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Authors: Joseph Picard

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BOOK: Watching Yute
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She walked off nibbling, and thought
she heard Maxine behind her say something like, “She’s gonna do
just fine here.”

The chocolate chip cookie was every bit
as wondrous as the raisin cookie. It was tempting to go back and
get more. The small but concentrated dose of camaraderie was
welcome as well. It took her mind far from other
bothers.

She stepped into the supply room to
grab a towel, and to her footlocker to grab a change of clothes.
One of the sleeping ladies had left the barracks, though Cipriana
was still there. She was in the same position, and just as stoic
and lovely, but now reading, instead of deep in mediation. “Alan’s
done another batch?” she asked.


Ah, yeah, he has.” Cassidy
answered, her tone again matching Cipriana’s calm. “If I’d been
thinking, I could have brought you some…..?”

Cipriana smiled softly. “Thank you
Cassidy. I’m fine. I know where he keeps them.”

Cassidy smirked. Cip was no stupid
greedy ape. Cassidy headed over to the showers, placing her fresh
clothes on a counter, and her towel on a hook that would be handy
from the shower stall. Her hat came off, letting her deep blonde
hair flow loose. She caught a look at it in a mirror. Maybe if
Cipriana can get away with her hair loose, she might try... nah. It
would confuse the hat. She got in the shower stall and finished
stripping, flopping her old clothes over the door. Just getting
naked got most of the sand off her. She turned to use the water
controls and saw a dark little creature skitter across the
wall.


What the hell!?” She jumped
back, and looked for it. There it was, stuck on the wall,
contently.


Is everything alright?”
came Cipriana's voice.


Uh, there’s a little lizard
in here.”


Oh,” Cipriana’s voice was
closer now. “Don’t worry about them. They’re called aeki, they’re
harmless. They wander in from the desert sometimes, and usually end
up in the showers. They're interested in moisture, I
suppose.”


So… this is normal? What am
I supposed to do?”


If he bothers you, kick him
out. We take them outside if they look lost. They like the water,
but they probably shouldn’t be out of their natural element for too
long.”

Cassidy looked at the little thing. It
shifted its weight from foot to foot, taking little, unassuming
steps across the wall, defying gravity. It was as comfortable on
the wall as it would be on the floor. Certainly it was harder to
get stepped on while on the wall. “Er, he’s okay I guess. If this
is normal. Sorry to be a disturbance.”


Not to worry. Perhaps I
should have warned you.” Cipriana's footsteps faded into the other
room, and Cassidy turned on the water. The spray wasn’t at any risk
of hitting little lizard, but it seemed to find it
entertaining.

Cassidy proceeded to clean herself.
Usually the shower was where she lost herself in thought, though
she knew those thoughts would end up on Brandy again. It was very
hard to think gloomy thoughts with this lizard here, exploring the
world of water in amazement. Thank goodness for little
lizards.

