, then remembered, at the last minute, to run back and turn off the burner under the kettle.
Despite herself, Jagati found herself enchanted by the sculpture gardens which were, thankfully, laid out under a massive tarp, allowing viewers to remove their goggles and enjoy the show without going snow blind.
The tarp also did a fine job of cutting down on the wind, which meant she was less cold than she might have been. And while it was smogging annoying, being outside and mobile was more warming than jogging around the inside of the Errant.
Though she wasn’t moving at the moment, having been struck immobile in front of one of the larger works, this one depicting a man in the process of reaching for some girl, but the girl was turning into a tree.
Jagati had seen the image before—somewhere.
Not as a sculpture, she thought, but in a book. One of the big tomes that preserved Earth’s art, when the art itself was too heavy for Fortune’s ancestors to carry away from their doomed home world.
As she stared, she recalled looking at that picture, and thinking both figures were seriously underdressed. Even more so here, in the middle of a Stolichnayan ice garden.
But the way the scraps of ice fabric seemed to flow, and the delicacy of the leaves sprouting from the girl’s hands, leant a sense of motion and life to the tableaux utterly at odds with the frozen medium.
If she looked away, and then back, would she find the maiden further transformed?
Either way, Jagati strongly suspected that, in this case, the transformation was the grasping man’s fault, just as she had the first time she’d seen the image. And just as she had then, she felt again a strange clutch in her chest as she studied the tableaux of the hunter and the hunted, frozen forever.
Or, at least until the ice melted.
“Bernini,” she thought aloud, recalling the name of the original artist from that long-ago book.
“You know your Ancient Earth art,” a voice from her left said and Jagati turned to discover that another woman had appeared.
Like most of Hygge’s populace, this woman wore a coat with a peaked hood with the addition of a watch-cap beneath, all that showed was a dusky, laugh-lined face peering from the gray on gray bundle.
“So do you,” Jagati said, while the other woman beamed at the sculpture. “How do you make the sculptures?” She waved at the tree-girl. “Those leaves are thinner than a crepe.”
“We start with the axes, and the solar-battery saws,” the little woman said, eying the statue with a clinicl eye. “Then as the shape forms, we move to grinders, keyhole saws, chisels.”
“Cold work,” Jagati decided, then looked at her companion. “Did you make this one?”
“My daughter made it,” the woman said with pride. “She has a great fondness for Earth’s masterpieces. I made that one.” Here the woman gestured to the left, to a sleek sailboat, cresting a wave of ice, that John was currently studying.
“It’s amazing,” Jagati admitted. “Like it’s about to slide off the wave.
“Practice,” the woman shrugged, but seemed pleased with Jagati’s praise.“Your man appears quite taken with it.”
“Oh.” Jagati started. “Ha. But he’s not my—”
“There’s a massive fire-breathing draco!” Rory came swooping from the right, hands waving in the air. “And a mammoth that looks about to stampede! And their’s a dire wolf you’d swear was ready to pounce!” He grabbed Jagati’s free arm. “Fire. Breathing. Draco!” And then he ran off.
As he did, Jagati saw John turn from the sculpture of the boat, his expression empty, his eyes desolate.
Then his lips turned up in amusement at Rory’s antics, and his eyes cleared, leaving Jagati doubting what she’d seen.
The Bernini Replica
The statue Jagati is studying is a replica of Bernini's Apollo and Daphne, taken from the tale Phoebus and Daphne in Ovid's Metamorphosis. A beautiful yet troubling work based on a still more troubling tale.
Want to know more about the crew of the Errant? Check out their first novel: Outrageous Fortune.