‘You. Out. You’re cast out.’ Scuttling into the vat room, that was one way of introducing herself – instant confrontation – proboscis twitching like a fairy’s dilly.
‘You can’t do that. Not to me.’ Ha – she stood no chance. I’m already in foul scrooting-up and arguing mode, and it’ll only get worse over the next three days. ‘I’m in no mood for idiotic jesting by some Ragot in a Red Rok jacket,’ I told her plain and straight. ‘You really can’t get rid of me, even if you are the new Over-Manager of the Estate. It’s beyond your power and remit.’
So I stared back at her. Waited for her next silliness. I heard we’d got a new Larrad, and I expected she’d come with all mouths blazing, and spewing new rules, though perhaps not quite so soon and so abruptly. ‘You want new staff? Get rid of trouble-dregs like me? You can’t kick me out – I’m a fixture.’
Juggers! The face on her – mandibles at full swell, eye palps abulge with her disbelief, and her rage quotient upped three points. I have that effect on some of the Ragots.
‘I’ve got to stay here,’ I insisted. ‘You can’t do it.’
She gave this throat-clearing rattle. It’s the Ragots’ version of a sneery laugh. Rag-teeth bunch, all of’em. More teeth than chockros, longer throats than Highraffs, and as much humour as a bag of four-point nails.
‘You can’t chuck me out,’ I re-informed her. ‘I’m bonded to this Estate – fields, vines, barrels, bottles and all. You’re stuck with me.’
She lashed out – tempy-temper – but I took a face-slash for it. Hardly the worst thing I’ve had to put up with since I was sent here, four years ago. The only human on the estate. Scarcely my idea – but they didn’t give me any choice at the time – that’s the thing about verdicts and sentences. And I been stuck here since. But at least it’s warm and sunny and nobody tries to stop me drinking my way into the profits.
‘It’s y’ home now,’ they told me – sort of – I had to get it translated. The Ragots have awful accents and juggall understanding of grammar – like they get their sentences upside-down as well as backwards.
So this’s home, as they call it. Home – more like a gnome dome – stupid scuttling Ragots live in these round-houses like Zuloid domes, because, apparently, it’s tra-jugging-ditional on their home planet which is a totally unpronounceable dump that sounds like sirithiticalyxx Hoym – only you need five times the teeth I’ve got to say it right, and there’s a bass echo from the depths of their throats – they have two throats most of the time, but that varies according to how many mouths are in operation at the time, and what they’re using them for.
‘You pick now to take the piss?’ I snapped at her. ‘I’m cast out? As if— Yike!’ She was jugging fast with that slash-tip. ‘You can’t evict me. Where would I go?’
Well, obviously off-planet as fast as I could find a ship with a bribable guard on the tradesmen’s entrance.
Juggit, I’m only here cos I got caught – yeah, right – caught by a matic storm when the SS Deliver-in-Time dropped into orbit and I came down on the surface looking for the spares and replacements right when the winds hit the spaceport. I got the units, but some Ragot idiots on the gates wouldn’t let me through.
We could have been up and away in half an hour. But no. Not allowed in – too risky. So – bad time of the month then, too, and I shoved’em aside – tried to, anyway.
They’re really fond of lashing out – and I was too pissed to be re-pissed by them and I lashed back – trouble with that was I was holding a triple-X power rod – very carefully until then – as you would. And I sort of jabbed one of them – poked him kinda over-hard, I suppose. He was feeling foulish and officious, and zapped at me, and his oppo came for me – all glitter-eyes, and tenties in throttle mode. And it was me he was intending to throttle. So I defended myself – still in a temper and a bit of auto-reaction. No – I knew what I was doing, sort of. And thought I could get past’em and aboard with the gear. Except the gates were auto-locked, and the winds were up at sonic rate by then.
So I was taken in. I think they did a kind of prosecution case against me, and I got life. My crew got the units and Ferox blocks, and were out of there faster than a wilko’s dick in season. So the Ragots gloated, and they gloat ultra-weird. So there I was, sentenced to life for attacking spaceport officials with ABH intention. Sent out here, the only human prisoner in Hibbith region – on the whole scabby planet for all I knew at the time.
There’s others kicking around since. I see them when they visit the estate – we produce a sort of wine that’s in top demand in posh resties on three planets. We’ve developed a unique flavour for the wine, so sometimes we get potential buyers coming round to see what our set-up is. They always ask about the singular taste of our top-seller. ‘It’s a mix of ingredients that I worked on,’ I always say. ‘Secret recipe that we perfected. And we work on several settling and fermenting interactions between the ingredients. Yes, the end-product is quite distinctive, isn’t it?’
It’s becoming rather well-known – the Estate, and the Orina Wine. We’re even coming on the tourist circuit now, although Manager Pollo would never dare to allow me to come into contact with any casual visitors.
It’s not like I’m a slave here any longer. I have responsibilities now; worked my way up. I know the business – refined the fertiliser balance, the watering and light sequences, lengths, amounts… And there’s stages in the fermentation process that I worked on.
I’m not sucking up to them – Jaragoth forbid – simply dragging myself up off the unappreciated floor. I get additional food for the extra hours I put in. And my own room when I got the flavourings ID’d. And I’ve been working with a couple of Rags, supposedly me under them, but it doesn’t run that way in practice.
‘Out. You shall be out,’ this new Red Rok Ragot yacked at me. ‘Now, today. If you have any impedimenta, collect it together.’ They don’t get the idea of “get your stuff”, or just “jugg off”. Impedimenta, indeed – paraphernalia… accoutrements. They scarcely speak Yume, but when they do, they go overboard on the big words, and fancy themselves as great wordsmiths.
If she kicks me out – A) it’s on her head-lobe – I’m here for life, and she hasn’t got the authority or power, like I told her. B) where the jugg am I supposed to go? And how? Okay, so I do have a secret cash stash but I dunno if it’ll get me through a back-door onto a ship. C). How the pigh-jugging norda is she going to produce such uniquely exquisite-tasting wine if I’m not here to pee in the vat four times a day?