And cookies.

~~~

It was still half an hour or so before
her scheduled watch when Marcus came by the women's barracks,
having returned to the temple base just a while ago. Cassidy’s hair
was still a little bit damp, but pulled back into her ponytail and
once again looped through the opening in the back of her
cap.

Marcus stood at the doorway and tapped
the wall. “Knock knock? Ready for a little prep?”

Cassidy stood up from her bed, and
saluted. She almost snapped back “Yes, Sir!” at a volume that would
normally be expected, but she caught herself in time. She let her
posture lax a bit, and her salute end before regulation would
normally dictate. “That is, uh…. Okie-dokie?”

Marcus couldn’t help smile a bit at the
newbie trying hard to get into the flow. “Alright, off to the
temple…!” As they walked towards it, the temple's already imposing
size seemed to grow all the more. A wide staircase went up twenty
or so steps, taking up about half of the temple’s front width. They
showed some signs of their age, but were in overall good shape,
much like the rest of the temple.

At the top of the stairs was a plateau.
From there, to the left and right, roughly fifteen metres away in
either direction, were doorways with two guards on each. Directly
in front was a large opening.

This large opening wasn’t a doorway, at
least not one you’d want to use. In front of it was a gap in the
floor, about three metres across. Peeking down, it went straight
down to the ground. From there, a covered passage went both
directions, out to the sides of the temple, then into the open.
Light seemed to be flowing about freely. The formation could be
described as a pit and two tunnels, but the openness of it didn’t
lend itself to such claustrophobic phrasing.

Past the gap was a second plateau and
one more flight of stairs with a guarded doorway at the top. This
inner doorway loomed twice as wide and tall than the two other
doors.

Marcus led Cassidy to one of the side
doors, and it became obvious that it led to the second plateau. It
was now that Cassidy got a good look at the spears that all of the
guards carried.

She had seen Aguei spears before, with
the little perpendicular handle half way down, but these ones had
unique spearheads. Instead of a typical narrow triangle, they were
large and rounded, almost like the shape of a shovel head, but
flat. It looked bulky too; at least four centimetres thick in the
middle. Centered in the middle of the blade’s curve was a hole that
you could drop a golf ball through.

She tried to imagine wielding it in
combat, but she was forced to assume that it was a design that was
only for ceremony. Despite the old design, the construction was
obviously modern materials and techniques. It looked strangely
modern, for a spear, with machined-smooth lines and
surfaces.


Hey boys,” Marcus greeted
the two men on duty at this door. “Just about done, hm?”


Yup.” One of them replied.
“This is the new recruit?”

Yet another set of introductions were
made, and Cassidy didn’t really put a lot of effort into memorizing
them. She had been meeting a lot of people since she got here, and
she decided to focus on those that made an impression. Marcus of
course, Cipriana, Maxine, Wanda, oh, and what was cookie-man’s
name? Frig. Umm… Alan! Alan; master of the cookies, and herder of
the stupid greedy apes.

Once the polite talk was done, Marcus
and Cassidy headed through the inner plateau. Cassidy looked up to
see that this large space was covered by a very high ceiling. With
the two large open doorways and the large opening behind them, it
was hard to decide if this space could be considered ‘inside’, or
just a big front porch.


By the way, Cassidy. Before
I forget, it doesn’t happen often, but now and then we get a bit of
a sandstorm on duty. We used to have small tarps we got under, but
we got rid of those. It’s just as good to curl up against a wall
and ride it out. They don’t last too long, usually. Just long
enough to make you want a shower.”


I ran into a little one
when I first got here.” Cassidy said.


Yeah,” Marcus chuckled,
“That helipad’s notorious. We do get bigger ones now and then, but
like I said, not too often.”

They headed up the steps to the inner
doorway. Marcus waved at the two men guarding the doorway, but was
too busy talking to Cassidy to start another conversation. It would
have been nearly identical to the one they had at the last door
anyway.


So Cassidy, ever seen the
Yute demon?” Marcus asked.


No. There aren’t pictures
to be seen, due to-“


Right right, I forget that
sometimes.”

They passed through the doorway into
the main hall, not much smaller than a football field.

Cassidy gasped in surprise. “I didn’t
imagine…!”

They walked slowly across the floor
towards the statue, as Marcus watched Cassidy take it in. “I’m
guessing you were expecting a devil with wings? Or something like
that?”

