A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 35


It wasn't that she was against the dwarf so much - it was a poorly-heated place after all - it was that she was using either Copper's hip or her leg to hump against quietly as the dwarf slept and she seemed to be getting far too friendly toward Copper's tits.

After waking up for the third time in one night and finding Simmit with her hand right on her mound and working its way between her thighs, Copper blew up and they didn't speak anymore that night. The next morning, the demons were gone and to Copper's surprise -- and her sudden sadness - she realized how much of a hole she now had in her life without them. She'd only wanted it to stop; she didn't want the little family to leave.

She'd run out and gone looking for them. That lasted a minute when she saw little in the way of tracks. So she'd run back and rolled out her pride and joy, but it had still taken hours in the squall that covered any tracks that Simmit might have left as she carried her toddlers. Copper finally had a brainwave and began to use the Forward-Looking Infrared Radar, and she found them a few minutes later by their heat signature huddled against a rock. Copper turned on every light and aimed her searchlight in their direction and she tumbled out the door and ran to get them back and warm inside her rumbling, moving shelter.

She'd said that she was sorry and Simmit nodded and apologized all over again, but the demon was obviously shamed and wouldn't say much more. It wasn't long after that she'd seen Narreth as the squall died away They'd met before and though the ghost was helpful, saying that she'd return with someone who might be able to help, it was obvious that Simmit was very uncomfortable being even ten feet from her.

"She is like some from where I am from who hunted us once," Simmit said as Copper held the little ones on her lap for a time, "I know that she wants to help, but I am glad that she is gone."

The two little demons were the cutest things, she thought, all big eyes and so careful to behave and they were happy to see her again. She had the heat cranked for them back here and it was a little uncomfortable for her, but Copper didn't mind as she sat holding them and watching Simmit spoon-feed both of her young.

But it was awkward between the adults and Copper sat them down and got up to give Simmit a little space, feeling sad for everything.

She heard the warning from the situational awareness systems alerting her of something approaching, and it was followed by the acquisition subsystem's warning tone as the Fire Control system locked the targeting optics onto something. She stepped to the commander's position and looked at the display for a moment.

When she saw the strange demon out there with her wolves again, Copper was about to walk back to drop the ramp, but there was an additional warning of a vague return from an aerial target -- and that got her attention. Noting that the seeker had already slaved one camera to it, she looked to see nothing at first, but then she saw something which made her knees weak.

All of her life, she thought, and today, ...

She didn't know what to make of it, and she wondered if the demon witch out there was aware of the thing in the sky. She had no way of knowing this, so she shoved the ready tray of ammunition into the feed of the old chain gun and slaved that to the camera as well to allow the Fire Control software to lock on to whatever was out there masquerading as her childhood dream. The gun indexed itself and sat waiting, loaded.

Copper knew that once the Fire Control had arrived at a firing solution, it would calculate a target lead solution as well, and she'd have her one-shot-one-hit capability online and it wouldn't matter what the thing did, one press of the firing button and it was toast, though she really hoped that it wouldn't come down to her destroying what she'd wanted to see in person all of her life. She activated the recording system for later, and the turret rumbled and whined as it transited quickly to lay the gun onto the target and follow it across the sky.

But the demon waved at the thing in the air with a smile, so Copper took the gun offline and cleared the unfired round out of it.

Yuan was well into her approach, having seen and recognized Narreth. It was what she was standing near that mystified her. What she saw looked like two oddly-shaped piles of rock, both of them a little too regular in their outlines. She landed quickly and changed to her middle shape to walk over to Narreth through the deep snow.

There was a whining sound and a doorway appeared in one of the things, but the door only came down to some distance above the ground. A roundish lump in insulated coveralls and a helmet stepped out onto the door and beckoned them over as it looked around at the sky for some reason.

"I could have sworn, ..." Copper said as she looked everywhere, not really noticing Yuan for the moment, "Did you see anything flying around up there? My systems had a lock on it for a few seconds, so I know that I wasn't imagining it, but now there's -"

She stared at Yuan as her mouth fell open. "You, you're a -- a --"

"A friend?" Yuan chuckled a little hopefully.

