Purify - Chapter 8 Lisa and the Yaks
The role of a deck hand on a freighter carrying like the yak-like creatures (which for the sake of simplicity we shall call Yaks) from Stratford to Romford was not pleasant at the best of times. The weather on Guger was not helping and the chief herdsman, called Gatrinar, wasn’t helping either. In fact he seemed to have it in for Lisa as soon as he learnt that a girl had been hired by the shipping company to be his assistant. Though his dog took a shine to her. Initially it had been as curious as the dog Lisa and Carrie had first encountered when they jaunted to Stratford but it had quickly got to know her and she got over her fear of the massive animal. Together they made sure that the yaks behaved on board – a herd of heavyweight animals stampeding from side to side on a freighter only just big enough to take them was a sure-fire route to the bottom of the sea.
No, it was Gatrinar that was the problem and he was about to become a bigger pain than ever because he appeared to have found the ship’s liquor supplies.
They were about halfway to Romford when it happened. Gatrinar was drunk again and he had just bitten Lisa’s head off over feeding the Yaks too much of the processed grain feed that they were forced to eat on the voyage over in a last drive to fatten them up for the plates of the Romfordians. Lisa had had enough of his moods and temper and, despite supposedly trying to keep her head down and simply bide her time to get to Romford, she hit back.
“These are living creatures – you can’t treat them this way!” she shouted back at Gatrinar. This made him even angrier and he raised his right hand as if to hit her. It was the dog that leapt to her defence and sank its not inconsiderable teeth into his right arm. Howling, he wheeled round with the dog still attached causing it to smack Tina across the back of her head. As she fell, Tina put out her arm and caught it on the edge of the portal. For a few brief moments her chameleon suit flickered off and Gatrinar saw her in her human shape with a human face. That was just before he passed out with the alcohol and the pain of the dog bite. Since Gatrinar was now a useless crumpled heap on the floor, the dog let go and came over to Lisa’s side. It just sat there, watching Gatrinar as he lay unconscious but still breathing on the floor.
Lisa knew enough to put Gatrinar into the recovery position and then left him to be found the next morning.
Gatrinar was very wary of Lisa after that night. Once, she overheard him talking about she-devils and not being Gugerian but his fellow travellers laughed at him and told him he drank too much. He left Lisa alone from then onward and she and the dog looked after the Yaks very well. So well, in fact, that the captain offered her a job on the return voyage when they docked in Romford.
As she was leaving the ship, the captain came to see her off, “Here you go,” he said, “I’m sorry its not more but its what my full time deck hands get and I know you said you’d work for your passage but this is only fair as you’ve done such a good job. I’ve been given a bonus for the yaks that you were looking after, so this for you.”
“Thanks,” said Lisa, “say! Do you know where I can go to learn about the real town?”
“Sure,” said the captain, “go to this tavern and mention my name. The Barkeep is a good friend of mine, he’ll look after you. But be careful. I’m sure that you can look after yourself but it is a fairly rough district.”
“I’ll be fine but thanks for the tip.”
“There someone else who wants to say goodbye,” said the captain with a nod in the direction of Gatrinar who was standing on deck nearby with his dog straining at the leash to be let go.
“Can you use this?” he said offering the dog’s leash, “You can have him for fifty. He’s no good to me now.”
Lisa was delighted and handed over the cash even though it was way too much. They left the ship happy. Using the directions that the captain had drawn for her on a scrap of paper, she headed for the tavern in the ‘bad’ part of town. This suited Lisa for she had plans now that she was out from under the watchful gaze of Carrie. She liked Carrie but ethicists tend to be do-gooders and this wasn’t exactly what Lisa had in mind for her stay on Guger.
You see, Lisa has always had a side-line in stealing beautiful artefacts from the planets she visited alongside the radioactive debris that they officially collected for the cure back on Earth. On a planet ravaged by nuclear war it was pot luck if she would come across such treasure trove but on a pre-war planet it should be safely concentrated in places like vaults and museums. The people in the tavern and its district proved to be just the sort that she was looking for. Having a particularly ferocious dog at her heel also helped her image in this district.
Lisa wasted no time making contact with the local underworld (which luckily seemed to be centred on the very tavern to which the captain had sent her). She learned from them that there was a travelling exhibition of Ilford’s crown jewels on tour at the moment. The local hoods were thinking of attacking it but had been put off by the strength of the security forces that were guarding it. Eighteen locals were killed by a tank fired shell when they innocently approached the convoy intending only to see what was going on.
Lisa had the advantage of a chameleon suit but she wasn’t about to reveal that fact just yet. So that she would have something to report when she got back to the Tony Robinson, she also gathered as much background on Romford as she could. Given the limited resources at her disposal (the criminal underworld is not much interested in high political intrigue) she did a reasonable job of learning about why a war was likely and what efforts were already being made on all three sides to prevent it.
With the assistance of the gangland boss’s right hand man and his team, Lisa planned to steal the crown jewels right from under the noses of the Ilfordian security. She told them that she would take care of stealing the jewels if they could create a diversion and hold the convoy still for long enough. They figured that they could do this ‘remotely’ through various hacking means to disrupt the traffic system. Lisa batted away any questions about how exactly she was planning on strolling in and lifting the gems with a casual yet enigmatic “Leave that to me.” and, since they didn’t have to do much, the petty criminals were happy to play along with the ‘crazy dog woman’; admittedly this was only because they could do it from miles away behind a screen. And so a plan was hatched, to be executed the next weekend – which, due to the vagaries of the Guger calendar with its two moons, was only two days away.