The elderly woman laid out the picnic with a practiced hand. Bottles to the side, food and plates close to reach for her and her nephew. She did this silently, save for a clucking of the tongue when one of the bottles refused to stand straight and stay aligned with its neighbours. Once things were done to her satisfaction she sighed and looked over at the man sitting opposite her, who watched with a smile of memories being once more brought to life. “Now, tell Tanta and Onc. What is it that be bothering you, boy?”
Mike glanced to the headstone that was on his right and her left and sighed. “There is . . . ”
“A girl, yes that much be obvious to anyone wit eyes to see you. Move on boy and feed yourself, you nothin but skin and bones and if you get any thinner they might not let you out the gate when we go to leave.” She shoved a bowl of food across to him and he dutifully served himself some, then seeing the look in her eyes, much more.
“She lives in a station I work out of, a few systems over. Tanta, she be the Queen of that place, people look out for her, love her, and she . . . ”
“Well iffen she don’t love you then she is a fool, for all the puttin on airs of being a queen. But that ain’t the problem, is it boy? You gonna make this last till the sun goes down and we have more of an audience for your story?” She swung and arm to encompass the small graveyard. “And eat, you know you love my cornbread, why you no got some?”
His plate was beginning to make him thankful he had studied advanced cargo management as it was loaded even deeper. “My company, they are moving. I am an officer in the company and they have done right by me but we are leaving Gallente space and heading for the Minnies.”
“Tsk, they don’t know nothing about cooking there, you gonna starve, take some more food.” As she spoke she laid a small drumstick and a shotglass full of an amber liquid on the top of the headstone. “And you down there, you know we watchin out for you, you be doing the same wit us, ya?”
“Tanta, I cannot ask her to come with me. I cannot leave the corp. I cannot be in two places at once.”
“And you cannot be any more stupid if you tried. All this you bring to Tanta? Pffffft, maybe all that food not for you. I don’t encourage fools and I certainly don’t feed them. ‘Cept for you Remy. You was all kinds of stupid but I love you.” She laid a hand gently on the grave and then swung back to face Mike. A fleeting thought of this being more scary than when 800mm autocannons had swung to track him in his last mission almost made him chuckle but he fought it down. “You own a ship now?”
“One or two.” Mike agreed.
“And they go fast when you wants them to. I heard in tha news about some man who went all around New Eden, circumsized it. How long did that take?”
“Four days, I think.”
“So furthest you gonna be iffen you move is four days away, and that is if you take the long way home. How long it gonna be, don’t tell me distance, tell me time.”
“Well depends on conditions and how I fly but half an hour, hour maybe?”
“You. Are. An. Idiot.” She jabbed a finger at him. “Remy here would travel for three quarters of a day when we was courtin to come see me.”
“How’d he get back home in the same day?”
Tanta smoothed her dress primly and smiled. “Who said he went back that day or the day after? Point is, boy, if you want both you can have both, you just gonna have to work some at it. I know you ain’t afraid of work, honest or dishonest. Remy had too much to say in your upbringing to have it any other way.”
“I am a fool, aren’t I? So used to things being just a moment away that I start to worry if I have to travel some.”
“Long as it no be going through the bad swamplands. I hear lots of folks in the news all talking about ‘lowsec’ lately.”
Mike shrugged. “I haven’t spouted off about that one. Oh, I been there once or twice but not tried to make a living or a killing at it. Would be a bit too much like an Amarran Holy Man giving sex advice. So I be keeping my mouth shut.”
The wicked laugh that came from Tanta sent shivers up Mikes arms. “You have not met some of the Holy Men I did when your Tanta was a younger lady. This was all before Remy made me an honest woman, of course.”
“There was one . . . ” She absently drained her own glass and then filled it, not missing a beat. “Oh he was all purity and light when the lights were on him. But once it got dark he was right outside the window tap tap tapping and a peek peek peekin. But that not a story for your young ears, maybe when you have some more experience.” Another throaty chuckle and she tipped the glass on the headstone and then refilled it. “Drink Remy, you know I only loved you.” She refilled the glass and returned it to its place on the top of the headstone.
Shaking his head trying to erase the images of his elderly aunt as a vivacious and promiscuous woman Mike raised his hand. “Yer right, Tanta, why you put up with me for so long?”
“Ah, Emé, you knows Remy loved you like you was the son he never had.”
“You two had six sons.” Mike replied dryly.
“Yes of course we did, and you were the seventh. Old customs die slow in the good families. Slower in bad ones such as ourselves.” She chuckled wickedly. “We live here in the bayou, it is a place not many go. Some say there is nothing here, others will only pass through it on the way to brighter beaches or into the city.”
“I recall someone wanted to drain it when i was younger, do some lowscale terraforming.”
Her eyes flashed with anger. “Remy and I, we put a stop to that idea. I did some of my own terror forming in that little set to.”
Mike blinked. “I heard that the management teams sent down to scout the bayou out met with a series of accidents.”
She smoothed her dress again, primly. “I tink we leave it at that, then. Accidents. Thing is, Emé, you were very young at the time so you weren’t part of the fight. Most times we here in the bayou, we minds outr own business. We don’t go proclaiming this is the good life because we don’t want a crowd around. There be a few things that could be better, but the last thing we want is it drained and made into something it is not. It is fairly empty but a lot of us folks that livge here like it that way.”
Laughing Mike reached for his own glass and toasted the woman. “I ought to record you and send it in when folks talk about lowsec. I never thought of it as swampland before but god knows I have met a few folks who could pass as gators and a few others who would make the gators cross the strem to not be on the same side as them.”
The conversation took many turns, as chats with wise elders are prone to do. The food was finished or packed to take along for the ride. The bottles were shared out and emptied either into the living or onto the dead. Mike kissed his Tanta on the sheeks before leaving and boarded the shuttle with her threat still ringing in his ears. “You bring that queen down here to meet us or I will bring the clan up to meet her.”
For once I am not doing a Blog Banter because, while I have opinions I do not have the experience to do more than parrot what I have heard others have to say.
Side thought. Do you know how traders make their Billions? What they trade? Do you know the specific items that give the best return for loyalty points? I have a suspicion that there are a lot of secrets in Eve and I wonder what secrets Lowsec holds.
Other side thought. In any sandbox there are corners where the pine needles fall, the sand is damp, or the light not quite right. It does not mean you rebuild the sandbox.
IMPORTANT Capsuleer is closing down. Go Here to sign a petition expressing your wish that this was not so.
Tanta was right, above. I have heard players say that 10 jumps was too far to be bothered going. This is how a lot of traders make their living. They get payed because we are lazy.