Cassidy smirked, staring the 'demon' in
the eye, still many metres away.

The demon was a dog-like thing, with
horns like a ram. It was lying down, with its head up, as if alert.
Its head was at least five metres across, it’s shoulders closer to
fifteen. It was carved of a much darker stone from the yellowish
rock of the temple; indeed, it was almost black. Whatever this
stone was, it was obviously much stronger stuff than any other
stone around. The robust shaggy fur was carved with excruciating
detail, which by all rights should have been worn off over the
ages. Sure, it had the occasional tiny sign of damage, but no more
than a statue in some modern city. Was it that well protected
inside here? The walls and floor were in decent shape for their
age, but not nearly as well preserved as the statue.

Cassidy thought the eyes seemed to look
right at her. She smiled. “Nice puppy, Sir!” She
chuckled.

Marcus chuckled back, and rocked back
on his heels, looking up at the demon. “He doesn’t look scary to
you?”

She couldn’t believe that no one found
it necessary to share this with the world. “No Sir. I mean.. if it
were real, I’m sure he’d be able to eat or crush everyone on the
base, but he doesn’t look the type.”


Heh. Well, if he fought the
sphinx…. My money’s on our boy here.. but since you don’t find him
scary… I’ll tell you a secret, if you stop calling me
‘Sir’.”


Oops. Okay, Marcus, let's
hear it.”

Marcus’ face grew a little more
serious. Not too serious, but a bit more. He looked at Cassidy for
a few moments. “His ghost is still here.” He nodded assuredly at
Cassidy’s doubting expression. “Yep. He’s a good boy. He likes the
company of having us around. There’s not a lot else around here
without us to talk to him now and then.”

Cassidy chuckled, and walked up to the
statue. She patted the nearest curl of stone fur. “Well, I bet he’s
a good guard dog too. Must eat a ton.” She looked at her watch.
“Dang. Battery died. How long till we’re on?”


Oh, we may as well take
post now. It’s not like a few minutes is a big impact on eight
hours.”

They headed back to the door to relive
the two guards there. They handed their spears to Marcus and
Cassidy and left, wishing Cassidy luck. Marcus stood on one side,
holding his spear with one hand, back end resting on the ground, so
Cassidy followed suit on the other side. The spear was very light,
and she wondered how heavy the original model was. She watched the
previous shift walk away, then looked to Marcus. “Soooooooo, when’s
the rush here?” she joked.


Well, that was one right
there. Next one’s in eight hours, then two other folks come by and
we hand the spears to them.”

Cassidy smirked. “So… this is what it’s
all about? Oh, geez, are we supposed to be silent?”


No, no, conversation is
pretty much the only way to pass the time around here.”

Cassidy looked around. The statue was
still staring forward, almost expectantly. With nothing else to
talk about, she finally said “I spy, with my little eye, something
that weighs a couple hundred tons.”

Marcus chuckled a little. “You’re not
used to silence, are ya?”


Can’t say I’d had much use
for it in general.”


Well, there’s plenty to be
had around here. Ah, I’ve kinda been wondering, what made you
decide to come on board with us here?”

Cassidy leaned a bit, putting some
weight on the short middle handle of the spear, and huffing a bit
of a sigh. “Well… seemed like good timing for a change of scenery…
It’s certainly pretty enough out here.” Marcus nodded. He didn’t
ask for more, but he didn’t need to. The silence seemed to draw it
out of her all on its own. She looked out the front, down the
stairs, past the opening with the gap in the floor, down more
stairs, to the sands.


I was dumped.” she finally
added. “Seems like Brandy and I had been together for ages, but...
well... to be quite honest... I wasn’t putting much into the
relationship lately. Long distance… and I guess just … “

Cassidy sighed, frustrated with
herself.


It’s alright.” Marcus said,
in an almost fatherly tone.

Not really hearing him, she eventually
went on after a long pause. “You hear about people taking each
other for granted, and it sounds dumb, it sounds like something you
wouldn’t do. But I guess I did. But... I hadn’t even seen her in a
long time, except messages. I may as well have not been going out
with her for a long, long time.” She idly twisted the spear a
little, and felt how the stray grains of sand ground against the
stone floor. “In a way, it shouldn’t even bug me. Being dumped
didn’t really change anything.”


Except that suddenly it was
official” Marcus added.

Cassidy snapped her stare over to him,
her face tense with thought. “Yeah. I guess that’s it. I had
someone out there. Out there somewhere, and she was mine, I was
hers, and it was safe. Now I don’t have that.”

BOOK: Watching Yute
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