"You look like , ... a dragon, but," she looked at the sky again, "there was another one a minute ago, not anything like you."

"That will be hard to explain," Narreth smiled, "and it will take longer than we have the time to wait. This is Yuan, and she is a dragon."

"Half-dragon," Yuan smiled as she reached out to offer her hand.

"I'm Copper," the dwarf grinned as she tried to recover, "I'm a gremlin. What's your other half?"

"Human," Yuan said, and Copper laughed, "Me too! Come on in. I want to get the door buttoned up so that they can stay warm," she said as she pointed toward the bunk.

"The mother fears you." Yuan said to Narreth.

Copper spoke up then, "Simmit says that you look like a creature that used to hunt whatever she is -- wherever she came from. I'm not sure that it would be all that good to take her to where more of you are and leave her there."

Narreth spoke to Simmit, who cringed just to be near her and Narreth nodded as she stood up. "What you say might be so. Decide for yourselves what is to be done."

Narreth took her leave then, but she warned them both that there was a storm coming, certainly within the next day.

As Yuan stepped onto the ramp and walked inside, Copper closed it after her and they looked at each other in the glow of the interior lighting. "We can go see," Copper suggested, "If Simmit doesn't like what she sees, then she can stay with me if she can get past what's bugging her."

"What is a gremlin?" Yuan asked.

Copper smirked, "It's a little imp thing from human legends of long ago. Gremlins were creatures who found joy in ruining the machinery of humans. I'm not like that, and I'm not really a gremlin. I just look like a large one might when I'm all dolled up like this to travel in weather as fucking cold as it is today.

Aren't you cold?" the dwarf asked, looking at Yuan's dark scaled skin. She wasn't into girls, but just the thought of those boobs out in that breeze outside made her shiver, and she could plainly see that what she'd first taken to be white pubic hair was nothing other than bare and naked scales on something else which caused the dwarf to shiver as she tried to imagine herself out there like that.

"Yes, but I can manage cold well, "Yuan smiled, "at least for a while. I can't wear clothes while I fly."

The statement reminded Copper and she went to look at what the Fire Control system had been recording. After a minute, she turned to look slowly at Yuan, "That was you out there?"

Yuan nodded with a shrug, "I can change my shape three ways."

Copper looked for a long moment, "When we get where we're going, would you mind showing me that? I'd really like to see that."

Yuan nodded,"Alright, but why?"

Copper wasn't really sure how to reply, but after a moment, she just said, "I've had a kind of a thing for dragons ever since I was small. I've collected everything I could find about them. I've never seen a picture of something like uh, you, but I'm having a bit of a moment here, I guess. I never thought that I'd actually ever get to meet a dragon one day."

She liked the way that Yuan looked and the way that the dragon seemed a little shy, but she remembered that this conversation wasn't getting the demons anywhere.

"Narreth said that you know the way to a place where these demons could go? I don't mind helping, but I don't know where I'm going and Simmit here is at least a little sure that she wants to go. I don't think it's a great idea myself."

She shrugged, "They were staying with me, but we had a big fight and they left in the blizzard this morning. I've tried to say I'm sorry but I guess she thinks that I don't like her anymore. Um, you do know the way, right?"

Yuan noticed the way that the mother sat looking down and not answering at all. She looked so sad, Yuan thought.

"I know the way," Yuan said, "I even know the names of the two demons who live there." She turned and tried to speak with the mother, and in a few moments, Copper was amazed at how well they seemed to be able to talk with each other.

"How did you do that?" she asked.

"I can learn many ways of speaking very quickly. I only need to hear some of what is said, and it comes to me," Yuan said, "This is not the way that I learned to speak at first. I come from far away from here. She keeps telling me that she is so sorry for what she did. But she will not say what it was."

Copper nodded, "Though there are tons of them everywhere, I only have one bed in the place where I live and we were all in it every night just to try and stay a little warm. I mean, if it was the warmer time of the year, it wouldn't be any trouble to get her and the kids some beds, but right now there's snow up over my ass in a lot of the complex and the yards. I live on what's left of an old army base. I'm the only person there.

