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May 16, 2012 / Daniel

Trial and Error 7: Knots

(Read the complete Trial and Error series in the GSU: The Wastes section.)

[808 words, rated PG]

Toby and Jayce didn’t talk much during the first few trips to the dig, they just did the work, grinding out the trips. Out to the dig, fill the dried leather satchels with the leather scoops, back to the collection zone to pour the black stuff onto the pile. Again and again. The tones in their headsets harmonized periodically as they walked the path, tones weak and strong fading in and out in threads, guiding their direction moment to moment.

Kella kept to her own rounds, but made eye contact with Toby each time they would pass in their columns.

“Hey Kella, nut up.” Kella made no face at the group of boys loitering at the dig, walked past them without showing her knotted rope or so much as replying to the challenge.

“Jayce probably has us all beat, dontcha, Jayce. Nut up, let’s see ’em.”

“Nut yourself up, Royette. I don’t tie at the dig anymore.”

“There’s alot you don’t do anymore.”

“Tying at the dig is a lie. You don’t have a full trip until you’re down on the dump. Make your pickup, make it back. Until then, you don’t have a trip. Your knot’s not earned.”

“I’m a liar, Jayce?”

“Just calling reals reals. Something either is or it’s not. I’m not going to tie one and claim I did it if I didn’t make it all the way back. Not everyone makes it back.”

Royette pushed his way over to Jayce and got close, chest-to-chest. “Well I think you’re calling me a liar. Big talk for a murderer that can’t even do that right.”

The rage in Jayce that would normally have unsheathed him at the heart of the matter this time froze into his gut.

“Heh,” said Royette, backing away triumphantly, but also relieved, “You lost your bite.”

“Lost my stupid,” Jayce tossed back, “Looks like you found it, though.”

“C’mon, pick up,” Royette commanded his little troop, “Let’s get this trip dumped, actually earn our nuts,” throwing that last part a little more loudly, facing Jayce’s direction.

Jayce finished his grab and joined Toby on the return trip. On the way back in, they passed a group laughing and joking, but went silent as they approached.

“Half of them still think you’re the bully you’ve always been.”

“Yeah, and I can use that,” Jayce said, “Hey. You. Come here.” He set down his load and went over to the kid that had been laughing. The kid dropped his gear and scrambled backward a few steps.

“Don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me like you did Liam…”

“Come here, you idiot,” Jayce reached for his head.

“Do as he says,” said Toby. Toby could be trusted; the kid stopped and let Jayce come at him.

Jayce adjusted the boy’s headset, “Your gear is on wrong. Tone like this instead. It’s clearer, safer.”

The kid looked around, smiled, “It worked, thanks.”

“Show others. Get smarter together.” Jayce picked up the boy’s gear and handed it to him. Both lines fell back into motion, one in and one out.

The crystal was still in the middle of the path where Toby had mixed up a batch of the powder. It had become a regular thing for those in the outgoing line to touch it for luck.

“How did you do it then, the crystal? All that shit out there, it’s all the same to me.”

“It all has tone. That’s why we tune up before we go out, so we know what’s what.”

“Yeah but, we just match up to the guide tone, then go at it. We’re not learning anything from that.”

“If you listen, you’ll hear, and if you take the time, you’ll learn. You can learn their signatures by tone, like music. Eventually, you get familiar with which do what.”

“Well, I know, we do that every day. That’s it? There’s no faster way?”

“There is no magic, Jayce. It’s all just hard work, grinding this out. You can just get quota and crank out another day, whatever. Or. You can really listen, learn this stuff, memorize every tone, get control over it.”

Jayce didn’t respond, he just kept walking, but was starting to really listen.

Kella was waiting after Toby finished rounds. He and Jayce went over to her.

“You’re here,” she said, staring at Jayce.

“Yeah, I am.”

“Yeah, you are, aren’t you,” despite her mixed concerns, she saw something different in Jayce.

The three of them walked to the Library, up the steps, and made their way in, toward the back room.

Jayce knocked.

There came no answer.

Kella shuffled her feet, pushed her oath band high on her arm.

Shadows fell long from the low sun, and they poured through the rubble inside the library. Noises could be heard behind the door.

Toby knocked again.

The door never opened.

[Jump to Part 8]

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