Anyway, Simmit got a little too friendly for my taste and I guess I got a little mad and she left. I've been trying to tell her that I'm sorry too, but she's not listening. She's really embarrassed over it as far as I can tell and I keep telling her that I'm sorry for getting so mad. She heard what Narreth said about those other demons and she thought that she wanted to go there, but now she's not sure by the look of her. I don't care, other than I want her to feel safe with them. I've got lots of fuel, we can go see and if she's not happy, we'll come back.

From talking to her before, she seems to have been thrown here somehow with a lot of others a couple of years ago. She told Narreth that most of them killed each other off, and Simmit was able to get away. She had a boyfriend, but he wasn't in the bunch. She never saw him again.

When she got here, she was all alone and before long, she had a large male demon sniffing around. She learned to speak with him and then he was giving her that old 'oh you're the one for me' tale. Well all he did for her was give her those two little guys, identical twins, obviously. As soon as he heard she was knocked up, he was gone. I even know who he is, too. See their manes and eyebrows? Just like Daddy, and he's the only one like that I've ever seen.

She had her babies out here the next spring. She's been on her own out here but with two kids and all, she doesn't really get time to learn anything about living here. It's all hand to mouth. Even I know there's no margin for mistakes or forgiveness for forgetting something out here. They had a small cave to live in, but a bear showed up and they just managed to get away. She said she just grabbed her kids and took off. She's not looking for their father anymore. She's figured it out all on her own and she's not even looking for him to give him a piece of her mind.

But I am.

I've been sorta half-assed looking for him for a while, "Copper said, "I'm getting a clue as to the direction to where he lives, since I see him around here and there. I'm just never in the right place for what I want." "What do you want?" Yuan asked, not getting it.

The dwarf-girl stepped over to the gunner's position and held up a long, heavy-looking article in one hand as she patted a piece of equipment affectionately, "I want to put one of these right through his bullshit-covered demon heart. This here's a 25 millimetre chain gun," Copper smiled, "If I can see it, I can kill it. I just need the right angle and I don't want to do it while he's in the middle of doing somebody. I figure I'd be doing a lot of girls around here a favor."

The dwarf-girl growled a little as she finished her thought, "Simmit's not the only one who believed his fairy-tales. I heard the same song outta him but I figured it out before he knocked me up. Too bad it came to me after I'd let him get my knees apart. It was nice, but if all he wanted was a quick fuck or two, he shoulda said that, not given me the love of his life crap.

I'm all over these valleys in this tub," she said, "and he's not shy about screwing his Honey-of-the-Week outside, if it's the only place where he can get it. I was falling so hard for him, but then I saw him banging Lyudmila Potter back in the fall, right out there in the blowing leaves and wind, so I told him to go to hell the next time I saw him and I just sat back, licking my wounds. But afterward, I guess that what I shoulda done was gone to see Luddy. She didn't know that I was in the picture, or she'd have broken his jaw for him.

Two months later, Lyudmila was pregnant and one thing you don't want to be is old man Potter's pregnant daughter. She was gonna hang herself, but in the middle of being worried and scared and broken-hearted over lover boy -- cause he was already gone, she miscarried. She stayed at my place until she had it together. She's a sweet girl, just way too trusting like Simmit here and way too easy to talk into bed when she's lonely, I guess. That's when I started gunning for that prick.

Yuan looked a little surprised at the vehemence of Copper's tone, but she got it when Copper explained, "This area is big and it's empty, mostly. Lots of space -- not many people in it. I know Lyudmila. She's a friend of mine. I went to school with her." Copper scowled as she shook her head, "We've been friends since we were five years old.

See, humans in most places don't much like any other sort of creature. They think they're better or something. Way the hell out here, they're a little less like that -- because they have no choice, or they would be. But that doesn't change some things. Lyudmila and I were different and the other kids picked on the two of us pretty hard. We just became friends and we've always been. We don't see each other much these days, but I'm gonna look in in her one day soon to see how she's making out. It's what friends do for each other out here. You gotta stop in once in a while to make sure your friends are still alive.

Now I don't know what that flying Casanova thinks he's doing, but I'm gonna make him stop. I don't have all that many friends to lose."

Anyway, I'm sure you don't need to hear about my foolishness. Narreth told me to wait here and that she'd be back with a friend of hers. I guess that must be you. So let's get going then," Copper said, "It looks like they're done with the soup, so if you'll take the bowl and set it over there, I'll ask you to sit over here, and you just tell me where I'm going, alright?"

Yuan nodded and a minute later, she heard and felt the vibration of the diesel engine as it rose from its idle and they began to move. She was astounded.

"What is this?" she asked, and she saw Copper's smile to her.

"This is an old human war machine. It's a Bradley M2A3 with all the upgrades. I've had it running for a little while now. My father and I built it up from a few that we found on the old base that we moved to. That's the frame of another one back there that I'm dragging along behind us, but it's just a platform for the tank of fuel on top of it. My dad and I built this up over a few years, but he died before he ever saw it move. We only just got the engine running good when he got sick and passed. I finished it by myself."

Yuan tried to see through the little ports, but it wasn't enough of a view to guide Copper by, so they stopped. "It's too cold to open the hatches. Come over here, Yuan, "she said, "you sit here and you can look at this screen. See the mark in the middle? You hold onto this here and if you move it, the view will shift. Really, you'll be moving a camera outside an-"

"Camera?" Yuan asked, "I do not understand."

"Here," Copper said, "See here? There's an, ... eye outside and this is what it sees. You move this, and see? The picture changes because you've moved the eye. I can send this view to my screen and if you keep the mark where you want me to go, I'll drive us that way. Try it."

The next few minutes caused them both to laugh until Yuan had a feel for it, and until then, the camera on top of the turret spun crazily with the view in the little monitor following faithfully, but eventually, Yuan could hold the scene fairly still and Copper held out a strange-looking thing. "We need you to wear this so we can talk to each other, since I'll be over there."

The next two hours passed with them grinding along through the winter scenery, but they managed their odd conversation as they went, and Yuan saw that Copper had a dour side to her and she wondered about that.

"I try to understand your name," she said.

"Copper," the dwarf said, "like the metal. My family used to live with lots of other dwarves underground and they were always brewers," she looked back a little for a second, "that means that they made ale and beer. Anyway, I think that all of my relations stayed a little drunk all their lives. I know my parents did. My mother was a human and it caused them some trouble, so we left with a few others when I was a kid. We moved to a place where the humans had a lot of things like what we're riding in, but they forgot all about them. It's been a few hundred years.

One by one, the other dwarves all either left or they died off. We didn't really have enough of us to start an underground town. There were some bunkers and stuff, but that's not the same thing. I'm all that's left now. My mother was killed by a bear and my father passed away last year. I've tried to fit in with humans, but I look too little and stocky, I guess, and with my skin and all, well, all they really want me for is to work as a beer wench in a bar and besides a quick fuck, they don't care for me. I won't go back to live among the dwarves, because I'm too tall for a lot of them and I can't grow a beard -- which suits me just fine. So I'm stuck here.

Yuan blinked, "But your name."

"Oh," Copper laughed, "Sorry, I guess I forgot the main point. When you make beer, you brew it up in big kettles. Even traveling to come here, my folks had their beloved small kettles with them -- and they're not all that small, really. I've still got 'em. I can brew ale too, but I'm not big on keeping a glow on all the time, so I don't do it often. I make a small batch and I drink it over a week or two and I do that maybe three times a year, but that's about it. Copper's a soft metal, so you need to be really careful you don't wreck the things, but it's the best thing to brew ale and beer in."

She sighed and then just pressed on, "My family was big on brewing, so their name says that in a way. My last name is Kettlebottom.

Because of the way that I look with a little bit of my mother's skin color, and my hair, since I was born with a full head of hair and it's never changed color, they named me Copper -- Copper Kettlebottom.

This is the part where you can make your little jokes."

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